06 May 2006

Twenty Years on Wheels by Andy Kirk

I'm still reading bandleader Andy Kirk's memoir Twenty Years On Wheels (1989), based on conversations with the music writer Amy Lee. It's an anecdotal account of the Swing Era, all the more interesting for being told by a less familiar participant, and for its insights into working with a touring black band in the 1930s and 40s.

Of course, I opened the book near the end, to see what he had to say about Killer Diller, the film I wrote about in an earlier post:
In 1948 the band was in a movie called Killer Diller. It was a comedy, and made at Pathé studios on East 116th Street. Convenient for me, because Mary and I had moved into 555 Edgecombe several years before - 1939 - so New York had been home-base since then. I didn't see the movie. I wasn't excited about it. I never got excited about big names and all that.
Amy Lee comments:
But Andy did finally see that movie. In a phone conversation I had with him on 30 March 1980 he said he and Mary and Bernice had seen it "a couple of months ago" at the Thalia on Broadway and 95th Street, and that Butterfly McQueen was in it. They had paid regular admission to get in, but word got around that he was there, and at the end of the movie he and Miss McQueen - who apparently was there also - were called up on stage for a question-and-answer-session. "We also got our admission fee refunded," he said.
- Andy Kirk, as told to Amy Lee, Twenty Years on Wheels, University of Michigan Press, 1989.

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