A small surprise from eBay, where surprises flourish: here‘s the link. The seller’s price is $175 and $12 shipping, The latter substantially more than the original postage.
It’s a letter from Ruby Braff, who left us in 2003, to Jack Bradley, his friend and sometime manager, and of course close friend of Louis Armstrong.
The letter isn’t dated, but the envelope is postmarked April 4, 1987:
“Dear Jack (Fuckey),
I’m looking forward & backward to our gig. As we draw closer I’ll get the name of everything—oh, by the way, you’ve got plenty time now to get cash for me that nite, if possible.
You know I’m down in Zinno’s every nite, all our cats are so happy I’m there that it’s like 1941. Everybody’s in to see me. Buck Clayton, Morey, everybody. Packed!!!
Bad news—I’m depressed we lost Buddy Rich tonite. I played anyway. What a drag!
Every nite is Cafe Society for me! Unbelievable. Wild!!
Anyway ding ding you 2.
Written in pencil on Braff’s letterhead. Folding creases, some light smudging, overall fine with original envelope. 8.5 x 11 inches (21.5 x 28 cm).
and . . .
and . . . .
A few annotations. Buddy Rich died on April 2, 1987. “Ding ding!” was Vic Dickenson’s all-purpose salutation, celebration, toast. Buck Clayton should need no annotation. “Morey” cannot be drummer Morey Feld, who died in 1971.
As to “Fuckey,” one interprets as one wishes.
Here, because I can — life is not all about objects for sale — is what remains of the Braff-Steinman correspondence, two 1971 letters from Ruby to me. Although Ruby was subject to unpredictable outbursts of rage (I witnessed one) his letters are gentle, touching, kind, and I did nothing special to evoke this kindness.
And an appropriate song — Ruby in duet with Dick Hyman in that same 1987:
We were lucky — and beyond — to have Ruby with us for fifty years. And his music has no expiration date.
Should you want to know more — more than you ever thought you could know — about Ruby and his times, this book is a delightful and wise mountain of information and stories, Thomas Hustad’s BORN TO PLAY.
May your happiness increase!
I was very fortunate to catch live the finest mainstream Cornet player Ruby Braff in early 70s in NYC.An ailing. Jimmy Rushing too was there shouting the blues.
Later in the show Clark Terry and Rudy Rutherford dropped by to join in the fun.
Last year I was most lucky to catch another mainstream Cornet player player Warren Vache live. What a privilege!
Michael, thank you for continuing to celebrate Ruby’s legacy and for your kind mention of my book. I continue to assemble an update to my book that I gladly send to anyone without charge as a pdf file. The update now exceeds 200 pages with text and photos. Just send an email to me at email@example.com and I will gladly send you the update. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may have interest. I am always delighted to acknowledge all who contribute information or private recordings.
Tom Hustad, Author, Born to Play, Scarecrow Press