Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Sidney Bechet Coming Of Age



Sidney Bechet



'Well, there I was a musicianer: and before long I was going around seeing all the men, sometimes we'd go into the men's room and I'd see how they had themselves all wrapped up. Some of them had their privates bandaged and there'd be sort of a strong odour-like, something like that iodoform. I'd see that but I didn't say anything mostly. I'd ask maybe one of them sometimes, "What's that!" and he'd give me some answer. I never did know exactly, but I guessed that's what being a man was and I got to thinking. I wanted to be a man so bad: I had to have some disease! I did find out that much. I was all hot to have me a disease!

'One time I went home and I looked in the cabinet in the bathroom, thinking about that. I didn't know for sure how to get me a disease, Musterolebut I wanted anyhow to put something on myself and wrap myself up and then have them see me. I was going to show them I was something too.

'I looked around in the cabinet and I didn't find anything at first, nothing in particular, but I figured anything would do, so I finally got something down from the shelf - it was musterol. I looked at it; it smelled pretty much like the iodoform stuff my brother used to give in his dentist office, so I put it on.

'My God, that did it! I was fixed good! How that stuff did burn! I got it off just as soon as I could stop dancing from the pain, but was I sore. My mother heard me, and she came racing in. I just couldn't tell her what it was for, I had no way of telling her. I don't know what it was I said to her, but I never did tell anyone right up to now. That was my secret. But she did find out I had put it on and she made off like she thought I was going crazy. "What did you do that for?" she kept asking me in French. "Are you crazy?" She just couldn't understand.

'But after a while it stopped burning and I saw I was going to be all right; I began to feel different then. When I got around with the men, they couldn't help seeing me all bandaged up. They'd look at one another and they'd look at me. "What happened to you?" they'd say. "What you all gone and picked up?"

'And me, I just act like it was nothing. "Oh," I'd say, "I went with some gal." I was really feeling big those time.



Sidney Bechet


'But I still didn't know really. So much of how things were I didn't understand at all ...... I wanted to have a girl of my own. I wanted awful bad to be like the men. So when I was about fourteen - it was long after that time with the musterol - I saw a chance of getting myself a girl .....

'There was this girl I had seen around. She was pregnant. The fellow she'd been going with had just gone off and left her. ... so I figured I'd marry her. I figured I'd go tell her father I was the one who had done it....

'So one evening I went over to the house where she was living and I asked to talk to her father. He come out then and we sat talking for a while and I told him finally I was the father of the child. This was to be a man-to-man talk, I made him understand ....

'He didn't answer. He didn't say anything at all about what he was thinking .... he left me there and he went off and bought a gallon of wine .... we sat up most of the night, sitting there on the porch passing the wine back and forth ...... I'd never been used to so much wine and it sort of got my tongue loose. I told him all how sorry I was this thing had happened ..."I'm sure I can support a wife," I told him, man-to-man. "I'm working pretty regular," I said. "I earn seventy-five cents, a dollar a night in the district." .....

'That man, he let me go on, and when I was sound asleep he picked me right up in his arms and carried me home ..... and he put me to bed and he explained to (my mother) all about what I'd wanted to see him about.

"You tell him not to do anything like that again," he told her. "He's a nice boy, but he's sure deperate! ...........

From Treat It Gentle by Sidney Bechet


Sidney Bechet in 1958 with André Reweliotty's band playing I Found A New Baby.



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