Chapter 2-H.264 800Kbps
RR: And That i'll start off by asking Richard, give us a little bit of your background. I know you were born in Alabama, you moved to Chicago, but give us a little bit of the early beginnings for Richard Evans. RE: Well Ok they tell me, I don't remember it, but I was born in December in 1932. It was very close to the end of year so I get to be a year younger than a year older since there's only one or two days....let's see....Birmingham, Alabama. My birth father was named Malista Cowan and I had that name at first, but when my mother brought me to chicago in 1938 when I was five then I took on the name of my step dad James Evans. My whole thing is Richard Leed Cowan Evans RR: Richard Lee Cowan Evans RE: Its what I go by RR: So you moved you to Chicago at around what age? RE: I was five. 1938. RR: Well lets get right to it, i'm so inquisitive to find out where did the musical beginning start? Who inspired you? RE: That is something else, because I remember about '38 or '39 my brother Claude who is five years older than myself. He took me to see a movie, it had Louis Armstrong in it, and he had to play the buffoon roles in the movies in those days. He was singing to a horse and he was singing "Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those peepers?" And for some reason I remembered the song and when we came back home, my grandfather had a piano there, I went to the piano and I played the melody that we had heard. That was about the extent of any music stuff. I didn't study music at all as a kid. I was more into art. As the years went on, I remembered when I was nine and ten I'd get out with the kids on the block and we would be singing. At that time my favorite singer was Ben Crosby. Then a young whippersnapper named Frank Sinatra came up, all the girls were swooning on him, but I always liked Ben Crosby. Whatever songs that were happening then in the 30's and stuff like that, thats what I would listen to. But when WWII broke out I was about 30 days from being nine years old, I was about still eight. Some people started moving up from the south, and where we lived in Chicago was like a kitchenette thing. The people that moved above us were from Mississippi and they had got their first record player thing. At night they would play all kind of stuff. The first time I heard "Blues in the Night'' and a bunch of songs were from these people. We were listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington as far as our music, but the people from Mississippi they came up and brought another kind of music. We thought it was a little raw, but it was ok. We would listen to the Inkspots and all the groups like that. Then the blues came up and that was horrible to us kind of a thing. The influx of the people white and black coming up from the south, their music came up to Chicago. We got listening to more Gospel, although I went to church with my grandmother at a Baptist Church. I saw the ritual of the preacher and all that, how they went through the ritual, I grew up with that for the first five years. It would start out with you know like him talking like "oh people were here and god and bless" and about five minutes later he's shouting! doing this thing and the piano player is playing and the organ player. He says something and the organ hits something. So the whole ritual of the church thing, I've always enjoyed that. That was pretty much it. I thought I could sing until I hit about twenty and I realized I couldn't, but we would get out and we'd sing stuff and so forth. I remember when I moved from the inner city of Chicago at 45th street and I moved out to, was then a suburb for Princeton Park, there I went to the Gillespie Grammar School. We had a chance to sing, we were singing harmony with this girl that was in class and they had us sing. It was that I would sing harmony with here, I could do that kind of stuff, my ear let me do it. As far as practicing music or playing piano or playing anything, no, no music. RR: no music huh? RE: No none what so ever. I didn't decided to become a musician until age sixteen when my brother, who was in Guam then, wrote me a letter and said I should become a musician. So my brother was my hero. Thats what he wanted me to do so I started taking music in high school in Disalvo. And I decided "Well let me see I can't be a musician, but thats my brother he wants me to do that, so I'll be a musican but I really am not but people won't know it so I think i'll play bass, that's quieter." RR: it's quieter? uh huh. RE: "and they won't hear what I'm doing and realize I'm not a musician", you know... So I took up bass, very fortunate thing cause I was workin' when everybody else was starving. heh. RR: and you said your brother is really the one who got you your first bass? RE: Yeah, my brother... you know how your.. if you copy your older siblings, my brother was drawing pictures.. RR: yeah RE: and so whatever he did i'd do. So I.. but he didn't do any music, he didn't play any music instruments that's why I never did it. But as far as um.. his drawing stuff, then I could do that, my mother could draw she could really great artist, and he, I'd see him drawing like superman and stuff like that. So, I decided to draw and I decided to follow a career of painting... so I was going to be an artist, that's the route I chose. RR: mmhmm RE: When I got to Dusalvo high school and my teacher, our teacher Mrs. Switzer, god rest her soul, uh.. there was a janitor that came up to our class and an african american janitor and he was elderly and he was saying he had a dream of heaven, and it was like he pictured people walking up some stairs into the clouds and they went up to this big room floating up in the clouds that looked like a uh... uh... where there was a jury and a judge and stuff, and you walk in there and then other people are sitting there waiting and they were waiting to be judged. And they had elevators so one after they were judged the elevator went up and the other went down, it depended on the situation. RR: Right. RE: So I painted a picture like that it was kinda regular sized and the teacher said "why don't you paint a real big picture of it" so I did. So, unbeknownst to me she entered it into the Chicago high school painting contest thing. in the mean time I was uh.. I had uh... rough teenage thing. I was only interested in art, I didn't like botany and algebra, forget about it. RR: mmm, mmhmm RE: you know I did poorly really cause I wasn't interested in it. So as a result when I reached age 16 I think that's the age here, some it's like 15, age 16. When I reached a certain age they told me well you can no longer be in school because your grades are too low and so we're gonna send you back to your district which was Calumet High School. RR: ok RE: out there in the suburbs where I was. Now Calument High was divert to second, Calument High School was about 95-99% white. We were the first black kids to come in there from... um beceause we were into the projects then we became of age. So I was 14 in 1947 I went to that school umm Calumet High school and when it came to taking a language.. I chose to take German. RR: German? did you have a lot of other choices? RE: There was you know spanish, french, whatever.. I for one I liked German. and as a kid I never.. I didn't have a lot of contact with white poeple at all until I got to that school. But as far as I was concerned I didn't think that I um... well you supposed to.. you can't do this your not.. I was always taught that nobody was better than me and I was better than nobody. I just had that kind of pride, I was poor, you know I came up poor but I was not taught to be inferior or anything... RR: mmhmm RE: So I was not I took German and when I walked into class everybody laughed at me 'cause I was the first and only black kid to take German. RR: Right, Right.. RE: But I came out with a B and did quite well, so uh.. but I didn't like it because I was kind of shattered being.. the race stuff that came up. Althought I'm not blaming all white, there were some very nice white people I met there but there were some, some.. but I won't go into the negative. But when I had a chance to come back from Birmingham and go to high school, I wanted to go to Dusalvo because that in you know, back in the area where I first grew up. So, so when they kicked me out of Dusalvo and said you have to go back to Calumet and I went back to Calumet, for um.. about couple of weeks RR: mmhmm RE: in that time that I was back it was.. I guess it was an italian teacher, little short man, I remember he was teaching us how to.. you know 4/4 4 beats in a measure and the 1/4 note is 4. and oh and he was explaining stuff and I finally.. a teacher explaining this stuff... I said oh so if that's the case then I went up to the board and said if I did this and I wrote some stuff in there I said then how would it sound? he says "oh" he says "non blong bling blang" whatever I wrote. I said "OH!!! thats how you do that huh?" RR: mmhmm RE: hmmm so I kinda was thinking about the music thing on that. Then, my art teacher uh... came up with the fact that I had won first prize for painting for high schools for the city of Chicago and brought a whole lot of good pride to Disalvo and they had our picture on the sunday paper.. with the painting and everything and... wow so she went to the principle and asked if they'd let me back.. and they did they let me back into disalvo. When I came back from that point on I became an A student everything I did was top. I went back to botany, back to algebra back to everything made what was S then, it wasn't an A it was a S "superior" RR: Superior, uh huh. RE: So I got S's from that point on from the rest of high school. My brother told me when I went to the army to try to score as best as I could which I did and I was one of the six guys they called out of the whole company to become officers.