Frank Driggs, a tireless jazz researcher and historian who collected photographs familiar to millions, died this week at the age of 81. In the 1950s as a producer for Columbia Records, Driggs oversaw the organizing and reissuing of historically important recordings by Billie Holiday, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and Gene Krupa. In 1991, he won a Grammy for Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings, the recorded work of the seminal blues singer and guitarist. He began documenting the history of jazz at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University when Marshall Stearns was its director.
As a collector, Driggs gathered more than 100,000 photographs that he cataloged primarily in his head. He was able to retrieve them when academic institutions, publishers and authors needed them. Photographs from his archive fill the book Black Beauty, White Heat, which he co-authored with Harris Lewine. Several of the photos in my biography of Paul Desmond are from the Driggs collection. His friend and associate Donna Ranieri told The Associated Press that Driggs was found dead of natural causes in his apartment in Manhattan on Tuesday.