Pacific Grove

Cover Pacific Grove
Currently out of print.

Poems and prose with drawings and woodcut prints

I published this book a year before the town, founded in 1875 as a Methodist gate enclosed retreat–often referred to as “one of the last hometowns in America,” as well as the “Butterfly Capitol of California”–was preparing to celebrate its centennial. Betty and I had arrived in 1971, when I took a job teaching English at Monterey Peninsula College, and I assembled a number of poems, prose pieces, drawings and woodcut prints as a book that ended: “As for myself, I walk through this village dispensing stories and songs and poems, but I am not the only bard. My stuff is well received, though no one sees fit to praise me for it. I am one of those necessary happy mad persons who pays taxes and dues but forgets how much … What we use seems sufficient ground for our own two feet. I like it here … This is the first place in my life I do not wish to move from: Pacific Grove.”

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The Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets 2004

MBPA-cover-lg
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The ANTHOLOGY OF MONTEREY BAY POETS 2004 contains poems by nearly 100 poets residing in the Monterey Bay Area.

Monterey Bay, California, is a refuge for wildlife both common and rare. This anthology collects the work of the rarest, or perhaps the wildest, of life in the region — its poets. Drawing from the rich natural and human environment that surrounds their creators, the poems collected in this volume create a vivid postcard of life in this artistically vibrant region.

Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years

Monterey Jazz Festival cover
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In Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years, jazz journalist William Minor tells the story of the oldest, continuously performed jazz gathering in the world, the story of forty weekends of jazz that welcomed the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Janis Joplin, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis and Joshua Redman … Photographer and photo editor Bill Wishner has collected more than one hundred fifty rare images of the performers and performances that have highlighted the Festival over nearly half a century. Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years includes a complete listing of all musicians who have performed on the Monterey stages from 1958 to 1997. This is the definitive history of the Festival that defines jazz.

Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me

Trek Cover
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It’s 1976, the American Bicentennial year, and a California family sets out on a patriotic pilgrimage to Detroit, birthplace to the parents who want their teenage sons to see “real” American cars before they become extinct. Full of antic adventures, the trip to Detroit is a disaster. On the return journey the family joins the Jarvis Spindelshank Overland Trail Re-enactment Party–a group celebrating, and imitating, one of the original journeys on the Oregon Trail. This leg of the Bicentennial trek leads to further comic adventures with heightened drama: a simulated cholera epidemic, an Indian attack, and a buffalo hunt–plus a surprise ending. William Minor’s highly entertaining fact-based novel is intended for all audiences who love their families, American history and folklore, earthy humor, zany but charming storytelling, and just plain fun. Minor’s literary craftsmanship and fine sense of the absurd have been compared to that of Mark Twain and Peter De Vries, and in this work–the satire of which may be even more relevant today than it was in 1976–Minor’s bright, playful and purposeful prose, without making fun of anyone, has fun with just about everything and everyone American.

Coming Attractions

The “troupe” or trio with whom I’ve been giving readings (with musical backing) from The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir–Jaqui Hope, vocals, Heath Proskin, bass, and me on piano–will be offering a third but revised and refined performance of that program on Saturday, August 24, 7:30, at the Museum of Monterey (5 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, California). For this presentation, we plan to take the “best” of the two previous book launch events and add new material (music I’ve written recently and new poems), so that the program will be “fresh.” A tentative title is: “The Best of The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir and New Poems Set to Music, Featuring Vocalist Jaqui Hope, Bassist Heath Proskin, and Bill Minor on Piano and Reading from His Work.”

The general intent of what we present remains the same as what we did before: to offer a musical presentation of playful and purposeful prose (and poems), lyric passages laced with original music and songs (standards) from the era depicted in The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir—the music adding a dimension to and enhancing the words.

More details regarding this upcoming event will be posted soon.

Pianist and author Bill Minor, center, with vocalist Jaqui Hope and bassist Heath Proskin in Pacific Grove, Calif.    Book Launch Troupe1

Also, throughout the month of August, Joanna Martin and Lalo Alvarez will offer–on their Santa Cruz Poetry Box TV program–the “Reading with Live Music” event they filmed at Old Capitol Books in Monterey on April 6. The performance will be presented, several times, on CTV (Community Television of Santa Cruz County)–Channel 27 in Santa Cruz and also as Live stream video online: www.communitytv.org/ctv3.

A full schedule for this screening will be posted as soon as I have it. Stay tuned!

Music to Match the Words

I’ve been making music, professionally, longer than I’ve been writing–for sixty-one years in fact, so I think I’ll just jump right into this post (the way I might a tune once its been called for at a gig) and show you and tell you about the three CDs I’ve recorded so far–although all of these came about when I’d been writing for some time and hoped to match my own words with my own music as best I could.

Bill Minor & Friends: For Women Missing or Dead, Poems Set to Music; Kanpai Records, 2002

Cover Bill Minor and Friends CD

After I published the book For Women Missing or Dead, I recognized that this cycle of short, lyric pieces (fifty-six poems in all) were well suited for a musical setting (they felt a bit like late night “blues” pieces), but it took me twenty-three years to get around to writing that music. I didn’t want merely to provide a musical ambiance behind the words, but compose O-honest-to-God songs (a la George Gershwin and Cole Porter–to suggest some good company)–and after I’d done so with about twenty-one of the poems, I selected fourteen I wished to record, and then did so.

Although I had the best company I could ask for on the recording, some of the finest musicians I know (Nancy Raven, vocals; Elise Rotchford, vocals; Karl Dobbratz, guitar; Richard Mayer, flute; Joe Gallo, clarinet; Andy Weis, drums) and the recording was made at Roger Eddy’s excellent studio (Roger himself a superb saxophonist who provided a solo on one song), listening to the CD now, it seems very “homegrown,” very much a “demo,” which it was really intended to be. I mentioned in a previous section of this blog that I’d hoped that other performers might like the songs and perform them themselves–which didn’t happen. I’d been doing quite a bit of composing when the recording was made, but hadn’t played piano in public for some time, so many of the piano riffs make me cringe now (No chops!). I pleaded, as did the great Tadd Dameron (more grand company!) that I simply played “composer’s piano,” but as my friend Dick Maxwell always said (actually passing out T-shirts on the first day of his creative writing classes with the words inscribed on them), “NO DISCLAIMERS!By the way, I still like the songs themselves. Anyone care to sing them? The CD is not offered online, but I’ll be happy to print a copy for you–whenever you want (Let me know at: bminor@redshift.com)

One of the songs I am quite proud of (“I Cried of Course”; Elise Rotchford, vocal; me on piano) was featured on an animated film my son Stephen put together–a film accepted for the site Poems that Go. It can be found now on my website, in the menu “Music” section: http://www.bminor.org/launch.html

Mortality Suite: Poems & Music, Bill Minor; Kanpai Records, 2008

Mortality Suite Cover4

In June, 2005, my good friend, poet Robert Sward, brought J.J. Webb to the house. J.J. was a former head of web development at Stanford University Business School, and a poet with a long history of internet editing. He had recently set up, on a site he called Beau Blue Presents, an internet broadside: Robert’s own “My Rosy Cross Father,” poems that included Mp3 sound (Robert reading), text, and graphics. J.J. asked if I would be willing to contribute eight poems for his next Beau Blue Presents venture and, because I also play piano and had composed a bit, he requested original music to accompany the spoken word presentations. I was also originally trained as a visual artist, so J.J., an artist himself, immediately went to work, going about the house and through my studio, gathering pieces of mine he felt would provide further “accompaniment,” or suitable counterpart, to the poems. When my portion was posted on Beau Blue Presents, it was called Bill Minor’s Mortality Suite: A Broadside of Jazz Riffs: http://jjwebb.ihwy.com/mortalitysuite.

Later, J.J. Webb would branch out into Flash Animation for another series called Blue’s Cruzio Cafe, and I contributed a poem, “Dreaming Sandra Bullock,” accompanied by a “cartoon” of me reciting the poem (something both fascinating and a bit scary, like watching yourself on old 8 mm films). This series has gone on to prove quite popular, cited by The Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the most innovative approaches to poetry online: http://members.cruzio.com/~cafe/greenroom.html.

After Bill Minor’s Mortality Suite appeared on J.J.’s site, I dreamed of adding to that material and presenting it as a spoken word CD (with music), and thanks to another good friend, bassist Heath Proskin (who joined me on four additional “numbers,” and also helped mix and master the CD), recording engineer Steve Mortensen, and Karl Dobbratz at Good Brother Sound, that dream came true. Once again I enjoyed the first-rate assistance of vocalists Nancy Raven and Elise Rotchford, instrumentalists Richard Mayer (flute), Karl Dobbratz (guitar), and Andy Weis (drums). And once again, Roger Eddy was responsible for recording three of the tracks. And once again, copies of this CD are available if you contact me: bminor@redshift.com.

Love Letters of Lynchburg: Voice Script and Original Music by Bill Minor; Historic Sandusky Foundation, 2010

Love Letters Cover

This CD came about while I was working on The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. While doing research on my father’s family, which goes back to 17th Century Middlesex County, Virginia, I discovered Charles Minor Blackford, my great-grandfather’s first cousin’s son, and his remarkable wife Susan. They carried on an extraordinary correspondence throughout the Civil War. I wrote three chapters on them for the memoir and then, having made two trips to the University of Virginia Special Collections Library in Charlottesville to do further research, I made the acquaintance of Gregory Starbuck, Executive Director of the Historic Sandusky Foundation in Lynchburg. Greg was completing a compilation CD called Lynchburg Melodies: History of the Hill City in Song, and when I gave him a copy of my own CD Mortality Suite, and we discussed Charles and Susan (he even took me on a tour of their former home in Lynchburg), he suggested I prepare a script based on their letters, the exchange to be read by two actors-and that I also compose an original score of music to accompany the readings.

The possibility of undertaking such a project as a commissioned piece was exciting, and I immediately started to work on the score, having asked two excellent musicians I’d been working with in California, bassist Heath Proskin, and flutist Richard Mayer, if they would be willing to participate in a recording project. I also approached two fine local actors: Taelen Thomas, whom I’d seen in splendid one man shows as everyone from John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Jack London, Daniel Boone and Teddy Roosevelt to Leonardo da Vinci (I knew he’d be just right for Charles Minor Blackford), and Kathryn Petruccelli, whom I’d seen perform as Una Jeffers, wife of poet Robinson Jeffers. With her spirited, spunky nature, her wit and intelligence and compassion, I knew she would become Susan-and she did. Everyone agreed to contribute their considerable skills to the project. I completed the music, and once again we recorded the CD at Roger Eddy’s studio. And as he has so often done, my son Steve (who designed and set up my website: www.bminor.org) came through with a handsome design for the cover.

I shaped the eleven page script from the Warwick House (1996) two volume Memoirs of Life In and Out of the Army of Virginia During the War Between the States, source of the letters along
with the Charles Scribner’s Sons (1947) abridged edition Letters from Lee s Army … We have presented four live performances of this work in the Monterey Bay Area, with Taelen Thomas as Charles Minor Blackford, Kitty Petruccelli and Marlie Avant as Susan, and instrumentalists Heath Proskin (bass), Richard Mayer and Kenny Stahl (flute), and myself on piano. At the recent “Book Launch” events for The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir, vocalist Jaqui Hope, who is also a fine actor, plays Susan to my Charles Minor Blackford. The CD is available at: http://www.historicsandusky.org./shop.htm.

In a previous post (“Bill Has a New Book Out!”), I also mentioned that a major breakthrough for me with regard to the Brave New World of digital promotion came when I began to post some of my music on YouTube–that in that area I had become a True Believer. I’d like to offer four of those efforts here: the first with a group I had called The Something Cool Trio (Heath Proskin, bass; Jenn Schaaf, drums, me on piano) playing “Ain’t Misbehavin'” at a venue called The Alternative Café; the second Richard Mayer and I playing “Lover Man” for a Wave Street Studios televised tribute to Kalisa Moore, “The Queen of Cannery Row” and proprietor of La Ida Café; the third a video of Jaqui Hope singing “You Go to My Head” (I’m providing piano accompaniment) at an opening at The Pacific Grove Art Center in Pacific Grove, California, and the last offers me reading a prose poem, “Q-Tips,” with Heath Proskin and Richard Mayer at a MHCAN (Mental Health Client Action Network) benefit in Santa Cruz.

Bill Minor Something Cool Trio at Alternative Café–Ain’t Misbehavin’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjAd39hlIWE

Bill Minor and Richard Mayer–Lover Man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUdX8RlW_0w

Jaqui Hope and Bill Minor at the Pacific Grove Art Center–You Go to My Head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT_IHYMbqxo

Bill MInor, Heath Proskin, Richard Mayer–Q-tips:ihttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PU6gcncnm2k

I’ll close out this post with another project I worked on for the Monterey Jazz Festival, and a DVD made when we presented a program at Wave Street Studios that combined work from a book, Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me (with passages set to original music) and the Mortality Suite CD.

Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years, VHS and DVD, Warner Bros., 1998

KJF DVD

Although Scott Yanow, in his book Jazz on Film, wrote, with regard to this documentary that “came out at the time of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 40th birthday,” that the “narrative, written by Bill Minor, is excellent and sums up the festival well,” he added that “one does get frustrated at the lack of music”–and a number of people who purchased the DVD (I think the VHS, which came out first, did OK) were not just frustrated but pissed off, led astray by photos of Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, and Miles Davis on the cover and thinking they would see and hear sumptuous live performances by each, which wasn’t the case. Josh Redman and Patrice Rushen were hosts for what was intended to be a sort of “grass roots” documentary on how the festival got started, its founders (Jimmy Lyons and Ralph Gleason), its “mom and pop store” origin, the stage hands and behind-the-scenes folks who gave of themselves–and still give–for its continuance, the jazz education program (I’m still proud of this section), etc.–and there is music provided by Toshiko Akiyoshi, Etta James, and Gerald Wilson–although it remains, as Yanow pointed out, “secondary to the talking,” However, for my money, the tales stage manager Paul Vieregge had to tell about Miles and Monk are worth the price of admission.

I enjoyed working on the film (initially I just provided bios for the performers to be interviewed, but after the latter was done, I was given a book of transcriptions as thick as the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and told to “make a story out of it all,” which I tried to do. It was a treat to work with Director Willy Harper–and Clint Eastwood was Executive Producer of the film.

Bill Minor Recorded Live at the Wave Street Studios October 26th 2008, DVD

Wave Street Studios DVD

This was a great night I’m happy to have a “live” record of. Actor Taelen Thomas (who was featured on the Love Letters of Lynchburg CD) read portions of work from Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me, and poems from the Mortality Suite CD, backed by original music I composed performed by Heath Proskin (bass), Richard Mayer (flute) and me on piano. We had a full house, very appreciative, and it’s a thrill to be able to sit back and witness an experience you were intensely involved in–to watch and hear it now as if you were just a member of the audience! The show was streamed live and can still be seen as it unfolds at: http://livenetworks.tv/?p=149L

I have a chapter called “Uncles” in The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir that tells some of the story of the “totally musical family” I grew up in, but we’ve had quite a bit of music here already, so I’ll save that story for another post.

More Than Just Leftovers

If you read the last post on Bill’s Blog–“Books Before The Inherited Heart”–you may well think I’ve exhausted my store of testimonials and have nothing of worth left to include under the actual “Testimonials” category–but that’s not the case, because (ho ho) there’s “plenty more where that came from” (as folks say). As I said in the “Sound Check/Getting Started” section, I’ve removed or taken off that broad-brim hat, or bushel, I once wore (hoping to remain “humble” in its shade) and, having decided to let more than just a little light shine, I’ll try to undertake “full disclosure” of whatever resources, external and internal, I may possess.

What I left out of the previous post are some gracious words I managed to gather from writers I truly respect, testimonials or “blurbs” for The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. I do have a few more commentaries on the other books–the “jazz” books–but I’ll save those for a future post.

On Tuesday, July 23, 2013, our local paper, The Herald, ran a headline that read: “It’s a boy! UK’s Kate gives birth to royal heir.” This morning, I had an appointment with Patricia Hamilton of Park Place Publications (who published The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir, and also the comic novel Trek: LIps, Sunny, Pecker and Me–and who’s assisted me enormously on setting up this blog). Arriving at her office, feeling my oats with regard to the progress we’ve made (still very much trial and error on my part) meeting “high tech” demands necessary to get Bill’s Blog off the ground, I said, “Did you see the headlines in this morning’s Herald?”–and before she could  think back to the day’s actual fare (“New delay for water plans,” focused on a serious local issue, plus “Sharing a Moment,” with a picture of the Pope kissing a child on his South America visit), I recited, “Bigger and better than news of Kate’s baby: fourth entry is posted on Bill’s Blog!” 

I don’t think it hurts, and actually feels quite good, to get carried away like that on occasion (William Blake’s “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” “Exuberance is Beauty,” and “The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.”), for you know there’ll always be something close at hand to bring you back “down” to earth again. And there has been for me.

Not everything has proved to be a roaring success so far. When I fist came out from under my bushel (to let my little light shine), I worked up the nerve to do something friends, for years, have been telling me I should do (because they felt our work was compatible): contact Garrison Keillor and send him my “stuff,” which I did, by way of a “contact” friend and poet Robert Sward of Santa Cruz suggested (Robert’s work has been read on Keillor’s morning Writer’s Almanac radio show). I wrote a cover letter and sent both The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir and the Love Letters of Lynchburg CD I’ve mentioned on this blog. A couple of weeks went by and I assumed (as I had in the past, the reason I’d never followed through on the suggestion from friends and well-wishers before) that my “stuff” was either peacefully adrift in some “Show Biz” limbo, or had ended up in a trash bin–but then, out of the blue, I received a kindly “personal” (addressed to me, and not just “Occupant” or “To Whom It May Concern”) e-mail letter stating that both book and CD had been “placed in Mr. Keillor’s office,” and that If he should select anything from what I sent, they would contact me for “obtaining the permission rights.”

I never heard from Prairie Home Companion or Writer’s Almanac again, but it was a thrill to think that–aside from the encouragement of friends and well-wishers and the fact that my acquaintance with Garrison Keillor went “way back,” back to when I used both Happy to Be Here and Lake Wobegon Days in a course in American Humor and Comedy I taught for eight years at Monterey Peninsula College–he just might have taken a cursory look at the book or a quick listen to the CD.

I also contacted a writer whom I’d accompanied on piano while he sang blues at the Foothill Writers Conference, when we both were guest faculty members there: Alan Cheuse, who’s been reviewing books on NPR’s All Things Considered since the 1980s (about the time I met him). I wrote Alan about The Inherited Heart and its spinoff, the Love Letters of Lynchburg CD, and he responded immediately, saying he found the joint project “lovely,” and said that, if I sent him copies (which I did), he would pass word of their existence on to his producers–but once again, that’s the last I heard.

Close maybe, but no cigar. “One never knows, do one?” as Fats Waller used to sing. I might have been inclined to sing some blues myself over what failed to pan out (my favorite stanza is one Jimmy Witherspoon came up with: “If fish can love in water, moles love underground;/ If fish can love in water, moles love underground;/ If rats can love in a garbage can/Woman, you better not let me down!”), but I recalled that Dick Maxwell, who initiated and then successfully ran the Foothill Writers Conference for years, and taught creative writing at the college, used to pass out, on the first day of class, a T-shirt to each of his students that read: “No Disclaimers”–so I am trying (along with learning everything there is to learn about this Brave New World of digital self-presentation  and interaction) to adopt an unapologetic attitude as well.

As writers, it seems we need to remember that, in baseball, if a batter gets a hit three out of ten balls pitched to him, he’s doing fine. And a neural surgeon: three out of ten successful operations? Well, odds for success obviously vary for each occupation–so I won’t try to figure out what they come down to for writers.

I do have, by way of compensation, a number of responses to The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir–testimonials from writers I respect very much–so here’s that book again, along with some photos that can be found in it: my mother at age twenty, with her Eton Crop hairdo, this photo taken when she attended Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City and won a “1st Prize” gold medal for speed typing; my father at age fourteen, looking as if he were in his mid-twenties, having gone to work on Arkansas road crews at age thirteen, after his father died; my grandfather (my dad’s dad) at age sixteen, who joined the Confederate Army at fourteen, was shot and thought dead at Cumberland Church two days before Appomattox, but survived to manufacture my father at age fifty-seven; my maternal grandfather, a “Yankee” surgeon in the 18th N.Y.V. Cavalry; and me at age nineteen, when I took off from Detroit on my own to attend Pratt Institute, an art school in Brooklyn.

Inherited Heart Blog Cover  Mom at 20    Dad at 14

Grandfather Minor at 16    Grandfather Gail    Me at 19 when I went to Art School in NYC

“Like the family it celebrates, The Inherited Heart is a bold and fascinating book. William Minor is a charming and endlessly generous chronicler, and his love for these ghosts from his past is truly contagious. Every page is an irresistible trip back in time.”–Christopher Hebert, author of The Boiling Season

 “What makes Bill Minor’s memoir a page-turner is its steady, authentic wisdom. Minor’s narrative is guided by an aesthetic of experience, in which peril and risk inform the maturing self. Raised in what he calls lovingly ‘a house of metaphor,’ Minor skillfully combines the hard-knocks world of boxing with the ‘robbed-time’ effects of jazz, to tease euphoria and joy out of pain and loss. This book is a shining gift to a culture adrift in affect and hungry for meaning.”–Dustin Beall Smith, author of Key Grip

“When one reads a book by Bill Minor, the stories themselves are as colorful and fascinating as the way he writes. His command of the English language mixes together the universal with the esoteric, the witty with the insightful. The author’s storytelling in The Inherited Heart is a consistent delight, filled with original personalities, surprising twists and turns, and humanity. His tales about growing up and discovering and savoring the mysteries of life are so detailed and vivid that they are well worth reading several times.”–Scott Yanow, author of ten books on jazz including The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76

“Bill Minor is a writer, teacher, musician, poet, and producer. He brings all of this to The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir. He bravely explores the good and bad of over 400 years of family history – one ancestor who may have captained a ship that carried slaves, and another who fought for their emancipation—and he is also humble. That his family knew Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, General Ulysses Grant, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman gets buried beneath his determination to tell the whole story … In some ways this book speaks with two voices: one to people like me who are fascinated with the sweep of history seen through the eyes of the everyman who happens to be close to the events that shape history.  The other voice speaks to his children and their children and their children yet unborn.  This voice waits patiently to be discovered many decades from now. For these generations of his family yet to come, finding this book will be discovering a treasure.  To them I say – your ancestor William Minor was a very nice man, a great artist, and funny … He comes by his humor honestly and academically (he taught a college course on American Humor and Comedy for eight years).  Describing his mother: ‘Our favorite Dorothyism, however, is her response to a visitor who, when my father was quite advanced in years, praised him for not looking his age, saying that my father had very few wrinkles on his face. My mother thought about this for awhile, then said, ‘That’s because he never uses his face”‘ … What a complete pleasure it was to read this book and experience the breadth of a great American family.”–Robert Danziger, author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Energy Independence

“Deny it as one may, our hearts are part and parcel of our lineage. As Bill’s title suggests, the emphasis here is on heart and how one is formed by ‘ghosts,’ one’s brethren who, over time, one learns to acknowledge and affirm if not embrace. At once a memoir and a meditation, The Inherited Heart traces Bill Minor’s family history back to 17th Century America, and the author, distinguished poet, painter, musician and storyteller, does justice to a cast of characters that includes Thomas Trowbridge (b. 1590, ‘the first of his family to come to America’) and his descendants. This is a wonderfully rich, deeply moving and evocative family saga–one of the most insightful and humorous I have read.”–Robert Sward, author of New & Selected Poems, 1957-2011

“In a not-so-dark or smoky lounge, a white-haired and bearded, hipster-looking pianist belted out stories as glorious as the sounds bouncing from the keys. After reading Bill Minor’s The Inherited Heart, I discovered it wasn’t the beer we’d been drinking that had done the talking. In this memoir, Minor reveals succulent and surprising strings of history by weaving a colorful and intricate tapestry of his past.”–Dan Linehan, author and poet

“William Minor’s The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir is a candid look at one man’s individual journey through nearly eight decades of life. Using historical documents, ancestral correspondence, and numerous photographs, it also draws upon his family’s collective journey through 400 years of United States history … The Inherited Heart goes beyond autobiography or history. Like life itself, it’s serious, raucous, reflective, dramatic, and often hilarious … Minor’s background is as impressive as it is eclectic: professional jazz musician from the age of sixteen, amateur boxer, artist, poet, novelist, college teacher, and chronicler of jazz on three continents … In the opening paragraph of his preface, he lays out his goal: ‘When I was seventeen years old I was, aside from St Paul, the most serious human being ever to walk the face of the earth. When I was seven years old, I was a precocious clown, entertaining my family at dinner with imitations of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny and material I stole from Milton Berle’s Joke Book. I am now of somewhat advanced age and attempting to reconcile not only these two discordant elements in my life–solemnity and playfulness–but others as well’ … Writing in an engaging, highly readable style–one that’s always informed by warmth, humor, and intelligence–Minor succeeds admirably. The Inherited Heart comes from an open heart, and it tells not only a great American story but a great human story as well.”–Sterling Johnson, Author of Dangerous Knaves.

The joys and sorrows of writing books are not just confined to the books themselves–and occasionally a joy will arrive that had not been anticipated. I mentioned–in a previous blog (“Bill Has a New Book Out!”)–the CD, Love Letters of Lynchburg, I recorded for the Historic Sandusky Foundation in Virginia, a script for two voices and original music I composed as a spinoff from chapters in the book (http://www.historicsandusky.org/shop.htm) . A similar spinoff or side effect took place when, sixteen years after Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years was published, I was hired to provide copy for an amazing project, a collaboration between the Monterey Jazz Festival and Monterey/Salinas Transit: three JAZZ BUS lines that feature bright orange vehicles decorated with lively “jazz” designs, thirty-three handsome shelters (I provided copy for 28 of them, and the Festival’s graphic artist, Phil Wellman, supplied fine historic photos)—and, an added touch: if you have a “smart phone,” you can make a connection with a bar code and listen to music from that year (each shelter represents a different year of the Festival)  while waiting for your bus! Talk about State of the Art ways to get word out about a worthwhile “product” (both Festival and the transit system!). Here’s a photo of one of the buses, one of the shelters, and one of me standing beside 1963—a “very good year,” with Jack Teagarden, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck all on hand to perform!

MST-Bus-1 JAZZ-Shelter   Bill at JAZZ BUS Shelter

And speaking of music … the next post will be devoted exclusively to that!