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Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones

as told to ALBERT MURRAY
edited by PAUL DEVLIN
afterword by PHIL SCHAAP
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    An American original and jazz luminary, Papa Jo Jones intrigued many with his outrageous personality and innovative drumming. Drawn from fourteen tapes recorded over eight years beginning in 1977, Rifftide is an impressionistic series of riffs and tales by Jones, revealing a man at the forefront of a new form of music and a country amidst incredible turmoil and opportunity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7861-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. IX-XXIV)
  4. Introduction: The Musical Life of Papa Jo Jones
    (pp. 1-26)

    Jonathan David Samuel Jones—save your breath, “Jo”—has more often than not been called the greatest drummer in the history of jazz. Most great jazz drummers have given testimonials to Jones’s virtuosity and innovation. This book is his story, derived from interviews with Albert Murray and transcribed, edited, and arranged by me. Jones stood out as larger than life in a world of large personalities. He was a raconteur and tall-tale spinner. His unusual style of narration, combined with his involvement in important moments in musical and cultural history, and along with his observations about other intriguing figures, have...

  5. I Have Had a Varied Life
    (pp. 27-30)

    The things that I have, I’ll give to you. This is my legacy with you,Albert.¹ This is my last hoo-rah. I will not give this wealth of information to nobody else because they don’t know how to handle it. You know what I mean? Mr. Murray, it’s hard for me to tell these people I’m not impressed. But what I’m in with you, I’ll put you way ahead, I’ll give you so much material, goddamit, you’ll have to lock yourself up and be all fucked up.

    You must print what I have. I have enough to tell the real...

  6. Can’t Nobody Tell Me One Inch about Show Business
    (pp. 31-46)

    They spend billions of dollars to kill people. We are trying to help people. We are trying toentertainpeople. How someone gonna tell me he don’t sing as good as she don’t dance as good as he don’t play good as—I’m not interested in that. We know who’sthe best. We got a commodity that you can’tbuy.

    Don’t put nobody in front of me, fromBob Hopeup: they can’t tell me one inch about show business. I covered the whole thing, the Bob Hopes, the theater. I covered the whole sphere. I knew the dancers. I...

  7. The Count Basie Institution
    (pp. 47-64)

    The Count Basie Orchestra was aninstitution.¹ It was like Notre Dame, it was like Vassar, it was like Oxford. It was like Eton!² We had a guy who was a tailor, used to hang out with us. He said, thirty years after the fact, in front of his wife: “You hung out with the Basie band, you knew two things were gonna happen: you drank some booze and went to bed with some women! Hanging out with Duke Ellington wasnice, it wasculture, you know, I could get that at Carnegie Hall, but there’s never been a band...

  8. They Said the Negro Would Never Be Free
    (pp. 65-70)

    You know, years ago when they had the slaves, the first instrument—drums. Here’s a plantation ten miles away. Here’s a plantation over here. Welllll. Some could go and visit and some couldn’t. All of ’em wasn’t Simon Legrees.¹ When they wanted to send a message, they’d get on somethin’: they’d send out messages. Don’t get flogged! Don’t beat on nothin’: they sendin’ out messages!

    Down in Birmingham I ran into some of the big dogs of the socialites, you know, and I told ’em I wanted to go up to look at my old homestead, 3820 Cliff Road. They...

  9. My Thirst after Knowledge Will Never Cease
    (pp. 71-80)

    I’ve just been curious about life. And my thirst after knowledge will never cease. Now how in the world could I have a background if I didn’t meet a Langston Hughes? If I didn’t know nothing about an E. Simms Campbell¹ or you or Invisible Man or something? I came out with Langston Hughes and E. Simms Campbell and then I met Invisible Man and you.²

    We were on the road one time. I was staying with Basie and Jimmy Rushing, and a friend of mine nearby was an intellectual. So I would go out to his house and read...

  10. People I’ve Rubbed Elbows With
    (pp. 81-98)

    The man was fantastic.¹ To know how to assemble peoples: north, east, south, and west, and in the middle! He was a well-deserved chef: he knew how to prepare an eleven-course dinner. I defy anyone to take me to any college, take me to any musicologist. I defy anyone to take his music and dissect it. Take the worst piece he’s ever written, and he’ll tear these Bachs and Beethovens and Chopins and Franz Liszts and what have ya. Because the man wrote for El Mundo, the whole world. He wrote life. The other peoples wrote because of their condition...

  11. I Often Wondered Why I Was Such a Strange Fella
    (pp. 99-110)

    I often wondered why I was such a strange fella. I seem to forget at this point, as of today, I’m sixty-six. I’m supposed to be sixty-seven, supposedly, as of October the seventh. OK? I was born in 1911, October the seventh.

    I don’t understand. It just dawned on me four, five years ago. Before that I didn’t understand. These guys was my age, sixty like me, fifty-five like me. These guys been playin’ out here. I justknowthese people know more than I know. But. They. Don’t. Know. Nothing! They don’t know nothing about Chattanooga, Little Rock, Sheffield,...

  12. Afterword: The Persistence of Papa Jo Jones
    (pp. 111-134)

    Jo Jones wanted his story told in his own words and handled his way. Papa Jo was arrogant enough to think and assert that his memoirs could always be assembled—even after his death and in the absence of any manuscript. “It’s in The Archives!” Jo would often exclaim, a parallel to Casey Stengel’s frequent summary that “you could look it up.” This book has proven Papa Jo right.

    That it was in the archives, or his belief that it was, comforted Jo Jones during his later years. By the late 1960s, Jo Jones was burdened by the declining impact...

  13. Editor’s Notes
    (pp. 135-162)
  14. Index
    (pp. 163-172)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 173-173)
  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 174-185)