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The Boys in the Bands 1Q5
lot of light-colored women in there, best-looking women you ever want to see, strictly for white. . , . Well, I was playing with Franlde Dusen's Eagle Band on Perdido Street and some^ times after I'd knock off at four in the morning Jelly would ask me to come and play with him. . . . He'd play and sing the blues till way up in the day and all them gals would holler, 'Listen at Winding Boy!*
"He was really a ladies' man, really stylish. But, even when he dress up, he still look like a kid ..." '
One can almost hear what they said behind the back of this handsome young mulatto, dressed in the best, wearing diamonds, as he strolled down Iberville Street. The jazzmen didn't say it to his face, for Jelly could back his brags with plenty of money, plenty of red-hot piano and, when necessary, a "hard-hitting .38." Still they could hardly love him, for Winding Boy had moved into "higher circles" leaving his fellow jazzmen coldly behind, but carrying with him the music that had cost them so much.
This music had all the pretty octoroons calling out, "Here comes Winding Boy!" It won him recognition on Basin Street, a half-world, to be sure, but still a white world, rich and power-filled, where notoriety compensated an orphan for the loss of his family and for the painful memories of his mulatto childhood. Basin Street seemed a possible avenue of escape from a confining Negro status; at any rate, the Md piano wizard accepted this way of life—gambling, prostitution, dope-peddling, pimping—without reservations. Fifty years later he still reveled in his Basin Street memories. Things never again looked quite so rosy.
It would have been instructive to chat with some of the "inmates" of those sporting-houses along Basin Street, but the paint is peeling from those antique sybarites. The windows are boarded up and no one knows the present addresses of Lulu White, Josie Arlington, and the other madams of Jelly's young days. There is a little book, however, which has conserved the feel, the style, the smell, and the lingo of those prim bawds.