Photo: ©The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group/r2c2h2 tha artivist
Longtime Memphis music patron, Luncefordphile, jazz aficionado and civic leader Dr. Vasco Smith moves the crowd with his emotional plea on why it is important to remember the genius of Jimmie Lunceford and why it is necessary to celebrate our other heroes and heritage.
I did not know Dr. Vasco Smith long, but I knew his kind well...Dr. Vasco Smith was not only a true public servant in the greatest meaning of the phrase, but he was a true Jazz head, a swinging cat who couldn’t blow per se, but who could blow your mind with what he knew and had to say, especially when it came to jazz…
Dr. Vasco Smith, who was married to Memphis civil rights legend Maxine Smith, was a student of the beautiful Crystal Tulli Lunceford, Jimmie Lunceford’s wife and a former English teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis,TN…
His jazz hero of course was the one and only James Melvin Lunceford a.k.a. Jimmie the true King Of Syncopated Rhythm and the Memphis Music Legend that time and people forgot, except for a few…Dr. Vasco Smith had a special connection to the Jimmie Lunceford legacy and story…Not only was he a diehard fan of the music of the great Mr. Lunceford, but he was also taught by the revered band leader’s beautiful wife Crystal Tulli Lunceford…For a time Mrs. Lunceford taught English at legendary Booker T. Washington High School, another Memphis City Schools’ fountainhead of creative genius and daring that shaped the cultural landscape of America and the world at large with its exceptional progeny with Dr. Vasco Smith counted among them…
When I first talked to Dr. Vasco Smith on the phone over a year ago it was truly a pleasant experience…I looked up his phone number in the white pages a.k.a. the phone book (this guy is truly old school…only real pillars of the community and public servants put their number in a place where they are accessible so that they can be reached and present on the scene when things are going both good and bad…take a note young people)…He also was a true feminist because the wife whom he beautifully supported & encouraged for 50 plus years, Memphis Civil Rights Legend Maxine Smith, was listed as the contact person in the phonebook…What impressed me most of all was Dr. Smith’s humility...In spite of all of his awards and accomplishments he just wanted me to call him Vasco…He did not like to put barriers between himself or others regardless of race, creed, age or socioeconomic background…Even though he was 89 years old when he died, he had the youthful vigor and curiosity of someone half or dare I say two thirds his age…
So needless to say it was a joy to finally meet him this June for the wreath laying tribute and ceremony for Jimmie Lunceford on the observation of his 107th birthday…He was both truly happy to see overdue homage finally being paid to this great man in the “city of good abode” where he started his legendary career, but he was also sad that more weren’t in attendance to give this man his just due in a city he immensely contributed to by starting music education in the public schools through his own means and initiative…He was fighting back tears as he spoke of how I should be commended for doing this service for our community…He described me as a Gabriele-like jazz trumpeter trying to call our people back home to our rightful place where they can understand who they were and are…
What strucked me the most was the comment my mom made to him during his talk about us not acknowledging and appreciating our history and heritage…My mom made reference to his and his wife’s incredible shared legacy of social justice and told him bluntly that if a man like Jimmie Lunceford can be forgotten then we can surely forget about their contributions as well because it is not being taught…Dr. Vasco Smith had a speechless, frozen and haunted look on his face as if he chillingly and vividly saw the future of what she prophesied flashed before his eyes…
Thinking about that unforgettable look now and his passing only a few months later lets me know that we all got a lot of work to do…
Bro. Vasco may you rest in peace knowing that you did all you possibly could with what you had…Thanks for passing the torch…Tell Mr. Lunceford to keep it swinging, tight, light and right…
Photos: ©The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group/r2c2h2 tha artivist
Bro. Ron/R2C2H2 Tha Artivist
Founder Of The Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree Festival
Dr. Vasco Smith: The Quiet Warrior...R.I.P.
For the best information about the great Jimmie Lunceford on the information highway go to the official Jimmie Lunceford website:
Wreath Laying Ceremony & Birthday Tribute Swings Forgotten Jazz Great’s Contributions Back Into The Spotlight…
Also view the great documentary “And Rhythm Was His Business: Jimmie Lunceford...A Memphis Music Legend” in three parts on the W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV YouTube Channel:
• “And Rhythm Was His Business: Jimmie Lunceford...A Memphis Music Legend Part One of Three”:
• “And Rhythm Was His Business: Jimmie Lunceford...A Memphis Music Legend Part Two of Three”:
• “And Rhythm Was His Business: Jimmie Lunceford...A Memphis Music Legend Part Three of Three”:
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV~"Jimmie Lunceford: A Memphis Legend"