COLUMN 105, MAY 1, 2004
(Copyright © 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THE BOWERY POETRY CLUB
MAY 27 MULTICULTURAL MUSIC JAM SESSION AND BOOKSIGNING PARTY
Wendy Oxenhorn was born in
Brooklyn and raised in Westchester. At age ten, when her mother broke the news
to her that in fact, little Wendy's dream of becoming a Raylette, would at
this moment in history, never be possible, with a broken heart, she decided to
become a ballerina and traveled daily to Manhattan to dance with New York City
Ballet and their School. At 14, she moved here on her own for this purpose,
living in Greenwich Village, subletting Holly Woodlawn's apartment on West 10th
Street. At her peak, she suffered a devastating knee injury and her career was
finished, causing her to telephone a suicide hotline in a deep state of
depression. Fortunately, the suicide hotline counselor was more depressed the
she was, and she ended up counseling the counselor, which began a long road of
service in the non-profit world, mostly helping the homeless and children of
Until recently, Wendy was
best known for her part in co-founding STREET NEWS, the
newspaper that employed the homeless in New York City. At its peak STREET
NEWS employed 2,000 homeless and jobless men and women and had a circulation
of a quarter of a million. STREET NEWS gave
birth to 150 homeless-sold newspapers around the world.
years ago, tragedy struck again in the form of a tragic love affair with an
Italian composer. This dealt Wendy a tremendous blow, but instead of picking up
the phone to call a suicide hotline, she picked up the Italian composer's
harmonica and began to play. She practiced every chance she got. This was the
first time in her life that she found something to replace the feeling she had
gotten from dance.
One day, waiting on a train
at Penn Station, she heard the one and only underground sound of Floyd Lee, the
last of the real deal blues men from Mississippi, who at age 73, still plays the
stations. She began playing with him, earning her blues dues for over a year by
passing the tip bucket and getting him recorded so they could sell a CD.
They did very well. In fact, they became family. This was better than
becoming a Raylette. She was now a train station blues man.
Their musical partnership
came to an end when Floyd got himself a young Jamaican woman in her fifties who
refused to let a "girl? be in the band. Wendy understood, and left the band,
but she was now more broken hearted than even after the tragic love affair with
the Italian Composer. Thinking there would never be another real deal blues man
in the train stations of NYC who she could play with and knowing there would
never be another Floyd Lee, she gave up the underground life and began to play
with a young blues guitarist at a dive bar in the Village. This was quite a
change from playing with Floyd. In the train stations, where she was used to
making $150 at rush hour and still getting home in time to cook dinner for her
two kids. The late-night club scene would require babysitters and there was no
money in coming to a club and "just sitting in." Then, as luck would have
it, the new band leader got married and his new wife did not want Wendy to play
with them anymore.
A higher purpose had to be
in order. How was it possible that she was robbed of being a Raylette, a
ballerina, and her romance with the Italian composer (who looked and sang
exactly like Jacques Brel), and now, not
being able to play and be part of the two blues families she had found?
But as we all know by now,
something always comes along to show you why it had to change. Two weeks later,
a friend told her that there was a need for an Executive Director at the Jazz
Foundation of America. With her extensive non-profit background and her having
just become a musician, she was given the job.
Wendy now runs the Jazz
Foundation of America and in a few years, the organization has gone from helping
35 musicians a year to now approximately 300. She has raised over a million dollars for the organization
through her annual benefit concerts at the Apollo, A GREAT NIGHT IN HARLEM.
This year, Wendy received an award at the Grammy Luncheon in L.A for her work
helping musicians across the country. The award was presented by Dick Parsons of
AOL/Time Warner, one of her new supporters.
She has also been working on the dream of building the first Player's
Residence so some of the elderly musicians will not have to be homeless ever
Wendy has since found
another real deal guitarist from Chicago to play with, Ladell McLin,whom for the
past two years, she has managed and promoted. Their story is in a four-page
feature article by MTV writer, Kara Manning, in JAZZIZ Magazine and can be read
Wendy has played with Sugar
Blue, James Blood Ulmer, Billy Cox, Sweet Georgia Brown, Junior Mance, Charles
Davis, Benny Powell, Doc Pittman, Zeke Mullins, Bob Cranshaw, Joe Lee Wilson,
Danny Moore, Harold Mabern, Melvin Sparks, Pete Cosey, J.T. Lewis, Gary Bartz,
John Stubblefield and Bernard Purdy, among others---in venuesthat include
Chicago Blues, The Bamboo Room, A & M Roadhouse, Showman's in Harlem, the
Apollo Theater and BB King's---she was the first female harp player to open
the club in its first two weeks,. While
visiting an ex-husband in Paris, she couldn't resist the chance to play
underground in the Metro. However, no one threw her any money.
She still maintains that
the greatest place anyone can ever play---where there's no sound check, no
waiting for club owners to pay measly sums of money at the end of a long night,
no need for babysitters, and the acoustics are incredible---these are the place
she misses the most: the train stations of New York City. ##
For more bios, click here to get to Page Seven.
ON THIS 40TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR OF BEATLEMANIA!
IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM", TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE '60S WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."
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