Welcome to Birdland
It was sometime after my sixteenth birthday that my two best friends and I decided that we were going to go to Birdland.
We were all in love with the music. Jerry played piano and even formed his own jazz trio. Larry was a singer and was making the transition from Doo-Wop to being a jazz vocalist, (he had recently gotten a Mark Murphy album). I had been into piano earlier and had just fallen in love with the guitar.
The three of us planned for weeks to make this pilgrimage to our musical Mecca. Being under age was the first problem to solve. I don't think there is anything more resourceful than a sixteen year old on a mission. We borrowed or made up the appropriate identification, and had gotten permission from Jerry's Mom to use her car supposedly for a local school event. We saved up every penny we could beg, borrow or steal and on one warm Saturday night in May we were on our way.
It was a good twenty-mile trip from the small suburban town we lived in to downtown Manhattan. We parked the car not far from the club and with a flush of anticipation and a sense of freedom (after all we were adults now), we walked down 52nd street to the club.
There was this long flight of stairs going down and at the bottom was a man the size of a Buick Riviera guarding the entrance. It was our moment of truth and we faced it with all the conviction and courage we could muster. Nearly trembling we handed our ID's to this burly looking tattooed man. Without ever looking up at us he handed us back our ID's and said the three words I can still hear to this day, "Welcome to Birdland."
This was the beginning of my journey into the world of Jazz, the clubs, and the musicians who inhabit them and after many twists, turns, and traveled roads finds me here today sharing these images and moments I have saved hopefully for all of us to enjoy. Bob Barry