With this song, Andy Kirk described his life as a traveling jazz musician. Twenty Years on Wheels is Kirk's engaging account of his life, beginning with his childhood in predominantly white Denver. In 1925, Kirk moved to Dallas, where he joined Terrence Molder's Dark Clouds of Joy. He became leader of that band when they moved to Kansas City in 1929. As Kirk's Clouds of Joy, they toured the United States from coast to coast for the next twenty years. For much of this time, Mary Lou Williams was the band's pianist, and many other outstanding soloists, including Kenny Kersey, Howard McGhee, Fats Navarro, and Charlie Parker, played with them.
Throughout the book, Kirk provides a valuable perspective on black/white relations in the years 1920-50, telling of the rigors of traveling in racially divided America. he tells of the jobs he and his musicians played---from extended engagements to one-nighters---the styles they mastered, the demands of their audiences, and the expectations of the record companies. It is a fascinating story, told with vigor and intelligence.
". . . a good study of the days before the Civil Rights Movement changed the country for all, including jazz musicians."
1 The first music I ever heard 1
2 I quit school in my sophomore year 17
3 "Ever think about playing an instrument?" 33
4 Twelve Clouds of Joy 50
5 The first big date in New York 68
6 Until the real thing comes along 81
7 Those wheels were still rolling 101
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