Stories / Themes / Music Art Lit /
@ K. 1995
Junior year 1954-55) a buddy ran for high school office. His platform was to bring the Duke to South Side High School for a charity concert.
The Ellington Band
All stars all
Johnny Hodges stands up front with his incomparable alto sax.
Lenny was elected Treasurer. Guess who was assigned the actual work of arranging the concert? Yours truly, Jazzbo (as some had called me from church camp to Columbia.) (At our twentieth college reunion no one was recognizing anyone, when suddenly one guy blurted “Jazzbo!” And the years instantly fell away for all of us.)
Duke’s agent hung out at The Hickory House on 52nd Street. So did I. Piano bar. Marianne McPartland, Dave Brubeck … So many of the great ones cycled through. (My hi-fi needle had eaten two Jazz Goes to College albums by that time.) I also had to meet with Joe Glaser over on Lexington. I signed Duke for a grand: one third his normal.
“Oh, we’re so sorry,” the principal’s office said. “We forgot: there’s a PTA meeting that night. The noise might disturb them.” They gave me another date.
(Jeez I wish I could remember the agent’s name, I liked that guy!
Glaser matched Basie for the time at the same price. “Oh, we’re so sorry,” the principal’s office said. All I could get for the third date, coordinated to a different agent, was Bill Haley and the Comets. $800. OK.
Bill Haley and the Comets
The next week See You Later, Alligator came out. Haley was a star. “Bill can’t possibly work for $800,” the agent said. “He gets two and a half now.” “Not for this night,” I answered, “I’ve got your signature on it.” “Oh, we’re so sorry,” the principal’s office said.
Our descendants will despise us for throwing away the best of our culture.
By the second semester of my high school senior year, I’d finally managed it: Mickey Guitar Baker and Sylvia, The Cadillacs, and The Valentines. Same $800. The Eldorados came for free.
Mickey Guitar Baker and Sylvia
Speedo and the Cadillacs
What the hell was I doing as an impresario of rhythm and blues, just coming to be called Rock ‘N Roll? (Ask the principal’s office.) (Of course, their answers were seldom straight. I’d heard them bitch about not wanting “the wrong crowd” in their precious brand-new auditorium. “They might cut the seats with switch blades.” Why hadn’t they just barred the idea from the beginning? Maybe they didn’t know that Duke and company were black! Ditto Basie. Why cancel on Haley then? What they finally got was black, black, and more black. Maybe racism per se had nothing to do with it. But I’d already known not to trust them an inch.) (Some impresario. I hadn’t a clue, aged seventeen, how to calculate ticket prices. We just made one up. We filled the auditorium but had only $30 left over to send to Meadowbrook Hospital. At least it paid the pre-profit-for-charity bills.)
(I owe an additional reflection on racism and the music marketplace.)
This information was first at Knatz.com / under Personal / Chat /
then under / Personal / Stories / Thematic / Music & Art /
Like so much here, it belongs more than one place, in more than one symbolic context.
It very much belongs under / Teaching / Society / Social Order / HierCon / School Stories /
Teachers, administrators, like priests, bishops, have no idea what mischief they cause: and as long as they’re piped to a kleptocratic budget, there’s no reason for them to learn.
Realize, as originally written, this was intended as “chat”: something pleasant; not an anti-centralized authority anti-school diatribe. Much more could be added, but is it necessary? Apparently so: or we would have ditched state interference in anything a long time ago.
The damned think the gods are there to save them; no, no: the gods are here to damn us. The real world, a world where justice is possible, knowledge, decency, is elsewhere.
2012 05 20 I’ll now get to work on resurrecting some of my race-related musical reflections: race, economics … censored, etc, in the wake of my arrest in 2006. Browse all around.
Re: the Lomax quote above: how I wish that were true! but it assumes that we’re capable of knowing anything, of learning, or correctly assigning blame.
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