© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jazz Festival Honors the Legendary Dizzy Gillespie in His Hometown

A statue of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie outside his family home in Cheraw, SC.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio
A statue of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie outside his family home in Cheraw, SC.

Events are underway this week in the Chesterfield County town of Cheraw for the S.C. Jazz Festival.  This year's festival, the 12th annual Jazz Festival, has special significance because on October 21, 1917 jazz great Dizzy Gillespie was born in Cheraw.   Although Gillespie died in 1993 at age 75, his musical legacy endures.

Veteran jazz performer, and professor of music at Lander University Dr. Robert Gardiner says Dizzy Gillespie was perhaps the greatest trumpet player ever.

John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie learned to play musical instruments in the Chesterfield County public schools.  He organized his first band by the age of 14, and by the 1940's was performing with some of the nation's best known big bands.  However, according to Professor Robert Gardiner he's best known along with fellow musician Charlie Parker as the undisputed "master" of Be-Bop jazz. 

Gillespie's lifetime of performing and music innovation brought him much recognition, including the National Medal of Arts, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

His legacy is a big part of the annual S.C. Jazz Festival this weekend (Oct. 20-22) in his hometown where jazz musicians from across state and nation will perform at numerous local venues.

Events this year also include a Be-Bop parade, performances in the local schools, and of course a lot of jazz.

In the Cheraw town square there's a life-size statue of Dizzy Gillespie playing his trademark "bent" trumpet.  This weekend  his spirit and his music will be alive as jazz lovers, and the state celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday.

Link to SC Jazz Festival: http://www.scjazzfestival.com/

Russ McKinney has 30 years of experience in radio news and public affairs. He is a former broadcast news reporter in Spartanburg, Columbia and Atlanta. He served as Press Secretary to former S.C. Governor Dick Riley for two terms, and for 20 years was the chief public affairs officer for the University of South Carolina.