Tuesday, March 24, 2009

King Pleasure's Birthday Today

(From my column that appeared in the now defunct LA Jazz Dispatch in the June 1981 issue) _____
First it was Cat Anderson earlier this year. Then, on March 21st, King Pleasure (Clarence Beeks) also passed away. He died of heart attack in a convalescent home in Los Angeles. Both were important and vital jazz talents, and both had resided in the LA area for many years; although it was mistakenly assumed that the obscure Pleasure had been dead for a while. Most biographical information on the vocalese pioneer reported his whereabouts as “unknown,” hence the suspicion by some that he was deceased. He was 58 when he died in March. The singer’s one great splash was with his popular reworking of vocalist Eddie Jefferson’s “Moody’s Mood for Love,” which in turn was a take on the standard, “I‘m in the Mood for Love.” But he was an adept lyric writer himself having invented words for numerous re-renderings of classic jazz solos such as those of Charlie Parker. The altoist’s “Going to Kansas City” became a Pleasure recording, “Parker’s Mood.” As obituaries for him begin appearing in the near future, perhaps clues will be offered regarding Pleasure’s low visibility in recent years.
Postscript: Years later, after writing this, I encountered the singer’s last drummer, John Gilbert, on the internet. Here is what he wrote on his website: “This picture of me was taken in 1965 by King Pleasure at a service club in North Carolina. He was traveling through that part of the country using local rhythm sections. [Singer] Earl Coleman recommended me to King Pleasure for the gig, and it turned out to be a lasting friendship. I came to California in 1969 and we played some in L.A. until his health failed badly (emphysema). Pleasure stayed with my wife and I for a while in Sherman Oaks, Ca. My son was an infant and he would serenade him to sleep. I was also associated with Earl Coleman at the time. King Pleasure was initially impressed with the fact that I knew all of the words to 'Moody's Mood For Love' and other tunes that he had recorded. He was a sweet man and very helpful to me. Pleasure related to me that the greatest moment in his musical career came in New England. He was at a low point in his life, sitting at the back of a bus when a group of school children boarded the bus and one was chirping out 'Moody's Mood' which was a hit at the time. They had no idea that the figure in the back of the bus was the man himself. He got a big kick out of this and often happily reflected on that moment in time.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. It makes me also think of another bebop vocalist, Joe Carroll. When I saw Joe in the mid-1970's, he told me to be sure to telephone him when I was in New York City. I said, "But Joe, how do I find you in the book? There must be 50 Joe Carroll's in NYC!" He said, "Yeah, but I'm the only black one!!"