Obituary for David Usher

David (Dave) Usher was known as a pioneer in the field of oil pollution. His company, Marine Pollution Control, aided in the cleanup of oil spills and leaks on land or sea, anywhere on the planet. His office was on East Jefferson Street in Detroit, but the nerve center of his business was inside his spacious apartment located in downtown Detroit. Jim remembers visiting Usher in !988: “He had a row of fax machines against one wall. They were connected to the environmental departments of governments world-wide” Before MPC, Usher drove oil trucks for his father’s company, Usher Oil Company.

But Usher’s real love was jazz. A born-and-bred Detroiter, Usher grew up surrounded by music. His mother “was an ardent listener of that (classical) music.” His brothers played various instruments. Usher gravitated to promotion, and he mounted his first concert age sixteen, using a friends rehearsal band.

Shortly after, he was sent to the Farragut Academy in Manhattan. It was during that time he met Dizzy Gillespie, then helming his orchestra on 52nd Street. Diz was struggling to find gasoline for the band bus, and Usher was able to help him out. Thus began a lifelong friendship.

Usher’s first attempt at starting a record label was in 1948. It was named Emanon, after a Gillespie record. It was short-lived but did issue a few gems under Kenny Clarke’s leadership. That set the stage for a partnership with Gillespie, DeeGee records. Usher provided the promotion and production; Gillespie was the idea man.

The label was a success, but foundered after a few years. But Usher was always deeply embedded in jazz. He founded Marine Pollution Control in 1968. MPC ran parallel to A&R positions at Argo Records, where he produced Barry Harris’ first trio record and another one by Sonny Stitt. In his later years he served on the Board of the Detroit Jazz Festival.