Efforts to start a jazz hall of fame/museum in Kansas City date to the 1960s. Some of the earlier steps and missteps were recounted in part one of this series tracing KC’s path to a jazz museum, told through quotes from news clippings, documents and studies collected during my years with the Kansas City Jazz Commission and the Kansas City Jazz Festival.
“The idea of a hall of fame has been kicked around since 1969, mostly by leaders of the Charlie Parker Foundation, which directs an academy for young jazz musicians, and by the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
“Many proposals for combinations of museum, exhibition hall and training center have been made through the years. Some of these focused closely on Kansas City’s contributions, but since 1977 Mr. Baker and the Parker foundation have advocated a hall of fame recognizing contributions of musicians around the world. In September 1977, Count Basie and saxophonist Charlie Parker were the first inductees into the International Jazz Hall of Fame.”
—The Kansas City Star, August 18, 1985
In October, 1983 the Kansas City Council passed a resolution to establish a Jazz Hall of Fame in the 18th and Vine Historical District.
“Although significant interest in establishing a jazz hall of fame emerged in 1983, controversy about its proposed location seemed to dilute efforts to revitalize Kansas City as a jazz town....
“Eddie Baker, president of the Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation and Academy of the Arts, has envisioned an ‘international’ hall of fame within the building that currently houses the Jewish Community Center at 8201 Holmes Road. (The Jewish Community Center’s board of directors plans to relocate the community center in Johnson County.) Mr. Baker’s plan calls for more than a tourist attraction. He wants a center to serve educational needs and provide retirement plans for musicians….
“‘I think it ought to be where there’s some semblance of jazz jazz history,’ said [the co-chairman of the Jazz Commission], ‘and 18th and Vine certainly has that. The funny thing is, here’s all these people arguing over where the location should be and nobody has identified the money that will be required to do this.’
—The Kansas City Star, December 18, 1983.
“The race to finance a jazz hall of fame escalated last week when Eddie Baker, executive director of the Charlie Parker Memorial Foundation, received $10,000 and additional support to help finance his dream of an international jazz hall of fame, preferably on the city’s south side....
“Mr. Baker’s plans took a step towards realization Wednesday when Aaron Woodward, who is the chief executive officer of Count Basie Enterprises Inc. and the late bandleader’s adopted son, presented a $10,000 check from Mr. Basie’s estate to Mr. Baker for the International Jazz Hall of Fame, a project that Mr. Basie supported. Mr. Woodward said that a collection of his father’s memorabilia would be housed at the proposed hall, of which trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry are honorary co-chairmen.
“Mr. Woodward also announced that the Count Basie Orchestra would be based in Kansas City and would participate in educational activities at the hall when not on tour. Mr. Basie died in April.
“’Things are really beginning to happen now,’ Mr. Baker said. ‘The International Jazz Hall of Fame exists.’”
—The Kansas City Times, December 24, 1984
“The Basie band has agreed to participate in educational programs in conjunction with the International Jazz Hall of Fame.
“Mr. Woodward said plans called for the Basie band to be based in the city for several weeks each year, during which the orchestra would perform and provide musical training for young people and university students. However, the band’s busy touring schedule probably would prevent it from making more than a few appearances in Kansas City the rest of the year, he said.
“Mr. Woodward said the International Jazz Hall of Fame and the Count Basie Memorial Foundation, organized as a not-for-profit corporation as part of his plan to base the band in Kansas City, would be based at the Charlie Parker Foundation, 4605 the Paseo, until separate facilities could be established for the various entities.
“’The International Jazz Hall of Fame does exist,’ said Mr. Woodward, who added that Count Basie had endorsed the concept before his death. ‘That is a fact that is real. The International Jazz Hall of Fame and the Count Basie Memorial Foundation…are associated with the Charlie Parker Foundation. They are in the same place.’
“Mr. Baker said the Jewish Community Center complex, which is for sale for $3.5 million, would be the model for the kind of educational center needed for a hall of fame.…”
—The Kansas City Star, August 18, 1985
“Fourteen jazz greats will be inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame on Aug. 21, the late Count Basie’s birthday and the day on which the Basie Orchestra will officially make Kansas City its permanent home.
“The announcements were made Thursday in a press conference by jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and local jazz activist and bandleader Eddie Baker at the Westin Crown Center hotel.
“Mr. Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Benny Goodman, Jo Jones, Clark Terry, Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Green, Woody Herman and Max Roach will be inducted into the hall of fame in a ceremony at the Music Hall.
“Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bobby Hackett, Mary Lou Williams and Art Tatum are to be inducted posthumously.
“Aaron Woodward, Mr. Basie’s adopted son and executive officer of the Count Basie Orchestra, confirmed today that the band’s headquarters would be moved to Kansas City on Aug. 21….”
—The Kansas City Star, June 28, 1985
I’m going to give away the ending: The Count Basie Orchestra doesn’t move to Kansas City.
But the reason why has nothing to do with the location of the International Jazz Hall of Fame. The reason why is…in another blog post.
(The next post will be up later this week.)