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My First Boogie Duet by Charlie Booty


Our friend Charlie Booty passed away in February of 2008. In 2006 he wrote this article for us about performing his first boogie duet:

My First Boogie Duet
Charlie Booty

 Thrills and great moments sometimes come totally unexpected and provide “Cloud 9” experiences that are just as real decades later.  Don Ewell, a great jazz, stride and blues piano player, provided such an experience for me in a Memphis, Tennessee, club during a 1965 late-night after hours session.  Let me digress briefly to say that Don Ewell is famous for his jazz band, his stride and blues piano but is NEVER thought of as a boogie woogie player.  That is because he had to protect his source of income.  A player with a reputation as a boogie woogie player (in the 40’s through the 70’s) was not welcome in many venues.  Consequently, he didn’t play boogie woogie in public and became a “closet” player, visiting with Jimmie and Estelle Yancey many times during the 40’s when he was in Chicago, as well as listening to other South Side Chicago players.  In later years, after Jimmie died, Don recorded an album of blues with Estelle “Mama” Yancey.

 Back to the 1965 Memphis club event, Don was in town for a week, playing piano with a local pick-up band.  I was already a solid fan because of his recordings and was in attendance every night but had no idea that he ever played boogie woogie.  One night, after the show was over, the customers had gone and Don was at the bar talking with band members, I sat down at the piano and began playing some up-tempo boogie woogie.  Suddenly, Don came over, watched me a few seconds, then sat down on the piano bench and said, “Scoot over”.  I was taken aback but complied as he put his hands on the keyboard.  After a few choruses, he suggested that we do a slower boogie blues tempo and, next, a moderate tempo boogie.  Since this was a one-piano session, he indicated by hand motions and brief verbal directions, how to do the choreography and keep from tripping over each other’s fingers.  As we played, he would tell me when we were to take breaks.  At one break, he quickly said, “Move to the treble”, so I sprinted  to his right side and began playing the treble keys.  The band drummer, who had joined us on the first duet, kept saying, “Man, I never saw anything like that before.”

As Don and I walked back to the bar, I was bubbling over with praise and enthusiasm.  At one point I said, “Don, I never knew you could play boogie woogie!”   He gave me a big grin and replied, “Charlie, I don’t play boogie woogie.  You know that.”

In many later recordings Don proved that , not only could he play great boogie woogie styles, he also had a strong feel for the music.  He didn’t copy anybody but could play very authentic versions of the pioneer masters.  Despite the evidence, Don was never acknowledged as the great boogie woogie player that he was.

I am still honored, and humbled, by that experience.

Artists  Boogie Woogie  Ragtime and Stride  


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