Yale University Library


OHAM: Mary Lou Williams on Ellington


AMERICAN MUSIC SERIES                Interview 77 a-e


Mary Lou Williams and Father Peter O'Brien

Talking with Martha Oneppo

March 16 & 17, 1981

Durham, North Carolina



Side a:                                                                                                                                       pg. 1

Arriving at Duke University--feelings about jazz now--musical background--playing and jamming with Fletcher Henderson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, etc.--playing for the Mellons as a child--story about her mother discovering her talent--mother's musical ability--lack of lessons--way of teaching--playing with first husband--the Syncopaters--beginning with Andy Kirk--playing on her own--playing in London and Paris--stopped playing in the fifties--Dizzy Gillespie--working with young people--religious change--discusses jazz--early years of playing--meeting other musicians in Kansas City--Martha Raye--learning to compose and composing--playing with the "circuses."

Side b:                                                                                                                                     pg. 17

Mary Lou's Mass--Mass for Lenten Season--Zodiac Suite--performance of Suite by New York Philharmonic--Theolonius Monk and Bud Powell--Imogene Coca--Joe Morgen--Duke Ellington--Billy Strayhorn--playing at the Cookery--getting boppers started--recording--jam sessions--Cotton Club--Lena Horne--Cotton Club--Fats Waller--Alvin Ailey.

Side c:                                                                                                                                    pg. 33

Andy Kirk--touring in late 20s and early 30s--recording with Kirk--Roland Mayfield--Mickey Rooney--Ethel Waters--show at the Pearl Theatre--Bill "Bojangles" Robinson--her playing in the late fifties and sixties--Father O'Brien and Mary Lou Williams meeting--Alvin Ailey--invitation to teach at Duke University--traveling in the seventies--fear of airplanes--anecdote--appearances on Sesame Street and the Electric Company.

Side d:                                                                                                                                     pg. 50

Louis Armstrong--playing clubs, business end of things--lack of trouble with being a woman or black--playing in Europe--club named Chez Mary Lou--ability to jam in clubs in Paris--her Bel Canto Foundation and thrift shop--Billy Strayhorn--her teaching at Duke--writing arrangements for bands--writing out solos for some arrangements if players couldn't do their own--"Casey Jones" arrangement by Andy Kirks band--problems when young of being ripped off--belief that you cannot be a dedicated musician and worry about business too--having street named after her in Kansas City--Dizzy Gillespie--Lil Armstrong--Charles Mingus--arranging for Benny Goodman--Other performers she worked with--story about Fats Waller--pianists she worked with--first meeting Ellington and playing with the Washingtonians--playing in theatres--make up of bands--Jimmy Blanton--being able to hear arrangements performed--experimenting with the band--definition of jazz.

Side e:                                                                                                                                       p. 66

Talks about the hospital and staff--work on woodwind symphony--Duke University--her book--living through and playing the different styles and stages of music--development of jazz--musical background--talks about working with Ellington--Count Basie's band--Jimmie Luncef6rd--differences of playing in the 40s and 60s--change in jam sessions--best era of jazz, about '31--cities producing good players of specific instruments--problems today with bad arrangements, bad music, etc.