I don’t celebrate Christmas, but this picture embodies what it might mean at its highest — an occasion for love, immortality, generosity, and art.  The little boy here, now grown up, is Stephen Hester — the noted Red Nichols scholar.  I’ll let him provide the details:

“The picture was taken on December 24, 1958 in our house in Pontiac, Michigan, by my grandfather. (My grandmother was holding my newborn baby brother, off camera.) Yes, that is my mother, me (age 3), and dad.  I tease dad,because of this picture, that he started me before I can remember.  I have been told at the time of this picture my favorite record was Felix The Cat (Whiteman w/Bix).  I do remember at age 5 my favorite record was Red’s O’er The Billowy Sea, which is about the time I did meet Red, at our house.  I remember I was collecting and starting to help dad with the reseach when Red passed in 1965.  That exact copy of Bixieland is still in the collection.  I do have “newer” copies to play, but that one has a special place.”

Steve’s father, Stan Hester — along with Woody Backensto — is responsible for much of what we now know about some eminent but often neglected jazz musicians of the Twenties, Red Nichols and his associates.  Steve told me, “Dad started collecting in 1941. He and Woody started the Nichols research (with Red’s help) the month after I was born.  I have been lucky to have been able to read and study all the correspondence, notes, from them, and all their contacts: bandleaders, musicians, collectors, etc. Many of the musicians and collectors became my friends, among them Joe Tarto, Mannie Klein.”

You might want to consider what this picture suggests.  One whimsical moral is, of course, “It isn’t Christmas without Condon!” and few would disagree.  But there is something larger resonating here.  Give something you hold dear to the people you love, and both gift and giver will transcend time and the calendar.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to all of you.  May jazz always  give you happiness, and may you find ways to spread happiness through jazz.


  1. I enjoyed your comments and Steve’s. I became a fan of Bix in the 1960s, when the great Chicago disk jockey, Franklyn MacCormack, would occasionally play his music on his all-night radio program. After Bix came the great Louis, Eddie Condon, Red Nichols, and a host of others from the Twenties and early Thirties. Thank you for your continued interest in the music and musicians of this era.

  2. Hard to believe you were just down the road from me, in Charlotte Michigan. I had the same Lincoln Logs!

  3. The compliments of the season to you Michael with my profound thanks for the music, videos and your insightful comments and short essays I have enjoyed through 2011. May the new year bring you into contact with many musicians and music that you love so much. Respectfully, John.

  4. This post reminds me of the Christmas my husband gave me the 10 video set of Ken Burns “History of Jazz” I cried and believe me they were tears of joy!! Merry Christmas to you and All the Best in 2012.
    Judy in YVR

  5. Pingback: The Ben Selvin Sound Versus The Sound Of Ben Selvin | The Pop of Yestercentury

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