Book Review: 'Kansas City Lightning — The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker'

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biddybopbird46c

Hi Brad, this is James Fleet, son of Biddy Fleet,the guitarist who jammed with, and mentored Charlie Parker during those now historic Chili house sessions in 1939. Thanks for the article on Kansas City Lightning. I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Crouch at a book signing/lecture this past September. It was a bright moment for both of us! There is so much more to the Biddy/Bird story that no one knows about(other than family members). Maybe one day I'll have the fortitude to write a book about my Father and his contributions to jazz. However, I wanted you to know that I have in my possession my Dad's 1938 Gibson ES150 (the Charlie Christian model). This is the guitar that my father played when he was mentoring Charlie on songs like "Cherokee" and "I've Got Rhythm". The guitar is in Great shape considering it's age and "Journey"! And yes, Dad was truly under-recorded, and one of his early students; the late great Basie reedman Frank Wess, urged my father to record more, so that the world could hear him! Biddy DID record with Jelly Roll Morton, in 1938, for Jelly's Smithsonian Institute sessions (also called The Baltimore Acetates). You can hear Dad on Honeysuckle Rose and Melancholy Baby. On one of the two tunes Dad and Jelly trade solos and in Pop's improvisations you will hear the DNA of what "Bird heard", one year later, that prompted the sax legend to "Come Alive" on his horn! In addition,I wanted you to know that Biddy Fleet was also a licensed electrician who built his own amplifiers! Here's a true story: During one of Biddy's performances in the 1940's he used one of his freshly built amps. However, while he was playing, he noticed a young fellow in the audience taking notes. After the set, when Dad was backstage, this gentlemen came and introduced himself to Pop. The young man's name was: Les Paul! True Story. There are many more. But, I'll save that for another time. In any case, thanks for the excellent article about my two favorite musicians: Biddy Fleet and Charlie Parker!

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