May 29, 2010

Buck and Cow Cow

Perhaps only baseball players and mobsters have more colorful and varied nicknames than jazz musicians. I did an earlier post on jazz musicians with animal nicknames entitled “Little Bird and Papa Mutt,” which included the following list:
  • Bird - Charlie Parker
  • Cat - William Alonzo Anderson
  • The Cat - Jimmy Smith
  • Duck - Donald Bailey
  • The Fox - Maynard Ferguson
  • Frog - Ben Webster
  • Gator - Willis Jackson
  • The Great Dane - Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
  • The Hawk - Coleman Hawkins
  • The Lion - Willie Smith
  • Little Bird - Albert Ayler and Jimmy Heath
  • Mouse - Irving Randolph
  • Mousey - Elmer Alexander
  • Mule - Major Holley
  • Mutt or Papa Mutt -Tom Carey
  • Pony - Norwood Poindexter
  • Rabbit - Johnny Hodges
  • The Stork - Paul Desmond
  • Tiger - George Haynes
     A reader suggested the following addenda: Ben Webster was also apparently called "Beast"; saxophonist Sonny Stitt was yet another "Little Bird"; and Charles Edward Davenport, an early boogie woogie piano player, was known as "Cow Cow." I also found a few others to add, thanks to Bill Crow’s (who doesn't need an animal nickname) book Jazz Anecdotes:
  • Bunny - Roland Berrigan
  • Honeybear - Gene Sedric
  • Hoss - Walter Page
  • Octopus - Tal Farlow
  • Porky - Al Porcino
  • Sharkey - Joseph Bonano
     Trumpeter Wilbur Dorsey Clayton, who played with Count Basie, was nicknamed “Buck” by his mother, although this was apparently a not-so-subtle allusion to his American Indian ancestry. A couple of questionable additions: Trumpeter Charles Melvin Williams, who spent many years with the Duke Ellington orchestra, was known as  "Cootie." I call this “questionable” because the word cootie refers only to a body louse, and I would hesitate to include this under the category of animals. Ditto for guitarist Clifton “Skeeter” Best - a mosquito is an animal only by the broadest definition.
     Finally, there’s trumpeter and composer Joseph “Wingy” Manone, who lost an arm as a boy in New Orleans as a result of a streetcar accident. This nickname has to rank as a bit of gallows humor, although Manone’s 1948 autobiography was entitled Trumpet on the Wing. Jazz violinist Joe Venuti, who was a notorious practical joker and good friend of Manone, used to send “Wingy” a single cufflink every year on his birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment