This performer is sometimes confused with the avant-garde performer Earl Howard; a typesetter who decided to ditch a single letter, "e", at the end of his first name, and is thus able to leap longstanding barriers between different styles of jazz. While Earl Howard is an avant garde performer associated with the New York downtown scene, Earle Howard was strictly a mainstream jazz dude. He basically became an expatriate circa the '50s, and was making a new home in Italy right around the time Earl Howard graduated from college in the '70s. The older Howard developed into more and more of a regional artist, and has been presumed dead since the '90s, although his passing seems to have been unnoticed by the media.
He grew up in New York City and actually attended school with Fats Waller as a teenager. Accounts of a youth band that Howard played in during this period smack of an all-star aggregation with acne, featuring no less than Charlie Irvis, Benny Morton, and Benny Carter in the lineup. By the early '20s Howard was playing professionally, forming his own septet in 1923. The following year he premiered a nonet, the Whispering Serenaders. Throughout the decade he worked regularly in both touring bands and extended nightclub stints, joining groups such as Bill Benford's band, as well as leading his own outfits.
In 1933 and 1934, Howard worked as the musical director of a band led by Percy Nelson. Howard continued leading his own groups in New York City, and in the late '30s toured South America with Baron Lee, a stage name for performer Jimmy Ferguson. Howard was also involved in the popular New York City Blackbirds revue and collaborated with the brilliant Leon Abbey, another jazzman who would set his sights on better working opportunities abroad. Howard remained living in the United States during the '40s, however, principally appearing as a solo entertainer on guitar and voice as well as piano. Once he moved to Europe, he spent time based out of practically every country, even including a residency in Finland.