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Follow Your Heart

Follow Your Heart: Moving with the Giants of Jazz, Swing, and Rhythm and Blues

Joe Evans
with Christopher Brooks
Tavis Smiley
Bill McFarlin
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Follow Your Heart
    Book Description:

    Detailing the career of Joe Evans, Follow Your Heart chronicles the nearly thirty years that he spent immersed in one of the most exciting times in African American music history. An alto saxophonist who between 1939 and 1965 performed with some of America's greatest musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Andy Kirk, Billie Holiday, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lionel Hampton, and Ivory Joe Hunter, Evans warmly recounts his wide range of experience in the music industry. Readers follow Evans from Pensacola, Florida, where he first learned to play, to such exotic destinations as Tel Aviv and Paris, which he visited while on tour with Lionel Hampton. Evans also comments on popular New York City venues used for shaping and producing black music, such as the Apollo Theater, the Savoy, Minton's Playhouse, and the Rhythm Club. _x000B__x000B_Revealing Evans as a master storyteller, Follow Your Heart describes his stints as a music executive, entrepreneur, and musician. Evans provides rich descriptions of jazz, swing, and rhythm and blues culture by highlighting his experiences promoting tracks to radio deejays under Ray Charles's Tangerine label and later writing, arranging, and producing hits for the Manhattans and the Pretenders. Leading numerous musical ventures that included a publishing company and several labels--Cee Jay Records (with Jack Rags), Revival, and Carnival Records--Evans remained active in the music industry even after he stopped performing regularly. As one of the few who enjoyed success as both performer and entrepreneur, he offers invaluable insight into race relations within the industry, the development of African American music and society from the 1920s to 1970s, and the music scene of the era.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09113-1
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Tavis Smiley

    The life story of Joe Evans as voiced inFollow Your Heartwill touch your spirit. This moving account of an unsung musician and record company executive who is now in his nineties should be required reading.

    Joe Evans shared the stage with great musical icons like Billie Holiday, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Johnny Hodges, Nat “King” Cole, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Charlie Parker, andFollow Your Heartbrings these extraordinary personalities to life. Most of us have only read about these legends, heard their recordings, or seen them on television.

    While people of my generation will certainly be able...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Bill McFarlin

    Follow Your Heartis historically compelling and beautifully written. The book chronicles several eras of American popular music as the saxophonist and record company executive Joe Evans lived them. The importance of the story is underscored because of the dwindling number of musicians who can share their experiences of playing with historical figures such as Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Al Hibbler, Louis Armstrong, Jay McShann, Cab Calloway, and Andy Kirk when they were all in their prime. This book provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into the lives of these musical pioneers and to understand what motivated them and...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Christopher Brooks
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Christopher Brooks
  7. Part One

    • chapter one Pensacola Blues
      (pp. 3-11)

      One day in 1921, when I was about five, I heard a fishman on a horse-drawn wagon singing a song. Between the pauses, he blew what looked like a cow’s horn, alerting people on the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida, that he was in our area selling fish. His tune went like this:

      They call me raggedy, call me raggedy, ’cause my

      clothes are in pawn (blows horn),

      Call me raggedy, call me raggedy, ’cause my clothes are

      in pawn (blows horn),

      But when you see me tomorrow (blows horn),

      I’ll have my best clothes on (blows horn).

      This was my...

    • chapter two Music Crazy
      (pp. 12-19)

      Once the music bug bit me, it became my obsession and my passion. It was as if the rest of my childhood quickly sped away. Music eventually became my great discovery, but the initial path was a bumpy one.

      Muh really wanted me to play an instrument. She also decided that the violin was what she wanted me to play. I can’t say that I felt one way or the other about it at first, but I took about four or five lessons. One afternoon, I was coming home from a lesson and some boys started to tease me about...

    • chapter three Boy Meets Band
      (pp. 20-31)

      My first and lasting impression of Raymond Sheppard was that he was very neat. He was brown-skinned with dimples, clean shaven, and always well dressed. Even when he was giving lessons, I can’t recall seeing him without a shirt and tie.

      He was the younger of two brothers. Shep lived with his parents, Edward and Lilly Sheppard, at 612 North Reus Street. Lilly Sheppard was a very talkative woman who asked a lot of questions and sometimes talked even when no one was listening. She was always going on about what she would do after her husband’s death, particularly her...

    • chapter four “Ma” Rainey’s Deep South
      (pp. 32-40)

      As the youngest members of the Ray Shep band, Bobby Johnson and I got to be pretty close. In the Shep organization, everybody was supposed to be equal. Everybody got the same salary. But when it came to discussing business, it was a different story. One day, the band members were talking about adding another performance to our schedule, and I chimed in, “I think we should forget about that and should . . .”

      “You think!?” snapped Mr. Joe Jessie. “Shut your damn mouth! You ain’t think nothin’. You ain’t even stop wettin’ the bed yet. Get over in...

  8. Part Two

    • chapter five New York, New York
      (pp. 43-55)

      In September 1938, I was on my way to New York City for the first time. I had already traveled up and down the East Coast with Shep as far north as Richmond, Virginia. New York City was just about four hundred miles beyond. When I arrived at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Manhattan, Bobby was right there to meet me. We took the subway to Harlem. He and Hilda lived at 143 St. Nicholas Avenue in a relatively large place by New York standards. It was a five-room apartment with three bedrooms. Across the street was the Dewey...

    • chapter six Hootie and the Bird
      (pp. 56-65)

      By 1942, World War II had turned the country’s economy right side up again. There were so many jobs around that the comedians joked about how choosy people had become as to where and under what conditions they would work. As a result, bandleaders and musicians noticed an increased demand. With more time and money, people, especially in urban areas, wanted entertainment. Because of the war and gas rationing, however, we didn’t have the luxury of traveling by bus to get to all those new jobs.

      There were many logistical problems with traveling by train. The schedules rarely conformed to...

    • chapter seven The Big, Big Bands
      (pp. 66-79)

      Louis Armstrong was still one of the hottest musicians around. I had known of him since I was a child listening to him on the radio and records. I was amazed to beplayingwith this music legend. Since I was a seasoned musician, I wasn’t intimidated, though, just impressed. We called him “Louis” (“Louie,” like Louisianans pronounce it) or the more familiar “Satchmo.” Although the band paid much better than any I had been in up to that point, it wasn’t as exciting as playing with the McShann band. Louis’s book consisted of older tunes like “King Porter’s Stomp,”...

    • chapter eight Call Me “Italy”
      (pp. 80-88)

      Back in New York working the freelance scene again, I was running into fellow musicians at the usual spots. While Charlie Parker was becoming an American musical icon by the late 1940s, his fellow bebopper, Dizzy Gillespie, was also gaining a reputation. Dizzy and I had met at the Rhythm Club in the early 1940s. I had also heard him at some of those sessions at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House, where I had seen Joe Guy, Little Benny Harris, Clyde Hart, and Thelonious Monk. I think Monk was the house pianist because he was always around.

      Dizzy had...

    • Photos
      (pp. None)
    • chapter nine The End of an Era
      (pp. 89-100)

      When I returned to the states in March 1954, I had to reestablish myself back in New York. Even though I hadn’t been gone that long, everything looked so strange. In Italy things moved very slowly. It would take us two hours to eat a meal. I mean, we really sat down and enjoyed it, which included the discussion and the wine. In New York everything was fast. You ate fast, you moved fast, you spoke fast, and you ran fast. That was simply the custom.

      I felt better after I joined the Johnny Hodges band within a few months...

  9. Part Three

    • chapter ten The Rhythm and Blues Scene
      (pp. 103-113)

      When the Savoy closed, it was the end of a musical era. I felt a social and economic void. I filled the social void by increasing my time at the Apollo Theater. In order to fill the economic void, I supplemented my income by working for a West Indian businessman who lived in Yonkers, named Steven Hodge. He had been in the United States for years when I met him because he owned Atomic Music Company, which installed and repaired jukeboxes around New York City in barbershops, restaurants, and candy stores. Steve Hodge also owned a real estate company called...

    • chapter eleven The Rise of Carnival Records
      (pp. 114-134)

      Before I went back to Motown, I met with the Manhattans at Kenny Kelly’s house to rehearse. His mother owned the building. I picked some songs I wanted them to rehearse, and I rewrote several of the songs they had written. “When you get them the way I want them, then we’ll record,” I told the group. I always taped our rehearsals and studied the recordings very carefully. While I was in Detroit I asked Paul Williams to rehearse the group for me. I came back to New Jersey at least twice to check on their progress.

      After the second...

    • chapter twelve After the Manhattans
      (pp. 135-146)

      I was sitting in my office considering options, when I heard an announcement over the radio: “You can go to college on weekends, in the evenings, even on Sundays; just come to Essex County College for more information.” Essex County College was just a few blocks away from my office on Clinton Street in downtown Newark. I could take some business courses to rebuild and strengthen Carnival.

      The following day, during my lunch break, I went to the registrar at Essex and started asking questions about certain courses. I thought there would be a bunch of kids in there, but...

  10. Epilogue: Long Good-byes
    (pp. 147-152)

    This story was to have ended in the mid-1990s with my eightieth birthday. Although I never imagined I would make it this far, I turned ninety-one on October 7, 2007. But the last several years have been punctuated with a loneliness and sadness that I can barely describe. The most significant is that I lost my beloved Anna.

    In the summer of 1998, Anna began having symptoms of fatigue, malaise, and general lack of energy. We both assumed that it had something to do with an earlier diagnosed condition she had, temporal arteritis. She broke out in shingles, which had...

  11. Discography
    (pp. 153-155)
  12. Index
    (pp. 156-167)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 168-170)