At the Monterey Jazz Festival there is a venue called “Dizzy’s Den.” It’s named after the one and only Dizzy Gillespie, who would have been 93 years old today (October 21). Dizzy died in 1993 at age 75. But today Google did something delightful, a great doodle with Dizzy’s famous inflatable cheeks, puffing out as he played his trumpet with verve and gusto.

Google’s delightful Dizzy doodle

John Birks Gillespie was born in 1917 in Cheraw, North Carolina.  His father was a band leader and music was all around.  He learnt to play piano at age four, and trombone and trumpet by age twelve.  Music was fused into his being from a very early age.  He made his first recording, “King Porter Stomp,” with the Ted Hill Band in the late 1930s.  He went on to join Cab Calloway‘s band the “Cab Jivers”, but their relationship was sour, ending in a nasty little fight in which a knife “came into play” over a spitball thrown on stage.   Calloway was a bit of a bully, it appears.

Dizzy Gillespie with a picture of Cab Calloway, 1939
Dizzy looking as sweet as pie with a cartoon picture of his boss Cab

But that’s just a naughty piece of gossip.  Let’s just state it plainly:  Dizzy was one of the “kings of bebop.”  No doubt about that.

One other nice fact:  He met his wife Connie Bryson in 1940 and they were together until his death.  Their only daugher, Jeanie Bryson, is a jazz singer and is currently working on a “Dizzy Gillespie Songbook” in honor of her Dad.

Jeanie Bryson
The lovely Jeanie, Dizzy’s daughter

Salt Peanuts.”  “A Night in Tunisia.”  Jamming with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane in smoky jazz clubs.  There is too much to write about his career.  He became involved in Afro-Cuban jazz, a genre which is really still flourishing, and became close friends with the Latin trumpeter Mario Bauza.  He discovered Arturo Sandoval while traveling in Cuba.

In 1989 Dizzy gave 300 performances in 27 countries and 100 cities in the U.S.  Amazing energy.  Other little facts about the great Dizzy:

Did you know he became a follower of the Baha’i faith in 1970?  No more knife fights or drinking after that.

He was the inventor of the “bent” trumpet – which apparently came from someone sitting on it.  But he liked the sound.

Dizzy Gillespie
The ineffable Dizzy, with his famous puffed cheeks and his bent trumpet

Above all, there was his serious musicianship mixed with a kind of brimming-over humor.  Just beneath the surface.

I am sure you are delighting your friends in the Baha’i heaven, Dizzy!  Play on!

9 thoughts on “Dizzy

  1. A lovely tribute to Dizzy, but you should correct the information about his daughter, Jeanie Bryson. Lorraine Gillespie is not her mother. I am.


  2. Just listened to a piece of “Live in ’58 & ’70″… quite nice. Gonna give his daughter a listen now…. btw did a bit of research on his cheeks lol

    Gillespie pouches:
    Condition in which the cheeks of the mouth expand greatly with pressure, such as with the famous bebop trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy played his horn incorrectly for some 50 years, letting his cheeks expand when he played, instead of keeping them taut as is considered correct. This was mostly due to his general lack of early musical education. Although Mr. Gillespie was able to create a surprisingly good sound using this form, over time it left his cheeks saggy and loose. A doctor who wanted to use his image in a book named the condition after him. With Gillespie pouches, the cheeks inflate to look almost like balloons. Besides brass players, Gillespie pouches may be found among some balloon artists, who regularly apply great pressure to their cheeks while inflating balloons. http://everything2.com/title/Gillespie+Pouches

    I think you might like this… a cool pic of Dizzy blowing bubblegum lol http://www.123posters.com/bubble.htm


  3. bravo! Emma woudl like to reproduce on my blog, with you permission of course. There was also his short-lived presidential candidacy, with a pledge to literally turn the White House into the Black House. one of the very greatest musicians of our time – or any time


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