On the classic album, Town Hall Concert (1964), jazz legend Charles Mingus reveals that the record was only made possible through financial help from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He lambasts the record labels for controlling the music/copyrights of the artists. As he wrote: "Every fool knows that, but that's what old Ham's selling, he's selling thin air, like the melon ain't there... Melons grow wild, and water is free for every child… It's time old hamhead gets inspected by the Government he is said to own." This essay also tributes the late great saxophonist Eric Dolphy who died two months after this concert.


Notes from Charles Mingus' book, Beneath The Underdog:


 

This album opens with a necessarily dishonest presentation of that afternoon's dream of a NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) coordinator, Mrs Dupree White's, who had hoped with me, that the aid of available funds of the NAACP's New York City Branch would combine in my single-handed battle to achieve justice to Negro, (I underline this reference to Negro, due to my personal views), of refusing to accept a new name for the now many-mixed, ex-slave tribes of Africa in America and their master's giving us a name Negro, and so I question: "can one mixed tribe of so-called 'whites,' bearing their own origins of names, religions, etc., breed, interbreed with and upon, cross breed and transfer even their own seed upon us, and then deny that it is so - throw it all in a bag, call 'em Negroes, yet tell the rest of the world that they themselves are Liberators to all mankind?) Enough of my 'insertion,' back to Mrs Dupree White's joined attempt with my thus far seeming single-handed battle - to defrock the unclean scenes behind the present day major record industry.

That they never seem to count right, for I purchased records myself in one day that amounted to US$200 from NYC retail stores only. And yet when confronting a mouth organ and main investor for one of these major record labels, the hamhead said, "Why Cholly, they are probably black-marketing your music, Mingus Ah-Um." Need I point out this John Doe, this hamhead organ-mouth liberal tongued beast of high finance, as to how to retain his fair wealth - in loans to his part of his family's collections over our country's slaves dead boys… This Negro-discovering, self-endowed enemy not only to the black man, do I charge him and his efforts to further keep righteousness from my black donkey brothers, I charge this ham-am the enemy of all freedom, green, red, black, yellow, English, French: "There ain't no white man except in America." This self-appointed overseer set against the world to see to it that gold is beauty, not the blood or man, as in nature's, her dirt, trees, plants, clouds, sky and all her schitt put together, for birds, animals and what have you to spit upon as they may have to, or see fit to.

I charge this hamster with genocide against nature's mankind who would, without this hamhead's power to distort what is, find the Promised Land right under their feet. No need to picket and fight for it, it's not too much time before a child grows tall and out of his head, and gone with the winds… That's easy to face, with a little love around, but the Age of the Ham is unknown, some say he was the first to discover alcohol, Pithy Conthrop Erectus… before he stood… and soon as he stood, he poured root juices down the lips of them dumb mothers' fathers till they was stone blind to his game…

Me, and some of us others, where was we? Making love. We got up long before the Ham, dug where it was at, and got down, and got to it… Before we knew it the Ham had us hemmed in, hiding, making our love look dirty to the people he brainwashed with his root juice. Some of us tried to wake up the sleeping root drinkers but even though they danced to our original music, as we created it, Ham kept catching one or two phrases and humming it over and over, and pouring root juice down gullets till the winos started singing our own melodies back to us and swearing "Philly Dog" was old Ham's song…


 

So right then, them thousand of years ago, I sit out to tell it's not, I don't care how he lie, or reset his hi-fi, the man's a born thief, and a pusher of grief to insure his belief, that a leaf ain't just a leaf, when it's green, but it's fertilizer to its own soil; schitt! Every fool knows that, but that's what old Ham's selling, he's selling thin air, like the melon ain't there. But it is, and Ham's Day is bout up to rule this land on his old funky hi-fi, High-Bread Plan. Melons grow wild, and water is free for every child… It's time old hamhead gets inspected by the Government he is said to own. Why he wouldn't give a starving puppy a bone, let alone pay his taxes from the money he earned on this axis, as Birds blow their ox - can't get fair money or enough to-lax… John Doe relax? Schitt old John, Hamhead, is the ox and the tax.

Yes, Mrs Dupree White said, "Cholly, I know just what you're saying in your book Beneath The Underdog, but they aren't going to print your book. Do you know Jomo Kin Yatta?"

"Who, Mrs White?"

"Never mind, Charles, I want to help you record your music. So you and your musicians get the money, we have to set an example to get justice, these people don't even know what to do next unless someone slips, or falls, on a truth… You need to show them, beside your book, ask your musicians to perform for the NAACP on this Saturday afternoon… We'll record it, Charles."

"You will, Mrs White? Then I'll share equal expenses with you and NAACP. After we pay the musicians, the band, as a cooperative group, will receive a minimum of 7-10 per cent. We'll be the first company to do this and we'll find out why so many people can't sell our record under the table like John Hamhead said must happen… This will be the first American company to make step to give justice to all employed. When we succeed, we will also practice fair employment - and not just blacks - we will employ an equal amount of human labor outside of the recorded music world - like secretaries, business executives - compared to the mathematician's statistics of integrated peoples in the NYC area, or any other city we expand to. How does that sound, Mrs White?"

"You have my word, Charles."

I do hereby present this music to you, the public, with no explanation of the music. The musicians involved are as follows:

Eric Dolphy - alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
Johnny Coles - trumpet
Jaki Byard - piano
Danny Richmond - drums
Clifford Jordan - tenor saxophone
Me - bass and composer
Mrs Dupree White - coordinator

I dedicate this album to both Mrs Dupree White and Eric Dolphy, who knew their destiny's journey and told no one or discussed their condition other than with their doctors. They performed their duties to give you and me this music and moments to brave our destinies. The discussed percentage of monies for Eric's performance will go to his living family. NAACP will receive equal shares if they consider carrying on Mrs Dupree White's work.

With disgust for the American recording industry, I give you, the public, this day seven people set to free themselves in music.

Click here to download the Mingus Orchestra live in Bremen, Germany in 1964.

Other jazz articles you might want to read:

Wadada Leo Smith: Like Listening To The Wind, by Philip Cheah
Free Your Ears... And Your Head Will Follow, by Philip Cheah
Albert Ayler: Like Screaming F**K In St Patrick's
Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost; Spiritual Unity, by Philip Cheah
Gilad Atzmon: Liberating The American People, by Philip Cheah
Peter Brotzmann: What A Day In 1984, by Philip Cheah



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