Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Not Many Words of Mine, but some From a Young Anyjazz

Recent goings on in the USA, and actions by the President of same leave me with no words fit to print on a family-style blog. My best wish would be for the President to be removed by some means or other (25th amendment to the Constitution?) It appears that is not likely to happen. Yes, there's an election coming in November, when We The People could remove Donald Trump from office, but as things are going it would not surprise me at all if that election were to be postponed - or cancelled.


I found, among my notes, this piece written long ago by my husband, known online as anyjazz (he's now aged 83). It illustrates his early experience of the wretched racial hatred which, as we have recently sadly seen, lives on still among some groups, in some areas of the USA.

Here's his piece:

Breakfast with Joe Williams

Back in the late [19]fifties, my old friend “Z” [Zee] and I took our girlfriends to see Count Basie. I didn’t own a car but “Z” borrowed his dad’s new Cadillac for the evening and we were in top style. I think we impressed our girlfriends.

It was a dance/concert sort of event. Basie’s big band had a couple of current hits right in the middle of the era of Bill Haley and the comets, Richie Valens, Elvis Presley and Fabian sensations. Basie’s band had charted well with a lovely recording of “April in Paris” which would earn them a Grammy. Joe Williams, Basie’s vocalist at the time, had a hit with “Every Day I Have the Blues.” So, an evening with Count Basie was a big deal. Really. A really memorable three or four hours.

The first number was “All Of Me” designed to make everybody pay attention. Anyone who has heard the Basie arrangement of the number will know what I mean.

When Joe Williams sang his first number he looked uncomfortable. He looked frightened to me. Maybe it was just me. Well it was the first time I had ever been to a concert where there were uniformed police wandering around in the crowd.

After the concert, we stood around on stage chatting with the band members as they packed up. “Z” handed his bottle of W L Weller to trombonist Al Grey for inspection. Al looked at the dregs and then at “Z” for approval. “Z” said “Aw, kill it. It’s not enough to haul home anyway.”

Basie and Freddie Greene had left in a limo and the rest of the band members were loading onto the band bus. Somehow, Al Grey and Joe Newman got left behind and we gave them a ride downtown to the Lassen Hotel in the Caddy.

Later we all crowded into the Lassen Hotel diner for breakfast. It was about two in the morning.

We all found stools at the counter. I sat between Joe Williams and Joe Newman. Now, it might be necessary for a reminder here; this was in Kansas in the late fifties. The diner staff was not too comfortable with serving several black musicians, famous or not.

Joe Williams ordered two eggs over easy. In a few minutes, the waitress came with his plate. The eggs were raw. He looked at the plate and then at the waitress.

“He can’t eat those, they’re raw!” I blurted without thinking. The waitress nodded and took the plate back. (I think she agreed.) She returned with a fresh plate, cooked right. Joe looked at me and said “Thank you.”

It was years later that I figured out what had happened. It was not my first lesson in bigotry but somehow that night I think I learned a bit of just how awful it was. I was sitting there between two fabulous black musicians and I was in star struck. Others in the same room were not impressed, in fact they were disgusted. If my famous black friend had complained, he would simply have been refused service and ejected.

Later that morning, we bid the tired musicians goodnight and safe journeys and we headed for home.


Wisewebwoman said...

What a powerful story, it brought tears to my eyes.

I once worked with a woman - daughter of Oscar Peterson - and I remember her telling me that every.single.day she woke up thinking "I am black".

Whites would continually ask her what island are you from? And she would said Toronto Island (an island off the city on Lake Ontario where she was born) and they would harass her by saying oh funny, no really what island? Jamaica? Trinidad?

We have absolutely no idea, do we, in our comfortable white privilege.


Anonymous said...

The black Wallstreet. Tulsa ok 1921

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ No, WWW, we cannot fully - or even partially - appreciate what it feels like to be black - especially to be black in the USA. Similar experiences do apply elsewhere, I guess, but in the USA, due (I suspect) to the many years of despicable and officially accepted segregation here, there remains a different, more intense situation.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Many thanks for that link - I was not aware of those horendous happenings. I'll pass on the link to anyjazz.

Sonny G said...

Hi Annie and ALL
This is quite a story and we are LIVING a moment in history that will be discussed by many generations to come, IF the planet or humans survive..

I've missed being here and talking to ya'll.. Big Hugs to Annoymous whether they want them or not. lol
Healing energy to you Annie. Wrapping you in a bubble of Love and Light.


Twilight said...

Sonny G ~ Hello Sonny. Nice to see you again!
Thank you for your good wishes - they are much appreciated.

Yes, we do seem to be at one of those pivotal points in time. Let us hope, and most sincerely, that this time we shall see some real and lasting change emerging from it.