My First Hit Of Jazz


Circa 1962 in Detroit, I was about 4 years old and remember coming downstairs after my parents entertained friends. My sister and I liked to check out the living room, basking in the aftermath of a get-together. The turntable would be spinning silence now, but we raced to see who would read the title first. Actually, she just liked the colors of the labels I think. Most often the color would be red. Columbia Records. While the record disc spun, the design made our eyes all screwy.

We didn’t hear much music in the hours before, but we heard a lot of laughing, and whoopin and hollerin. Later, we learned they played a bunch of Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, but back then what they listened to was grown folk music. Until we heard “Gimme That Wine” by the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross Trio. To us, it was simply a funny ass tune that we could learn the words to and sing ourselves.

Living in Detroit, the Motown ride swept me right on up, just like everybody else, but then came George and the Funk. Jazz was still with me, but the “P” was all up in me. In the 70’s, I leaned toward the jazzy funk because of George Duke’s “Feel” LP. Then came the Tower with the Power, and The Earth and the Wind and the Fire…Goodness. Let me stop. My point―Jazz touched me early. It touched me right, and Jazz shall live with me forever.

William Stephenson

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