Twenty Years on Wheels

Andy Kirk
As Told to Amy Lee
Kirk describes his life as a traveling jazz musician


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.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a good study of the days before the Civil Rights Movement changed the country for all, including jazz musicians."

Look Inside


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

Discography     120
Index     144

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 184pp.
  • 24 pages of photos.
See Sales Restrictions

Sales Restrictions

Our edition is available in Canada, Philippines, Puerto Rico, United States, Virgin Islands (U.S.)


  • Hardcover
  • 1989
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10134-4

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  • $54.95 U.S.