On September 9, 1956, Elvis Presley made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and that changed the course of history.

On February 9, 1964, the Beatles made their debut there, and another transformation happened.


In July 10, 1949, Illinois Jacquet, Jo Jones, and a small band [possibly Johnny Acea, definitely Al Lucas, and Russell Jacquet] appeared on Sullivan’s Toast of the Town.

and this astonishing episode, not even two minutes’ long:

The music is dramatic beyond words, electrifying. What would have happened if millions of Susies and Harolds, decided in a lightning flash that they wanted to play the tenor saxophone like Illinois, the drums like Jo? And that millions of mothers and fathers have enthusiastically helped those dreams come true?

Our world would have been so much different. And rather than dwell gloomily on the absence of monuments to Illinois and Jo, let me dream of an alternate universe, transformed by heated expert improvisation. Jacquet had become a star as early as 1944, along with Jo (whose fame began earlier) through Jazz at the Philharmonic and JAMMIN’ THE BLUES. This was nationwide television, even though fewer households owned sets in 1949 than they did in 1956 and 1964.

It didn’t happen. I think that Elvis and the Beatles have more durable recognition than Illinois and Jo, even in the circle of people who read JAZZ LIVES.

But what a blessing that these kinescopes survive and are being shared with us: visions of jazz utopia for one and all.

May your happiness increase!

2 responses to “IMAGINE AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE (July 10, 1949)

  1. Nice 1948 -Bob Wilber too Nice in place of his teacher,Sidney Bechet—a few others!!!!!Louis,Jack T et al!!!!!!!!

  2. The trumpeter looks slightly bemused at the whole affair. It is basically a duet between Jaquet and Jo. The bassist could not have been audible and the piano barely.

    Jo’s wonderful set is a giant bass drum, a large snare, ride, high hat and floor tom for occasional use, precursors to the standard R&B set to come.

    I might have had a happier childhood if this had become the prevalent form rather than Elvis, et al.

    Pure Dionysian ecstasy.

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