After my visit to Cousin Walter’s house, I started making a monthly trip out to the Jazz Man Record Shop in Santa Monica near Pico and Sepulveda. Cary Ginell has written Hot Jazz For Sale, a great book on the Jazz Man record shop history, available at the link from Amazon. Cary lists the contributions of Don Brown and all of its owners. Don Brown told me about the role Dave Stuart played in making the last recordings of Jelly Roll Morton. Dave Stuart was the only white man to attend Morton’s funeral. Don also told me that Morton was buried at Calvary Cemetery, in East Los Angeles. He gave me the directions to Morton’s grave, which I did find.
Both on his radio show and in conversations at the shop, Don introduced me to all kinds of piano players, in addition the Morton and Waller: Willie the Lion Smith, James P. Johnson, Eubie Blake, Paul Lingle, Art Tatum, Luckeyth Roberts, Don Ewell, Dick Wellstood, Jimmy Blythe, Scott Joplin, and so on.
Don’s big favorite was Jimmy Yancey. Jimmy Yancey was a boogie woogie or barrelhouse piano player. Don said about Jimmy Yancey, “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that guy and it sounds like anyone could play what he plays but I play it and…well, its just not the same.” Here is Don’s favorite Jimmy Yancey record, The How Long Blues:
Don said that Yancey was part of a group of barrelhouse and boogie players in Chicago who played this style of piano: Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, and Pete Johnson. Don also said that during the Depression Yancey couldn’t support himself playing piano but fortunately was hired by the
Chicago Cubs (National League Baseball team) (see errata below) as a groundskeeper. Jimmy Yancey’s music was influential on the rhythm and blues and the rock and roll of the 1950’s. Here’s my favorite by Jimmy Yancey called the Yancey Stomp:
By the time Don sold the Jazz Man Record Shop to Jonathan Pearl, it was sadly clear that his health was failing. I still ordered records directly from him until he passed on. I still miss him after almost 30 years. R.I.P.
Thanks to cdbpdx and Will Adams and You Tube
7-20-15 Errata correction: I was listening to Chuck Cecil’s Swingin’ Years program last night (7-19-15) and he played a Yancey record and commented that Yancey had been the groundskeeper for the Chicago White Sox. So I looked it up in several places including Tony Russell’s The Blues: from Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, and he writes that Yancey worked for the Chicago White Sox. My apologies to any Yancey descendants, and to White Sox fans. I didn’t get that information from Don Brown, but probably from liner notes on an LP. My only regret is that he couldn’t make a living playing piano.