By Rex Stewart
Autobiography of cornetist Rex Stewart, superstar of the Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington orchestras
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Extra info for Boy Meets Horn (The Michigan American Music Series)
Barbee was brought to America as a young boy. We were told that he grew up in Virginia and the name Johnson was undoubtedly acquired from his slave-owner. If legend is true, then it was Barbee's musical gifts which were strong enough to become a part of the family heritage for generations. Of Grandpa's 11 children, the ones I remember best are Uncle Fred, who played piano, violin and sang, Uncle Harry, who played mandolin and the long-necked guitar, and Aunt Dora, who played piano. Uncle Fred was the colorful member of the family.
Like the woman I had seen in that block of houses! Going home on the street car I fought sleep on the way back to Georgetown and, thinking about the dance, I decided not to tell mother all, figuring that she wouldn't know about such things. All our hearts took a leap when we were chosen to play for a real up-to-date musical comedy with girls, dancing and bright lights. Here we come! Go-Get-It was my introduction into the big time, deciding to make music my career and leaving home. As I think it all over, perhaps it was inevitable that I should have wound up in music, even though I had shied away from it like the plague earlier.
Handy's orchestra. I had first heard Johnny Dunn play back home in Washington when I was a boy. I thrilled to his artistry when he appeared at our local theater. He was the first fellow I ever saw and heard playing the ragtime music, and you can bet that I was impressed. I gaped open-mouthed when I heard the sounds emanating from a long slender contraption played by a tall slender brownskin fellow on the stage. The contraption was a trumpet, a special type which I later found out was called an English coach horn (but to this day I don't know why or who manufactured this horn).