Soon after high school, Clark Terry traveled with Ida Cox and the Darktown Scandals in the Reuben and Cherry Carnival. After finishing a tour, the group went south from Pennsylvania to its winter quarters in Jacksonville, Florida. Clark said, ‘I was hanging out with William Oval Austin. We called him Fats Austin. He was a bass player. We had no warm-weather clothes. We went to the five and ten cent store to buy some T-shirts. They cost about 15 cents in those days.’
The store was crowded and Austin bumped into an elderly white woman who used a cane. She started screaming, ‘That nigger tried to knock me down. Kill him, kill him!’ Clark and his friend edged their way to the door, and as soon as they were outside began to run. A huge, screaming mob formed behind and ran after them. They came to a construction site, where a new round building was being erected. Fortunately for them it was a Saturday and the site was deserted. They ran into it. Clark pulled Austin down into an excavation and the two young men covered themselves with mud and debris. They could hear the crowd running above them. At last a silence descend. ‘But we stayed buried in that mud till dark,’ Clark said. At last, cautiously, they crawled out of the excavation and left.
Gene Lees, Cats of Any Color:
jazz black and white
Oxford: OUP, 1995, 189
Clark Terry - Flugelhorn
Bob Brookmeyer - Valve Trombone