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Jazz and Drugs in 1960

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For the November 1960 issue of Playboy, the magazine assembled a panel of musicians to discuss drug addiction in the jazz world and the public's perception of jazz as a result. The topic was a hot one back then, coming off the 1950s. And yet in historical perspective, the topic's urgency seems somewhat ludicrous. Within seven years, drugs would become an integral part of the rock and youth culture, resulting in psychedelic album covers, masses of stoned concertgoers and rock-star overdoses.

But in 1960, jazz and drug use were virtually synonymous, thanks in some measure to Hollywood's portrayal of jazz  musicians as scatterbrained psychotics and corrupting influences. One assumes that Playboy, the sponsor of the first indoor jazz festival in 1959, was hoping to show readers (and potential concert-goers) that not all jazz musicians were bad eggs, particularly the ones they hoped to feature on stage.

The roundtable discussion was moderated by Max Cohen, an attorney and legal expert onnarcotics addiction, and someone named Dr. Winick, director of Research of the Narcotics Addiction Research Project. The panelists were Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Billy Taylor, Shelly Manne, Jimmy Giuffre and Nat Hentoff.

Here's the opening paragraph followed by a link to the full discussion...

PLAYBOY: Our purpose, gentlemen, in this first Playboy Panel, is to discuss narcotics addiction and the jazz musician. We might put it another way: to what extent is addiction a special problem of the jazzman? How common is the use of narcotics among musicians, and to what degree is the public attitude a reflection of the facts. We aren't in search of dogmatic conclusions: rather, we'd like to stimulate thought, to ventilate the subject and let in the light of knowledge and experience—which you men have.

Stan Kenton, you have not only been in the very forefront of advanced big-band jazz since the early Forties, you've also been a long-time, articulate spokesman for jazzmen. Why don't you lead off? There are an estimated 60,000 drug addicts in this country: how common is narcotics addiction in the jazz field?

For the full text, go here.


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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

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