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Quincy Jones also appears in the video:
Crossroads of My Life

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Quincy Jones in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Pursuing a Career in Music

Related Links:
Quincy Jones Music
PBS
A Passion for Jazz

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Quincy Jones
 
Quincy Jones
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  Quincy Jones

How did you get along in school? What gave you the confidence to do all this?

Quincy Jones Interview Photo
Quincy Jones: I'll tell you one thing. I went to Robert E. Koontz junior high school in Bremerton and there were just a few black kids in the school. There were 2,800 kids there. A little white kid named Robin Fields said, "I'd like to be your manager for you running for Boys Club president." I said, "You've got to be out of your mind. What are you talking about? That's never going to happen." And I was wrong; I won.

It was messed up, because in 1947 my family moved to Seattle and I had to get up at 5:00 o'clock in the morning to catch the ferry back to Bremerton every morning because I was Boys Club president. That really put a hurting on my sleeping time because I couldn't write music late at night.

You were one of the only black kids in a white school and you became Boys Club president. How do you account for that?

Quincy Jones: I have no idea. It made me realize that I had to take everybody one on one. I couldn't say, "This is this, and everybody is this, and they're like this." The things we usually do as human beings. I couldn't do it, because Robin Fields was there and I couldn't include him in that number. It was great for me.

So how did you start performing, as a working musician?


Quincy Jones: I guess 1947 we got our first job for seven dollars, and the year after that we played with Billie Holiday, you know, with the Bumps Blackwell - Charlie Taylor band, and our confidence was building, because we danced and we sang and we played all -- we played modern jazz, we played schottisches, pop music at the white tennis clubs: "Room Full of Roses," and "To Each His Own," and all those things. And, we played the black clubs at ten o'clock, and played rhythm and blues, and for strippers, and we'd do comedy and everything else. At 3:00 o'clock in the morning we'd go down to Jackson Street in the red light district and play be-bop free all night because that was really what we really wanted to play, like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy and all those people, and they'd come through town. And in the following year Bobby Tucker -- who was Billie Holiday's musical director -- came back, and he liked what we did evidently, and we played with Billy Eckstine, and then Cab Calloway came through and we opened for Cab Calloway. So, our confidence was very strong.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


We were big fish in a small pond. At one time in New York, most of the guys who were happening there were not from New York; they got their confidence in the small cities. If you started in New York you were dealing with the biggest guys in the world. You're dealing with Charlie Parker and all the big bands and everything. We got more experience working in Seattle.


We were in the National Guard band, which was an all black unit, which was funny, because Bumps Blackwell, who had the pop band we were in, he was the commanding officer, and we'd go out to Fort Lewis for about three months in the summer time with the band. And, we were master sergeants and all that stuff, and staff sergeants because we were musicians, definitely not because we were soldiers, because we didn't really get that at all. You know, marching and the discipline of what the military thing was about, because we -- it wasn't real because we were National Guard. We were young kids in the National Guard. We put our ages up. We were 14 years old.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance



One weekend we had a job with the band, the dance band, to play at Island Lake Park or some place like that, and we didn't come home that night, we stayed over there. And, I was the company bugler, I was supposed to wake up the real troops, you know, for bivouac. And you know, the army doesn't play that, and that was supposed to be at 7:00 o'clock. We didn't get back until 11:00 o'clock. And as we got out of the car, the real army guys were saying, "Well sergeant, we hope you have an explanation for this." I said, "We really don't, sir." He said, "Okay private. Stand over there." We got demoted on the spot. These are things that really stick out in your mind because you feel like you've really blown it and you've failed somehow.


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This page last revised on Mar 25, 2008 15:53 EDT
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