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Jazz and Blues Musicians of South Carolina

Interviews with Jabbo, Dizzy, Drink, and Others

Benjamin Franklin V



Published: Jun 18 2008


Published: Mar 9 2021

OA Ebook
Published: Mar 9 2021


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

An oral history of musical genres from the Palmetto State musicians who helped define the sounds

From Jabbo Smith, Dizzy Gillespie, and Drink Small to Johnny Helms, Dick Goodwin, and Chris Potter, South Carolina has been home to an impressive number of regionally, nationally, and internationally known jazz and blues musicians. Through richly detailed interviews with nineteen South Carolina musicians, jazz historian and radio host Benjamin Franklin V presents an oral history of the tradition and influence of jazz and the blues in the Palmetto State.

Franklin takes as his subjects a range of musicians born between 1905 and 1971, representing every decade in between, to trace the progression of these musical genres from Tommy Benford's and Jabbo Smith's first recording sessions in the summer of 1926 to the present day. Diverse not only in age but also in race, gender, instruments, and style, these musicians exemplify the breadth of South Carolina's jazz and blues performers. In their own colorful words, the musicians recall love affairs with the distinctive sounds of jazz and blues, indoctrinations into the musical world, early gigs, fans, drugs, military service, amateur night at the Apollo Theater, and influential friendships with other well-known musicians. As the story of the South Carolina musical scene is tightly interwoven with that of the nation, these narratives also include appearances by Tony Bennett, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Helen Merrill, Pharoah Sanders, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and other significant musicians.

These interviews also document the lasting value of music education. In particular they stress the importance of the famed Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston and of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg in nurturing young musicians' talent.

Arranged in chronological order by the subjects' birth years, these interviews are augmented by photographs of the musicians, collectively serving as a unique record of representative jazz and blues musicians who have called South Carolina home.

Benjamin Franklin V is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of South Carolina. He hosted the program Jazz in Retrospect on the South Carolina Educational Radio Network and NPR from 1977 until 1992. Franklin has published numerous books, articles, and reviews about American literature, including The Other John Adams, 1705–1740.

"Jazz and Blues Musicians of South Carolina compels us to listen deeply to the dynamic passion, diverse array of influences, and the tenacity of ingenuity each interview affirms. Within this reflective work, layers are peeled back in each musician's narrative, revealing elements both emotive and complex, essential to the language of America's original music. Franklin clearly illustrates that South Carolina sings its own unique lyrics in the evolving history of jazz and blues, and that our own lives are interwoven and resonate strikingly from the development of artistry. This work is essential reading for the connoisseur of the creative process."—Harry Skoler, Berklee College of Music

"South Carolina has been the birthplace for a wide range of distinguished blues and jazz musicians, and Benjamin Franklin V is very knowledgeable about many of them. Franklin is a well-informed guide to the musical history of the state, an amiable and engaging conversationalist, and a careful listener. His thoughtful questions and observations always elicit illuminating responses. These candid conversations are a wonderful contribution to the oral history of South Carolina and to the broader literature of blues and jazz studies."—James A. Miller, George Washington University

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