Born: February 9, 1936 | Died: August 31, 2008 Primary Instrument: Piano
Papa's life story mirrors much of the history of jazz in San Francisco over the past 50 years. He may be under the radar of many current jazz fans, but the significance of his career can be tracked through the dozens of young musicians who have found him a caring and trusted mentor as they make the transition from student to professional musician.
When I came to town, all the trumpet players were telling me about playing with B.J., Hung says. You learn a lot of songs because B.J. knows them all, and he helps you gain experience and exposure. A lot of the young cats got their start with him, and I feel privileged to be part of that lineage.
Papa was born in Mobile, Ala., in the 1930s, and by the '40s he was listening to all kinds of jazz and blues on the radio. Drafted in 1954, Papa became a medic and was stationed at Letterman Hospital in the Presidio. But he ended up spending much of his service time playing on Army ball teams.
At 19, Papa found himself intrigued with the jazz bands booked into the Army noncommissioned officers clubs. After his discharge from the service in 1956, Papa stayed in town and began saxophone lessons. He also made his first forays intowould show up to listen and learn at the famous after-hours jams at Jimbo's Bop City, in the heart of the bustling Fillmore Street jazz community.
from PEARL'S JAM by Jerry Karp, Sunday, August 21, 2005, San Francisco Chronicle