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Till the Butcher Cut Him Down
Mister Jelly Roll tried to give me everything he could remember in the month we spent together, but there was too
much to tell. During breaks in the recording sessions, he dictated to my secretary, edging around the desk in pursuit of her, but always urbane, always the gentleman, never breaking the stride of his story. He wanted to tell it all. He wanted me to write his life story.
We became honored visitors at the Jungle lnn3 where Jelly served champagne cocktails and invariably announced— *I have the honor to present the Librarian of Congress."
While U Street patrons stared, we sat in the comer and tried to untangle those years after World War I when Jelly seemed superior to time and lived each month like a decade-Yet we had not worked out a systematic picture for the years after 1921 before both of us had to turn to other things. 1989 slipped away before I was able to call Jelly's place again. Cordelia froze over the phone . . .
"Morton don t work here any more. . . . No, I don't know where he's gone."
Years later Mabel still shuddered when she remembered those last days in the Jungle Inn. . . .
This Cordelia, she never would back Jelly Roll up, said Mabel He had put a cover charge on the Jungle Inn to keep the riff-raff and the roughnecks out of the place, but she would let them come on in anyhow even when they wouldn't take their hats off. Ferd tried to talk with Cordelia, but she say how could she turn them away when she'd known them from kids up?