Saturday, August 15, 2009

Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax can RIP soon

2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis
with the Smokin' Torpedoes (talking to a fan)

Writing Leroy 'Hog' Cooper on Sax has not been easy. The best part was sitting in his home listening to him tell me the stories of his life, dating back to about 1936. Stories about growing up in Dallas through hard times in a middle class black neighborhood, learning to play reed instruments as a child, attending high school, college and joining his first big band. Being drafted interrupted his musical career until he auditioned by the Army Band where he played baritone sax and became the bandleader.

Not long after leaving the service, he became a member of the Ray Charles Band, a small group at the time that wasn't getting much respect. It took years before the country recognized the blind, musical genius and his supporting cast, one of which was Leroy Cooper.

His life took many twists and turns and I enjoyed hearing every single story. I wish I could say the same about the work involved in writing the book. It has been a rigorous undertaking and a labor of love. Leroy and I had no signed contract, but as was Leroy's nature, we shook on the deal. Now Leroy has left us behind to listen to his music and read his story. He kept his end of the bargain by telling me his stories. Now I am honoring him by completing this labor of love.

I am delighted to have received some amazing photos of Leroy to use in the book; some with Ray Charles, others with the Dixieland Deltas from his 20 years strolling the grounds of Disney World entertaining guests. Pictures of Leroy being Leroy, with a cigar in his hand, a drink in front of him and empty dishes -- all of which he was known for, especially the empty dishes since his self described addiction was to food more than anything.

I'm still adding stories told to me at our last meeting. Then the manuscript goes to the professional editors, I go to the publisher's with the photos and work on the cover art. There is still plenty of work to be done before I hold the finished product in my hand but momentum is building.

Leroy Cooper knows I'm a woman of my word. I made a promise and I am keeping it.

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