JFS #173 The Jon Hendricks Interview


"They didn't treat us like Niggers"

By Jon Hendricks

The Mafia gave us the opportunity

"I worked for a branch of the mob that supported jazz in the Midwest. I was working @ 12 years old with Art Tatum at a club called "The Waiters and Bellman's Club owned by the mafia.  Both Art Tatum and I were able to start our careers because of these people. They give us a chance to work their and grow in our work. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

The thing that was most interesting to me was that they loved the music because it was African and their from Sicily which is 17 miles from Africa. So they were all involved.

They had heard the rhythm of the drums in their ancestral home when they went to Sicily. They were the ones who came to America and they supported us.

They didn't treat us like niggers. They treated us like human beings. That's the whole thing and they gave us the best of what they had. The thing that made it possible was they were selling girls for sex and all kinds of drugs - cocaine marijuana alcohol.

I used to work at a club in Toledo and they ran alcohol down from Detroit because it was "wet and Ohio was "dry." Art Tatum and I used to stand out in the hall because we couldn't go into the room the customers were in and the guys would come by and they would park these big Packard cars outside come in take off their overcoats and hats and hang them up. They would see Art and I over in the corner and come over and rub our heads. They considered rubbin' a niggers head good luck.

Louis Armstrong always said, "if it weren't for those Sicilians there would be no jazz in America."




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