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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

ancestor of pianist-composer Bud Powell

Hello. This is my first post.

I belong to the jazz-research listserve. K Wyer Lane, who also belongs to the group, recently told us about this discussion.

I am writing the biography of Earl "Bud" Powell (1924-66). In his only extant interview (no part of which was ever broadcast or published), he says that his grandfather went to Cuba "all the time" to play guitar. (He says no more about this, and the interviewer changes the subject.)

As Bud's father was born, in or near Richmond, VA, around 1890, Bud's grandfather was probably born in the 1860s.

Jazz reference and other works have long speculated about Bud's grandfather (though none knew of the existence of this interview). The obvious explanation has been that he was involved in the Spanish-American War, whether as combatant or as part of a military band. While I have only contacted Frank Schubert about this -- and he said that he knew of no one named Powell in the Buffalo Soldiers -- I am doubtful that Bud's grandfather had anything to do with the war. (Two other jazz greats, Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon, are said to have had ancestors who fought in Cuba; maybe that's why it has been written that Bud's grandfather did, too.)

I would love to hear from anyone with a strong suspicion as to how (and why, aside from the desire to play music; that's a long way to go for a gig) Bud's grandfather went to Cuba. I would love to be proved wrong, if someone has a good case for Bud's grandfather's involvement in that war or in any military adventure.

Thank you for your considered attention.

Peter Pullman

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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