Sunday, July 3, 2011

Remember When Musicians Were Elegant?

An acquaintance is compiling a volume of photographs for a book on the great days of American Jazz and Blues and forwarded these photos to me.  What I found really striking is how elegant and put-together these great artists were.  As we now live with a music industry dominated by surreally bad taste [Lady Gaga's meat dress, anyone?], I thought it would be interesting to see what was once the fashion.  Each photo contains a link to a biography and discography of the photo's subject.

[Yes, I know "surreally" isn't a word, but it should be.]

This is B.B. King, currently in his 80's and still performing, in a photo from 40-some years ago.  He still knows how to dress.  His guitar is named "Lucille", by the way.  Long story.

The tragic Charlie "Bird" Parker, who brought a new virtuosity to the saxophone.  His was the first jazz I ever heard and it's still the standard by which I judge all others.

Miles Davis, looking great and not even on stage.  At this time in his career he enjoyed Brooks Brothers suits.

Muddy Waters posing in that sharkskin suit.  Hard to believe that a year or so before he was a ragged sharecropper from the Mississippi Delta.  In fact, he was born in Rolling Fork, MS, where my in-laws lived.  The two fellows flanking him are the Chess brothers, who brought a lot of southern artists to Chicago to record for their label, Chess Records.  Other members of their musical stable included Chuck Berry and Howlin' Wolf, among many others.  L'il Walter was always a favorite of mine.