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BOOK REVIEW: IT WAS JUG THAT I DUG BY AL CARTER-BEY By Larry Reni Thomas
(Published: December 13, 2015)

Al Carter-Bey, a very popular, well-known, veteran Chicago born and raised, jazz radio host/promoter/activist/athlete, who has worked at seven radio stations, and who has written a newspaper column called "Jazz Rapp" for years, has now written his first book, It Was Jug That I Dug (KHA Books), an excellent, eye-opening book about the life and times of the great tenor saxophone legend, Chicago, native Gene "Jug" Ammons. It is an easy-to-read, touching, autobiographical work that covers not only the story of how Ammons became a well-known giant in the jazz world, but, it traces Al's life, his love for African-American culture, and his eyewitness account of his beloved Chicago's vibrant music scene.

This is oral history at its best because Al fills in the holes and destroys the lies, rumors, the false stories about Gene Ammons, especially the one that most writers, journalists, pundits and critics have told for years-that Ammons started shooting heroin when he was a member of the 1945 Billy Eckstine Big Band. According to Al, Ammons didn't start until much later, in 1956 in Washington, D.C., around the time Gene married his second wife.

"Billy Eckstine's Band of 1945 included Jug, with a reed section that was labeled the unholy four-Sonny Stitt, Leo Parker, Dexter Gordon and John Jackson was the four," writes Al Carter-Bey. "They were called this because of the way they carried themselves. They would not show up for rehearsals, when they did participate they clowned around. Accusations were made that the entire reed section was strung out on heroin, including Jug. During the years with Eckstine, Jug did not mess around with drugs. In fact, Jug had a dislike for drugs and those who used them."

Carter-Bey's book is a gem because it is full of such happy and sad recollections of when he hung out with the musicians, before, after and during the gigs. He highly respected, became a good friend and follower of Gene Ammons. Al met Ammons when he was youngster, and he recalled hearing Gene and Al's cousin Dickey practice in the living room of his childhood home on Hudson Avenue. It is at that point in the book that the fascinating story comes alive with tale after tale from a "jazz impresario" who is hopelessly hooked on what he rightfully calls "American Classical Music."

It Was Jug That I Dug contains rare photographs of Ammons, including one at Jug's funeral in 1974, a discography of Gene Ammons recordings that Al owns, and an insightful radio interview on WHPK-FM on Al's swinging Sunday show with the 88-year-old Chicago guitarist George Freeman, who played with Gene Ammons. Let's hope that this fine, bear witness book Is just the beginning for "the Jazz Impresario," the cat who constantly uses the term "American Classical Music," Brother Al Carter-Bey. We can hardly wait for part two and beyond!

More Information: http://www.khabooks.com

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