Audio Stories

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How Dizzy's Horn got bent
Dizzy Gillespie's trademark bent horn wasn't always that way. In 1953, Dizzy was performing at Snookie's, a now-defunct club at the corner of 47th and Broadway. No two people have the same story about what happened.

Listen here to Harold "Stumpy" Cromer and my mother, Norma Storch, who was at that time living with my father, James "Stump" Cross, give their versions.

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And click here to read Dizzy Gillespie and James "Stump" Cross tell their version of the story to Al Fraser, Dizzy Gillespie's biographer, in his book, "To Be or Not to Bop".

After hearing all these stories and noticing that Copesetics' member LeRoy Meyers was also there that night, I called him and asked for his version. "Harold wasn't even there." he says. "I was on the stage with Stump, doing the act, and I pushed him an d he fell down and the horn bent. That's how it happened." LeRoy doesn't remember my mother Norma being there either. I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder. (June Cross)


LeRoy Meyers and Buster Brown are members of the Copesetics Tap Dancers. The Copesetics are a society of tap dancers founded in honor of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson - who used the term "copesetic" the same way we say "everything's alright!" LeRoy Meyers, who once worked as road manger for The Supremes and BB King, is a comedian and dancer in his own right. They describe what it was like back in th e days when there was black show business and white show business, and unequal opportunity between the two. After their stories, Lois Basden, one of the women in Jimmy Cross' life, tells another about how that inequality played out in the case of Martin and Lewis and Stump and Stumpy.

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Jerry Lewis is one of the few comedians who survived and prospered as show business moved from a stage and theatre-oriented business to one anchored and fed by television. Here, Lewis tells his own stories about how black and white entertainers got around segregation in the days when even being seen together violated the norm.

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Here, Larry Storch remembers how blacks and whites performed mostly in separate theaters. Those few blacks who did "crossover" to white entertainment houses were expected to do a pat routine: a little singing, a little dancing, and off - a warmup for the main act - usually comedy in those days. The Will Maston trio, which featured young Sammy Davis Jr., was one of those crossover acts. When Sammy Davis, Jr. asked Storch to teach him some "voices", he took a risk.

Stump (Jimmy Cross) and Stumpy were stars in the black circuit, but their careers remained limited because their act mixed dancing, singing, impersonations, and comedy - but there was little room for that kind of act in front of white audiences. Comedy was where the big money was. Jimmy's horizons were limited from the jump.

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"I Ain't Got Nobody" was Jimmy's trademark song. It was first done by the vaudevillian Bert Williams in the early 1900s...(and most recently covered in the late eighties in a 1985 rock n' roll version by David Lee Roth. "Jimmy had great respect for the tradition of black theater," Lois Basden remembers. "He did this highly exaggerated "I Ain't Got Nobody". And people would laugh till the tears came down t heir faces. I'd cry, because deep in the depths of James Cross, there was that feeling of loneliness." The song was originally a ballad, LeRoy Meyers and Buster Brown, members of the Copesetics Tap Dancers, remember that Jimmy did a version of it that song that broke up the house - with laughter. It exemplified Jimmy's whole act, Buster says.

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125th Street , even today, is considered the capital of black America. But there was a time - around the turn of the century - when no blacks were allowed to work in its stores. It wasn't until a concerted campaign of marches and protests during the thirties "opened up" the street. My step-mother Lois Basden has studied its history studded with race and gangsters . She shares it with me here. LeRoy Meyers and Buster Brown, members of the Copesetics Tap Dancers, also share their experiences, along with Harold "Stumpy" Cromer and Larry Storch. Maurice Hines (Gregory Hines' brother) talks about playing with Stump and Stumpy in Las Vegas just as the post-war climate of racial openness began tightening.

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