Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion, Volume Fourteen — Who was your childhood hero?

January 16th, 2014

“Reminiscing in Tempo” is part of a continuing effort to provide Jerry Jazz Musician readers with unique forms of “edu-tainment.” As often as possible, Jerry Jazz Musician poses one question via e mail to a small number of prominent and diverse people. The question is designed to provoke a lively response that will potentially include the memories and/or opinion of those solicited.

Since it is not possible to know who will answer the question, the diversity of the participants will often depend on factors beyond the control of the publisher. The responses from the people who chose to participate in this edition are published below with only minor stylistic editing. No follow-up questions take place.

*

(For this edition, some of the responses came from Jerry Jazz Musician interviews where this specific question was asked)

_____

Who was your childhood hero?


Well, when I think childhood hero, you mean, like at age 8 or 10?  Or, more likely, my first jazz hero. 

That would have been definitely Duke Ellington, more specifically the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Amazingly, when I was about 14, I would guess, the Ellington band played a gig at my local high school in rural Indiana. It was my first chance to see world-famous jazz musicians live in person, and it was stunning.  Duke was great on stage, with all his different outfits and kidding around with the audience, and the music just swung like crazy. I had been playing jazz for a couple of years, or trying to, anyway, so I was ready for the experience.  I got to see the band again a year or two later at a jazz festival.

__________________________________________________


My childhood hero is without a doubt my father, who taught me the love of music.I would refuse go to sleep unless I had the radio playing in the background.  

At the age of 5 he bought a piano, which is when I began playing classical piano. On top of that I was playing by ear tunes that I liked from the radio or records my father brought home and it was magical to me!

Throughout my childhood I was introduced to many great albums by him, from a variety of styles, genres and artists, from Stevie Wonder to to classical music.  

Without his encouragement and guidance I wouldn’t be a musician and I wouldn’t play the way I play today.  He always supported me and helped me believe that I could make music my life.  He set an example of a role model which I apply today with my own son.  

To me it’s the biggest gift I could ask for and that makes him my hero.

__________________________________________________

I’ll be honest with you, the nature of such an inquiry is something that naturally ignites a number of issues, and depending on ones changing state of mind, (as well as intentions) that so called “hero” goes through an ever evolving metamorphosis. That’s one of the things that makes it difficult to provide a concrete, and stable answer to such a question. Furthermore, the word childhood itself is a perspective that’s different for each of us as individuals, (definitely for one who consciously believes in past lives).
There is one thing that remains the nexus throughout ones unfolding experience, and that’s its profundity, as well as its longevity. Heroes are those who leave a marking on our essence, (from the beginning on) one that’s permanent, and forever present. 
So that individual is not only “a childhood hero”, but the identity that’s found at the core of a devotion that transcends time. A name ….?  That’s something that separates things for the sake of identification. Nonetheless, to participate in this I’ll present a name. 
The name is God.
My childhood hero was, (and still is to this very day) God.


__________________________________________________

In high school, when I started to get interested in jazz more seriously, I first heard the amazing recording of “Shenandoah” by Perry Robinson and Badal Roy. His sound has always come from another world, and it still does. I got to know him a few years later, and a decade or so after that for a little while I lived above the Ear Inn in downtown New York, and Perry would play every Monday night. He would shout out “Maest!” when I entered the club, and he sometimes let me join in.

The man on the squeezebox leans into the microphone and starts crooning the tale of Buddy Bolden, a story that I keep hearing over and over again, inside my recollections and all over the world. What happened to him? What was he thinking about all those years? What did that one note do to him? He needed to play it, he needed to get lost, there was no other way.

Perry calls me up to the stage: “Now do it, your turn, play like Buddy, like this is the last note you will ever let loose.” Then I knew just where the history of jazz began and where it went wrong, how that first note released the madness of our century’s sudden music conjured up on the spot, and I’m up there, it’s 2am and I’m privileged to stand by the master as he leads me into a Russian folk tune, “Moscow Nights,” that he first recorded in the sixties. The impossible memories are the ultimate refrain, the sound and the stories, the memory and the moment, the master and the student. All sounds are Buddha’s voice, all one, all none. We cry out for something we can barely see, a goal that we will never attain although it is always right here. For an instant, I question no more. Far from this city lie the fountain and the heart, the mountain and the desert of the world. I taste the wet song with my dry, parched tongue.

__________________________________________________

My Childhood Musical Hero? It would be difficult to single out one specific individual since multiple great artists and songwriters have inspired and influenced my writing.

I remember my mother playing her collection of records; Ella Fitzgerald singing “Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”; Wow…Ella could sing and scat like nobody else.

The easy feel of Peggy Lee singing, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me”…her voice was mesmerizing. Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney’s recordings were always being played in our household and I sang along with every word. At the time, I had no idea the impact these singers, songwriters and composers would have on my future career choice. Incredible song writers like Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Henri Mancini, George Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer; for without the songwriter, there would be no songs to sing, no music to melt our soul and shape the course of our lives. I am so appreciative of their talent and abilities…they have made our world more beautiful with their voices and songs.

__________________________________________________


I think my mom was my hero. My mom took great care of me and she was a person I looked up to. I didn’t really have heroes like clear role models, like people or figures that I idolized…I think the first record I ever bought was a Sonny Rollins record, Saxophone Colossus, and from that point on Sonny Rollins became a hero of mine. I was nine or ten or so at the time, and my mom paid for the record…

(Responded during a December 12, 2001 interview)

__________________________________________________


Well, (Louis) Armstrong, from the time I was 15. Aldous Huxley is the other boyhood hero I have never let go of. I often think about writing a book about him. For years I went about collecting first editions of fifty some volumes of his. Dwight Macdonald had a huge influence on me as a critic when I was very young. Bach and his “B Minor Mass” really changed my life in a way, and it was in fact because I knew the “B Minor Mass” that I think Armstrong had the impact that he did on me, because that was the first music I had heard since the “B Minor Mass” that moved me in quite that way, that gave me that same kind of emotional excitement. It’s funny, it’s all kind of circular, because I got to Bach through Huxley. I had read “Point Counter Point,” and in the third chapter there is a description of the flute and strings “Suite in B Minor,” so I ran out to buy that and that’s what started me on Bach. I loved Gershwin, and got into “Rhapsody in Blue.” I heard some jazz live, bought Armstrong’s 1928 recordings and that was really the central religious experience of my life. Nathaniel Hawthorne was big for me, “The House of the Seven Gables,” which was the book that I think first made me want to be a writer. All my heroes were either literary or musical.

(Responded during a March, 2001 interview)

__________________________________________________


I grew up near Pittsburgh in the seventies, which was a great decade for Pittsburgh sports. The Pirates won two World Series and the Steelers won four Super Bowls during this time. I was in the heart of my childhood, and in my prime of being a sports fan as well, so it was a magical time for me. Every time I hear the names of the great players of those teams — Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, not to mention guys who aren’t remembered as well any more like, say, Richie Hebner and Rocky Bleier — it conjures up a whole range of feelings and memories.

I’d have to add at least two other people to my list, although I didn’t think of them as “heroes” at the time. One is my uncle Alan Magee, an artist. I look back and realize that I studied his illustrations and paintings — and his independent way of life — for clues about how I could live. The other is my father, Richard Magee, who read my early attempts at writing and, by making marginal comments, showed me that choosing the right word is a serious business, that writing is a painstaking process, a challenging craft. Also, my father — my whole family, really, including my mother Joyce and brother Rich — is liberal in a sense that seems to have been lost: open-minded, tolerant, generous, compassionate. I would say that my late-blooming interest in jazz — after growing up listening to seventies pop and learning classical piano — owes something to that background.

(Responded during a January 17, 2005 interview)


__________________________________________________


I grew up during the Great Depression, and at the time my father was a traveling salesman who would often come home with five bucks in his pocket after working all week. At least Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemed to be doing something about these tough times, and because of that, I would have to say that he was my childhood hero.

I used to listen to the radio a lot — Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy was among my favorite shows — and I remember the day that the guy from the finance company came and took our radio away because we couldn’t make the payment. I figured F.D.R. could help out.

(Responded during an October 6, 2005 interview)

__________

Visit the Childhood Hero Archive

Share this:

Comment on this article:

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

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo via RawPixel
"23 Poets remember their father…"

This space on Sunday is generally reserved for a single poet to read one of their works, but this week’s issue -Father’s Day – features 23 poets who weigh in on the complexity of their relationship with their father, revealing love, warmth, regret, sorrow – and in many cases a strong connection to a common love of music.

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Interview

The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship

Art

photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.

Poetry

The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

pickpik.com
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Interview

photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”

Playlist

Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.

Feature

Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive