Thursday, March 23, 2017

Genius Anywhere

So I'm reading this biography of Charlie Parker and the author tells a bit about the life of Buster Smith who was a huge influence and mentor to Bird. Buster Smith revolutionized how people perceived the alto saxophone. He played with everybody...Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald just to name a few. But he only recorded one album as a leader. But back in the 1930's he was huge.

But one thing stuck out in this passage. Stanley Crouch says Buster Smith was born in a small town near Dallas but didn't say exactly where. I live near Dallas so I did some quick internet research and found that Buster Smith was from Alsdorf, Texas. I had no idea where that was, had never heard of it.

Turns out Alsdorf is not too far from where I work. Right down the road less than 20 minutes away. But from what I can tell on Google Maps there's nothing really there. At it's height, it was the site of some cotton gins and had a population no more than a hundred folks. The post office closed in the 1920's and the last population data from fifty years ago has the population around 40 people. Today it is an unincorporated area halfway between tiny Rosser and Ennis.

I'd like to take a drive down that way. In its hey day Alsdorf had three businesses. I doubt there's any businesses there these days. Google Earth shows a few mobile homes and some farm homes scattered about. Pretty crazy that one of the great early purveyors of American jazz grew up in that spot. Smith traveled around but eventually settled in Dallas. He died in 1991 in Dallas.

I would be surprised that anyone living on Old Alsdorf Road today knows that a musical revolutionary once lived on their road. Wish a sign or something could be put up on the side of the road or something. Maybe I should contact a county commissioner or something. That would be a pretty cool thing...a lonely signpost reminding the few passersby that genius once resided there.