1952 -


backstage with duke ellington by sk dunn



when i first met carroll (on my 16th birthday) in 1952 i kept running away from the various institutions they had stuck me in to go stay with him in D C.  they finally gave up and let me go.  so for the next few years i lived with him in a small basement apartment in southwest (a black neighborhood) and worked at all sorts of crummy jobs which i would quit after a few months and go on hitch-hiking trips up and down the east coast. (FREE AT LAST !!)  


carroll use to take me to live jazz shows around washington and that's how i ended up at the howard theater to see duke ellington.  i had developed the strategy of getting back stage by saying i wanted the stars autograph (things were a lot looser around celebrities in those days) and when i got backstage that night, duke was on a pay phone talking to someone and i hung around waiting for him while he talked and we grinned at each other. . .it was great fun and when he was finished he signed my program and talked to me for a little while and said "love you madly" when he left. 


of historical interest;  the night we went to see the duke was the same day that louis bellson, duke's drummer announced that he was leaving the band to marry pearl bailey and lead her band.  this caused a huge scandal because he was white. pearl bailey was playing at a night club in town and we went over to see her after the show at the howard.  we had just seen bellson playing with duke and he was there playing with  pearl at the nightclub. . .all very exciting !! 


by sk dunn




Above:  sk's daughter, Jessie, backstage

at the Napa Valley Playhouse, 1976.



*  *  *



NOTE:  you can visit sk dunn and her beloved dog leonard greycloud at: