22 April 2006

More on Andy Kirk and Killer Diller

In the late 30s when the yet-to-be-famous saxophonist Charlie Parker was fired from Jay McShann's band, on the road in Detroit, it was Andy Kirk who drove him back to New York.

That's in the book of the Ken Burns TV series Jazz. It also has a large photo of Andy Kirk's band The Twelve Clouds Of Joy. Andy Kirk is mentioned in passing, and quoted on the Kansas City scene, but more attention is given to his pianist, composer and arranger Mary Lou Williams: there is a Mary Lou Williams page at the Jazz website at PBS.

In fact, where Andy Kirk is concerned, all roads lead to Mary Lou Williams. ASV's retrospective CD Andy Kirk& the Twelve Clouds of Joy with Mary Lou Williams has 19 MLW compositions written for Kirk's orchestra, including Mess-A-Stomp, Walkin' and Swingin', In The Groove and Lotta Sax Appeal. [Amazon link]

Phil Milstein emailed to say that the George Wiltshire in the credits of Killer Diller is probably George "Teacho" Wiltshire, the musician, producer, arranger and actor whose career crossed decades and musical genres. He worked, in one capacity or another, with Louis Jordan, Thelonious Monk, Gene Pitney and The Drifters. He was a mentor to singer-songwriter Toni Wine, led an orchestra for a song-poem label, and guested in an episode of Sanford & Son. See, for example, Phil X Milstein's American Song-Poem Music Archive, and Toni Wine's website on her meeting with Teacho Wiltshire when she was an ambitious teenager.

Also, on the subject of the Katherine Dunham School of Dancing, Dave Heasman left a comment saying that Eartha Kitt was in Katherine Dunham's troupe for a while. She would've joined circa 1943, if my math is accurate, and toured the world: I doubt that she would've been one of the Varietiettes, but it's an interesting connection.

See my previous post: Andy Kirk, his Orchestra and other delights.

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