Thursday, August 25, 2016

Election Special: The Blues House

Since it's a Presidential election year it's time to bring this out again, it's Dizzy Gillespie's stump speech from his 1964 Presidential  run. I wonder what he would have thought about the out-going President, Barack Hussein Obama?
Which is not at all the same as the House of Blues. No, the Blues House is what the White House would have been if John Birks Gillespie had been elected President back in 1964, when he ran for the office. John Birks Gillespie, of course, was better known as Dizzy. He was from Cheraw, South Carolina, and was one of the finest trumpeters and most important jazz musicians of the 20th Century.

His Presidential run was at one and the same time not entirely serious and completely and utterly serious. A certain amount irony was involved, which is perhaps why the lyrics to the theme song were set to “Salt Peanuts” - a tune Diz would one day perform in the White House with President Jimmy Carter.

He developed a standard stump speech which eventually made its way into his autobiography, To Be or Not to Bop (Doubleday 1979 pp. 457-458). It's full of jazz references that will be obscure to those who don't know the music, and various contemporary references are likely to be lost as well. Though I never heard Gillespie give this speech, I've heard him speak on several musical occasions and his comic timing is superb. That is utterly lost in this transcription, though those familiar with his vocal patterns can - in some small measure - supply them as they read his words. Here they are.

* * * * *

When I am elected President of the United States, my first executive order will be to change the name of the White House! To the Blues House.

Income tax must be abolished, and we plan to legalize 'numbers' - you know, the same way they brought jazz into the concert halls and made it respectable. We refuse to be influenced by the warnings of one NAACP official who claims that making this particular aspect of big business legal would upset the nation's economy disastrously.

One of the ways we can cut down governmental expenditures is to disband the FBI and have the Senate Internal Security Committee investigate everything under white sheets for un-American activities. Understand, we won't take no 'sheet' off anybody!

All U.S. Attorneys and judges in the South will be our people so we can get some redress. 'One Man-One Vote' - that's our motto. We might even disenfranchise women and let them run the country. They'll do it anyhow.

The Army and Navy will be combined so no promoter can take too big a cut off the top of the 'double-gig' setup they have now.

The National Labor Relations Board will rule that people applying for jobs have to wear sheets over their heads so bosses won't know what they are until after they've been hired. The sheets, of course, will all be colored!

We're going to recall every U.S. ambassador except Chester Bowles and give the assignments to jazz musicians because they really 'know where it is.'

The title of 'Secretary' will be replaced by the more appropriately dignified 'Minister.' Miles Davis has offered to serve as Minister of the Treasury, but I've persuaded him to head the CIA instead. Mrs. Jeannie Gleason, whose husband Ralph writes a lot, will be Ministress of the Treasury. Max Roach argued for the position of Minister of War. He said he wanted to declare it. But since we're not going to have any, I gave him some books by C. Wright Mills and convinced him to be Minister of Defense. I have Charles Mingus lined up for Minister of Peace because he'll take a piece of your head faster than anybody I know.

Ray Charles will be in charge of the Library of Congress, and we have found a place for Ross Barnett - U.S. Information Officer in the Congo. We will also recommend a special act of Congress to revoke the citizenship of Governor George Wallace and deport him to Vietnam.

Since integration will be so complete under my administration, the Muslims will be out of business, and even Malcolm X's group won't have anything to do, so rather than let all that talent go to waste, Malcolm be appointed U.S. Attorney General, immediately. He's one cat we want on our side.

Although Bo Diddley applied first, I told him my choice is the great Duke Ellington for Minister of State. He's a natural and can con anybody. Louis Armstrong is set for Minister of Agriculture. He knows all about raising those crops. Mary Lou Williams has already agreed to be Ambassadress to the Vatican. And, after considering the qualifications and potential of a great many candidates, I have decided that the Rabbi of Modern Jazz . . . the Maharajah of Contemporary Music . . . one of the most creative and gifted and avant-garde young men I know - Thelonious Sphere Monk - will be booked for a four-year tour as Roving Ambassador Plenipotentiary.

There will be places in the cabinet for Peggy Lee (Ministress of Labor), Ella Fitzgerald (HEW), Carmen McRae, Benny Carter, Woody Herman, and Count Basie. They are collaborating now on the jazz curriculum to be taught to kids in every school in the country.

The distinguished post of National Poet Laureate, a paid position, will go to Jon Hendricks, who has been donating his services to our movement as a campaign lyricist.

As Vice-President, I would like Ramona Crowell, a leader of the John Birks Society and a registered Sioux Indian.

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