Cover image for Groovin' high : the life of Dizzy Gillespie
Groovin' high : the life of Dizzy Gillespie
Shipton, Alyn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 422 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1600 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML419.G54 S55 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Dizzy Gillespie was one of the most important and best loved musicians in jazz history. With his dark glasses, goatee, jive talk, and upraised trumpet bell, he was the hipster who most personified bebop. The musical heir to Louis Armstrong, he created the basic jazz trumpet-playing style anddazzled aficionados and popular audiences alike for over 50 years. In this first full biography, Alyn Shipton covers all aspects of Dizzy's remarkable life and career, taking us through his days as a flashy trumpet player in the swing bands of the 1930s, his innovative bebop work in the 1940s, the worldwide fame and adoration he earned through his big bandtours in the 1950s, and the many recordings and performances which defined a career that extended into the early 1990s. Along the way, Shipton convincingly argues that Gillespie--rather than Charlie Parker as is widely believed--had the greatest role in creating bebop, playing in key jazz groups,teaching the music to others, and helping to develop the first original bebop repertory. Shipton traces the Gillespie-Parker relationship, starting in the bands of Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine in the early 1940s, to their famous 1944-46 group that set the form for bebop, and culminating in theirextraordinary concert at Massey Hall in Toronto in 1953. Shipton also explores the dark side of Dizzy's mostly sunny personal life, his womanizing, the illegitimate daughter he fathered and supported--now a respected jazz singer in her own right--and his sometimes needless cruelty to others. For anyone interested in jazz and one of its most innovative and appealing figures, Groovin' High is essential reading.

Author Notes

Alyn Shipton presents jazz programs for the BBC in London and is also a jazz critic for The Times in London.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Groovin' High, the first full biography of the late, great jazz trumpeter since his death in 1993, may be the definitive one. It seems that British jazz critic Shipton has left no stone unturned in compiling this very complete portrait of the life of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. He has mined every imaginable source for his book, interviewing musicians, poring over articles in the music press, and even checking musicians' union records to separate fact from fiction. In parts the book suffers from too much detail, potentially smothering the casual reader. But a life as rich and colorful as Dizzy's will captivate anyone with knowledge of or curiosity about jazz, and Shipton does his subject justice. He starts with Gillespie's poor childhood in South Carolina, where he first taught himself to play, continuing through the big bands of the '40s and '50s. Most captivating are the descriptions of Dizzy leading a big band on goodwill tours for the U.S. State Department, charming audiences in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central America as an international "Ambassador of Jazz." An excellent book. --Ted Leventhal

Publisher's Weekly Review

Challenging the conventional view that saxophonist Charlie Parker set the pace for the bebop generation, this engrossing biography of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) makes the case that Diz was in many ways a "more original, wide-ranging and innovative" bebop pioneer. In a vibrant blend of meticulous scholarship, swinging anecdote and astute music criticism, London Times jazz critic Shipton charts Gillespie's creative evolution, from his heady plunge into New York's swing-era scene of the late 1930s, through his revolutionary experimentation of the 1940s and '50s, to his slide in the '60s and his reinvention of himself as the elder statesman of jazz. Born John Birks Gillespie in South Carolina, where he faced grinding poverty and racial prejudice, Dizzy's happy-go-lucky exterior concealed a quickfire temper and a mean streak that Shipton attributes to his sadistic bricklayer father. Beneath the hipster persona, the beret and goatee, Shipton shows, was a man of formidable intelligence. A contradictory figure, Gillespie prided himself on his outwardly exemplary life with his wife, Lorraine Willis, who acted as his personal manager; the public revelation in 1990 that he had fathered an illegitimate daughterÄsinger Jeanie BrysonÄwith white songwriter Connie Bryson ripped the lid off his secret life. Shipton credits Gillespie's embrace of the Baha'i faith by 1970 as key to the spiritual growth that allowed him to assume the roles of teacher and prophet for a generation of younger musicians. A must for jazz aficionados, this exhaustively researched biography features a supporting cast that reads like a who's who of jazz history: Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Max Roach and many, many more. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie's wish to be remembered as a humanitarian is well served by jazz critic Shipton's fully realized biography. Since Gillespie's death in 1993, an in-depth biography of this jazz innovator has been eagerly awaited. While Barry McRae's short Dizzy Gillespie: His Life and Times (1989) was an admirable stopgap, Shipton has fulfilled the need for a biography rich in detail and analysis. Providing surprising and convincing insight into the development of bebop, Shipton's depth of understanding of the birth of this vibrant movement, together with on-target analysis of Gillespie's recorded output, makes this an exceptional tribute. The important role of Gillespie's collaborators (particularly musicians and arrangers) is noted as well, reminding us that the music, though inspired by Gillespie, was brought to fruition by many exceptional peopleÄall part of Gillespie's vital musical heritage. Recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄWilliam Kenz, Moorhead State Univ. Lib., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This volume joins an already crowded Gillespie shelf, one that includes a half-dozen book-length studies by other authors and the trumpeter's own autobiography/oral history, To Be or Not To Bop, with Al Fraser (CH, Dec'79). Possibly in the interest of distinguishing his account from what has preceded it, Shipton set a perhaps overly ambitious agenda: to defend his problematic contention (expounded on the first page) that Gillespie "was a far more wide-ranging, original, and innovative musician than (Charlie) Parker." The ensuing argument is at times forced, as when Shipton, thoroughly enamored with his subject, asserts that Gillespie was "one of the great human beings of the twentieth century." But although this carefully researched study inevitably retraces much of the factual information already in print, Shipton does offer fresh details and insights, many via the impressive array of secondary sources from which he draws. Yet the tone and style cannot compare to the rich vividness of the first-person accounts (even with their inevitable exaggerations and distortions) presented in To Be or Not To Bop. For graduate, research, and professional collections. V. J. Panetta; Wellesley College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
1 The Boy from Cherawp. 3
2 Philadelphia and the First Bandsp. 21
3 Teddy Hill and Edgar Hayesp. 33
4 The First Recordsp. 50
5 Cab Calloway and the Dawn of Bebopp. 57
6 The Calloway Recordingsp. 76
7 Horn for Hirep. 87
8 From Earl Hines to 52nd Streetp. 107
9 Billy Eckstinep. 128
10 Bird, Big Band, and Berg'sp. 140
11 1945--The Recordsp. 158
12 The Big Band, 1946-50p. 179
13 The Big Band Recordsp. 211
14 Dee Gee, Paris, and Massey Hallp. 229
15 International Soloistp. 253
16 The 1950s Big Bandsp. 275
17 Gillespianap. 293
18 Dizzy for Presidentp. 320
19 Giant of Jazzp. 335
20 Old Man Timep. 351
Notesp. 365
Bibliographyp. 395
Indexp. 399