[Continued from previous Post]
Upon twisting the radio dial between whistling sounds one could also hear down home clapping gospel music, and classical compositions by—as mom would call them—the Three B’s (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms), plus, an assortment of musical scores from Mozart and others. We didn’t have a lot of dollars, but we did have a little class. One of my favorites was, and still is, Bach’s Polonaise, Minuet and Badinerie—the baroque flute solo. Also, today, I still listen to a diversity of sacred music such as Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, which soothes my spirit and seems to bind me closer to God. As for gospel music, I eventually discovered that white folks also had a flare for this particular genre.
Mom would normally keep the radio dialed to a Christian station-a tradition I would adhere to as an adult. Then years later, in the ’50s, she would watch Bishop Sheen on the tube.
There was this one black musician who’d often stopped over on the weekends—especially if he had a gig at one of the area nightspots. He was a sax player named Sugar Willie. As a showman he naturally was inclined to show off. I remember one weekend when he came over wearing a loud yellow double breasted pin striped suit with brown and white spectator shoes. He had a scarf tied on his head in Aunt Jemima style. As soon as he entered, he asked permission to use the outhouse. After returning inside he grabbed the sugar dispenser and sprinkled a dusting on the wooden floor. Then he commenced to do a soft shoe across the floor, which is how he got his moniker “Sugar” Willie. A casual glance at the wall clock prompted him to untie his scarf and stuff it in his pocket. After which time he began primping his reddish brown hair that had been conked too much. Then he snatched up his sax, and headed off into the night to his nightclub gig.
As soon as my dad shut the door behind him he said, “He’s been smokin’ that joy weed in the outhouse again.”
Then mom said, “Duke! Now you can clean up this mess.”
Pop then said, “I was gonna make him do it, but he was movin’ too fast.”
Smokin’ dope was a common occurrence among musicians during that era, as is indicated by Cab Calloway’s tune titled Reefer Man, that was recorded earlier in 1935. Later in 1945, Caldonia What makes your big head so hard, was considered to be a typical black stereotype tune that would incur exuberant laughter.
The following is a short YouTube video of Reefer Man by Cab Calloway (1:49 mins):