Dizzy is 100 today

October 21st, 2017

Dizzy Gillespie (right), with brother Wesley

Cheraw, South Carolina

 

______

 

Dizzy Gillespie — born 100 years ago today — recalls his childhood in this excerpt from his 1979 autobiography, To BE, or not…to BOP

 

*

 

The pictures show me as a very beautiful boy, but I was the last of nine children and my arrival probably didn’t excite anybody.  So many people had been born at our house before.  I don’t think Mama felt too blessed about having nine children, unless “blessed” means “wounded” like it does in French.  She probably figured someone had put the bad mouth on us.

Every Sunday morning, Papa would whip us.  That’s mainly how I remember him.  He was unusually mean; and hated to see or hear about his children misbehaving.  “Wesley!  John!  Come on and get your whipping!”  He’d tell us good morning that way, sometimes before we could wake up good, and we’d have to go on up to him and take it.  Papa was big and bad, waving that strap.  Sometimes, I’d holler, “But I didn’t do nothing,” try to to duck him and hide up under the bed.  As soon as I bent over and tried to get away, “Whack!” he’d hit me again; Papa never missed.

“Well, what did you do wrong?” people always ask when I tell them that my father used to beat me every Sunday.  I have to explain it to them over and over again.  They find it hard to believe that the whippings I got were for anything and everything that I’d done during the week because Papa was sure that I must’ve done something wrong in that span of time.  Papa believed that a hard head made a soft behind.  He treated us that way because he wanted us all to be tough and he turned me into a tought little rebel, very early, against everyone but him.  He was a real man, who roared when he talked, because with so many kids around he had to be strong.  I was scared of him, but after a while, I started doing some bad things to warrant all those whippings.

Only seven of us lived long enough to get a name.  Edward Leroy (Sonny) my eldest brother was born in 1900, but he died in the thirties, before I moved to Philadelphia in 1935.  Sonny left home when I was only six years old so I don’t actually remember him too well.

Mattie Laura, James Penfield, Jr. (J.P.), Hattie Marie, Eugenia, and Wesley were my other brothers and sisters.  My parents, James and Lottie (Powe) Gillespie, christened me John Birks soon after my birth in Cheraw, South Carolina, on October 21, 1917.

 

*

 

Excerpted from To BE, or not…to BOP by Dizzy Gillespie, with Al Frazer

 

 

In 2004, I hosted a conversation, “Remembering Dizzy Gillespie,” with Nat Hentoff and James Moody that you may enjoy reading.

 

 

 

 

Share this:

One comments on “Dizzy is 100 today”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Poetry

In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session

Art

“Thinking about the Truesdells” — a photo-narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive