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Interview with: Jewel Brown
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava
Date: 05/05/1988
Archive Number: OH 0451.1
AUDIO ONLY

Click here for Part 2 (OH 0451.2)

 

 

 

Uncorrected Transcript for PART 1:


LJM:                 Miss Brown, I’d like to begin the interview by getting some background information on you:  where you were born, a little background about your parents, and then we’ll talk a little bit about your early schooling and go on from there.
JB:                    Well, I was born right here in Houston, Texas, August 30, 1937, and raised here, [and] went to school here.  And my father asked me when I graduated from high school if I wanted to go to college.  Well, I knew it would have been a strain on both of them, even though they would have accepted the strain, you know.  And they would have probably rather [have] strained [rather than] see me go into show business at the time, especially my father.  But then, I had been promised to go to Europe with Lionel Hampton, [and] they had wanted me to leave before graduating, but I told them, “No. I [have] to graduate.  After which they had instructed me to call New York and talk to Gladys [Hampton] and let her knew when I had graduated.  And they asked me, “Well, are you ready now?”  And I said, “Well, of course.”  And I said, “Do you make a contract or something as to what I’m being paid?”  And when she told me what they wanted to pay me to take me to Europe for a week, or bi-weekly, I had to refuse it.
LJM:                 How much was it?
JB:                    Seventy-five dollars a week.  And I had been told during the process of waiting to graduate that she was a little strong.  But I guess my anxiety just had forgotten that it would be anything different other than being a pleasing, comfortable situation, you know, financially.  But I was slapped in the face with that.  And I said, “Oh, no.”  So, I was around Houston for a while [with] my brother, Ted Brown, who [has been] at Angelo’s Fisherman’s Wharf for many years.  Finally, I went to Dallas - - no, I take that back [because] I’m jumping ahead of time here a little bit.
 My sister had been in a car wreck on her way back to California from visiting Appaloosa. And. of course, my father and mother wanted to go out and see her and make sure that she was all right.  Her husband was a musician, and that evening he wanted to take us out on the town.  A friend of his named Luis Rivera was playing at a club there, and that’s where he was taking us out.  He was telling the guy that, “Hey, man , my sister-in-law can sing, and she’s quite good.  Why don’t you call her up for a tune?”  So, he did [but] sort of reluctantly because he just thought [my brother-in-law] was joshing a little bit with him.  And, hey, everybody liked it!  He said, “Oh, man!  That was quite a surprise!”  He said, “You know, our club is kind of small, and we can’t afford anybody else here, but I bet you [that] I can take her to a friend of mine who would just love her to death!”  So, he said, “Do you mine if we go over?”  So,  as I was saying, we went on to the club.
LJM:                 What was the name of the club?
JB:                    The club was called Pigalle on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.  And I looked as we pulled up and there was a line doubled almost around the corner.  And when we stepped in the door, there was none other than the late, great Earl Grant playing.  He had records that exemplified only like one or two sides of him, but he was truly an accomplished musician.  And there was this concert, just jazz, you name it.  The man was absolutely unreal.  And the things that he could. . . .you know, the stops and all that he could pull on an organ to get the certain sounds.  It was just unreal!  Everybody just loved it.  They would sit in a concert and really watch him.  Now, of course, when he went commercial, there were a lot of things that he didn’t do.  But, the years [at] the Pigalle, I really felt were his truly greatest years.
                                    But, at any rate, we went on up there, and Luis Rivera talked to Earl Grant about me.  And [Grant] said, “Well, we’re going to take a break, and after we come back on, I’d like to call her on.  Can you wait that long?”  [Rivera] said, “Of course.”  So, during those years Nat “King” Cole’s Send for Me was booming, and that was one of the things he asked [if] I could do.  And I told him, “Of course.”  We did that together.  After that I did one tune, and that led to another, and then I came off with my third tune.  Leroy Baskerville was the gentleman who owned the club at the time, [Grant] told Leroy, “Hire her!”  Leroy looked at him, and [Grant] said, “Don’t look at me cockeyed! Hire her!”  So [Baskerville] looked at him and he called me back into his office and wanted to know what I would charge him.  So, I gave him my fee, and he said, “Oh, no.  No, we just can’t do that.”  And I said, “Well, O.K.”  I didn’t feel bad about it because I had a job here that I had been on for eight years around the corner here on Dowling [Street].  Arnett [Cobb] had played there many times, and so forth, [where] Dinah Washington and Dakota Statton [performed] back in the years when Roy Hamilton was very popular, and so forth.  That was like home to me, so, frankly, I was never without a job.  So [Baskerville] saw that I was sticking “gung ho” to what I had said to him.  So, he said, “Well, just wait just a minute before you leave.”  I said, “O.K.”  So, he went out and talked to Earl and told Earl what I wanted.  And [Earl] said, “Man, what did I tell you when I went back on the stand?  Hire her!”  So, that was it. And I stayed there, of course, with them for a year-and-a-half, right there in that one club.
LJM:                 Let me interrupt you for just a minute before we get too far into your career.  I’d like to go back and pick up some details.  What school did you go to here in Houston?”
JB:                    Well, I went to Black Elementary School, and from there on to Jack Yates, which at that time, is now Ryan.  It was Jack Yates then.  Right now it is called Ryan, and they built a new Yates.  But Ryan Elementary, right down the street. . . . And I lived right around the corner.  We used to talk through the alley and go to school.
LJM:                 When did you first realize you had talent [for] singing or musical talent, in general?
JB:                    Well, I really guess that all started with my uncle.  He was devout about the church.  All of us children, if we wanted any favors, had to go to church.  Well, Sunday school, especially so.  And then [that] both my parents would be in church. Of course, [the uncle] didn’t allow us to be at home alone, so we had to stay for church, too.  And, of course, [the uncle] also being the usher, president of the Usher Board, Dean and Treasurer, we all had to participate in some churchly activity, too.  So, of course, my choice was the Glee Club.  And my brother used to repair things.  He was quite good with repairings and the electronic parts around the church.  And [at] that [time I] was about at six years old.  And one day, it was my desire . . . .  All my brothers had gone to service, my sisters had gotten married and gone from home, and I guess I must have been around nine years old.  Then, I was very tired some reason or another. . . . I’ll put it this way: usually, when I see trouble ahead that I can’t do anything about, I recall from [that] day and time, I could always escape through sleep.  The teacher had been ill, and they were waiting for a substitute teacher to come in.  So, the kids were raising holly hell, just making all kinds of noise.  So, I didn’t want to be in that [group] in case anybody came through and wanted to tan some hides.  Back in those days, they did that.  So, I just laid my head on my desk and went to sleep through all that noise.  So, Mr. Dawson, the Assistant Principal, came in, and I remember him asking what was my name - - I can remember him asking that.  And somebody said, “That’s Jewel Brown.”  And I thought he was asking me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  So, as I awakened, I said, “A singer.”  Now that’s just how it happened, and I have no explanation for it other than a dream or what, I don’t know.  I couldn’t really explain it to you, but that’s how it happened.  I actually thought in my sleep while my head was laying on me des, that he asked me what did I want to be when I grow up.  But the kids told me and since I was asleep, he had asked the class what was my name.  And when they said, “Jewel Brown,” I woke up thinking he was asking what I [wanted] to do when I grew up.  So, that’s about how it worked out.  And I believe my thoughts before I went to sleep were how could I help my mother and father. 
                                    My father was  . . .  Well, he is.  I say “was” because of what he was, the real man that he was when he was a young man.  And my mom, she wasn’t quite a well woman, and I guess I always wanted to seek a better . . .[to] help them seek a better life, even at that age.  That always played in my mind.
LJM:                 What did your father do for a living?
JB:                    My father was a common professional laborer.  Of course, you see, as he grew up, they used to fight a lot back there in Appaloosa, Louisiana, and his sister wouldn’t let him go to school because he would get in too many fights.  So, he never went more than second grade of school.  And he said he didn’t care anything about fighting, he just wanted to go to school.  But, instead, being [that] he was a strong-bodied young man, he was picked to do a lot of the chores around there at that time. Daddy is eighty-seven now.  There’s a lot of that he probably won’t remember, but he used to tell us all the stores. 
                                    Mother, . . .I believe I must have got my musician inhibitions through her because she had been a pianist.  They had a piano, her oldest sister had had a piano and had taken lessons [but Mother] had never taken lessons from her, from what I understand, because she had to start working so early because her mother hat dies when she was two, and her father died when she was twelve.  She was compelled to go out and work and make a living and go to school, as well.  So, she didn’t get the change to learn the piano like she really wanted to.  But I believe that’s where I must have gotten my talent. . . from her.
LJM:                 You mentioned your activities at the church. Which church was it?
JB:                    Rosehill Baptist Church on Holman, right down the street.  Everything was right down the street because we had to walk. So, we went right down the street for everything: right down the street to the hospital; right down the street to the school; right down the street to the church.  And right down the street to the movie, and  right down the street to the swimming pool.  That was my life.
LJM:                 It was a very self-contained neighborhood.
JB:                    Yes.
LJM:                 You had everything there.
JB:                    Yes.
LJM:                 Did you participate in school activities regarding music?
JB:                    Well, I didn’t and was trying to escape that due to the fact that had a technical ruling.  There was a girl named Lex Washington who passed on last year who was a fabulous jazz pianist back in those days.  But, you see, girls just kind of weren’t allowed to be out with the fellow unless their parents would accompany them and so forth.  And, being that she loved to play, and her mom wouldn’t let her go out on gigs with the fellows.  Of course she joined the band.  So, if she couldn’t get a gig, and it was on a night that the school was giving an activity or had some function or another, they would discredit her.  So, in finding that out, this is why I wouldn’t go in the Glee Club because my primary interest was to try to earn money to help out at home.  And that’s why I dodged it.  But, what happened [was that] some of the teachers had complained about my being in night clubs, not realizing that my mother was always there, and if not my mother during her ill moments, my sisters would be there.  So, I believe a lot of the complain was through a certain idiosyncracy or jealousy.  And they went to the Principal saying that I was in night clubs so young.  So, I was called into the office.  And after I explained my self to Professor William S. Hollard, he called a faculty meeting and told them to not make me uncomfortable.  Because after talking with me, he felt like I had real reason, and he also felt that if I couldn’t, being that I was always accompanied by an adult, that I had just reasons for doing what I was doing in the club.  So, I never had another moment’s problem, and he notified Ms. O’Neill, who was the music instructor at Jack Yates (which is now Ryan, as I said).  She just wanted to know why I hadn’t spoken to her myself and joined the Glee Club.  Now, I explained to her also why.  And they said, “Oh, my goodness!  You must join!”  And I did.  And they made me sing the school song at graduation.  And so, that’s how that ended there, you see.
LJM:                 How old were you when you started singing in clubs?
JB:                    Oh, my goodness.  I started at nine years old at the Masonic Temple in the Fourth Ward.  Trummy King was having talent shows back then.  I don’t know if you remember that.  But, he is one of the ones who I thought should take some of the credit for exploiting black talent around here.  O.K.  After that, even Leonard Shawn who was also [did] . . . . Well, I don’t know about Trummy, but I know Lionel Shaw use to . . . . He started doing some of the same things: carrying on some of the things Trummy had been doing.  And from there, and winning some of the talent shows, my brother and I, [when I] was twelve years old.  [My brother] was working [in] a blues band called Elmo Nixon [and] the Blue Boys, or something like that.  Henry Hayes was the band leader at the time.  I believe Henry Hayes is still living.  He was the piano player for Elmo, and [my brother] asked Henry, “Henry, would you mind taking my sister along?  She’d love to go.”  Henry said, “Hey, man.  The gig isn’t paying enough for anybody else.”  [But] Elmo said, “It’s all right with me.  Where is she going to sit, because the car doesn’t hold but six people?”  My brother said, “Well, she can sit on my lap.”  So, off to the races I went to Galveston at a club called Manhattan.  My brother had taught me to play piano.  He had given me the chord structure, and I sort of went on from there.  [I was asked], “Jewel, do you want to play one and sing now.”  I said, ‘I don’t care.”  So, at the time, there was a girl named Linda Hopkins who had a hit record Lonesome and Blue.  I got up there and I sang that Lonesome and Blue, and here come the people.  [They said], “Oh, play it, baby, play it!!” and [dropped] dollars of all denominations in my pocket.  At that time, the fashion was big, gathered skirts with front patch pockets.  And, of course, that’s what I had worn to school that day, and that’s what I had on when we went to the gig.  And [people] were just stuffing money in my pocket!  So, after that, they said, “Do another one.”  So I played a thing called Old Time Shuffle that was about the same.  And after I finished playing, they said, “Oh, look at her playing that piano!”  Then Henry Hayes was just looking, and everybody was smiling and going on.  That gave the band a chance to rest.  Not the drummer, of course, who was Elmo Nixon who did the song Alabama Blues.  That gave all the boys a rest in time to get a beer and everything.  So I did another number.  I don’t remember what it was, but it went over well also, and the boys thought they ought to come back and start over.  So, at the end of the night Mr. Hayes went on back to playing the songs for the night, and the owner said, “If you’ll bring that little girl back with you, I’ll give you all a gig six nights a week.”  They had [been playing] only one night a week at that time.  So, he came out and said to my brother, “Hey, Brown.  Fellows, come over here.”  He said, “This man said he’ll give us this job six nights a week if we bring you on back with us every night.”  And he looked at me, and I looked at him, and I said, “I’ll be glad to come!”  [My brother] said, “Well, you . . . we need to check with Mother.”  I said, “You know Mother don’t care.”  So, he said, “Well, okay, man, I guess we can come.”  So he went on back there, and the guy told him, “You got it.”  And when he came out, he said, “Fellows, I think it’s no more than right that we all give Jewel a dollar apiece.”  They weren’t asking but nine dollars apiece at night.  And they said, “Hey man, I don’t mind.”  And all of them, including my brother, chipped their dollar in.  So I looked at this one and took those six dollars and stuffed them into my pocket.  So, when I got home, I need to look in my pocket.  Because he really wasn’t paying any attention because they had all gone to the bar.  And my brother didn’t drink beer.  He just drank his soda.  But when they came back, I’m trying to show him my pockets, but he’s still not really paying me any attention.  So, as we got home that night, I’m sitting in his lap, and I’m holding my pockets between my legs.  And when I got home and we walked into the house, I said, “Look at what I was trying to show you.  Look here!”  And I got to pulling it all out and Mother met us at the door, of course, and [we] sat on the sofa to tell her how it went.  And I’m just pulling out bills to the tune of the six dollars that they had given me, and what was already in my pocket came to $161!
LJM:                 That’s good money for then.
CS:                   Especially for those days.
JB:                    In tips!  They were tips people were putting in my pocket.  Now, you know . . . and so was my Mother, and so she did convince my father.
LJM:                 How old were you?
JB:                    At that time I was twelve years old.
LJM:                 You were professional at an early age.
JB:                    I was twelve years old.  Now, my father used to always give me a quarter a week.  And for every good cause, school cause, I’d get a quarter.  So, it was very near time for school to let it.  And I showed my father my card, and I told him, “Okay, Daddy.  Where’s my quarter?”  He said, “Girl, you better get away from me. . . You’re making more than I do!”  So, that was how that went during that time.
LJM:                 What clubs did you play around in the area here, in Houston, in the early period?
JB:                    There was a club called the Whispering Pines out in Acreage Homes, I think that was.  We used to work the Bar-B Ranch.  There was a club down here by the freeway that was called The Wango Lounge.  There was a Jewish synagogue that was here on Holman [Street] we used to work all the time.  We used to do several house parties, you know . . . it’s called __?_ area out there, where the Galleria is, before the Galleria was ever built, we used to go out there and do a lot of house parties out there.  And, of course, the Eldorado Ballroom.  I used to walk out of The Ebony’s back door and go to the Eldorado and work that.  Until Mr. Lane said, “Girl, don’t you know you can’t do that?  Now, you either need to be here or you need to be there, and you better not say you’re going there.  You better stay here.”  Mr. Lane, he was the owner of the Ebony Club at the time, which I worked there for eight years.
CS:                   Where was that?
JB:                    Right on the corner of Rosewood and Dallas, right around the corner from Arnett [Cobb’s] home there.  As a matter of fact, when he worked there, he’d just walk from his home.
LJM:                 Did you work for regular salaries, plus tips?  How was your . .?
JB:                    Well, you never did really count on tips.  You always tried to make sure that you were getting a comfortable salary, which wasn’t a lot in those days.  And I’m overlooking one gentleman who passed [on] now by the name of Leo Baxter.  I don’t know if you remember him.
CS:                   I remember the name.
JB:                    Now, it was Leo Baxter that I worked for after the job sort of played out at the Manhattan in Galveston.  I did just all the area in and around Houston: Wharton and Columbus and Anahuac.  All the little cities all around with Leo Baxter.  That’s who I did all those kind of odd jobs with.  And that was for five dollars a night.  They would pick me up right from the gate of Jack Yates [School] as I was walking out of the class.  They’d already have my Mom in the car, where I didn’t have to go home, and I would do my gigs in my school clothes.  That’s the way it went. 
LJM:                 How long did that go on?
JB:                    Until I was fifteen years old.  That’s when I started working The Ebony.  And, of course, from The Ebony to Earl Grant’s, as I mentioned before.  And from Earl Grant, I came home and I worked in and around Houston again for a while, and then I went to San Antonio to the Eastwood Country Club for a gentleman named Johnny Phillips.  He had all sort of entertainment and entertainers there.
LJM;                 What year was that?
JB:                    Let’s see.  This was, like, around 1958.
LJM:                 So, the Los Angeles gig was much earlier?
JB:                    Oh, yes.  It was 1957-1958m and the latter part of 1958 I went on to San Antonio.  And they kept me there for about three months.  They usually changed often, but I became a hit with the people there, and they kept me there for about three months.  And I came back home to see what was going on here.  The next thing I knew, I had done one job at [the] Tidelands.  It was quite popular.  [It was] not Tidelands II.  It was only the Tidelands, which was right across the street from Angelo’s; the old Angelo’s where the bank and the Medical Center and all that is now.  A gentleman that worked for AGVA hear me with Earl Grant at that performance.  And, of course, Jack Ruby in Dallas had needed an entertainer. 
LJM:                 The Jack Ruby?
JB:                    “The” Jack Ruby had needed an entertainer to open with that would be sort of low budgeted because he had spent quite a lot of money in remodeling, which was a beautiful club he had made of it called The Sovereign Club, just across the street from the Adolphus Hotel.  And they had the Century Room there, and they used to have all the large acts there.  And so he told them that he knew just the person.  And, of course, they called me, and I went there for two weeks which wound up lasting a year-and-a-half at that one club with him.  So, after a year-and-a-half there with him, we had had a misunderstanding, and he, later on, you know, recognized his mistake, but at the time I had switched clubs.  And in switching club, Louis Armstrong’s agent, Tony Parker, opened the Dallas Branch of the ABC, had heard quite a bit about me through Tony Zoppi’s column, “Dallas After Dark” at that time.  And he recommended that Joe Glazier come down and listen to me, which, anyone who was hired to work with Louis Armstrong was personally interviewed by Joe Glazier.  That was his personal and primary interest.  So, I didn’t even know really that Joe was there, and Joe had taken a flight in, caught my show, and had taken a flight right back out that same night.  Back to New York.  The next day, I was called into the office to Tony Parker and was asked who did I want to join: Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington.  So, I remembered from discussing with and meeting different musicians that Duke didn’t like to fly at that time.  And I remembered from talking to all of them that Louis Armstrong went all over the world.  And then I calculated in my mind, within split seconds, that there’s seventeen guys in Duke Ellington’s band.  There were only six with Louis Armstrong. I went with Louis Armstrong.  In a flash, I said, “Louis Armstrong!”  You see, what I didn’t know was [that] at the Duke Ellington was also looking for a singer, and Joe was scouting for him as well.
CS:                   Was that a split-second decision?
JB:                    Yes.  That’s exactly the way it went.  It’s like all those things traveled within my mind, just like in a split of a second.
LJM:                 What was your objection to a larger band?
JB:                    I just told you.  Duke didn’t like to fly.  Louis went all over the world.  You understand?  Whenever Duke went someplace, the boys could fly if they wanted to, but Duke a boat, or whatever, whenever they went to Europe.  But I was told differently about Louis Armstrong.  Because, you know, when the different guys come through, you sit and you discuss and you kick it around with the musicians about what’s going on out there and so forth.
CS:                   We have a palaver all our own.
JB:                    You know what I’m talking about.  So, in lieu of bearing those things in mind, you know, it was an easy decision.  And then, as I said, too, beforehand, I know the money’s got to be different: seventeen and me making eighteen, and six [with] me making seven!  I love the business, true enough, but I also had things to do in mind.  And I had helped my Mom and Father purchase this home right here when I was fifteen years old from just working.  Well, I knew I had to get to stepping to keep it up and help them and knowing that they’re getting older, and not younger, and trying to make sure that we maintained.  My Father taught me the value of that dollar, you see. So, I always tried to think [of] what was more lucrative, as well as with them all, and so forth, . . . all aspects in mind.  And then, on the other hand, they used to worry quite a bit about me, being the baby.  I’m the baby.  And the baby girl.  And you know, with a bunch of young fellows like Duke had at the time, I think they would have been a little bit more worried than me with the old coons!  So, I had a whole bunch of daddies.  You understand?  My mother would have been afraid I’d had sugar daddies with Duke Ellington’s group.
LJM:                 How did she feel about . . .?
JB:                    Oh, they were very pleased.  After I didn’t choose to sing gospel.  They really were.  My father especially so [since] he really wanted me to be with a gospel group.
LJM:                 There really wasn’t much money in that.
JB:                    No, it was not.  It absolutely was not at all.  That’s a thing where I don’t believe you could really demand a salary.  It was only what collections would bring in and be split among everybody, all the performers [and] everybody concerned.
LJM:                 Le me ask you a few questions that I picked up while you were talking.  Le me just go back a minute to your brother.  Now, he must have been an accomplished musician.
JB:                    Well, I had a mom who was very observant of her children.  And my brother, Ted who was quite talented: he was a wonderful typist, and he loved to play the piano.  And unfortunately, because we couldn’t own a piano, he was breaking into school to play, you see.  So, they found he wasn’t breaking in to do harm.  So, therefore, my mom was just told that the boy had talent, and they were wishing that some arrangements could be made about him to go and take lessons, and so forth and so on.  And, you see, during those years you’re trying to put a meal on the table.  It’s kind of hard for extra dollars to go out for almost anything other than bare necessities.  But, she talked with my Father about it and they really evidently. . . . I must say they really must have worked on it real hard, and what their sacrifices were, well, I just don’t know.  But at graduation, she asked my brother what did he want, a typewriter or a piano?  And he said, “A piano.”  And they went to Pool Piano Company and paid cash, $250, for a piano.  I mean, that just seemed like a world of money back during those years.  When we only got a dime for lunch, and sometimes we’d walk for lunch because we couldn’t get the dime.  So, how they maneuvered that?  Now, I don’t know if she wrote my brothers in the service and they sent it to her, or what.  I don’t know.  But, I know it was $250 spent in cash for that piano.  And it was just three years ago that I gave the piano to a church.  Just three years ago.
LJM:                 So, your brother had a real impact on your development.
JB:                    Oh, yes.  We’re very close.  It appears he’s always taken an interest in me.  Now, we used to fight like cats and dogs when we were kids.  I used to kick him in the shins and everything, tell tales on him and he’d catch a whippin’ when I couldn’t get the best of him.  The whole bit.  But needless to say, we’re very close right now, and I guess, among six of us, we are all very close.  But I think my brother and I are the closest we feel because we both have something in common musically.
LJM:                 Do any of the others have any musical inclinations?
JB:                    Yes.  I have a brother, Alfonse, who could have been just one beautiful congo/bongo player.  But then marriages and spending twenty-one and a half years in the service and so forth.  And maintaining a marriage.  He’s been unfortunate, sort of.  I believe he’s on his third marriage now.  And those things just keep you so busy that you don’t get a chance to really involve yourself with things that you might really care to do.  And he really did like it, but I believe he’s happy.  I believe his last wife has made him pretty happy.
LJM:                 Who did the negotiating for you for jobs, for salaries, before you went with Louis Armstrong?
JB:                    I, myself.
LJM:                 You had no agent or anyone represent you at all?
JB:                    No.  I did it all myself.
LJM:                 You learned the hard way.
JB;                    Yes.  But by being a good listener around the professionals who would come through town, listening to them, not really prying into their conversations but wanted to learn the ropes, I had learned things like the Western Union – even before joining the Union, because I hadn’t even thought about that really.  But, to get confirmation through Western Union and that sort of thing, that’s the way I used to do it them.
CS:                   You didn’t belong to the union when you first started at Clubs?
JB:                    No.
CS:                   When did you first join the union?
JB:                    I joined AGVA at nineteen: American Guild of Variety Artists.  Later on, having to join AFRTA, American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.
LJM:                 You mentioned that you had a disagreement with Jack Ruby.  What was that about?
JB:                    Well, Jack had been doing very, very well.  I’ll probably say, but not mainly, had been doing very well with the club with must my show.  However, we didn’t want people to grow tired of it.  We started to pull in acts that I had worked with, like at The Ebony, and I had their addresses and so forth.  And we’d pull in somebody extra, you know what I mean, to add a different flavor.  And it was mostly professional people who came up there.  As I said, it was quite a beautiful club.  And they used to tip very heavily.  And one night a gentleman had a $100 tip for me to sing Stormy Weather  [but] who did not want bring it to me himself.  So, he called Jack over, and he asked Jack to bring it to me.  So, after the show was over, he [Jack Ruby] came back and asked me for his “half.”  I thought he was kidding.  You know, “Rich man,” I thought.  I’m not prying into his business, but I felt like he was a wealthy man, or whatever.  So, I’m thinking automatically that he’s joking with me.  So I said, “Half of what?”  He said, “Half of that hundred-dollar bill.”  I said, “You better get away from here.  You’ve got to be kidding!”  But, he was serious, and he called me a derogatory name.  And he said, “You so-and-so!  If it hadn’t been for me, you wouldn’t have it.”  And I easily turned around to him and said, “Well, it looks like if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have anybody here.  Remember, you called me.  I didn’t call you.”  One of those kind of things.  And the name he had called me, later on, it really stunned me.  And to be honest, he called me a money-hungry bitch.  So, as I said, my father . . . .I contribute a lot of things to him.  And it struck me so hard because my father had taught us that a bitch was a dog, a bitch dog.  And for [Ruby] to call me that, that really got with me kind of tough.  So I made up my mind then and there that if he can’t respect me as the person, then, evidently, he’s not respecting me as the entertainer.  And I was taught that I didn’t have to do that: I didn’t have to take those kinds of insults.  And my Mom always told us, “Baby . . . .  She’s a Leo Woman, and you know those Leos believe in training their children real early to do what will make them self-sufficient.  And her word was, “Baby, be like a rat: have more than one hold to crawl in.”  And I believe she realized that I was smart enough to understand what she was saying:  learning how to do more than one thing.  And my Mom had been only a domestic worker.  And she taught us how to iron and wash very early on in years.  So, she used to say, before even starting to dabble with singing professionally, she’d say, “Baby, you have really learned to wash and iron good.  If you can’t get nowhere else, you’ll be able to wash and iron for the white folks.”  So, I just said, “Okay,” as long as you wear whatever it takes to make a living.  You don’t know where you got it, but you don’t know where you’re coming from, and you don’t know where you’re going.  So, I said, “Okay, Mother.”  I don’t know if I used those words, but that’s the feeling I had gotten with her training me.
                                    So, getting back to Jack Ruby: that night I let my girlfriend use my car, and when she came to pick me up, I said, “Terry, wait a minute.  Better still, park the car.  I’ve got to go upstairs.  You’ve got to come help me get my things from up here.”  So, we went upstairs, and I got my things, and as I got them he [Jack] asked me where I was going.  “Well, I don’t know what’s going on.  That roughness is making me feel uncomfortable.  Okay?  I don’t know really what to expect.  I’m seeing things happening, but I’m not paying any attention to anything because I don’t want to become involved in anything.”
                                    I’d broken some racial barriers in clubs there already when I was doing some outside things.  As a matter of fact, I worked at the Sheridan at the time.  They had a room. I forget the name of the room [but] I believe it was called the Ninetieth Floor, or something like that.  They had wanted Nat “King” Cole to work it, and they wouldn’t let him worked it because he was a black man.  With the popularity he had, they didn’t want that.  But, they hire me.  I went up there and worked, trying to make a living. 
                                    So, Terry went on upstairs, helped me with my things out of there.  I’m walking out and Jack asked me where I was going.  And I told him I had to put all my things in the cleaners.  It’s time to have them deodorized, kind of jokingly.  And I walked on out.  And I didn’t even tell him I wasn’t coming back anymore.  And I didn’t.  So, the next night I hadn’t shown up for work, and he called and wanted to know why I hadn’t come in.  And I told him.  And I told him I wasn’t taking those kinds of insults from anybody.  So, he understood, and I guess, remembered, or whatever since he saw I was most profound about not coming in.  He had the little cook call me because the little cook and I used to talk all time.  So, he felt like he had developed a relationship that maybe he could call me and tell me to come on back.  So, he did call me.  He was very young.  I believe we were about the same age.   And I said to him, “Oh, no!  After what Jack did to me, the kind of name he called me, I just refuse to come and work for him anymore.  I don’t care what it means.  I just refuse to come here.”  So, Jim Doland called me, and he told me, “You know they told me slippers don’t count.”  And he said, “Well, now, Jewel, you could lose your card behind this.”  And I said, “Mr. Doland, if you want it, here it is in my purse.  You can take it.  You can have it.”  I said, “I was scuffling when I got out here.  Maybe if he sees fit, the Lord will see fit that I can scuffle it [and] keep on seeing there are meals on my table.  I said, “And there’s got to be a way to work around this, but I’m not going back to work for him anymore.”  So, they say that I firm in my conviction, and they never bothered me anymore.
                                    But, when I went with Louis Armstrong, I had two months vacation while “Pops” [Armstrong] was having dental surgery done.  He was having implants.  And that’s when this club, well, the hotel, The Cabala – it was The Cabala at the time.  Of course, Doris Day bought the hotel, and she called it something else.  But it was most beautiful.  They had the Bon Vivant Room and Nior’s Nook, soft of Las Vegas style without the gambling.  In other words, a big show room and a lounge.  So, they had me to do two weeks in the show room.  Being they enjoyed it, or whatever you might say, they had me to go on and lay over in Nior’s Nook for another week.
                                    While I was at Nior’s Nook, Jack came over.   The bandstand was kind of high up behind the bar, and he sat at the bar.  I looked down, and I happened to spot him, and I called his name over the mike.  He loved the recognition.  And I said, “Oh, look who’s stuck in the house.  Old Jack Ruby.”  Well, at that time he had changed the club name from the Sovereign Club to, I believe, they called it . . . . Oh, I forgot now, but it turned into a burlesque house, I believe it was.  So, he said, “Why don’t you come back and work for me?  You come here and work for them, and you won’t come back and work for me.”  And I looked at him, and I said, “Oh, Jack, we’ll always be friends, but we don’t work together anymore!”  And that was the last time I saw him until we were in Terre Haute, Indiana.  We’d gone back to work with Louis, and I was in Terre Haute, Indiana.  We had just checked in.  And I’m sitting on the edge of the bed turning on the TV just in time see them bring Lee Harvey Oswald out.  And I saw this figure stepping forth, and I recognized him before the shot even went off.  I said, “Look at there.  There’s Jack Ruby.”  And then after I looked I said, “Looka there.”  You know, looking at the TV like that, my reaction was one of those numbers.  I couldn’t believe it.
LJM:                 Did that surprise you that he was capable of such a thing?
JB:                    Well, I’ll leave all those reports with the Warren Report because they did come to visit me in New York because Johnson had ordered the Warren Report: that anybody who had come in contact with him in any sort of way, anybody’s name that he had made mention of, or anybody had made mention of that was in the presence of him had to be interview by the Warren Report.  But, I will say he did have a temper.  And I must say a man . . . .the kind of person I was, all I did was go to work, do the best I could to please his audience, go back to my dressing room, not come out again until it was time for me to perform again.  When I finished my night, I said, “Good night, and thank you” to everybody and getting out the door, in my car, on about my business, and not meddling in or staying to listen to anybody else’s business.  I thought that was a good way to behave for those times.  And I behaved the best I knew for those times.
LJM:                 Before we get fully into your activities with Louis Armstrong, why don’t you just give us an overview or some insight into Louis Armstrong as you knew him.  What kind of person was he to work for?  What stands out in your mind about him?  He has such a reputation in the music community, and he’s become part of folk history of the country, actually.  But I wonder you as a person perceived him as.
JB:                    Well, Louis once said to me that he never did seek stardom.  He only wanted to blow his horn.  But I guess because he loved it so, the result was what it became.  Now, there’s not an awful lot to say about Louis because he was a very simple man.  Extremely earthy.  Outside of his music, he was totally of the common phenomena of a person.  And when you joined the band, he said to you . . . .  Well, first of all, Joe Glazier said to you because you had to see him first.   He said, “Remember that you are now and all-star, a goodwill ambassador.”  And he gave you the outline as to how you give respect to that.  Now, when you got to Louis, Joe told you, “If you respect yourself, you’re going to respect this situation.”  {Louis said}, “Now, I don’t care what you do, how you enjoy yourself, how late you stay up . . . whatever . . . but when you hit my bandstand you perform your very best.”  And that was all he had to say.  And he gave each individual their spot.  It was best that you did the best with your spot, whatever time that was, when he gave it to you.  I went in for a two-week trial, and I stayed almost nine years.
CS:                   Where was this?  Where was the trial?
JB:                    As I said, Joe Glazier had come down to a club called the Chalet Club after I left Jack Ruby, and I told him if they considered me . . . . But backing up, Frenchy, the road manager, was told to pick me up and take me on a Texas tour with them, which we did: San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio, Houston.
CS:                   Now this was [with] Armstrong?
JB:                    This is with Armstrong.  And also the Hi-Ho Ballroom in Grand Prairie, which is in between Fort Worth and Dallas.  So, they left me in Dallas and went on to do their one-nights after the Texas tour was over.  And [they] told me if there’d be a girl with Armstrong it would be me.  So, as I said, I told them, “Well, if you should decide this, I don’t live in Dallas.  I live in Houston, but I’m working in and around Dallas here at the time.  A boy named Joe Johnson, we used to gig a lot in the area.  He is very well known around there.  Still is, I understand.  I said, “Give me advance notice, please, because I’ll have to go home.”  Because Mother had told us, “You don’t use up all your best.  You same something, if there’s better things.”  So, I had two or three garlands here [in Houston] that I was saving for big time.  And those things I knew I would have to come home and get for that.  So I said, “Give me advanced warning so I can go home and kind of change things around a bit and say “ ‘Bye” to my Mom and stuff.  Well I guess they just forgot all about that because they called me one morning at my hotel and said, “I want you to catch a three o’clock flight.  Your ticket is already at the airport in Houston.  Meet the band in New York.”  Well, I can’t say, “Oh, no!” to the man and all this.  I’m too built up and don’t want to change nothing.  So, baby, luckily for me I had a car in one way and unlucky for me in the other.  Lucky for me that I had a car because I didn’t have time to pack.  I was just throwing things in the car.  But I could have faster if I could have packed into the plane and sent my brother after the car later on.  So, I got home.  And at that time we didn’t have I-45 like it is now, but, believe it or not, I made it in two-and-a-half hours from Dallas to Houston.  People don’t believe me to this day, but I did.  That car went 120 miles-an-hour and, unless I was in [or] pulling up through a small city - -it wasn’t built up like it is now - - unless I was pulling through a little, small city, the pedal was on the metal.
CS:                   It was a two-lane road!
JB:                    That’s right.  The pedal was on the metal.  Anyway, the police stopped me one time, and when he stopped me I knew I had to come up with something good because I could not afford to be detained.  Now, my mom had been a sickly women, but, believe me, I used it!  I made crocodile tears roll out of my eyes, and I said, “Officer, I’m trying to get home to my Mama.”  I said, “I’ve got to get there right now.  She needs me!”  He said, “Well, Baby, slow down or you ain’t gonna get a chance to get there.”  I said, “Yes, sir.”  I said, “but let me go! I’ve got to just be moving.”  He said, “Okay.  Now are you going to slow down?”  I said, “Yes, sir.”  When he got out of view, back on that pedal I went.  And I was gone.  And I was cool.  I never stopped again.
                                    When I ran in the door, my sister-in-law and my brother were living up here, and they could hear me through the floor.  “Mildred, get down here.  Mildred, get down here.”  She came running down the stairs and said, “What’s wrong?”  She was in her robe.  I said, “Baby, don’t go back upstairs.”  I whizzed through the house.  I snatched what I wanted.  I emptied the little bag I had [and] snatched a few things out.  My Make-up kit always stayed prepared with my little wash articles and makeup, you know.  But those clothes, I just grabbed a few things, and I put the best in there, threw them down there.  I said, “Help me with this and come on.  Let’s go!  You’re driving me to the airport in that robe, honey.”  She said, “Uh-huh.”  I said, “You can’t drive this one, Baby.  I’ve got to drive this one.”  And I drove.  It was Hobby then.  There wasn’t an International Airport at that time.   So, I drove out there.  The Gulf Freeway was there then.  I took that Gulf Freeway onto Broadway, down Reveille, or whatever is there now.  And when I got on the plane, I was too tired for the over-anxiety to stay awake.  I went straight to sleep.  When I woke up, I woke up with some things in my lap that I had anticipated putting away.  That’s how hard I slept, through the meal and all.  When I stepped off that plane, the charter bus was at the foot of the stairs.  I stepped right off the stairs of the plane right on to the stairs of the bus and went straight on into Storyville and Boston, Massachusetts, for George Williams.  That was the first gig.  If I had missed that plane, I’d have missed the band.  I was just glad that I could tell a nice, good fig and get out from under those green stamps that the officers were issuing out.
LJM:                 He didn’t give you a ticket?
JB:                    No.  Didn’t even give me a warning ticket.  He just said, “Well, Baby, just slow down.”  But I know when he caught me [that] I must have been going at least a hundred [miles per hour].  I don’t believe they had radar at that time.  Like I said, people won’t believe that, but that’s the honest truth.  I know it couldn’t have been many minutes over two-and-a-half hours that I got from Dallas to the city limits of Houston.  Now, of course, I had to cool it all the way in from the city limits on in because I believe our enforcement was very excellent then.
CS:                   You also had a lot of lights then.
JB:                    Right!  Lots of lights then.  And lights caught you at every street, you know.
CS;                   Washington Boulevard.
JB:                    Yes.
LJM:                 So, this was your first performance with Louis Armstrong?
JB:                    My first performance was in Storyville in Boston, Massachusetts, for George Williams, the gentleman of the Cool Jazz Festival.  That’s right.  And it was on and on from there to all over the world.  I went around the world, I believe, four times with him.  All throughout Asia.  The only parts of Africa I went with him were Tunisia.  But, of course, all throughout South America, all throughout New Zealand, and Australia, of course.  All over Japan.
LJM:                 This was all during the nine years with Louis?
JB:                    Right.
LJM:                 Was there a permanent home?  For example, in New Orleans.  Wasn’t that Louis Armstrong’s home?
JB:                    Oh, no.  His home was Corona, Long Island, and his operating base was New York.  He lived in Corona, Long Island.  And all he expected out of you, as I said, was for you to do your job and professional and as good and well as you possibly could.  Now, he was a man that  - - - he wouldn’t let one thing disturb him.  He would wait until a lot of things disturbed him.  Then he would blow up for all of them.  About once very six months.  And when he did that, it was like the wolf blowing his house down: you just be still, keep your peace, or stand there and hope those daggers miss you. 
CS:                   I heard a story about him that he had had several wives, and when he was divorced he just gave the lady whatever he had: everything he had and started over again from zero.
JB:                    That’s right.  That’s exactly how he did it.  Just that plain and simple.  That’s the way he did it.
LJM:                 Was he generous with the musicians?
JB:                    Well, I would say he was generous with the musicians because, between ourselves and Dave Brubeck, I believe we were about the highest-paid group out there among the jazz musicians.  He was, I’d say, more generous with people.  For instance, we did Santiago and Valparaiso, [Chile].  I don’t remember which one it was, either Valparaiso or Santiago, that in the airport a little fellow came to him and asked for an autograph.  And he gave it to him, and then he said, “Is there something here you want?”  The little boy was so pleasant.  Do you know what I mean?  And, you know, they weren’t poverty stricken, but you could tell they didn’t have much.  But he said it so graciously that I believe he just melted Louis’ heart.  And he asked the young man, “Is there something here you want?”  He didn’t understand because he couldn’t speak English.  Louis kept saying, “Point at something you want.  What do you want?  Come on.  Put your hand - - point something you want.”  Well, he looked up at his mom, and he looked up at Louis and he was looking up at his mom and he was trying to understand.  So, his mom is trying to tell him to pick something he wants.  So, he picked some little something, and Louis didn’t feel like that was fitting of him, and Louis said, “Give me that right there.”  And, whatever it was I can’t remember.  And he handed it to him.  And after he handed it to him, then this was drawing a crowd.  And here come people from everywhere, children and all like that.  So, he said, “Give him something, too.  I’ll tell you what.  Give him that over there.  Give it to him.”  So, the kid behind the counter, he didn’t know what was going on.  He’s not getting any money.  So, then, Louis was telling them, “I’m going to pay for it!  I’m going to pay for it! Give him that!  And that little fellow over there, give him so-and-so.”  So the kid behind the counter I don’t believe was more than sixteen years old himself and he can’t speak English either, and he’s just not relating to what is going on.  So, finally, Louis just went behind the counter and pulled the kid from behind the counter and just started giving everything in the whole deal away.  He just gave everything on the counter and everything on the shelves.  He just gave it away to people.  And where people started coming from in that airport I just don’t know, but that airport started filling up.  And when he ran out of things to give awy, he went in his pocket and got his money out and started giving his money away.  When he ran out of money, he started looking around, and Frenchie was just shaking his head.   And Frenchie - - [Louis] started looking around at Frenchie.  Frenchie was short and sort of a barrel of a man.  So, Frenchie just wanted to say, “I believe we’d better get out of here.”  One of those kinds of things.  And Louis said, “Frenchie, you better bring you big belly back here!”  He came on back. He [Louis] said, “Give it up.  You know what I want.”  And that was it.  But he wouldn’t let Doc Ship come through.  Doc Ship was the main holder, do you know.  See, the doctor’s bag wasn’t all medicine.  The Doc managed to get away, but Frenchie couldn’t get away.  Everything Frenchie had in his pocket had to go.  And finally, Oh Lord, they started announcing it was time for that plane!  Lord, have mercy!  When we got out of there, Doc Ship just said, “Whew!!” because whatever Louis did, that was just it.
                                    I didn’t quite understand a lot of things until one day Loud kind of explained it to me.  He said, “You know, back during the old days in Chicago, musicians couldn’t walk where they wanted too. . “
                        And Louis got tired of playing Chicago, and he wanted to leave Chicago and start traveling.  And from what I understand, Mr. Glazier was a good friend of Mr. Capone.  And he kind of like him because at that time he was kind of like a little errant boy to Mr. Capone.  Y’all know what I’m saying?  So, he said, “You guys are friends.  Don’t you know something about managing?”  He said, “I don’t know how to manage no band.”  He said,  “But if you could go, wouldn’t you try?”  He said, “I don’t know, man.  I’d have to give that a thought because I really don’t know anything about it.”  He said, “Well, do you think the big man would let you go?”  He said, “I don’t guess I wouldn’t have any problems with that, but I just don’t know nothing about the business.”  So I understand that he went home that night, and when he [Armstrong] came back the next day he had five thousand dollars, and he called Mr. Glazier over and he slapped it in his hand and told him, “Now learn!”  And that was the beginning of traveling and the beginning of Associated Booking Company.  That was the beginning, the origin, of that, from what I understand from Mr. Armstrong himself.  And that’s why that was such a love affair, a business partner between Louis and Mr. Glazier.
LJM:                 So they formed it?
JB:                    Mr. Glazier formed it.  But, as I said, Mr. Armstrong was responsible.  He see, he made him learn.
LJM:                 That’s interesting.  Hands behind the scenes.
JB:                    Made him learn.  And that was the beginning of that.  And, as I said, for tax reasons and so forth, I understand Louis never received more than $300 a night.  And all the musicians and everybody used to say, “Oh, they’re sure giving Louis a royal one.”  But what they didn’t know was that the relationship was so rare, so tight, so beautiful and all, and then Mr. Glazier having all the sense of investing and so forth and so on.  Then they said, “Mr. Glazier is going to die on that man, and he ain’t going to have nothing.”  That’s what all the people used to say.  But then Mr. Glazier did die before Louis, and he left him thirty-two million dollars, plus his trust fund, plus internation Music Corporation, plus all of his agents.
CS:                   International Music Corporation?
JB:                    Yes.  Plus a million dollars went to all of his agents that he had established offices around the world and twenty million dollars to the one that he appointed president, which was Oscar Cohen.  He still there in New York right now.
LJM:                 That’s incredible.  He had amassed a fortune.
JB:                    But he was a true entrepreneur, you know.
LJM:                 They both were.
JB:                    It has nothing to do with music.
LJM:                 Yes, it does.
CS:                   Yes it does.  All that work behind the scenes has to take place in order for . . . .
JB:                    That’s true.  A lot of things that have come to pass for musicians to be heard because of all the behind-the-scenes finagling and so forth in order to put them out there, you might say.  So, I guess it does play a large part.  But, you know, Mr. Glazier, he was in the fighting world, with boxing and so forth and so on.  As a matter of fact, our private doctor who traveled with us all the time had been with the Bosing Commission in New York for forty years before he started to travel with us everywhere.  Dr. Alexander Shipp.
CS:                   I never once connected him with Louis Armstrong.
LJM:                 Now, as a member of the band, you didn’t really need an agent because you were represented through Louis’ representation.  Right?
JB:                    That’s right.  And Joe Glazier became my agent.  As a matter of fact, after my two weeks with the band throughout the East Coast, I was called in because I was brought in on a two-weeks trial.  So, Mr. Glazier asked me, he said, “Girl, everybody seems to be happy with you.  The boys are pleased with you, and it looks like you are going to do a good job.  Now I want to know what you want to do.  Do you want a contract or do you want to shake my hand?”  He said, “I shook hands with Louis Armstrong forty years ago.  Now what do you want to do?”  And that was that.  I stuck my hand out, and we shook hands, and he just laughed.  And that was the end of that.
LJM:                 Did they treat you right?
JB:                    Oh, yes.  Very definitely.  As a matter of fact, that day he called in his secretary of many years who started with him; Ms. Frances Church, the only secretary he had appointed when he first started [his] office.  And he called her and told her to take me shopping.  And he bought me two beautiful gowns that day and everything that went with them to get me started to really look the part.
LJM:                 How old were you then?
JB:                    This was in 1961, so I was twenty-three.  And there were places we went to . . . .  You know, Velma Middleton had been a singer for many years with him who he dearly loved.  And she was quite heavy.  I believe she was near three hundred or something.  And, of course, when everybody saw me, they said, “Oh, Pops!  What a switch!  I can get me arms around her!”  And from then on, they went back to the thin girls because there was an era - - oh, I’m a big girl again now - - but at that time everybody used large girls: heavy-set girls.  So, to go to  thing girls at that time - - and I was a neat size 8 and 10 - - so, that was quite a switch from the ordinary during those years.
LJM:                 Was he kind of paternalistic over you?  Did he really treat you as a kid?
JB:                    Very much so.  Say, for instance, when I first joined the band and we were doing “one-nighters.”  We had our own charter bus.  And I couldn’t sleep at night.  We’d get through with the gig, and I’d be staring out the window.  I guess I’m Momma and Daddy’s baby because, I’ll tell you, I’d always wonder what they were doing and are they all right and all that sort of thing.  And Pops said - - he reached up - - I had the seat in front of him, and he reached up and touched me, and he said, “What’s the matter?  You can’t go to sleep?”  I said, “No.  I don’t guess it’s that.  I guess I’m just not sleepy.”  He said, “Look.  You need to relax.  You’re going to be riding all night.  You’re not going to have but little time to rest in bed tomorrow before going to concert tomorrow night.”  He said, “Now, where are you on your way?”  I believe at that time we were on our way to Youngstown, Ohio.  He said, “What are you going to do when you get there?”  I said, “I’m going to sure stretch this body out.”  He said, “When you get up, what are you going to do?”  I said, “I’m going to get up and get myself ready to go to the gig.”  He said, “When you finish the gig, what are you going to do?”  I said, “I guess come on back and go to bed.”  He said, “You’re going to make money, aren’t you?”  I said, “Yes.”  He said, “What are you going to do with it?”  I said, “Well, I keep out what I need here for expenses and I sent the rest home to my mom: whatever they need to keep them comfortable.”  He said, “Well, Baby.  That’s all you can do, so there’s nothing for you to do, so stop worrying about what’s going on back there and do what you need to do for back there, so that you can rest.”  And from then on, I thought about that, and I said, “Well, he’s right.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  I’m sitting up here riding and worrying about what they’re doing [which] ain’t gonna help matters none.  So, that’s all I can do: do what’s necessary for me to do, and that’s take care of myself and send them a little something extra to make sure that they’re not worried about the bills and stuff.
CS:                   And the things we worry about never, ever occur.
JB:                    That’s right.  We just build these things up in our heads.  And do you know what?  We forget that upstairs that man is looking and seeing everything. It’s a penalty we need to suffer.  Hey, be glad that you can suffer it here.  And he says, “Suffer, little children, then come unto me.”  So, hey, man,  whatever  I’ve got to repent, give it to me right here.  Just help me bear it.  Do you know what I’m saying?  Let’s get it over right here.  Worrying just ain’t gonna fix nothing, because the inevitable is the inevitable.  Now you can plan.  You can try to plan.  Even He know there’s a master plan.  You can still try to plan because that’s what life is all about: setting a goal and so forth and so on.  But my youngest brother, Theodore, I like a thing he said to me.  He said, “Jewel, you know, I stopped playing for things, and I started asking the Lord to just see to my needs.  There’s a lot of things that you pray for.  You find out that when you get it, you don’t even want it.”  He said, “So, I finally just ask the Lord to see to my needs that I’ve been pretty content about my life,”  So, I thought about my years in show business and how my life has gone, and sometimes I used to regret certain things about it.  But, then I realized that all things have a time and place.  And we have to take life as we find it, and, sometimes, even in most cases, accept it like it is.  I don’t mean to become complacent about things that you can help or do better about.  But in some areas you are not responsible for the change.  Time, fate, and in show business is being accepted by your audience, and your people that makes the change.  And if that time comes, accept it graciously for the good of  it and bear the burden and ask the Lord to help you bear the burden of the disappointment or what you think is the disappointment.  What I used to think was a disappointment I found out is I’m happy about.  Well, I won’t use the word “happy”, but I’m grateful to fate, I guess you might say, because money isn’t everything.  But the main thing I wanted to set out and accomplish, I did that.  And that was to make sure that my mother and father didn’t have to go to an old folks home.  So, that within itself is worth millions to me.  But I looked at the situation, and I saw when I retired out of Las Vegas after Louis Armstrong had to retire.  I worked Las Vegas for three years.  The Sahara Casbah Theater in the lounge, headlining the show there. And there was a crunch hit out there and things got kind of bad.  So, rather than waiting to find out what’s going on, I decided to come home.  And my Mom was still not doing well.  So I made up my mind to be home and help her adjust to her condition because she was always a woman that did it all by herself.
LJM:                 She was the primary reason that you came back?
JB:                    Yes.  And especially so after things started to fall in Las Vegas in the entertainment business.  They started to change over and make nothing but the big show rooms with the big Follies Bergere show and so forth.  And they started butting out a lot of the good entertainment.
LJM:                 Let me just follow that up.  I would imagine . . . .  Well, you were working on your own then.  Right?
JB:                    Yes.
LJM:                 I get the impression that working alone, as woman working alone must have a pretty rough time of it.?
JB:                    Oh, yes.  You’re always being introduced to the casting couches and thing, you know.  And all the little . . . . to get a job and sometimes to keep one and all that.  But I didn’t feel that was necessary for me to do.  And I never had to do that.  I would leave.  I would get a broom and witch on.
LJM:                 Well, Vegas has a reputation for that, and just talking with you and knowing the kind of person you are, that must have been a rough environment.
JB:                    Yes, but that’s almost with anything.  Because, do you know something?  I’ve talked to girls who were just on their jobs, good jobs, and they’ve told me about different encounters that they have had.  There’s some who consented to their desires, and there’s some who haven’t, and some who didn’t [who] had to switch jobs.  They were compelled to switch jobs to keep from being harassed.  So, it’s not just in entertainment.  That falls in many areas.
LJM:                 But you did see that side of it, too, then?
JB:                    Oh, yes.  Very definitely so.  An awful lot of it, and especially during the years that I was booking myself and working alone.  I didn’t have to suffer that the years that I was with Louis Armstrong.  Thank God, you know!  But, I did on many occasions working alone.
LJM:                 Did you lose a lot of work because of that?
JB:                    I don’t think so.  I think it was just a time element because, usually, I’ve been fortunate enough that when I went on a job for two weeks, I’d always end up three months, a year, a year-and-a-half, eight years, you know.  I opened at the Ebony for two weeks, and I wound up eight years there.  A little over eight years.  I went to work for Jack Ruby for two weeks, and I wound up a year-and-a-half there.  I’ve been to work with Earl Grant for two weeks, and I wound up a year-and-a-half there.  I’ve always managed.
CS:                   The talent, then, is obvious.
JB:                    If that’s how you explain it.
LJM:                 Do you know any other way to?
CS:                   When you were a single [act], did you have to carry your arrangements with you?  In other words, your band arrangements?
JB:                    At one time I did, but, you know, I’m an ad lib kind of person.  And I really don’t like to work on a job that I’ve go to be repetitious with that song every time I do it.
CS:                   But your accompanists were a pianist or instrumentalist, a band.
JB:                    Well, that would all depend.  Sometimes, I had . . .I never had more and six or eight people to work with on any occasion at all.
CS:                   In other words, it was extemporaneous.
JB:                    Right.  And things that we would have that you’d call club structure or a __?_ sheet after that.  And, of course, when I got with Louis Armstrong, all I did was call a tune in the key.
                                    {Tape starts becoming inaudible}
CS:                   . . . . all you need to do anyway. . . .
JB:                    And I was fortunate enough in later years to work with the best and good and professional musicians.  Even in the __?__ that all I would do was call the tune and the key.  [Tape becomes difficult to comprehend.]             Groups that I’d never worked with before.  That __?__ chance to rehearse.  It’s all a standard tune, and, naturally, it was called “standard tunes.”  __?__ and it would be obvious for most musicians to __?__.  But the good thing about them was I know I don’t do everything in the same keys that a lot of other artists would ___?___ very easily.  [That is what you call] professionalism.  I never seemed to have a problem, [and I was fortunate] to work in areas where there were always competent musicians.  I’ve seen artists suffer ____________________ music sometimes.
LJM:                 What did you do when you returned to Houston from Las Vegas?
JB:                    Oh, that’s when I retired for sixteen years and went into the ___?___ then, as I said.  After those years I developed ___?___ on my vertebrae.  My feet were bad.  My knees were bad.  My ankles were bad.  My back was bad.  My eyesight was bad.
LJM:                 {inaudible}
JB:                    {inaudible}
LJM:                 It’s just amazing that you were able to stay in it so long.
JB:                    {inaudible}.  But I still own my own [beauty] shop.  And I still go and  . . . .   I have customers who refuse to go to anybody else. 
                        [Two speeches incomprehensible]
LJM:                 We still have a lot of things that we want to talk to you about.
END OF SESSION I

October 3, 1988
Interviewers: Louis J. Marchiafava and Charles Stephenson
LJM: This is a second interview with Miss Jewel Brown for the Texas Jazz Archive. I am Louis Marchiafava and interviewing with me is Mr. Charles Stephenson. The date is October 3, 1988.
CS: I read again our interview last week that we had with you, and I’d like to ask you some questions about some of the material that we covered. You were with your brother when you performed at Angelo’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Is that correct.
JB: What do you mean, I was with him? I had worked at Angelo’s Fisherman’s Wharf with my brother for a special occasion which was Earl Campbell’s birthday party. But, no, I’ve never worked there with him as him backing me as a group.
CS: Okay. That clarifies one point.
LJM: What year did you work with him there? Of what period?
JB: The one day that I did with him?
LJM: It was just one day?
JB: Yes. I’ve never worked an extensive engagement.
CS: What I was thinking about was when you were in your early teens and went out and sang with a band, and your brother was with that band.
JB: He was the one that started me out. And it was first with Elmo Nixon, managed and directed by Mr. Henry Hayes who blew saxophone. I believe, as a matter of fact, it was alto. Alto saxophone. Alto or soprano, I forget which one, now. But it was either alto or soprano saxophone.
CS: In that interview you mentioned Tex Brown. Who was Tex Brown.
JB: Tex Brown? No. You mean Tex Curtis who was my first husband.
CS: Okay. That’s what I wanted to know. That’s what we went over downstairs. And you played with Earl Grant on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles?
JB: Right.
CS: And you made a remark to the effect that there were a lot of things he didn’t do after going commercial. You were talking about his style?
JB: Oh, yes.
CS: What did you mean by that?
JB: Well, as I’m saying, the better part of him, I guess, couldn’t go commercial. And, of course, the things that were commercial were the things that made him the Earl Grant. As I said, he was such an accomplished musician. He did so much! It was quite a variety. He could do almost anything. The man was a master of the organ. As a matter of fact, he had a doctor’s degree.
CS: I did not know that. Where from, do you know?
JB: I believe it was somewhere in El Paso. That was his home. When he was killed in his Rolls Royce, he was headed back from visiting his father who is, or was, a reverend. And he had gone to visit him.
CS: Was Earl Grant a Texas?
JB: Yes, and from El Paso, Texas, I guess he had to have been.
CS: I did not know that.
JB: That’s where his father lived. Now, I couldn’t put any guarantee on that, but then I do know his father lived in El Paso, Texas. Now, whether he was from Texas or not, I am not certain of that.
CS: Who was Dakota Staten?
JB: She was one hell of a jazz singer. And after she left America, she lived in Europe for many years. As a matter of fact, as I understand it, she resides now in Brussels, Belgium.
CS: And she came from North Dakota. . .
JB: I don’t know where her home is. I have an album, that maybe it might tell you on the back. Because I still have all my collection. But I believe that was not her given name. That was a stage name. So, where she’s from actually, I don’t know.
CS: I know a woman whose stage name is Montana. And, of course, Italians understood “Montana.” And Lonnie Roshawn?
JB: Who was a deejay and M.C. for a talent show. Well, he was actually director and M.C.
CS: Now, where would this be?
JB: That was like in the old Masonic Temple in the Fourth Ward. He and Trummy Kane. Both. However, I think Trummy Kane was the originator of talent shows here in the city, and I believe Lonnie Roshawn sort of took on after. But now Lonnie Roshawn was the first black deejay in this city.

CS: And there’s a point in the transcript that was confusing to me, and I want to make sure of it. . . .Well, you’ve already straightened it out, who was Trummy Kane. And here I have the question, was his real name Charlie? They are confusing in that transcript, but I think I can get that straightened out.
JB: Charlie who?
CS: It may have been the name that just fell in there and got translated in a certain way. Where was the Manhattan Club in Galveston?
JB: I don’t know what street that’s on now because I don’t frequent Galveston at all.
CS; Do you know if it still exists?
JB: I haven’t the slightest idea. I was twelve years old then.
CS; The Whispering Pines in Acreage Homes. Where is that?
JB: I don’t know if it still exists, either. I couldn’t tell you. I just wouldn’t know.
CS: And the Wango Lounge?
JB: I believe that still exists right downtown, and I believe you can see it from the freeway. I believe you can see it from [Highway] 59 freeway, and I believe the name is still there.
CS; What about the Ebony Club?
JB: It’s still there. It’s now called The Club Supreme.
CS; And Joe Glazier, he fascinates me. He was Armstrong’s manager, right?
JB: Yes.
CS: And Louis Armstrong’s group was a group of six men?
JB: Drums, bass, piano, trombone, clarinet, trumpet. He was the trumpet man.
CS; And you were the vocalist?
JB: That’s right.
CS: Did that group remain together over a long period of time?
JB: It was always a fixed group until somebody passed on or couldn’t travel anymore due to any illness of some sort. And if you were late three times, you knew you were automatically suspended.
CS: He’s say, “Out and away?”
JB: That’s right! You don’t miss busses and trains and planes.
CS; I detected a note of pride when you were talking about the racial barrier at Jack Ruby’s. I think you are to be commended for that. I sort of lost the end of when you were singing when you were in Las Vegas.
JB: Yes, I retired out of Las Vegas. I was doing the Casbah Theater in the Sahara hotel. And we completed a show called Fillis de Sol.
CS: What made you decided to just quit?
JB: Well, my mom had been on her back and an invalid for three years then. So, I felt like I needed to come in and give a helping hand to my father. He was dealing with it all by himself. So, she lasted four more years after that.
CS: So, you sang with Armstrong from [within] the 60’s. Right?
JB: Yes. All of the 1960’s.
CS: Did you leave Armstrong’s band when Louis died?
JB: No. We were all on somewhat of a vacation to see if he was going to get any better. And, as a matter of fact, we were paid nine weeks in advance for him to rest and relax and all while being in the hospital. But then we were notified after that that he wasn’t going to be able to come back.
CS: I didn’t know anything about this.
JB: I told you about that. When he called if “very close veins”. He had an acute attack of varicose veins. And he called them “very close veins”. Just one day, we went there and he was all dressed waiting for us to all get there and went to get up and couldn’t move.

CS: When you played Las Vegas as a single, did you have to furnish the arrangements for the band?
JB: No. It was already designed. The show was already designed. And, of course, I learned their material.
CS: You changed their material to fit your style?
JB: Right. More or less.
CS: You now operate a beauty shop. When did you start singing again? You’ve answered this one, but I’d like to hear it again.
JB: That was 1986. When Chuck Smith gave me a call. Because they were having something to do with the archives at Texas Southern. And, of course, a gentleman by the name of Early Hudnall whom I had been introduced by friends, John and Hazel Biggers, and he happened to tell Dr. Cunningham and Chuck who were working with this together about me, being there at home here in Houston. And he gave me a call and asked me would I participate. And Dr. Spearman as well. So, by their invitation, I went out to the Westin Oaks Hotel and performed. And from there, it started getting recognition that I was even back home again, which people didn’t know. As I said, I just came home to do what I had to do for my family and to survive, in working and so forth, to compensate an income. And it all started from there. From people hearing and even realizing I was even back home again. A lot of folks didn’t even know where I was. They thought I was in Europe somewhere living.
CS: Now, Cunningham, is that the critic who used to write for the Houston Post?
JB: No. He’s Dr. Cunningham over at Texas Southern.
CS: When you started singing again, was your first performance with Arnett?
JB: No. The first performance was with the Texas Southern Jazz Band.
CS: When did you first sing with Arnett, or at least with his group.
JB: At Club Aesops in the Lincoln Hotel, which is now something else. It was the Doubletree Hotel, and now it’s something else again.
CS: When you sing now, do you have your own group or do you use Arnett’s or . . . .
JB: Well, the thing that we’re doing now, I’ve had my brother to organize it for me. Because of Arnett and the group being over in Europe at the present. But normally, the things that I do and the things that both Arnett and I do together, we have an original group that we use.
CS: You use the same group?
JB: Right.
CS: It’s a fine group. There’s one thing that I have been thinking about for some time. During these interviews, we seem to be talking about each individual. And there’s not much material in the way of interplay with other musicians. The Armstrong group and you traveled as a single unit, but you were not isolated from other musicians and singers, were you?
JB: Isolated from them? How do you mean?
CS: I know you worked as a single group, but, in other words, when you were off if you wanted to . . .
JB: Oh, wherever I wanted to go, whatever I wanted to do, that was my priority.
CS: I was thinking about like getting with other musicians and singers and . . .
JB: Oh, you might stop at a club and sit in with a group. I sat in with Ramsey Louis. He played behind me. But as far as working, no. I was hired to be Louis Armstrong’s, and I was quite well compensated.
CS: I’m thinking more of the personal relationship that you had with other musicians besides . . .
JB: I never had the opportunity to work with anybody else. We worked all the time! We never had hardly any time off. When you were off, you wanted to rest.
CS: Is there anyone that you wished that you could have performed with that you haven’t done so yet?
JB: Well, to me drummer is the backbone to a group. And I had longed to have worked with the Count Basie Band with Sonny Payne playing those drums. I’ve never done that. I’m sure you’ve heard of Sonny Payne.

CS: Yes, I have. Who were some of the singers that you knew that you had a vocal relationship with?
JB: I have always idolized both Ella and Sarah. And Lanie Kazan has always inspired me with her range and so forth.
CS: She does have a wide range. And, of course, Ella, you would think that she’s going to go out through the ceiling.
JB: Oh, yes.
CS; With some of those high sounds. And she can still make them.
JB: Oh, yes. That’s right. She’s taking care of herself. That’s proof of it.
CS: That’s the secret. I’m going to name some names and ask you for some comments, any comment that you’d care to make. Were you ever around Stan Kenton, for example?
JB: No. We did once together a jazz festival at Randall’s Island.
CS: Where is that?
JB: In New York.
CS: Is that up the river from the city?
JB: Yes. But I never even got a chance to meet him. But we did that together. But like they were coming off, we were going on, that sort of thing.
CS: What about Joe Williams?
JB: Oh, yes.
CS: Did you ever sing with him?
JB: No. I’ve never sang with him, but we’ve been on shows together – festivals, jazz festivals. And, of course, by him living in Las Vegas, he used to come and watch our show all the time when I was working . . . Los Blues was the name of the band that I did the show called Fillis de Sol I was telling you about. He used to come in, he and Redd Foxx – a bunch of them used to stop and catch our show.
CS: He always looked so nice and relaxed.
JB: And always that way. You’d never really see him upset. That’s his character.
CS: He seems like a pure gentleman.
JB: Oh, he is. Definitely. That’s his character.
CS: What about Dizzy Gillespie?
JB: Oh, Lord! That’s my buddy. When I first met him in New York, he had on a wedding band that was like hair thin. And I said to him, “Now what is that on your finger? Is that truly a wedding band? He said, “Yes.” I said, “That’s about the thinnest I’ve ever seen in my life.” He said, “Oh, but Baby, it’s plenty potent!” So, we started to hit it off from there, through the years.
CS: What about Miles Davis?
JB: I never have met Miles Davis. I’ve never met him.
CS: Lena Horne?
JB: Oh, yes.
CS: Have you ever worked with her?
JB: No, I’ve never worked with her.
CS: And Jimmy Lunceford?
JB: No.
CS: What about Oscar Peterson?
JB: No, I’ve never worked with Oscar.
CS: That sounds like it would be fun.
JB: Oh, yes.
CS: He’s a tremendous musician.
JB: You know, an artist is really no more than what supports them. And it’s the kind of support that you get that really inspires you. And when you’ve got good support, it makes you do things you didn’t even realize you had inside.
CS: Would that be, like, if you imagine you were performing with him behind you, is that what you’re saying.
JB: Oh, yes.
CS: What about Jimmy Giuffre?
JB: I’ve never heard of him
CS: And what about Coleman Hawkins?
JB: Never got a chance to work with him. All these people were really like . . . . Not really before my time, but they sort of almost ceased to be when I kind of got there.
CS: Quincy Jones?
JB: Quincy Jones and my first husband were dear friends. As a matter of fact, I knew Quincy when he first got married many years ago in New York. He lived in the basement, and he and my husband used to work together.
CS: Did you know Ornette Coleman?
JB: I never knew him, not to really know him.
CS: How about Ray Charles?
JB: Oh, yes. He was such an idol for both my brother and I that we made it possible to know him. When he would come to town, we’d go backstage and all.
CS: Did you ever work with him?
JB: Never had a chance to work with Ray. We worked on the same shows together. And, as a matter of fact, we met up in the Olympia Theater in Paris. It was Ray Charles’ Band, Count Basie Band and our Band. We all met together in Paris. And we had a blast! And many of the guys were from Texas so it was like a Texas reunion for us back then. With the late Donald Wilkerson. We were like raised together, Don and I. in a sense, musically.

CS: Armstrong was a product of Chicago, am I correct. Is that where he got his real start?
JB: Yes, you would say.
CS: But he left his horn to the city of New Orleans.
JB: Yes. Well, that’s his home.
CS: Is that his home?
JB: New Orleans is his home, yes. That’s where he was born.
CS: That’s the reason why they have the Louis Armstrong Park?
JB: Of course.
CS: The reason why I asked is because I thought he came out of Chicago.
JB: Oh, no. Not Louis.
CS: And when we met before, you said something about Associated Music Company or Associated Booking Company. Which do you . . . .
JB: Associated Booking Corporation. They called it ABC.
CS: What happened to that corporation when Louis Armstrong died?
JB: It still exists.
CS: Did he have any children?
JB: No.
CS: Where do the funds go?
JB: Well, they had gone to his wife, Lucille. And now that she’s had a massive heart attack and passed on, I couldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t know. I imagine to her family, her existing family.
CS: I’ve heard tales to the effect that Armstrong had several wives. In other words, he was divorced several times. And that when the lady wanted a divorce, or when the divorce was pending, he, as I understand it, said, “Take it all.”
JB: That’s exactly right.
CS: That confirms the story that I have heard.
JB: That’s the way he did it.
LJM: Steve Williams asked me to do this for him. He’s been trying to get a resume out of you for a long time. And I told him the next time I got you trapped with a tape recorder, I would have you do a resume verbally. Is that agreeable?
JB: Okay.
LJM: Let’s say that we’re writing one up now and obviously we have the basic information. What we need to start with is your career in terms of years and what you would consider important, what you would want to advertise for yourself. What do you consider so important in your life? Obviously, with Louis Armstrong. You first worked for him. But you worked before that. So, are there any items that you would want to emphasize in your resume?
JB: I’m just me. There’s these things that I’ve given you that I’ve done in my past, and that’s it. That’s all there is to my life. I’m just me. I wouldn’t know how to answer that, really, other than what I’ve already told you.
LJM: Do you want us to go through what you’ve already said and pick out the items . . .
JB: That’s about it. That’s the real part of my life. I don’t know anything that . . . . I’m not a fake!
LJM: I don’t mean that. I mean, of all the things that we’ve talked about, are there any items that you would want to emphasize?
JB: No. Whatever anybody who know what they’re doing feels to be important to pick out what I’ve told. That’s it! That’s all I have.
LJM: That answers that. You’re out of luck, Steve. He’s going to have to read the manuscript and pull what he wants out of it.
JB: That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. My life is an open book. I have nothing to hide in it.
LJM: It’s not that. You’ve done so many things. The point it that he wanted to be sure that he was emphasizing things that you thought were important, besides the obvious.
JB: Well, he’s the one doing it, so let him pick out what he feels is important that he can sell because I’m jaded to myself.
LJM: Well, maybe he wants the jaded part.
JB: I don’t know. He and Lizette are going to have to read if that’s what he’s off into because whatever he feels is important enough for the people . . . .
LJM: Okay. He’s heard it now, or will. What I’m going to do now . . . I wanted to pick up in a more systematic way your career and life from the time you left Louis Armstrong to the time you came back to Houston. So, it shouldn’t take too long because we already have covered some of it, but I have some other questions I wanted to ask you. What I’d like to do, and there will be a break in this interview between what Charles has asked and what I’m going to be asking you. The material we went over here was for clarification purposes, which means it really shouldn’t be a part of the whole interview. So, what we’re going to begin talking about now will be added on to what you already said in text form. What year was it that you went to Vegas to begin working? What was your first engagement there?
JB: Now, with Louis Armstrong: 1961. But on my own, it was 1969, 1970 and 1971.

LJM: How were you introduced to Vegas in 1969? Did you have contacts there already?
JB: Through Associated Booking Corporation. After being home for more than a year to help my mom and my father out and adjust and all. When funds ran out, I called the office and told them I needed to work. So, Mr. Glazier called Dallas office and the Vegas office. And Art – I forget his last name now – but he was over the Las Vegas office. So, when I first started to work, I worked first . . . I got a band in Oklahoma and in Dallas through Tony Pappa out of the Dallas Office. But then after I’d worked there, then Art got the thing for me in Las Vegas. So, I never got a chance to do anything further than those two offices because I worked extensively for both of them. They kept me pretty busy, just the two offices.
LJM: You initiated the contact with them to begin working again?
JB: I called Mr. Glazier and told him I needed to go back to work. And he called the Dallas Office and the Las Vegas Office, and they got work for me.
LJM: At that point, did Joe Glazier drop out of the scene after he made the contact for you?
JB: It wasn’t long after that he died.
LJM: Did he intend to be your agent?
JB: Yes, his intentions were to actually push all the buttons for me as a single act. But as I said, he died.
LJM: What was your first engagement in Vegas? Do you remember where it was? On your own.
JB: That was at The Sahara and the Casbah Theater where I’d gone for two weeks, and they held me a year.
LJM: Did you appear alone or accompanied by a group?
JB: Well, I was the lead or star singer for the show.
LJM: Do you remember the group?
JB: Las Blues was the group, and the show was called Fillis de Sol.
LJM: Was there competition between The Sahara and other clubs after you were successful during the first few months? Did the other clubs vie for your . . . .
JB: If they were, I didn’t know anything about it because, you see, Alan, who was the producer of the show, he would have heard any contacts about anything like that, I guess. We didn’t. We did midnight shows and, of course, nobody really knew how to contact any of the entertainers personally, I guess, but, of course, a gentleman from Roxbury Productions in London. People come up to you and want to see if they can do anything with you; if you’ll do anything for them, or whatever have you. But I was contracted. When you’re contracted, you just more or less do what you’ve go to do where you are.
LJM: Were you satisfied with the arrangements?
JB: Yes, I was. It was good pay, and I kind of liked . . . . After traveling with Louis all those years out of a suitcase and hard to see the bottom of it, it was quite delightful to be in one place, to live like a human at home. I had my own apartment with everything in it, to cook, and so forth. And that was quite a change and quite delightful to be able to be in one place and live like you’re at home while you are entertaining. I believe after any entertainer has traveled around the world at least four times like I have and you’re able work in one spot, it’s a treat.
LJM: What was your second engagement in Vegas following the one at The Sahara?
JB: Well, I left, and they called me right back.
LJM: Same club?
JB: Yes, and I worked another year.
LJM: You say you “left.” You came back to Houston?
JB: Yes. The show ended, and I forget the name of the other show. “Skin” I believe it was called.
LJM: And you worked on that show for how long?
JB: Another year.
LJM: So, that was the last show, then?
JB: Yes. Now, I did one more thing: Kay Starr. I had called her one night, and I was telling her that I was going to be leaving Las Vegas. And she invited me to her home. We had become friends when we worked together at The Riviera in Las Vegas when I was with Louis Armstrong. So, she had a friend who had jut re-opened the club called “P.J’s” out in California. And he had me come to work for him before I retired and came on back home. I had worked extensively in Las Vegas, but then I went and worked a month in Los Angeles before coming on back home.

LJM: In Las Vegas, as you mentioned already, it was quite a difference from touring with Louis Armstrong’s Band. And I would imagine that the audiences were somewhat different than those you encountered in your travels.
JB: Yes, and I was actually doing a different type of thing. With Louis, we worked to the beat of the Dixieland jazz flavor. And, of course, in Las Vegas on this show, everything was done more or less with a rock and blues flavor. Not hard rock, and not exactly what you might say rock and roll. It wasn’t to that effect. But much more of a bluesy flavor.
LJM: Did you like doing that?
JB: Yes. I was raised singing all kinds of stuff. You just went whichever way the gig directed itself.
LJM: Pragmatic. So essentially , then, it was more of a nightclub show rather than concert performances. It was a nightclub show.
JB: Yes.
LJM: As opposed to concert?
JB: Yes, very definitely.
LJM: Did this necessitate a good deal of reworking the music to suit this environment? Your work, I’m speaking of.
JB: Well, as I said, the show had already been programmed and I just . . . . It was more or less me fitting in. So, I just re-geared, put yourself in gear and dance to the flavor. Like you dance to the music. That’s more or less what it was all about. And then my being, I guess you might say, versatile . . . what ever it took to enhance what I was there for.
LJM: Without an agent to represent you . . . . I realize you were working on contract, but without an agent to represent you, did you feel at all apprehensive without legal advice on contracts? Did you feel that you had any recourse?
JB: Well, when you have apprehension, or recourse, as you call it, this is when you have what you might say, the slicksters approach in you. But, thank God for my awareness – very young that I was taught from my family, especially so my father. I was always able to weed that sort of character out, and that is what I do believe saved me from those sort of recourses.
CS: So, you never really had any problems . . .
JB: No, I was always able to week that kind of thing out and stay away from it, regardless of what it cost. Because it might look like the star is shining but then down the road, you’ve got muddy waters. I can’t miss something I’ve never had, so you just let the shining star alone so you don’t have to tread muddy waters. You can just see it coming sometimes.

LJM: I asked this question because we tend to lost track of time, and we’re talking here almost twenty years ago, essentially. And a lot has happened for working women in that twenty years. You started in when this whole revolution essentially was just getting gear up, during the 1960’s and the 1970’s.
End of Side 1.
Side 2:
JB: There’s two sides to everything. You can please some of the people some of the time. You can please most of the people most of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time. So, there’s a thing wherein there’s some people that might know you and there’s some people who don’t really have to know you, that are proud that you are able to function and be independent. And then you have some who know you and don’t know you who are envious of the fact that you’re independent. And being paid to travel the world. What they think is enjoyment, but they only see the glorifying parts on stage. They don’t know the malfunctions backstage. And they don’t know the pain and the hurt and the loneliness backstage. So, it’s just like I, spiritually, think sometime when Jesus said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” So, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they’re thinking.” They don’t know what to think; they really don’t know. So, you don’t condone a man for not really know, you just sort of walk away from his ignorance, and that’s about the size of that.
LJM: I was rather impressed with what you had done. Being in Vegas on your own without even an agent after having broken away from a very stable working relationship . . . . to break away and launch a career on your own. That’s quite an undertaking.
JB: And I would have continued to do so, honestly. Nobody can really handle you like you can handle yourself, once you’ve got an education on what it’s all about. It might not always be good. As a matter of fact, it is best to have someone representing you. It seems to be looked upon a little better than you handling yourself, for some reason or another. But I thank God I had the knowledge and the wisdom to do so in my era and under my partaking of the entertainment field.
LJM: I think that fully explores as much as we can discuss in the short time of your career in Las Vegas.
JB: It wasn’t very long, but it was a good one. It was okay. It paid the bills.
LJM: Do ever think of going back?
JB: Well, whatever. . . whatever! There’s no real particular delights. I love working Las Vegas. It not the Las Vegas that it once used to be, but it’s still good. It’s still fun. It still Las Vegas. I like working Hawaii and places like that. Of course, anybody does. It’s so beautiful. But then when it comes to entertaining, I close my eyes and wherever I am, that’s where I am. I do the best I can wherever.
LJM: Thank you very much. I appreciate you coming in today and talking with us.
END OF SESSION 2