The Journey pt. 1
While I think that it is important for me to tell the story of who I am and why I sing and write this music we call’Jazz’, I’m a private person and I enter into this with some trepidation.
Sharing my ideas on Jazz music is something I could do with anyone at any time. I feel strongly about Jazz music and the reasons it came into being in America . I love the fact that so many people around the world enjoy it and that without the African American experience it would not exist.
However, sharing my life story and talking about the things and experiences that made me into the person I am, is very difficult for me. Opening myself up to this endeavor causes tremendous anxiety. I will try to tell this story as best I can by treating it as a therapeutic exercise that ends in a beautiful Jazz symphony for both the reader and for myself.
The story may not be glitz and glamour, but it is all mine, as truthfully as I can tell it:
# 1 Early life- I was Born in East Chicago, Indiana to parents who had followed the endless waves of African Americans who left the Deep South in the 1940-1950s.
They were searching for better lives and opportunities in the North. They knew of the mills and factories that existed there, and they wanted a taste of what they felt would be a better life for themselves. My father worked at the steel mill (Inland Steel) https://youtu.be/5xFRjC_IZ-g and mom worked various jobs to keep me and my seven siblings with food and shelter. If there hadn’t been so many mouths to feed, their combined incomes would have provided a comfortable living for themselves, but 8 kids is a great deal of responsibility.
I often think back on how crazy life must have been for them, but they did a good job of keeping us all on the straight and narrow. Perhaps having 8 kids is what helped to lead my mom to find Jesus and to become such a devout Christian and missionary. God must have told her, “Erma, you’re going to need my help with those bad-arsed kids of yours!” 🙂 just kidding. I’m absolutely positive that being in the gospel church 4 to 5 times every week kept me and my 4 brothers out of prison. I know this to be true, because I watched, as literally all of my male cousins who stayed in East Chicago and Gary, Indiana found their way into the prison system repetitively.
Being in church so often and especially at Faith Temple Church of God in Christ , I couldn’t help being consumed by the power of the tremendous talents of the wonderful Gospel choir. They sang with so much joy and conviction that it affected not only the congregation, but also the whole Block Avenue neighborhood. I remember many Sunday mornings when the choir would be singing so soulfully that the spirit was all over the place – people would walk in off the street, still in last night’s Juke-joint clothes and they’d give their lives to Jesus! That was some POWERFUL stuff!
One of the Church mothers, Mother Turner heard me sing and liked it. She said I needed to sing in the choir. I cheerfully agreed, and joined the Children’s choir at age 5. Someone in the Adult choir liked my voice and I was invited to sing with the young adult choir as well (that was really significant). I was the only kid in both the Children’s choir AND the Adult choir (I guess I had so much ‘devil’ in me that it took a double dose of Gospel for Jesus to get it out) LOL.
This photograph was my first solo EVER with the ‘Hallelujah Choir’ East Chicago, Indiana 1965. Mother Turner had the Deacon stand me on a table and promised me a Hot Dog if I sang the solo. Back then I REALLY LOVED HOT DOGS and I sung that song with as much passion and conviction as I could.
~ Stay tuned for the next installment of my Journey