I am always happy when facts enter the scene, even when they prove one of my latest flights of fancy to have been in error. In a recent post, BEWARE OF THE REPEATER PENCIL, I had suggested that Lester Young, as original in linguistic coinage as he was in music, had invented the quirky term “repeater pencil.”

The Dutch cultural historian L. Robert Haacksaeuw has proven this whimsy of mine false by finding real evidence.  Thus!

REPEATER PENCILI wouldn’t want a writing instrument with the power of a machine gun, and I can imagine Lester reading this 1946 advertisement — so soon after his dishonorable discharge from an Army that treated him cruelly — with horror. Who knew a company could sell mechanical pencils by first comparing them to an instrument of death and then offering a placid morning image of coffee with sugar.

Lester, it is too late for us to apologize for what some people did to you, but we are so sorrowful for their acts.  Had you been surrounded by love, perhaps you would not have felt you had to run from a hateful society of people who did not understand nor value you.  Thank you for so generously continuing to give us your own irreplaceable beauties.

May the world be kinder to all people — kinder than it was to Lester Willis Young.

May your happiness increase! 



  1. Another mystery solved! Thanks Michael.

  2. Dan Morgenstern

    Dear Michael, That ad is a kick! But Lester (the comment is from Postif interview) simply meant that he didn’t want to do the same things over again. He had such a way with words. But it’s wrong to think of his post-Army life a la the Billie routine, i.e., the poor victim. There is no trace of self pity in his music after he got out–it’s as strong as ever. Zoot Sims told me that when he was traveling with Pres on a Norman Granz tour, they had some long airplane talks during one of which Lester brought up his DB time, saying that the prison band was “the saddest bunch of mfs” he’d ever heard, so he asked to take charge of the jazz band, got some charts from Basie and other connections, and turned them into respectable form. And Gil Evans, stationed on the same base as Lester, said that he and other musicians would get Lester sprung on Sundays when they had jam sessions at the noncom officers club–and get him high as well. So no languishing in a prison cell for our man, sentimental fiction to the contrary notwithstanding. Your take on Vic and Bobby was great and serendipitously came just after my having listened to them from Lou Terrassi’s–you know those great Doctor Jazz b’casts! Their friendship was so special and I’m so glad I was able to get them on that TV show in Chicago that I co-produced with the late Bob Kaiser, a terrific director. I loved those guys. Vic never really got over Bobby’s death–though everybody cherished him, he didn’t have many close friends…. Dan

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