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while replacing a couple of the Ruby Walker links, I decided to post longer, unedited segments that include previously unpublished material.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.