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26 Gay Paris - Leadbelly 1949

After another round of college dates, he decided to follow the lead of so many American jazzmen and try his luck overseas. On May 8, 1949, he flew to Paris to do a series of concerts there, returning on May 31. Austin Fairbanks, working from his office out of Somerville, Massachusetts, set up the details of the tour. He felt it was important to have some kind of backup band (to help emphasize the jazz connection) and recommended mended trumpet player Bill Dillard along with piano players Cliff Jackson or Mary Lou Williams. Dillard eventually was used, and while in Paris he and Huddie recorded a number of masters-though little is known of them and they appear to have never been issued. In fact, some of the concerts on the trip were hardly overwhelming successes. Suffering from bad publicity, the one at the Lyceum in Paris only attracted about thirty people-though they applauded wildly when the singer encored with "I Don't Want No More of Army Life." Other concerts were better presented, with detailed program booklets containing background information on each song. It was in Paris, though, that something far more serious came up. For some time, Huddie had been having occasional difficulty walking; he had been hospitalized once for it earlier, had managed to get back on his feet, and celebrated French doctor to find out what was the matter. The diagnosis was not good: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease. It was a progressive degeneration of the nerve cells that controlled voluntary motor functions, and its victims eventually have difficulty walking, speaking, and using their hands. It was progressive and inexorable, the cause was unknown, and there was no known cure.

Wolfe/lornell. The Life And Legend Of Leadbelly (p. 253-4). Kindle Edition.

This time of his life we delve into and explore the connection he had with children, his exposure to a society not entrenched in Jim Crow, and his ability to succeed on his own merits. He walked freely but still burdened with the chains of his own choices and new ailments. He is put on the spot and made to reflect. I see the chorus being a integral visual part to this section, coddling him, distancing from him, embracing him, chiding him...



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