Jo Jones, WARP Studios, New York City, November 1972
The UK filmmaker, John Jeremy, booked my studio for a number of days to film various musicians in action for buy cialis tadalafil, a film he released in 1973. At one time or another the studio was filled with all the great mainstream, mostly mid-western guys that were loosely associated with Count Basie. Buddy Tate, Earle Warren, Dicky Wells, Joe Newman, Eddie Durham and Buck Clayton were all in the studio at one time or another. As interesting as it was to have these legendary players in the studio, the real coup was when John was able to persuade Jo Jones to be part of various bands and appear on camera.
In the history of jazz drummers there are a few who are in the pantheon and Jo ranks right at the top, as both a performer, innovator and teacher. He also ranks right up towards the top of being the goofiest guy in the room, almost any room. He never caused any problems at the studio; in fact, he was the model of decorum and efficiency. He was on time, polite, nicely dressed and, of course, played beautifully. In 1973 Jo was only 62 and the illness that overtook him in later years hadn’t manifested itself completely. He also loved my little Yorkshire terrier and the feeling was mutual.
At some point I told John Hammond that Jo was at the studio, working with various groups scheduled to appear in the film. John was also of the opinion that Jo was easily the finest drummer of the swing era, but he also recognized that on occasion Jo did have some social shortcomings. If you really are the goofiest guy in the room, sometimes these shortcomings are noticed, which can lead to difficulties. John once asked me, “Did I ever tell you about Jo and Lenox Hill?” This was a story I’d never heard and this is how I recall the details of the story John told me thirty-five years ago.
All went well in Pittsburgh until Jo really proved he was the goofiest guy at a local nightclub. He became violent, the police were called, and he slugged a couple of them, knocking one cold. He was finally subdued and whisked off to an insane asylum, where he was fitted for a straight jacket and was wearing it on a regular basis when John got the call from Basie.
John went through his address book of helpful contacts and came up with the name of a neuroscientist at Lenox Hill Hospital who he thought might be of help. The specialist was agreeable to implement John’s idea of bringing Jo back to New York City and installing him at Lenox Hill for observation. Armed with a doctor’s note, John drove his old Nash to Pittsburgh to spring Jo from the asylum.
It wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be, there were lots of black and white issues and various bureaucracies to overcome, but he finally managed to get Jo released in his custody, with the understanding that he’d be institutionalized in New York City under a doctor’s care. This is exactly what happened. Jo was turned over to the doctor who put him in Lenox Hill and as we all know, the story had a happy ending. But there was more to it. John had an ulterior motive.
He told me he felt it was his duty to get Jo out of the asylum in Pittsburgh and he’d have done anything to accomplish this, but he also wanted to integrate Lenox Hill Hospital, which in a back door way, he managed to do. He also added that the only person who visited Jo at the hospital on a regular basis, other than himself, was Gene Krupa.
A few years after he told me this story, John recounted a more detailed version in his memoir, buy cialis tadalafil. He gives the names of the asylum, the doctors and so forth, but refers to Jo as Mr. X. Jo was still very much alive in 1977. More recently, I’ve seen a typescript of some interviews of Jo conducted by Albert Murray in the 1980s. He doesn’t refer to this incident, but in the long run it doesn’t matter. Jo may have been the goofiest guy in the room, but if the room were filled with the best drummers in the land, he’d have been better than any of them.
This photograph was taken during a break, when the guys were still playing and the cameras weren’t rolling. The lightness of Jo’s touch is obvious and the million-dollar smile is just as apparent. He was having a good day and a good time. The film stock I used was not the best and there was some color shifting, but the wonders of Photoshop are many and it saved my favorite photograph of Papa Jo.