Having good friends is a delight in themselves. When the friends are generous, that’s more than one can hope for. Here’s evidence: Jeanie Gorman Wilson, who took very good care of the singer Barbara Lea in Barbara’s last years, shared these pieces of paper with me . . . and with the readers of JAZZ LIVES.
What you’ll see below is admittedly a small collection but absolutely irreplaceable: two 1951 missives from trumpeter / composer Frank Newton to the youthful but impressive Miss Barbara Leacock. These aren’t simply rare pieces of paper, but artifacts from a gifted man, his life too short — but testimony to his humanity, his affectionate wisdom.
The envelope, please:
And the contents:
Here’s thanking you for whatever contribution you made toward the wonderful birthday party.
Let me wish you lots of success with your singing. Don’t be discouraged by a lot of your friends’ opinions, neither feel too exalted by their compliments, but try to work as hard as time will allow, out of which will come something of which you are deserving and will be proud of.
Give Larry [Eanet] my regards.
As ever, your well-wishing friend.
Eight months later, when Newton was working as a counselor at KIDDIE KAMP in Sharon, Massachusetts (the postcard’s motto is “Thanks feller, for the swell vacation!”):
And his note, which ends “hurry and write”:
Hello Barbara: — Just to let you know where I am, and what I am doing. I am counsler at this camp for kids and I am having a ball. I shure wish you could drive over here and see the camp it is only 20 some miles from Boston George Wein and the band were up here last week. If you can write me and tell me what’s what is happening to you
hurry and write
Yes, Newton’s handwriting, spelling, and punctuation are much more informal, but I imagine him dashing off this note, leaning against a tree, while children around him demanded his attention.
More information on KIDDIE KAMP can be found here — thanks to the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
Thanks to Jeanie for allowing us to read some of Newton’s words. He has been gone for nearly sixty years. If his sound isn’t distinctive in your ears, here is a deep, mournful sample: his 1939 THE BLUES MY BABY GAVE TO ME (with Mezz Mezzrow, Pete Brown, James P. Johnson, Al Casey, John Kirby, and Cozy Cole — the session supervised by Hughes Panassie):
Barbara Lea is nearer to us: December 26 was only the second anniversary of her death, but it’s always a privilege to hear her remarkable voice once again. Here she is, with Dick Sudhalter and James Chirillo, performing the uplifting IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND:
And since we can all dream of hearing Mr. Newton and Miss Leacock together, I offer here (yet unheard) evidence of such a musical meeting. Newton’s actual birthday was January 4, so it is possible that this disc was cut at the birthday party he mentions in his first letter. Someday . . .
May your happiness increase!