PEnsacola JAzz Society

For the Public History Methodologies course, I worked with two other students to complete a project researching Jazz musicians from Pensacola, FL for the Music Makers Hall of Fame held in the historic Belmont-Devilliers Arts District. Working with Society President, Norman Vickers, we picked five award recipients to research and properly record their histories. Combing through newspapers, conducting oral histories, and working with the Belmont-Devilliers Neighborhood Association resulted in a self-published record of Gigi Gryce, Ida Goodson, Harold Andrews, Junior Cook, and Slim Gaillard.  

Presenting the book and collected oral histories to the president of the Pensacola Jazz Society.  L to R: Sarah Fugarino, Mariah Hills, Norman Vickers, Ian Hamilton

Presenting the book and collected oral histories to the president of the Pensacola Jazz Society.  L to R: Sarah Fugarino, Mariah Hills, Norman Vickers, Ian Hamilton

"Music Makers Hall of Fame" Book

A collaborative project by myself and two other grad students, Sarah and Mariah, for the Pensacola Jazz Society. Norman Vickers, President of the Jazz Society, was the client and wanted help documenting the stories of these jazz musicians, as their stories are often lost to time. We researched the five musicians and recorded them in this self-published book, which are housed in the UWF History Department, West Florida History Center, UWF Historic Trust, and with our academic adviser, Dr. Patrick Moore. 

Photo Credit: May 13, 1954 "Jet Magazine" Vol. 6, No. 1. Published by Johnson Publishing Company via Google Books. Slim Gaillard with Fred J. Muggs. 

Photo Credit: May 13, 1954 "Jet Magazine" Vol. 6, No. 1. Published by Johnson Publishing Company via Google Books. Slim Gaillard with Fred J. Muggs. 

Slim Gaillard

My largest contribution was researching one of the most complicated histories I had ever come across. Bulee "Slim" Gaillard is what Norman Vickers like to refer to as a "bullshitter." The musician claimed, at various times, that he was born in Detroit and two of his estranged children claimed that he was born in Cuba. His date of birth is also up for debate, as well as any other part of his personal history. Through extensive searching through family documents, tax records, newspapers, and personal accounts, I was able to determine that Slim spent much of his childhood in and around Pensacola and was most likely born in Monroe County, Alabama. It was never clear why Slim distanced himself from a town he spent his formative years. 

Wally Mercer Jr.'s Music Makers Hall of Fame Award. 

Wally Mercer Jr.'s Music Makers Hall of Fame Award. 

Oral History

I met Wally "The Cat" Mercer Jr. through Tony McCray from the Belmont-Devilliers Neighborhood Association. The Cat, as well as his father Wally Sr., was inducted into the Music Maker Hall of Fame on July 5, 1992. I was able to record an oral history with the musician to preserve his life, passion for jazz, and knowledge of Pensacola's history for posterity in UWF's archive. Despite Wally Jr.'s age, he was as lively as I have seen anyone while talking about music and jazz. This was my first proper oral history and it was a complete success. I realized that I enjoy listening to stories from others, but more than that, I enjoy recording their stories so they will not be forgotten over time.