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Jive-Colored Glasses

John Goodman By

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The following is an excerpt from "Chapter 4: Chicago" of Jive-Colored Glasses by John F Goodman (jg publications, 2015).

Growing up in and around Chicago in the 1950s brought me to all kinds and flavors of jazz. Between the house parties, clubs and concerts, there was a menu to please everyone. The Rush Street and downtown clubs like the London House were flourishing, and so of course was the Blue Note, where the Ellington and Basie bands held forth. Jazz was played in some of the big hotels, like the Sherman House. But there were other, less prominent saloons that we found in high school and college.

The 1111 ("eleven-eleven") Club on the far North Side was one of these where old-timers like pianist Art Hodes and the Dixieland trombonist Georg Brunis played. On a good night, Brunis would march band and patrons around the club, then parade into the street playing, of course, "The Saints Go Marching In" and "Didn't He Ramble." I heard Red Allen doing the same thing around three in the morning in an obscure dumpy saloon on Howard Street. As suburban aficionados, we were unaware of the irony of our commuting to the seamy city for our jazz kicks. Though, on reflection, why should we have been aware of it?

In 1953, my friend Paul and I gave a notable party at my house in Highland Park and got Brunis and the band to come out from the city and play. The drummer was Hey-Hey Humphrey, a kind of early, boozy version of Keith Richards. You could say the party was a success. People drove their cars across the front lawn when leaving, and Paul drank so much he passed out in my bathtub upstairs with the tap running while trying to sober up. My father, mixing drinks at his bar referred to above, began to notice water dripping through the ceiling. Paul, now dressed, comes down and hands Jerome an umbrella, saying, "I'm sorry, Mr. G." Big Daddy laughed but Dr. Jazz's parties ceased thereafter.

Summer Bands, 1952

My father delighted in golf and his country club, at one time belonging to two of them, both Jewish and flourishing on the upper-crust goy model. In addition to the usual sports (golf, tennis, swimming) there were parties, dances, special events and incredible food. The Sunday buffet was Roman in its splendor. People were known to puke in the parking lot. In my younger days, I fell right into the country club scene, loved the swimming, took up golf. Mostly I played alone and grew to detest the game because it got me so emotionally wrought up. Missing shots was like a personal failure, and the social aspect of it was beyond me. I finally quit during my college years. The male camaraderie of the club house—the gin games and the banter of the fathers—never appealed.

However, as we have seen, Jerome loved parties and turned out to be a proto-George Wein, a nascent impresario who would have been happier in that role than making the shoes and brushes he did in his business life. He persuaded the board of the Lake Shore Club in Glencoe to host a series of three dance parties in 1952 that featured the bands of Les Brown, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, delicious summer events on the club terrace.

Then a freshman in college, I invited part-time girlfriends to these affairs and came to understand the multiple pleasures of moving to the music and holding your lady close, the saxophones blowing right in your face. I had a serious crush on a girl named Sue, a tall blonde. So did maybe three other guys. She came with me to one of these dances, wore a corsage that I bought and a semi-formal white dress I complimented her on. I wore a dinner jacket and bow tie, standard dress for an event like this. The dancing, I finally discovered, was sexy. Sue was gorgeous.

In high school, dances were held in the very unsexy gym with teachers making sure that no one got out of hand from extramural drinking. You tried to impress the girls, but it had little to do with seduction or sex except in a subliminal way. Sex was something wonderfully mysterious but distinct from music. Guys in high school were incredibly uncool but tried to interest the girls by acting cool. The girls wanted to dance and most of the guys seemed to keep the act of dancing fatally separate from the music. We just couldn't fall into the sensual groove. I was always uneasy about my dancing ability; my feet seemed quite detached from my body. Maybe it was the horrible '50s pop music that caused this uncoupling.

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