Vanderbilt Acquires John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie Collection

The Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries recently received a major archival collection, The John Birks ‘Dizzy’ Gillespie Collection, as part of the collaborative Academic Archives Purchasing Fund with the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) and Vanderbilt University. Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993), an instrumental figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz, was a trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer, and educator. The collection includes his own collection of photographs, autographs, personal records, appointment/address books, signed LPs from fellow musicians, and scrapbooks that document the life and career of Gillespie. In 1956, the U.S. State Dept. commissioned Gillespie to organize a band to tour the Middle East. The concerts were well-received and earned him the nickname “the Ambassador of Jazz.” Included in this collection are three scrapbooks that document this important tour. Also documented in this collection are African American musicians such as Paul Robeson and Roy Eldridge, whom Gillespie regularly acknowledged for their immense impact on his work. Correspondence and photographs with friends Charlie Parker, Jim Henson, and Chuck Mangione are highlights of the collection. This acquisition is the 1000th manuscript collection added to the libraries’ finding aids. See the MyVU story.

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