The impact of drugs on the New York jazz scene, 1930-1955

16536 words (66 pages) Dissertation

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Main aims and objectives…………………………………………….7

Chapter 1: Drugs permeate jazz…………………………………10

Chapter 2: The Jazzman…………………………………………….16

Chapter 3: Drugs, Masculinity and Femininity……………26

Chapter 4: Drugs and Relationships……………………………37

Epilogue: Beyond Bird………………………………………………..45

Introduction: Jazz, drugs and the existing historiography

‘I’m the king of everything, I’ve got to be high before I can swing’ – lyrics from Stuff Smith and his Onyx Club Boys, ‘You’se a Viper’.[1]

‘The drug culture was alive and doing wellmany times the drugs took over and the music became subliminal’ – Bebop trumpeter, Benny Golson.[2]

Drugs and jazz music are widely acknowledged as having a close and storied historical relationship.[3] Statements and lyrics like those above reveal the undeniable influence of drugs in the shaping of jazz and yet, serious historical discussion of the significance of narcotics in this field remains remarkably limited. The intention of this dissertation thus is to provide an analysis of how the arrival of drugs specifically informed the music, identities and relationships within the jazz community in the U.S jazz capital of New York during their years of greatest impact between 1930 and 1955.

The lives of the genre’s most notorious drug addicts, from Louis Armstrong and Milton Mezzrow through to Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis, have been extensively documented in biographies, autobiographies and film over the past half-century, affirming the place of drugs in jazz folklore.[4]

Inspired by the prominence of drugs in the lives of jazz’s most celebrated performers, numerous pharmacological studies have since been conducted by the likes of Gerald Tolson[5], and Jorg Fachner[6], analysing the potential link between drug addiction and jazz creativity, but have repeatedly struggled come to comprehensive conclusions on the topic.[7] While empirical evidence exists suggesting that drugs are capable of reducing inhibitions, enhancing acoustic perceptions and the processing of information[8], the question as to whether drugs inspire creative jazz genius remains unanswered.

Beyond these studies, however, scarce historical literature has tackled the way drugs have directly shaped the course of the jazz scene at large. Outside the work of duos, Merrill Singer and Greg Mihrej[9] and William H. James and Stephen L. Johnson[10], existing studies tend to view drugs as an outright scourge rather than a fundamental part of the New York jazz fabric, a paradigm I intend to challenge.

I would suggest that this apparent trivialisation of the wider significance of drugs here could be accredited to two sources. Firstly, a prevailing sensitivity surrounding the discussion of jazz and ‘intoxication’ stemming from the works of early jazz writers and their excessive focus on its racial character.[11]  The baseless connections drawn between race, jazz music and psychological imbalance found in articles such as ‘The Appeal of the Primitive Jazz’[12] that appeared Literary Digest in 1917 and Anne Faulkner’s 1921 piece in the Ladies Home Journal, ‘Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?’[13], have drawn considerable modern criticism[14], perhaps discouraging major assessments of jazz and intoxication in the decades since in fear of similar derision.[15]

Secondly, originating in earnest with the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930 and reinforced by President Nixon’s 1971 declaration that drug abuse was ‘public enemy number one’[16], the ‘War on Drugs’ and the prevalence of its rhetoric have cast drugs as intrinsically destructive. Consequent discussions of drugs as historically and culturally valuable therefore emerge as distinctively controversial and only since the turn of the millennium with the failures of War on Drugs laid bare have new scholarly perspectives relating to the jazz-drug relationship appeared.[17]

Main aims and objectives

Building on the existent scholarship, I will attempt to demonstrate the paramount significance of drugs in the specific transformation of the New York jazz community during a twenty-five year period of considerable narcotic influence.

I will argue in my first chapter that the neighbourhood of Harlem, as a locus of migration from both the southern states and abroad, emerged as a cultural and socio-economic melange in which marijuana usage became widespread during the early 1930’s. Consumed as a distraction from the hardships of segregation, unemployment and poverty, marijuana emerged in a climate of transitional attitudes towards intoxication at large, growing into a popular pastime.

With Harlem’s reputation for vice and inadequate policing, the flourishing reputation of marijuana as an exciting new leisure pursuit attracted city-wide attention, inspiring the establishment of ‘tea pads’, designated venues where the conjoined experience of marijuana smoking and jazz performance became familiar to New Yorkers of all backgrounds.

With marijuana now entrenched in jazz communities, I will contend in my second chapter that this widespread proclivity for drugs catalysed the development of the popular jazzman persona, defined by a counter-cultural outlook and a recalcitrant lifestyle. This persona would be heightened both by the enduring endorsement of marijuana by some of jazz’s leading lights, most notably Louis Armstrong, and the public efforts of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, spearheaded by Harry Anslinger, to rid American society of the drug. In turn, these factors reinforced the position of the jazz performer as a dangerous maverick, drawing widespread public interest and admiration.

Following the Second World War, the frustration felt by swathes of the jazz community regarding their enduring societal maltreatment would be conveyed most vividly by the lifestyle and music of the beboppers. I will argue that engulfing attitudes towards drugs principally denoted this defiant stance, emphasising a complete abandonment of societal norms and a dedication to the musical craft, once again asserting the position of drugs within the popular jazz identity.

With the decidedly macho overtones of this identity, my third chapter will demonstrate how marijuana, and then heroin, came to be seen as vital components of jazz masculinity, enabling the maintenance of the desired on-stage serenity that characterised jazz ‘coolness’ whilst facilitating the increasingly complex and ambitious musical directions of the New York scene. In turn, I will show how jazz masculinity’s drug dependence pushed female performers toward substance abuse both in their attempts to uphold the tenets of jazz coolness and to alleviate the suffering brought about by the pervasive sexism within the community.

In my final chapter, I will look at the ways drugs constructed and destroyed interpersonal relationships within the community, demonstrating the transition from the conviviality nurtured by marijuana use to the tensions and isolation brought about by the post-war heroin epidemic. I will then close by summarising the concerted efforts made both by the state and by groups within the jazz community after 1955 to disassociate jazz from drugs, reconstructing its tarnished public image and eventually helping to restore jazz as a popular medium.

I will rely predominantly upon autobiographical material, magazine and newspaper articles and relevant scientific research, both from my selected period and contemporary studies to make my argument. I acknowledge the potential drawbacks in relying on such material, namely the potential for factual exaggeration and sensationalism in print media as well as the limited sample sizes of some of my research pieces, specifically those conducted by Charles Winick in the 1950’s.[18] Nonetheless, by drawing upon correlations across a variety of primary sources, I hope to demonstrate the existence of prevalent patterns in drug consumption, attitudes and beliefs that reveal the influence of drugs across the New York jazz scene and affirm the relevance of this study.


 Chapter 1: Drugs permeate jazz

Just as jazz music’s origins are bound to the socio-economic circumstances encountered by ethnic communities, the initial permeation of drugs into specific New York boroughs is equally entwined with similarly pervasive systems of inequality and discrimination. This original prominence of drugs in jazz communities can be attributed directly to the localised congregation of impoverished individuals, united by their ostracisation by obstructive societal structures, searching for means to alleviate their suffering.[19] Though drug consumption would become part of a broader jazz subculture, its initial appeal stemmed from its simple capacity to distract a user from the hardships of their reality.[20]

In response to the obstacles posed by depression era unemployment and severe racial persecution in the southern states, a nationwide trend dating back to the 1910’s saw huge numbers of blacks migrate northward in search of improvements in living standards. By 1931, New York’s black population would number over 300,000[21], dwarfing the previously notable size of black communities in Birmingham, St Louis and Memphis.[22] Nonetheless, in spite of the implementation of liberal New Deal programmes including the Works Progress Administration intended to enhance racial integration and upward societal mobility, the endurance of discrimination in housing, education and employment significantly limited the progressive opportunities available to New York’s black population.[23]

From a jazz perspective while occupation as a musician offered a potential route out of poverty, it remained overshadowed by the same racial bigotry in the form of the Jim Crow laws faced by African-American society at large, manifesting itself in restrictive contracts, limited opportunities and meagre pay.[24] A New York jazz musician’s life, therefore, would always be dictated somewhat by the confinements of society’s attitudes towards race, class and gender.

With such restrictions in place, unfashionable Harlem became a nexus of working class migrants, both domestic and international, particularly from the African-American community and tellingly, the West Indian community, many of whom brought with them the traditions of Rastafarian culture and a proclivity for smoking marijuana.[25] Much like the merging of Mexican and American cultures that had seen marijuana consumption and jazz converge in New Orleans decades previously, these new cultural interactions increased exposure to the substance in New York.[26] This growing communal familiarity with marijuana thus enabled its reputation to spread, permeating jazz circles by 1930.[27]

Accordingly, by 1934, due to the concentration of marijuana production in Harlem, police forces in other boroughs of the city required designated classes in order to be able to identify the plant growing, such was their initial lack of contact with the drug.[28] While marijuana users had been dismissed in 1914 by the New York Times as ‘hardly numerous enough to count’[29], the substance was now being touted by the same publication as the ‘new habit forming drug’.[30]

Paired with this drug acquaintance came concurrent shifts in general attitudes towards intoxication that northern urban migration had itself engendered. In contrast to the isolation that defined rural drinking patterns in sparse, southern communities, social activities in urban settings typically took place within taverns and clubs, encouraging a climate of regular, excessive drinking outside of celebratory occasions when inebriation had previously been the norm.[31] During the 1930’s, the overwhelming surge in demand for treatment at the Central Park based, Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drug and Alcohol Addictions[32] appeared to reflect this reshaping of attitudes both towards alcohol and increasingly, narcotics, an apparent normalisation of habitual consumption.[33]

Additionally, the targeting of Harlem and similarly predominantly ethnic areas of Upper Manhattan and 110th Street by drug gangs owed a great deal to their lack of mainstream media coverage or stringent law enforcement. In 1935, police incompetence in Harlem was exposed by the needless escalation of a shoplifting dispute into a race riot causing two million dollars worth of damage, caused by police mismanagement.[34] Not until the 1939 LaGuardia Committee meanwhile was a concerted effort made to address the booming marijuana trade in New York.[35]  Hence, the drug-related activities of the city’s segregated communities received limited obstruction, a key factor in the largely unchecked circulation of marijuana, even beyond its outlawing in 1937.[36]

This capacity for lawlessness had historically drawn a diverse crowd to the above environs, particularly during Prohibition, due to the ability of speakeasies in the locale to sell alcohol uninhibited.[37] As a result, said areas acquired enduring reputations as outlets for vice for the city’s wealthy – and typically white – communities that continued after Prohibition’s repealing in 1933, enticing ever more visitors from across town. Eager to escape rigid social boundaries imposed by segregation and in search of new forms of entertainment, whites flocked to ‘hear African-American music’[38] and ‘to party’[39], engaging in the newest pastimes, thus, encountering and engaging in listening to jazz and smoking marijuana.

With this increasing appetite for marijuana within New York’s ethnic social spaces, a bountiful market for illicit business was formed. Musician and Harlem celebrity, Mezz Mezzrow, described how selling marijuana on the streets made him ‘overnight…the most popular man in Harlem’[40] and indeed, the desire amongst the jazz community and increasingly, the general public, for reliable marijuana outlets fomented the emergence of hundreds of ‘tea pads’. Usually occupying small flats and basements scattered across Harlem, tea pads provided the desired surreptitious environments to socialise and smoke, becoming more numerous by 1935 than speakeasies during prohibition.[41]

This was a pivotal development as popular public spaces for marijuana smoking were now firmly rooted in areas of jazz production and in turn, these tea pads would become venues of public jazz performance. Furthermore, as ‘John’ an anonymous interviewee in David Courtwright’s ‘Addicts Who Survived’ would note of his experience of tea pads, ‘there was a separation between marijuana and the heroin.’ ‘The coke was separate too’[42], it is apparent that a specific, ambient tone was cultivated within these settings. Characterised by ‘incense, dim lights and furniture to lounge on’[43], the sedated environment designed to accompany marijuana use became the hallmark of the classic New York jazz experience, confirming an abiding connection between jazz, marijuana and drugs generally.[44]


Chapter 2: The Jazzman

While drugs had originated as a tonic for the torment faced by a jazz musician in their daily routine, they would now grow into an essential component of a jazz player’s identity, a means of differentiating the jazz community from mainstream society.[45] The transforming significance and function of drugs within the context of the jazzman persona, therefore, merits further analysis.

Despite attempts to outlaw marijuana in the south during the 1920s (specifically with bans in New Orleans and Louisiana), the lack of a nationwide consensus on the legality of marijuana consumption at the turn of decade enabled major recording labels in New York to mass-produce ‘reefer records’ uninhibited, perhaps marking the first step in crystallising and commercialising the concept of the rebellious ‘jazzman’.[46]

These ‘reefer songs’, comprised a subgenre typically driven by black composers and were performed in desegregated venues, lauding the joys of smoking. The recurrence of the slang term ‘viper’ in these songs, as seen in Stuff Smith’s ‘If You’se a Viper’, Willie Bryant’s ‘A Viper’s Moan’ and Louis Armstrong’s ‘Song of the Vipers’ referred originally to the hissing sound created when one took a drag on a reefer but developed to embody both the action of smoking and the lifestyle surrounding it.[47] Louis Armstrong elaborated, ‘we did call ourselves the Vipers, which could have been anybody from all walks of life that smoked and respected the gage’[48], and Mezz Mezzrow would add ‘We were on another plane in another sphere compared to the musicians who were bottle babies’[49] demonstrating how, in consuming marijuana, a jazz performer became initiated into a new community of equals, breaking from established alcohol drinking conventions and forging a new cult.

Elaborating upon this, in his study of New York jazz musicians and their audiences during the 1930’s, psychiatrist, Andrew Curry, would observe that playing Jazz music and smoking cannabis was ‘a way of life, characterised by specific identity postures and social performances of the artist’s world’.[50] Curry appears to suggest therefore that in the city during the early 1930s, marijuana had emerged as a critical element in the formation of a specific jazz character, the outwardly non-conformist practice that perfectly accompanied the similarly defiant music the vipers performed[51], the bridge between a lifestyle, an identity and the creation of jazz music.[52]

The association between this early ‘jazzman’ identity and marijuana had further musical connotations, driven by the notion that the drug enhanced certain styles of play, particularly supreme improvisational skill.  The perception amongst users that marijuana consumption could effectively slow down time and enable a greater feel for tone and rhythm persisted throughout the decade, as an unnamed musician describing the experience of performing high quoted in a 1953 research project conducted by sociologist, Howard Becker, noted We played the first tune for almost two hours – one tune!’[53] and Mezz Mezzrow would add, ‘tea (marijuana) puts a musician in a real masterly sphere…you hear everything at once and you hear it right’.[54]With rave reviews of marijuana circulating amongst the stars of New York’s jazz community after 1930, regularly uttered drug mantra’s such as Mezzrow’s own  ‘light and up and be somebody’[55] appeared to have genuine resonance, seemingly confirming the link between marijuana and musical talent, intensifying the drug’s burgeoning reputation.

These perceptions were further encouraged by Louis Armstrong’s growing fame and recognition in tandem with his continued use and advocacy of the drug. With his glowing rhetoric, comparing marijuana to  ‘a sort of medicine’[56] that fills one with ‘much better thoughts than one that’s full of liquor’[57], Armstrong consolidated marijuana as the jazz substance de jour. Coinciding with Armstrong’s breakout as an international star on stage and on screen by 1932[58], his continued marijuana use, even following an arrest for its possession in 1931[59], appeared to prove that its consumption indeed elevated the jazz performer to new levels of musical excellence.

Indeed, as late as 1944 – seven years after the drug’s outlawing- an article by science writer, Gerard Piel, written in the then widely circulated, Life Magazine, would proclaim that ‘The swing musician ascends new peaks of virtuosity’[60]having consumed marijuana, demonstrating how members of the scientific community too were active in the reinforcing of the tie between musical innovation and getting high, seemingly advocating marijuana’s role as an aid to jazz development. Being a viper in these years, therefore, informed both the jazzman’s dissident outlook but in its psychological properties, was perceived to be pivotal in enabling a performer to reach the levels of musical accomplishment expected of a true jazzman, both by their peers and increasingly, by their audience.

While marijuana consumption laid the foundations for the evolution of the jazzman persona, the federal crackdown on the drug spearheaded by Harry Anslinger further emboldened the emerging concept of jazz-drug identity. Anslinger’s appointment as the first commissioner of the newly formed, Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in 1930 marked a watershed moment in the government’s treatment of marijuana, particularly in the previously passive state of New York. Anslinger took specific objection with jazz musicians, claiming their ‘satanic music’[61] which ‘results from marijuana usage’[62] causes ‘white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others’[63], as well as claiming it caused ‘insanity, criminality, and death’[64], despite protestations to the contrary from the American Medical Association.[65]

As part of his nationwide moral crusade against drugs, Anslinger targeted the jazz community due to perceptions of it being a hotbed of moral dissidence, and its majority make-up of black men and women[66]. While it must be noted that Anslinger has regularly been wrongly accredited with numerous flagrantly racist quotes in pro-marijuana literature, his views on race as revealed in his address to Congress in 1937 where he described fears of ‘coloreds with big lips luring white women with jazz and marijuana’[67] reveal the undeniable racial angle of his war on drugs and his view that jazz and African-American criminality were largely intertwined.[68]

In Anslinger’s subsequent efforts throughout the 1930s to persecute the jazzmen, he would simultaneously reinforce the association between marijuana consumption and advanced musical capabilities, only strengthening the jazzman’s mystique. In an interview conducted in the 1970s, Dr. James Munch who worked as a physician alongside Anslinger in his anti-narcotic team revealed Anslinger’s belief that a sober musician would perform pieces ‘the way it is printed on the sheet’[69] while a marijuana user would ‘work in about as twice as much music in-between the first note and the second note’.[70] With this federal affirmation of a tie between unorthodox playing styles and drug consumption, the lofty claims of marijuana’s musical potential made by Mezzrow, Armstrong and their contemporaries appeared vindicated.

Beyond the music, Anslinger’s pursuit of jazz players ensured that like never before, the jazzman was publicly cast as an anti-establishment figure, an enemy of the state to be reviled for their non-conformity. While Anslinger’s persistence saw the criminalisation of marijuana in 27 states by 1937[71] as well as the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in the same year, he failed to detach the image of jazzman from the drug, a fact made clear by Dizzie Gillespie who recalled arriving in New York after the tax act had been imposed in 1937 and being labeled ‘A square muthafucka’[72] for attempting to eschew the drug. What this reveals is both that the consumption of marijuana helped to harbour the persona of the cool, dedicated jazz musician that existed and performed on the boundaries of regular society, and that the reputation jazz had acquired of being a bold musical form helped to give marijuana use its status as a renegade drug escapade in return.[73]

While marijuana operated as the staple illicit substance of choice before the Second World War, the drug phenomenon in New York jazz after 1945 was undoubtedly heroin and the factors behind this shift from a sociable substance towards a harbinger of isolation and serious addiction are multi-faceted. Initially considered a ‘highly exotic’[74] drug, heroin had been outlawed in the U.S since 1914 and was produced in limited quantities following the medical community’s recognition of its addictive properties in 1924.[75] With the end of the Second World War and the lifting of international restrictions on travel and commerce, however, criminal gangs were able to ensure the plentiful supply and availability of the drug.[76] Just as before, their target markets would be typical jazz communities[77] and almost overnight, in the words of saxophonist Jackie Mclean, ‘heroin came on the scene like a tidal wave’.[78]

Contextually, the war years and their immediate aftermath had been a period of brewing African-American frustration, particularly in the northern cities. The promise of improved living standards that had catalysed mass migration from the south had proven to be hollow with the continuation of segregation and exclusion across society. In spite of heroic wartime efforts from black men and women, their post-war praise did not extend as far as all-encompassing civil rights legislature.[79] Within the jazz community, segregation persisted in the spheres of recording, publishing and performance whilst lopsided arrangements between performers and labels and clubs characterised the sustained discrimination within the white commercial music establishment.[80]

From these circumstances emerged bebop, a defiantly black form of expression, a protest against the falsehoods of modern, pluralist America that Swing had embodied in the pre-war years and a means of expressing the realities of injustice and oppression that many within the New York jazz community experienced daily.[81] Bebop would both challenge jazz’s entrenched musical conventions and come to embody an anti-establishment lifestyle, characterised by a rejection of societal norms. In both cases, heroin would play a fundamental role.

From a musical perspective, bebop’s stress on technique, speed and rhythmic innovation appeared to be an ideal marriage with heroin and its capacity to render a performer in a cool, detached state. Indeed, in the case of one of bebop’s founders, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, heroin remains integral to his legacy. Born in 1920 and an addict by age 16, Parker’s relentless habit served both as pain relief from injuries sustained in a car crash in 1938 and as a coping mechanism for the lack of recognition he received as a precocious teenage saxophonist, hardening into an all-consuming lifestyle at the peak of his musical powers.[82] Parker’s uniquely resilient physiology enabled him to engage in lengthy drug binges and still perform spectacularly[83], as critic Leonard Feather would comment that Parker, in his sedated state, could ‘imply four chord changes in a melodic pattern where another musician would have trouble inserting two’.[84] Parker’s musical genius, therefore, became entwined with his heroin use; the two factors deemed codependent and essential.

Parker’s premature death at the age of 34 further reinforced the aura surrounding his abilities and his drug addiction as Miles Davis noted, the widespread belief that heroin use ‘might make you play as great as Bird’[85] inspired legions of devotees to try heroin themselves, a fact attested to by Sonny Rollins who commented in reference to heroin usage within the community, admiration for Parker ‘is what got us into it’.[86] Parker’s example thus served as the template for New York jazz musicians in the post-war period in search of the pinnacle of musicianship with heroin acting as the emblem of total devotion, the apparent gateway to the upper echelons of musical expression and performance.

Bebop’s status as a subversive subculture, however, was where heroin played its most significant role. Emerging from the ashes of the pre-war tea pads, West 52nd street and Times Square became the spiritual home of New York’s heroin habit, providing the clandestine environments for jazz performers and purveyors alike to unite and shoot up uninhibited.[87] Within these spaces, between bebop’s diverse slang, new styles of dress and radical political overtones, heroin was a unifying strand, even across race lines as white trumpeter Red Rodney would state ‘heroin was our badge…the thing that made us different from the rest of the world’[88]. Heroin use had become ‘membership in a unique club’[89], the quintessential marker of an adherent to the bebop principles and its associated lifestyle on society’s fringes. As psychologist Charles Winick explained in 1959, heroin’s cathartic qualities came from its status of being ‘as accepted by society as the musician feels’[90], and in its consumption, the jazz performer exhibited their complete rejection of mainstream values. Just as bebop was musically apathetic to the sensibilities of the masses, the reclusive, heroin-addled lifestyle of this new jazzman, withdrawn to a closed community of like-minded thinkers, became the dominant subculture within the New York jazz community.

The jazzman persona thus was elevated by heroin beyond the heights it had scaled during the marijuana era. As embodied in Charlie Parker’s short life, the revered jazzman was now a cultural construct, defined by complete dedication to the music, defiance in the face of socio-economic struggle and uninhibited opposition to conventionality, represented most overtly in an affinity for illegal drugs.[91]


Chapter 3: Drugs, masculinity and femininity


In tandem with the transition from marijuana to heroin as the jazz community’s drug of choice and the impact this had on the nascent jazzman persona, this shift in focus would also play an essential role in fostering the notion of ‘cool’ that would mark an unprecedented distinction between masculine and feminine jazz identities. Marking new gender divisions within an already sexist community, the consequences of this process would be laid bare in the heroin epidemic the jazz community endured in the 1950s as well as the wider marginalisation of female performers, dual factors that will be explored in depth here.

The formulation of a specific jazz masculinity and its endurance as a jazz trope undoubtedly owes a great deal to early trends in drug consumption.  While contemporary critics including Virgil Thomson and Theodor Adorno likened jazz musicians and their performance to ‘ritual castration’[92], in their willingness to musically embrace deeply personal and emotive subject matter, jazz, and specifically trumpet playing have long maintained widely held connotations of assertive masculinity, virility and leadership.[93] Trumpeter and prominent member of the Count Basie Orchestra, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, would describe the trumpet as ‘the loudest instrument that you can play, and the hardest’[94] and indeed, the required intensity, and embouchure strength demanded of an elite trumpeter to reach the highest notes set the instrument apart as stereotypically male orientated and set the tone for jazz bands at large.[95]

The performance of jazz in public spaces away from the ‘feminine repression and containment’[96] of the domestic environment enabled a climate of ‘patriarchal paradigm’[97] and ‘competitive masculinity’[98] to emerge, emphasising aggressive self-confidence, endurance and a bullish career focus, notions widely held as ‘masculine prerogatives’.[99]

Paired with this came the phallic imagery conveyed by the instrument, expressed notably in Louis Armstrong’s ‘erect stance’[100] on stage and later in Dizzie Gillespie’s elevated trumpet bell[101], a style which trumpet scholar, Krin Gabbard, would comment was an expression that Armstrong and his peers were  ‘not merely manly but extremely manly’.[102] Such projections of swagger, physicality and fitness with utter nonchalance would come to define jazz ‘coolness’[103], a concept familiar to swathes of the African-American community with roots in Yoruba culture whereby ‘sealed lips were a sign of seriousness’[104] and this attitude would be increasingly found in the posture of male jazz musicians, particularly the beboppers battling to disassociate themselves from lingering ties between swing and minstrelsy.[105]

To uphold the tenets of this revered, hyper-masculine persona, drug consumption acted both as the stimulant for mental and physical relaxation on stage and the marker of complete dedication to the jazz craft off of it. With Louis Armstrong and later, Charlie Parker as the figureheads the of the aspirational, masculine jazz role model in New York, drugs appeared to be a vital ingredient in striking the balance between a frenzied work ethic and a languid stage presence.[106] The 1954 research of Charles Winick into the drug habits of New York jazz performers revealed as much with 53 per cent of the cross-section of 357 male performers interviewed confessing that their habit was primarily due to wanting to ‘accelerate their progress to the top’[107] and ‘their idols take drugs’[108] while a further nine per cent noted that they felt their chances of achieving ‘more recognition’[109] for their dedication ‘will be improved if they take drugs’.[110]  Inspired by the attitudes of the purveyors of cool, drug taking became a widespread behavioural convention across the male jazz community with Winick’s research revealing that 82 per cent of male performers had taken marijuana while 54 per cent had take heroin with 24 per cent of all the interviewees attesting to being regular drug takers.[111]

From the chrysalis of the jazzman motif that had gained traction in the pre-war period emerged the new, cool jazz hero, ignorant of conventionality, doggishly determined and supremely talented. With this notion stemming from the examples of drug addicted performers, most evidently the lifestyle of Parker, meeting the demanding criteria of this idealised masculinity for so many others was also only achievable with the assistance of illicit substances, creating a culture of cyclical consumption, resulting perhaps in career success but more often, in addiction.

While drugs played a major role in the establishment of cool culture and the cult of masculinity that surrounded the jazzman, this would only add to the challenges faced by women seeking opportunities and respect in the jazz world, pushing female artists towards drugs both to fit in, and to remedy the struggles of sexist maltreatment. The patriarchal overtones of society at large throughout our period undoubtedly extend into the jazz world in a variety of manners.

From childhood, women were ushered towards specific musical pursuits, namely those conducive to a domesticated environment that they would be expected to inhabit in later life.[112]  Consequentially, it was rare to encounter a young female instrumentalist playing other than the piano or performing as a singer, a fact attested to by saxophonist, Audrey Hall Petroff who would recount of her youth in the 1920s, ‘I don’t recall at that time that I knew any other girls that were playing saxophone’[113] or indeed ‘any wind instruments at all’.[114]

For women that did persist, they faced a pervasive view held within the male jazz community regarding female performers that they lacked the required ‘masculine proficiencies’[115] such as blowing strength, manual dexterity and technical ability to excel at the harder, swinging styles. A notorious 1938 article in Downbeat magazine epitomised this view, entitled ‘Why Women Musicians Are Inferior’ and bemoaning that the performances of female wind instrumentalists resembled ‘something that sounds like a cry for help’[116], female performers faced an uphill battle even once they had arrived on stage. When women did prove themselves musically, they were met with disbelief, as Nat Hentoff would comment of watching Billie Rogers perform ‘we looked at her as if she had three heads and marvelled that she could even finish a chorus’[117] proving that musical proficiency was no guarantee of an escape from derision.

In addition, the sexual overtones of jazz and the erotic connotations of the use of the mouth, particularly during brass and woodwind play, contrasted to societal constructs of women being chaste and pure, further adding to the difficulty for women to be taken seriously. While numerous female performers responded to such criticisms, notably Rito Rio in her response to the Downbeat article above, claiming that ‘feminine tendency’[118] was, in fact, an advantage, facilitating ‘feeling, tone and phrasing’[119], jazz’s increasingly dominating masculine culture paired with its competitive economic environment continually pushed women to the periphery.[120]

With such obstacles placed before a female jazz musician, drugs would come to play pivotal roles in the lives of some of the genre’s foremost women. On the New York scene, the examples of Billie Holiday and Mary Lou Williams elucidate the divergent impacts substances could have upon female performers’ careers, shaping their musical output as well as their lifestyles.

Today remembered as among the most significant and gifted vocalists in jazz history, Billie Holiday’s career and eventual demise are inextricably linked to substance abuse. Born in Baltimore in 1915 but a New York resident by age 12, Holiday’s tragic upbringing would be defined by abandonment, children’s homes, brothels and sexual assault.[121] Working as a prostitute in Harlem by age 13, Holiday would begin smoking marijuana regularly in the 1930s while her relationship with trumpeter and drug dealer, Joe Guy, would see her introduced to heroin in 1942.[122] While her traumatic personal life, compounded by the death of her mother at the peak of her popularity in 1945, could be seen as motivation enough to resort to the familiar release of substance consumption, Holiday’s position as a renowned female performer in the jazz community exposed her to specific hardships that surely contributed to her drug abuse and in turn, impacted significantly on her musical output.

Having produced successful records for Brunswick Records including the fifteen thousand selling hit, ‘I Cried For You’, Holiday would join Count Basie on tour in 1937 and experience the challenges of life as a female musician on the road. Earning a mere ‘thirty-five dollars a week’[123] (considerably less than her male band mates), Holiday would have to pay ‘two or three bucks a night for a room’[124] but additionally, in keeping with the expectations that female performers provided a musical and visual spectacle, Holiday would also have to ensure she had her ‘hair fixed and gowns pressed’[125], all at her own expense. The result was ending up with ‘ about a dollar and a half a day’[126], a paltry fee and barely enough to survive on.

Furthermore, being the only woman in the group opened Holiday up to sexual abuse and claims of promiscuity from within and outside the band. Holiday would refer to being accused of  ‘romancing everyone in the band and this was leading to dissension’[127] during her tour with Basie, and indeed, the persistence of sexual accusation and abuse was commonplace for isolated women in bands, as confirmed by Melba Liston who recalled  ‘Rapes and everything.’ ‘I’ve been going through that stuff for all of my life’[128] of her tours with Dizzie Gillespie. These contradictory demands that required women be both resilient and vulnerable, sensual yet chaste, were endemic of a jazz community dictated by men, content to manipulate and extort female performers and to push them to levels of suffering beyond even those that men had to suffer themselves.

Driven to drugs by these myriad factors, Holiday’s subsequent return to the New York Café Society scene after 1939 and her success in the years following would be defined by her substance abuse. Now limited to a vocal range of barely over an octave by years of drug induced wear on her vocal cords, Holiday mastered a sparse style of economical embellishment to effectively express the tragedies of her life.[129] This stark delivery maximised the impact of her lyrics, setting her apart from other vocalists of the era.[130] Holiday herself would quip, ‘I’ve been told… nobody sings the word“hunger” like I do.’ ‘Or the word “love”.’ [131]and indeed, she emerges as a paragon of  female jazz artistry, utilising her drug abuse, brought on both by personal struggles and the idiosyncrasies of the jazz community to develop a revolutionary sound.

Mary Lou Williams drug experience meanwhile would take a different path. Born in Atlanta in 1910, Williams was an adept self-taught pianist before her tenth birthday and performing alongside Duke Ellington by age thirteen.[132] Williams’ precocious talent would consequentially ingratiate herself within elite male jazz circles as a teenager, affording her the kind of initial acceptance Holiday dreamt of while her marriage to saxophonist, John Williams, in 1927 would further facilitate her acceptance within jazz circles as the pianist and arranger for his ‘Twelve Clouds of Joy’ group. Alongside her husband, Williams enjoyed success in the American Midwest, her marital status and evident talent bypassing the typical gender obstructions to female jazz employment. Nonetheless, Williams would tellingly quip that ‘no one ever rejected [her] or [her] music’[133] based on gender, yet would also concede that men ‘don’t think of you as a woman if you can really play’[134], surely revealing the dichotomy facing female performers that in spite of her position of relative respect, to be fully accepted as a musician, Williams still had to perform in the muscular, aggressive style that had come to resemble the quintessentially masculine musical zeitgeist.

Williams’ drug relationship would similarly echo this need to emulate male jazz performers attitudes in order to achieve respect, as Henrietta Randolph, wife of trumpeter Irving Randolph would comment ‘Mary tried to drink to keep up with the crowd’[135] but as a relative lightweight drinker, Williams would turn to marijuana in 1941 to keep pace[136], becoming a daily smoker and advocating the drug for ‘its reflective and calming properties’ before and after concerts.[137]

Following her acceptance of a regular Café Society slot in 1943, Williams continued to engage in regular drug consumption. Driven by a desire to be taken as seriously as her male colleagues and to maintain the high energy levels required as a performer on the circuit, Williams would recall taking ‘two tablets of Benzedrine plus black coffee’[138] immediately before taking the stage, occasionally resulting in blackouts, including one on stage in 1945.[139] Where Williams’ habit differed from her contemporaries, however, was in her avoidance of heroin during the bebop era, motivated by the struggles of her musician friends that her position as a jazz community insider enabled her to witness.  While Williams had expressed an interest in trying heroin, requesting a prescription from her doctor to ‘know the kicks’[140] her friends experienced, the destructive impact of the drug, most apparent in the mental and physical decline of her protégé, Bud Powell, inspired both her conversion to Catholicism in 1956 and the establishment of the Bel Canto foundation in order to rehabilitate drug addicted musicians in her later years.[141]

In contrast to Billie Holiday’s enduring sense of exclusion and loneliness, Williams’ acceptance within the New York jazz community driven both by her talent and her willingness to replicate the customs of her male counterparts on and off the stage allowed a level of integration that few female performers would achieve during these years. Nonetheless, Williams still felt compelled to consume drugs to match the increasing levels of creativity male performers were reaching and to fortify herself for gruelling performance schedules.[142]

The experiences of Holiday and Williams reveal, therefore, the specific role played by drugs in the lives of female performers, both in their physical and psychological properties, as well as their capacity to enable assimilation in a community geared towards female prohibition. At different times during their careers, drugs were a distraction from sexist abuse and a facilitator of musical innovation, and perhaps, in this environment in which drugs were increasingly seen as a vital accessory to jazz culture and performance, their consumption enabled these women to come as close to ‘participating fully and equally in jazz’[143] as was realistically possible.


Chapter 4: Drugs and relationships

With this in mind, another associated matter for discussion is the way in which drug-taking formed, sustained and destroyed relationships within the jazz community. While jazz is often characterised by its outstanding individual performers and innovators, it is undoubtedly a collaborative art form, with success often hinging on cooperation within individual band structures as well as within the wider external networks that supported the industry. The growing popularity of drugs in jazz circles would have telling impacts upon the ability for individuals to function within these structures.

Along these lines, the two drug periods discussed represent markedly divergent impacts on the making of jazz. From 1930 until marijuana’s outlawing in 1937, it appeared to have a largely positive unifying impact on the musicians that engaged in its use. Louis Armstrong informed John Hammond in 1933 that smoking marijuana ‘makes you feel wanted…it makes you feel a special kinship’[144] and spoke of the ‘warmth it always brought forth from the other person’.[145] This sentiment appears most evidently in musical form perhaps in the landmark instrumental passages on the reefer song ‘Muggles’, performed by Armstrong and his Hot Five.  The passing of the melody between soloists, each granted space to improvise could be acquainted with the passing of a joint between the musicians, a synergetic enterprise, a sharing of the limelight aided by the sharing of the drug.[146]

Herb Hancock would quip of jazz ‘it’s not exclusive, but inclusive’[147] and indeed, though marijuana consumption was ostensibly a sign of mainstream dismissal, its empathic effects turned outsiders into insiders, facilitating the assembly of men and women of all races in nightclubs and tea pads, predating legally enforced desegregation[148]. This would then extend into desegregated musical collaboration, evident in Mezz Mezzrow’s opening bell ringing in Armstrong’s ‘Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train’ recorded in 1930[149], an early example of how the common strand of marijuana use (which had brought Mezzrow and Armstrong into initial contact in 1928) could play a role in the wider democratisation of jazz that continued throughout the decade.[150]

Nonetheless, marijuana was not universally popular within bands and could be as disruptive an influence as it was an occasional aid. In an attempt to establish whether marijuana enhanced his playing, bandleader Artie Shaw took marijuana as an experiment in 1937 following a string of performances in which he believed his first trumpet player and viper, Chuck Peterson, was lagging and as a result, a ‘virus’[151] had  ‘spread to the saxes, and everything slowed down’.[152] Shaw would describe the experience of marijuana as ‘like driving drunk, you feel great, but you don’t know what you’re doing’.[153] Within a year, Peterson’s habit saw him offloaded to Tony Pastor’s orchestra and by 1946 his career had stalled completely.[154]

Similar examples of marijuana as a negative influence appeared in a Radio Stars article from 1938 entitled ‘Exposing the Marijuana Drug Evil in Swing Bands’, citing the example of an unnamed bandleader that had a ‘crackerjack musician’[155], so hooked on smoking, he became ‘quite undependable’.[156] Undoubtedly, this article’s credibility must be questioned as a piece written in a magazine aimed at a progressive middle-class audience at the height of the federal campaign of marijuana demonisation, and as such, it should not be read as confirmation of a widely held disdain for marijuana within the jazz community. Nonetheless, both of the above examples reveal the double-edged sword the drug could be; a potential means of limiting inhibitions, fostering sociability and forging new friendships but for some, the drug served only to interfere with the strict discipline required of a top musician and detract from their musical performances, causing the breakdown in relationships and in bands.

The arrival of bebop and the drug subculture surrounding it discussed earlier would have an even more telling impact on jazz relationships. Winick’s research revealed that one of the prime motivators behind heroin consumption was ‘experiencing a feeling of group excitement produced by sharing music and drugs’[157] and indeed, while heroin use was no guarantee of acceptance within jazz circles, it provided a reliable means of social contact between performers and their audiences, facilitating new friendships.[158] Pianist Herbie Nicholls would suggest his career had directly suffered from avoiding drug circles, quipping ‘It seems like you either have to be an Uncle Tom or a drug addict to make it in jazz’[159], perhaps confirming the extent to which heroin became the key to bebop’s inner circles, the component that brought the most talented and influential musicians into direct association. Bound by their shared enjoyment of getting high, user communities were now the fertile grounds for fruitful musical collaboration.[160]

Having said this, the broader impact of heroin upon interpersonal relationships is predominantly negative. Amidst the numerous breakdowns between both jazz performers and performers and industry figures after 1945, insatiable heroin habits are a recurring motif. Percussionist Jose Madera recalled Charlie Parker’s notorious heroin induced unreliability during recording sessions in 1948 which ‘started at 9am, and Charlie wouldn’t show up until 11am in his pyjamas’[161] and indeed, unpredictability proved a common issue within the community as saxophonist Dexter Gordon stated of his habit, ‘People didn’t know when or if I’d show up’[162] while record producer Orrin Keepnews said of drummer Philly Joe Jones, a Café Society regular after 1947, that his heroin use made him ‘a pain in the ass and unreliable’.[163] While marijuana use could render a user as physically sluggish, heroin’s tendency to completely incapacitate could hamstring an entire session or performance, a cause for tension both between band members and their employers.

If a heroin-using performer did manage to arrive promptly at an arranged location, the drug’s effects could still prove disruptive. While the idolised Parker served as an example of a functional individual while high, this was generally an anomaly as pianist Elmo Hope, an artist whose enduring obscurity owes much to his heroin addiction would comment, ‘Some guys wear the stuff well…the minute I take my first taste, the troubles start’.[164] John Coltrane meanwhile was fired from Miles Davis’ inaugural Quintet for erratic behaviour including ‘nodding out’[165] and ‘picking his nose and sometimes eating it’[166] in his heroin induced stupors. Such behaviour would consequentially have a negative impact on employment opportunities in the community as Dexter Gordon revealed ‘I didn’t get fired but I didn’t get hired either’[167] during his drug binges while Howard McGhee, a long-time addict voted the best trumpeter in jazz by Downbeat Magazine in 1949[168] added ‘I figured that I might get to working regular, but I didn’t’.[169]  Heroin use, therefore, appeared to provoke an enduring barrier of suspicion to be raised by the musical establishment, sometimes casting a lengthy shadow as saxophonist Jimmy Heath would summarise of heroin’s impact on his career, ‘I was recording with the good guys but I wasn’t a leader’.[170]

Thus, while marijuana had been an innocuous hobby for most within the New York jazz community, indulged in sporadically without lasting consequence, the examples above elucidate how heroin use, be it casual or habitual, could totally compromise a musician’s ability to be punctual and to perform adequately on stage. Perhaps epitomised best by Charlie Parker’s 1954 banning from Birdland[171], the club named in his honour, the capriciousness of heroin using musicians meant that extraordinary talent was no guarantee of immediate, or future professional employment.

It was offstage however where heroin’s influence was most pernicious, particularly impacting on the personal relationships between performers. The financial burden of maintaining a heroin addiction pushed numerous performers to criminal acts, often committed against their own peers. Red Rodney would speak of ‘hostility, pettinesss’[172] and how he and his fellow addicts ‘became thieves’[173] to fund their habits. Sonny Rollins would confess to stealing ‘other people’s horns’[174] for drug money, breeding apprehension amidst his contemporaries Rollins described as ‘if musicians saw me coming they’d go the other way’[175]. Heroin induced theft even extended into the music itself with pianist Sonny Clark stealing Thelonious Monk’s song, ‘Two Timer’, renaming it ‘Five Will Get You Ten’ in order to claim royalties[176], demonstrating the depths to which musicians in a community ostensibly united by their devotion to the integrity of jazz would stoop to fund addictions.

In contrast to the prevalent sense of communal spirit that marijuana use engendered between jazz musicians and their audiences, the adoption of heroin as a marker of New York jazz’s wider rejection of convention succeeded in forging an exclusive communal identity but failed to sustain communal sentiment amidst its adherents who were increasingly outcast by their employers and internally divided. In its ravaging addictive properties, heroin had the capacity to turn musicians against each other in desperate efforts to secure their next score, in turn, further isolating individuals within a profession characterised by its exile from mainstream society.

 Epilogue: Beyond Bird

 With Charlie Parker’s premature death in 1955 – nominally of pneumonia, but with his liver ravaged by drug and alcohol induced cirrhosis[177] – the bebop scene and New York jazz at large had arguably lost its greatest export. By 1959, a penniless Billie Holiday too had succumbed to cirrhosis, hounded at her deathbed for drug possession by a reinvigorated anti-narcotics department.[178] These untimely deaths were endemic of a tragic trend within jazz circles with prominent New York musicians including Lester Young, Serge Chaloff and Dave Tough all succumbing to drug-related ailments before 1960.[179]

Recognising that the relationship between jazz and narcotics had strayed from creative expression toward ruin, the community took steps to remedy the situation with the aforementioned establishment of the Bel Canto Foundation by Mary Lou Williams in 1956 as well as the New York Musicians Clinic the following year, a facility funded by proceeds from the Newport Jazz Festival and directed by Charles Winick.[180] Describing the state of addiction within the jazz community in 1957, Winick compared the problem to a ‘contagious disease’[181] and indeed, the once revered drug habit of the jazzman was now being recognised as an illness, the addicted musician a ‘sick person with a chronic disease which requires almost emergency action’.[182] After decades of complacency, the New York jazz community had finally acknowledged the extent of its drug problem.

The deaths of prominent figures alone, however, cannot be accredited for the concerted move away from substance abuse and here the state’s role in re-appropriating jazz for diplomatic ends alongside an intensified clampdown on narcotics after 1951 must be recognised. In the midst of Cold War tensions, jazz became identified in the late 1950’s as a potential propaganda weapon to be utilised behind the Iron Curtain, a floating signifier of America’s rejection of Jim Crow and an embodiment of free world values in the face of Communism.[183] The proceeding international tours of Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and former Communist Party member, Dizzie Gillespie, while outwardly a vehicle for expressing black political cohesion, were primarily a diplomatic façade created by the U.S State Department as part of communist cultural containment strategy.[184]  In this new context of jazz as patriotism, therefore, drug habits no longer had a place.

This state reclamation of jazz, however, was predicated by the escalation of anti-narcotic legislation. The 1951 Boggs Act increased penalties for drug possession and dealing fourfold[185] while the 1956 Daniel Act would multiply these penalties a further eightfold.[186] With these guidelines in place, Dizzie Gillespie would remark to the 1960 Playboy Panel ‘every policeman can smell dope three miles away, and the guys are just scared’[187], while Charles Mingus would add, ‘the Police Department really enjoys harassing any club where a healthy integrated feeling is a little too out in the open’[188] demonstrating how new, punitive legislation succeeded in instilling fear and became a drug deterrent, a risk even the jazzman was finally unwilling to take.

Over the quarter of a century discussed here, therefore, drug use completed a profound transition. Initially accepted, even encouraged within the New York jazz community, attitudes towards drugs had turned to revulsion, perhaps mirroring the antithetical transformation of the jazz musician from societal outcast to an emblem of national pride during the same period. Once lauded as an alleviator of institutionally imposed suffering within jazz communities, a sustainer of popular personas, musical connections and a shortcut to recherché musical expression, drugs perspectives within the community now reflected the disdain of the state and general public. Having left an indelible mark on the New York jazz scene, by 1955, in the words of cornet player Nat Adderley in reference to drug use, ‘the fad is over’.[189]



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[1], accessed 27/03/17.

[2] Benny Golson quoted on Hitting the High Notes, BBC Radio 3, first broadcast 27/03/17.

[3] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 5:4 (2006), p. 3.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Gerald Tolson, ‘Jazz and Substance Abuse: Road to Creative Genius or Pathway to Premature Death’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 30, Issue 6, (2007), 534- 538.

[6] Jorg Fachner, ‘Jazz, Improvisation and a Social Pharmacology of Music’, Music Therapy Today, Vol. IV, (June, 2003), 315-316.

[7] Gerald Tolson, ‘Jazz and Substance Abuse, 538.

[8] Jorg Fachner, ‘Jazz, Improvisation and a Social Pharmacology of Music’, 315-316.

[9] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, 3-35.

[10] William H. James & Stephen L. Johnson, Doin’ Drugs: Patterns of African American Addiction (Austin, 1996), 7-16.

[11] Wynton Marsalis, ‘What Jazz Is – and Isn’t’, New York Times, (July 31st, 1998),, accessed 21/03/17.

[12] Anonymous, ‘The Appeal of the Primitive Jazz’, The Literary Digest, (August 25, 1917), p. 28,, accessed 21/03/17.

[13] Anne Faulkner, ‘Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?’, Ladies’ Home Journal (August 1921) in Robert Walser, Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (New York, 1999), 32-36.

[14] Wynton Marsalis, ‘What Jazz Is – and Isn’t’,, accessed 21/03/17.

[15], accessed 22/03/17.

[16] Richard Nixon quoted in ‘Nixon’s ‘War On Drugs’ Began 40 Years Ago, And The Battle Is Still Raging’, The Observer, (July 24th, 2011), 49.

[17], accessed 22/03/17.

[18] Charles Winick, ‘The Use of Drugs by Jazz Musicians’,Social Problems, Vol. 7, No. 3. (Winter, 1959-1960), 240-253.

[19] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, 9.


[21] Ernest. L. Abel, Marijuana – The First Twelve Thousand Years (New York, 1980), 220.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, 9.

[24] Ibid, 8.

[25] John Charles Chasteen, Getting High: Marijuana through the Ages (London, 2016), 18.

 [26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] ‘WPA Workers Assigned to Marihuana Eradication’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 107, (Chicago, 1936), 437.

[29] ‘Sanitary Code Amendments’, New York Times, (July 30th, 1914), 8.

[30] New York Times, August 14, 1933, quoted in Ernest. L. Abel, Marijuana – The First Twelve Thousand Years, 22.

[31] William H. James & Stephen L. Johnson, Doin’ Drugs, 16.

[32], accessed 1/04/17.

[33]William H. James & Stephen L. Johnson, Doin’ Drugs, 16.

 [34] Cheryl Lynn Greenburg, “Or Does It Explode?”: Black Harlem in the Great Depression (Oxford, 1991), 3.

[35] Mayor’s Committee on Marihuana, New York Academy of Medicine (New York City, 1944), 1-5,, accessed 31/03/17

[36] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, 32.

[37] James Weldon Johnson in Alain Locke, The New Negro: An Interpretation (New York, 1925), 16-17.

[38] William H. James & Stephen L. Johnson, Doin’ Drugs, 17.

 [39] Ibid.

[40] Mezz Mezzrow, Really the Blues (New York, 1946), 89.

[41] Ernest. L. Abel, Marijuana – The First Twelve Thousand Years, 222.

[42] David T. Courtwright, Addicts Who Survived: An Oral History of Narcotic Use in America before 1965 (Knoxville, 1989),132.

[43] John Charles Chasteen, Getting High, 29.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Harry Shapiro, Waiting For The Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music (London 2000), 66.

[46] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej , ‘High Notes’, 12.

[47] Andrew E. Curry, ‘Drugs in Jazz and Rock Music’, Clinical Toxicology, (San Franciscso, 1968), 236.

[48] Louis Armstrong quoted in Max Jones, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971 (Boston, 1971), 113.

[49] Mezz Mezzrow, Really the Blues, 91.

[50] Andrew E. Curry, ‘Drugs in Jazz and Rock Music’, 236.

[51] Jorg Fachner, ‘Jazz, Improvisation and a Social Pharmacology of Music’, 310.

[52] Russell Cronin, ‘The History of Music and Marijuana’, Cannabis Culture Magazine, (September, 2004), 16.

[53] Howard S. Becker, ‘Becoming a Marihuana User’, American Journal of Sociology,

Vol. 59, No. 3 (November, 1953), 236.

[54] Mezz Mezzrow quoted in Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City (New York, 2014), 21.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Louis Armstrong quoted in Max Jones, Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 113.


 [58]  Michael Meckna, ‘Louis Armstrong in the Movies’, 1931–1969’, Popular Music and Society, Volume 29, (2006), 359.

 [59] Ibid.

[60] Gerard Piel, ‘Narcotics’, Life Magazine, (July 19th, 1943), 81.

[61] H. J. Anslinger, Statement to the Department of the Treasury, Geneva (February, 1937).

 [62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Harry Anslinger quoted in Eric Schlosser, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market (Boston, 2004),  20.

[65] Larry Sloman, Reefer Madess: a History of Marijuana (New York, 1998), 38.

[66] Alexander Cockburn, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press (New York, 1998), 72.

[67] H. J. Anslinger, Statement to the Department of the Treasury, Geneva (February, 1937).

[68], accessed 07/02/2017.

[69] Interview between Dr. James Munch and Larry Sloman, quoted in Martin Booth, Cannabis: A History (London, 2005), 135.

[70] Ibid.

[71], accessed 24/07/17.

[72] Jan Baumer, The Sound of a City? New York und Bebop 1941-1949 (Munster, 2014),296.

[73] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej , ‘High Notes’, 15.

[74] Jill Jonnes quoted in Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City (New York, 2014), 25.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Blanche Frank, ‘An Overview of Heroin Trends in New York City: Past, Present and Future’, The Mount Sinai Journal Of Medicine, Vol. 67, (October/November, 2000), 2.

[78] Jackie Mclean quoted in Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej , ‘High Notes’, 16.

[79], accessed 22/03/17.

[80] Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City, 27.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Chuck Haddix, Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker (Chicago, 2013), 132.

 [83] Ibid.

[84] Leonard Feather, Inside Jazz: Inside Bebop (New York, 1980), 16.

[85] Miles Davis & Quincy Trope, Miles (New York, 1989), 96.

[86] Eric Nisenson, Open Sky: Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation (New York, 2000), 40.

[87]  Eric C Schneider, Smack: Heroin and the American City (Pennsylvania, 2008), 27.

[88] Red Rodney quoted in David Kastin, Nica’s Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness (New York, 2011), 273.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Charles Winick, ‘The Use of Drugs by Jazz Musicians’,250.

[91] Eric C Schneider, Smack: Heroin and the American City. 34.

[92] Krin Gabbard, Representing Jazz (London, 1995), 104.

[93] A.J Johnson, Trumpet Men: Representations of Masculinity of Jazz After Black Power (Columbia, 2010), 2.  

[94] Scotty Barnhart, The World of Jazz Trumpet-A Comprehensive History and Practical Philosophy (Milwaukee, 2005), 90.

[95] A.J Johnson, Trumpet Men, 2.  

[96] Bell Hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation (New York, 2015), 35.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Linda Dahl, Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen (Wisconsin, 1984), 27.

[100] Krin Gabbard, Representing Jazz, 43.

[101] A.J Johnson, Trumpet Men, 2.  

[102] Krin Gabbard, Representing Jazz, 43.

[103] A.J Johnson, Trumpet Men, 11.  

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej , ‘High Notes’, 33.

[107] Charles Winick, ‘The Use of Drugs by Jazz Musicians’, Social Problems, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Winter, 1959-1960), 246.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Ibid, 241.

[112] Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education (Cambridge, 1997), 72.

[113] Audrey Hall Petroff quoted in Sally Placksin, Jazzwomen: 1900 to the Present : Their Words, Lives and Music (London, 1985), 79.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Unsigned, Boston Post, (1929), in Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education, 72.

[116] Unsigned, ‘Why Women Musicians are Inferior’, Downbeat Magazine, (February, 1938) in ed. Robert Walser, Keeping Time, 111-113.

[117] Nat Hentoff quoted in Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education, 73.

[118] Rito Rio quoted in Linda Dahl, Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women (Wisconsin, 1984), 52.

[119] Ibid.

[120] Lucy Green, Music, Gender, Education, 74.

[121] Merrill Singer & Greg Mirhej, ‘High Notes’, 21.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Billie Holiday with William Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues (New York, 1956), 63.

[124] Ibid.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Ibid.

[128] Melba Liston quoted in Dizzy Gillespie and Al Fraser, To Be, or Not … to Bop: The Autobiography of Dizzy Gillespie (Minneapolis, 1979), 416.

[129] Gerald Tolson, Jazz and Substance Abuse, 534-536.

[130] Ibid.

[131]  Billie Holiday quoted in Stacy Holman Jones, Torch Singing: Performing Resistance and Desire from Billie Holiday to Edith Piaf (Plymouth, 2007), 85.

[132] Linda Dahl, Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams (California, 1999), 23.

[133] Ibid, 80.

[134] Linda Dahl, Stormy Weather, 67.

[135] Linda Dahl, Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams, 29.

[136] Ibid.

[137] Ibid, 183.

[138] Ibid, 158.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Ibid, 185.

[141] Ibid, 187.

[142] Katherine Soules, Playing Like a Man: The Struggle of Black Women in Jazz and the Feminist Movement (Cedarville, 2011), 10.

[143]  Ibid.

[144] Louis Armstrong quoted in James Lincoln Collier, Louis Armstrong: An American Genius (Oxford, 1985), 221.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana (New York, 2012), 11.

[147] Herb Hancock quoted in Henry Martin, Jazz: The First 100 Years (Boston, 2014), 370.

[148] Ibid, 46.

[149] Ibid.

[150] Sebastian Marincolo, High: Insights on Marijuana (Indiana, 2010), 96.

[151] Artie Shaw quoted in Aram Soroyan, Artie Shaw Talking (New York, 2010), 31.

[152] Ibid.

[153] Ibid, 32.

[154] Ibid.

[155] Jack Hanley, Radio Stars, (New York, July 1938), p.8,, accessed 23/03/17.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Charles Winick, ‘The Use of Drugs by Jazz Musicians’, 250.

[158] Charles D. Gerard, Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community (Connecticut, 1998), 80.

[159] Ibid.

[160] Ibid.

[161] Jose Madera quoted in Paul Austerlitz, Latin Jazz Conversations,, accessed 22/03/17.

[162] Dexter Gordon quoted in David Hutchings,  ‘Jazz Great Dexter Gordon Blows An Elegant New Note as An Actor—and Oscar Hopeful—in Round Midnight’, People Magazine, (November 24th, 1986), from, accessed 23/03/17.

[163] Orrin Keepnews quoted in Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City, 44.

[164] Elmo Hope quoted in the liner notes for ‘Sounds from Rikers Island’, (Audio Fidelity, 1963).

[165] Miles Davis quoted in Miles, 65.

[166] Ibid.

[167] Dexter Gordon quoted in People Magazine, from, accessed 23/03/17.

[168] Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City, 46.

[169] Ibid.

[170] Jimmy Heath quoted in Barry Spunt, Heroin and Music in New York City, 46.

[171] Ibid.

[172] Red Rodney quoted in Ira Gitler, Swing to Bop (Oxford, 1993), 256.

[173] Ibid.

[174] Eric Nisenson, Open Sky, 42.

[175] Ibid.

[176] Richard Brody, ‘Sam Stephenson on Sonny Clark’, The New Yorker Magazine, (January 13th, 2011),, accessed 24/03/17.

[177], accessed 31/03/17.

[178] Paul Adams, ‘The Lost Years: The Impact of Cirrhosis on the History of Jazz’, Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 23(6), (June, 2009), 405–406.

[179] Ibid.

[180] Suzanna Reiss, We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of U.S Empire (California, 2014), 207.

[181] Ibid.

[182] Charles Winick quoted in ‘The Playboy Panel: Narcotics and the Jazz Musicians’, (November, 1960), Playboy, 7(11), 122.

[183] Suzanna Reiss, We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of U.S Empire, 209.

[184] Ibid.

[185], accessed 31/03/17.

[186] Ibid.

[187] Dizzie Gillespie quoted in ‘The Playboy Panel’, 122.

[188] Charles Mingus quoted in Suzanna Reiss, We Sell Drugs, 206.

[189] Nat Adderley quoted in ‘The Playboy Panel’, 126.

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