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If this is your first visit, welcome to my blog of memories and observations. If you wish to be notified of new posts, enter an e-mail address above, and click on "Submit." As we move through a seventh year of this venture, I thank all who have made regular visits, as well as fellow bloggers who have found Stomp Off worth linking to. Doing this sort of thing is time-consuming, but I try to post fresh material at least once a week—let me know what you think. There is a Commentary option at the end of each post and a Guest Book can be reached by scrolling down and clicking on the quill image. I welcome your observations, reaction and/or suggestions in either spot—or both. As for blog content, the most current posts are on the home page, starting at the top. Earlier items are listed by month, year and title in the archive index. To zero in on a particular key word or subject, use the search option that is located directly beneath the blog's masthead. Most images can be enlarged with a mouse click, and there are links to some of my favorite blogs, etc. Since visitors have come from 150 countries, a translator with numerous languages is located below. You can at any time revert to English with a click at the top left of this page:

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Impromptu Lush Life.

It was a late January night a half century ago. Duke and his band were the star attraction at New York's Basin Street East, but this is a moment with Billy Strayhorn. The MC is William B. Williams, then my co-worker at WNEW, and I should have gone there with him, as he suggested, but I must have had something better to do, although I doubt that. Not that I missed a great performance, but even when he sang flat, Billy Strayhorn managed to get his message across. Check it out.


Ruby Reminisces about Bessie Smith

As you may have noticed, I have over the years posted excerpts from the amazing series of interviews Ruby Walker contributed to my Bessie Smith biography, "Bessie," which was first published in 1972.

Unfortunately, DivShare, the service I subscribed to in order to post audio and video clips, seems to have gone out of business. There was no warning, no apology, no explanation. Worse still, the company left no path for its thousands of subscribers to retrieve uploaded files. I have begun replacing my posted clips wherever possible, but it is a slow, laborious process. If you attempt in vain to use a link on this blog, please leave a comment. I will then give that link priority and try to reinstate it.

This morning, while replacing a couple of the Ruby Walker links, I decided to post longer, unedited segments that include previously unpublished material. I edited out a few long pauses, a couple of phone rings, and a brief garbled tape glitch, but these are essentially the raw tapes. 
Bessie, Ruby and The Dancing Sheiks.
"Eggie" Pitts seated in the middle.

The interviews took place in my N.Y. apartment over forty years ago, with Ruby seated exactly where I now enter this into my computer. At one point, you may hear her give advice to her "black brother"—that being my doberman, Mingus. When I paid Ruby for her invaluable help, she used the money to fulfill a dream and move to California. Here are the first two parts of our interview. Please bear in mind that this is not the customary Q and A exchange, for the sole purpose was to gather information regarding Bessie Smith and her life.

If only Home Box Office had shared that goal, they would not have hired a clueless amateur writer/director [Dee Rees] to turn the extraordinary Ms. Smith into the centerpiece of a ludicrous lesbian-focused scenario in which actors [some of them accomplished] portray embarrassing stereotypes. Here is the unvarnished truth, a glimpse of the real Bessie Smith, told by someone who spent 14 years on the road with her. 

The Ruby Walker tapes - Part 1
Ruby recalls meeting and hearing Bessie sing for the first time.

The Ruby Walker tapes - Part 2
Ruby describes a Buffet Flat experience in great detail.


Abbey Lincoln and I Thirty Years Ago...

1989 Interview with Valerie Wilmer

I first met activist attorney Flo Kennedy in 1962 when Timme Rosenkrantz and I rented an apartment from Billie Holiday's widower, Louis McKay. The rent was to be paid to Flo Kennedy, who represented the Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker estates, among others.

Flo and I became close friends, which is one reason why she occasionally asked me to host her public access TV show. Here is a June 6, 1989 interview I conducted with writer/photographer Valerie Wilmer. Val lives in her beloved London and is still around and writing interesting books.

I hope you like this half hour I spent with her on camera. It and a vast number of Flo's shows are now online as part of the International Archive's Schlesinger Library.


Shameless Selfie

As a rule, I don't carry ads on this blog, but friends tell me that I should at least run one for my Bessie Smith biography, so here is one that you can easily skip. The attached audio features actor Robertson Dean reading a short excerpt from my introduction to the book. The entire, unabridged reading runs 13 hours and comes in a Tantor Audiobooks boxed set of 11 CDs. A readable Kindle edition is also available for download, and Yale University Press still has it in book form. Mr. Dean does an excellent job of reading on the audiobook version. As for the HBO film, Queen Latifah's singing and Music Director Evyen J. Klean's instrumental setting lend an authenticity to the music that is rarely captured in biographical films but the rest of this atrocious film is a crude travesty of Bessie Smith, her era, and her life. You can blame a woman named Dee Rees for that—her writing and direction are disgraceful insults to Bessie Smith. 

I hope this commercial intrusion does not offend anyone. 

Links to Amazon for the Audiobook, Paperback, and Kindle editions: