Tag Archives: remembering the dead

WHEN THEY WERE ALL VERY YOUNG (Part Two): MISS LEACOCK and MR. GIFFORD

Part One, somewhat more elaborate, can be found here.  In brief: the late Joe Boughton, jazz aficionado, record producer, jazz party promoter, was a close friend of several musicians who appeared in the Boston area in his youth.  One was the superb drummer Walt Gifford; another the legendary singer Barbara Lea; another the irreplaceable cornetist Johnny Windhurst.  Gifford was not only a splendid jazz player but a first-rate amateur photographer, who took color slides of his friends . . . which Boughton then had made into prints for his own scrapbook.  When Joe died, some of these photographs came into my hands, and the half-dozen with Barbara Lea, then Miss Leacock of Wellesley College, are now held in the Barbara Lea Archives.  All this is prelude to one tender snapshot.  On the back it reads (in Boughton’s handwriting)

DEC. 1948
LEAKY & GIFFY
BARBARA LEA
WALT GIFFORD
Both gone now, and so young then:
LEAKY AND GIFFY
However, perhaps some of my readers share with me the feeling that if you are remembered with love, you never die.  Looking at this photograph, it is hard to feel otherwise.
May your happiness increase!
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GONE, GONE, GONE

These beautiful sad pictures were taken by the jazz scholar and drummer Sue Fischer.

And they remind us of the fragility of life — these two young men who gave us so much before death took them.  Tesch’s grave is not even close to where his family is buried; Don Murray is buried with his.

And then there’s the gravestone of the man I’ve spent the last fifty years admiring, even when I didn’t know his name:

Sue didn’t take that picture and tells me that the cemetery is closed to visitors because of some illegal activities that had taken place — which makes me sad, because I had hoped at one point to make a holy pilgrimage to this site.  I hope I will get to do so in this lifetime.

(As a digression: the Beloved, hearing me talk about Sidney for yet another time, asked me, “Why is he so important — to you or to jazz?”  I thought about it for a minute, and said, “He was generous: he made everyone around him sound better.  He was himself: you knew his sound as soon as he started.  He lifted everyone up.  He was adaptable.  Louis loved him.  And he had an enthusiastic life where he didn’t waste a moment — as well, he had a beautiful death.  To die telling a joke among friends seems ideal.”)

These pieces of carved stone make me mournful.  But perhaps they should remind us both that we are all fragile and finite yet the music we make lives on.   Tesch, Don, and Sidney left us so many uplifting beauties that — as long as we remember them with love, as long as we play their records and say, “Wow, that Teschemacher!” or “How beautiful Don Murray sounds — I hear Goodman idolized him fiercely,” or, “Did you hear what Sidney just did behind Lester?  Did you HEAR it?” then these musicians — only theoretically dead — will never vanish.  Offering such loving remembrance of the dead may be scant tribute, but our love reverberates, and the dead, I believe, know.

MOURN THE DEAD, CELEBRATE THE LIVING: CLICK HERE!

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