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Sam Wooding III

We continue Sam Wooding's audiobiography, as it unfolded over several afternoon sessions in my living room, only 12 feet from where I now work on this blog. The digital era was not quite upon us and almost five years would pass before my IBM Selectric was pushed aside to make room for a computer. Had this taken place today, I would be posting a video interview with Sam—I wish that could have happened, for he was a delight to be with and the stories he told were often highlighted by his eyes and smile.

I hope you have listened to the two earlier parts of this five-part interview, which was conducted for The Smithsonian Institution during an April week in 1975. At the bottom of this entry, you will find links to the previous installments—recollections that go back to his childhood.

In this segment, he talks about his band working in New York City clubs, including the Club Alabam, which turned out to be his band's springboard to Europe and a new career path. He speaks of how the Chocolate Kiddies show came about and describes opening night in Berlin's Admiralpalast. Bear in mind that this was 1925, a time when black performers in America lived a largely segregated existence. It was the year in which Josephine Baker made her splash in Paris, but most Europeans had very little knowledge of black people, whom they mostly thought of as wild, spear carrying African natives. "They were expecting gorillas, chimps and orangutangs," Sam once told me, "but we surprised them—and they loved us like pets." 

Cast members pose with Berlin poster, 1925

Sam at my apartment in November 1982

Here is a link to Part I
Here is a link to Part II


Recalling fountains of youth...

If you are old enough to remember a time when tape recorders became an affordable addition to your hi-fi system, you may well have had some silly fun turning yourself into a newscaster, disc jockey or interviewer. Nobody was immune to such fun, not even those who routinely faced microphones...not even Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Here they are having a good time in a San Francisco hotel room, or so I am told. Click here to enter the room.