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The Fabulous Nicknames Of Jazz

The Fabulous Nicknames Of Jazz

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Nicknames. Used to be that every baseball player worth his ash bat earned a nickname. The Babe, Yogi Berra, The Kid, Three Finger. Football and basketball were no different. Boomer Esiason, Big Spain, Birdman, Air Jordan. While soccer in America seems to have escaped this mostly male preoccupation of renaming people, golf, that most courteous sport, has its share as well. The Golden Bear, Pink Panther, The Great White Shark.

In music, particularly in jazz, nicknames were plentiful, amusing, usually respectful (although saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman is suspect) and a sign of affection. Most have a story behind them. Milt Jackson's "Bags," for example, immortalized his reputation for keeping late hours, the evidence clearly under his eyes. Poet Hayden Carruth named many of them in his list poem, "The Fantastic Names of Jazz," published in Doctor Jazz in 2001. It begins with Zoot Sims, ends with Jelly Roll Morton and everybody in between with all its memories and history, just makes you smile outright. Carruth's poem includes both real and nicknames, though. I thought someday I would take it one step further and write one with only nicknames. And so I have.

I've never had a nickname. The closest I came was the one my older brothers became known as, "Mig," from our long Italian last name, not the Russian jet. I tried to usurp it but it never caught on. In any case, I've soldiered on, nickname-less.

With apologies to Hayden Carruth.

Satchmo, Dodo, Pharaoh, Philly Joe,
Chico, Django, Dolo, Hi De Ho.
Snakehips, Hot Lips, Jeru 'n Chu,
Eubie, Baby, Chubby, Tubby and Bu.

Plenty Kings, Queen just one, deuce of Jacks,
Gardens of Buds, pair of Boots and Sax.
Duke, Count, Baron, and Papa Jo,
A palette of Reds, Rosy 'n Blue Lou.

So many Kids, Big Mama, 'n Fatha,
Frog, Fox, piece of Cake, Maharaja.
Cag, Hog and Jug, Keg and Ragbaby,
The Senator, Guvnor, Pres and First Lady.

Cornbread and Fathead, the Judge 'n Captain,
Bounce, Flip, Leap Frog over your Hammond.
There's Tram, Slam, a Slim and a Ham,
Beaver, Mousie, Hawk, Hootie 'n The Lamb.

Jaco and Guido, Dink, Chink, and Yank,
Spike, Punch, and Corky, Tex, Mex and Hank.
Brownie and Deedles, Bird and Crane,
Keter, Klook, Big Chief, Bubber and Trane.

The High Priestess of Soul, Professor Longhair,
Ol Blue Eyes, The Prince of Darkness, Papa and Bear.
The Divine One, Lord, God, and Tain,
Even The Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name.

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