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The Story Is Told

Charlie Parker Jams For Breakfast

Charlie Parker Young.jpg

The following extract is from comments by Billy Eckstine in Hear Me Talkin' To Ya  edited by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff.

"Let me tell you about Bird and how I first heard him play. It came about through my going to Chicago.

The vogue before the war was to have a breakfast dance on one day of the week. Every club in Chicago, at some time or another, would have a breakfast dance, with the show going on at six thirty in the morning. One spot there, the 65 Club, had a breakfast dance one morning, and they had a little combo with King Kolax on trumpet; a kid named Goon Gardner, who could swing like mad, on alto; John Simmons on bass; and Kansas Fields, drums.

It was more or less a jam show, for after the show all the musicians would blow in there. We were standing around one morning when a guy comes up that looks like he just got off a freight car, the raggedest guy you'd want to see at this moment. And he asks Goon, "Say, man, can I come up and blow your horn?"

Now Goon was always a kind of lazy cat. Anybody that wanted to get on the stand and blow, just as long as Goon could go to the bar and talk with the chicks, it was all right with him. So he said, "Yes, man, go ahead."

And this cat gets up there, and I'm telling you he blew the bell off that thing! It was Charlie Parker, just come in from Kansas City on a freight train. I guess Bird was no more than about eighteen then, but playing like you never heard - wailing alto then. And that was before he joined Jay McShann.

He blew so much until he upset everybody in the joint, and Goon took him home, gave him some clothes to put on, and got him a few gigs. Bird didn't have a horn, naturally, so Goon lent him a clarinet to go and make gigs on.

According to what Goon told me, one day he looked for Bird, and Bird, the clarinet, and all was gone - back somewheres. After that, I didn't see Charlie for, I suppose, three years, not until he came up to New York with the McShann orchestra."


Andrew 'Goon' Gardner is perhaps not a well known name in jazz, but he went on to play with various bands including those of Roy Eldridge, Dinah Washington and T. Bone Walker. Here he is with Roy Eldridge in The Gasser.

And did people really go to breakfast dances? .... Well here is Duke Ellington playing his tune Breakfast Dance from 1929.

Andrew 'Goon' Gardner

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