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A Half-hand Bigshot
... I wanted to be the champion pool player in the world, so I left New Orleans, where there were too many sharks, to go to some of these little places where I could practice on the suckers. My system was to use the piano as a decoy. I'd get a job at one of these little honkey-tonks along the Gulf Coast, playing piano, then some of the local boys who called themselves good would ask me to play a game of pool I'd play dumb, until the bets rolled up high, then Yd clean them out. My system was different from most of the piano players I met along the coast-Skinny Head Pete and Florida Sam, they didn't w^ork, because they were kept up by women. From time to time two or three girls fell in love with me, but I didn't pay much attention. I was interested in playing pool.
I made a lot of towns those days learning how to be a half-hand bigshot—McHenry, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Vicksburg. Greenwood, Greenville—but I spent the biggest part of mv time in Gulfport * and Biloxi. Biloxi was quite a prosperous little city and a great summer resort. A lot of millionaires used to make it a kind of headquarters during the winter season because the weather, the fishing; and the ovsters was all fine. Many times I played for big parties of the men who ran the shrimp and oyster boats. But somehow or another I had a kind of a yen to be a halfway smart guy. Since then I have realized
* Bunk Johnson ran into Jelly at this time . . .
"I played with him in Gulfport, Mississippi, round in 1903 and 1904. He was real young, then, but he was a really good piano man. Had lots of work at the Great Southern Hotel playing waltzes and rags for the white people. Him and me played a date at the Busy Bee Park on Labor Day. I remember it because the longshoremen had two parades—one for the union men and one for the boll weevils, the scabs."