Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie

Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie

“Take This Winter Out of My Mind” by Full Moon (1972)

Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie

September 19, 1936 –  January 11, 2002

I was one of those white suburban kids growing up in in a white suburban neighborhood that I didn’t realize was whites-only because no real estate agencies and owners would rent or sell to non-whites. Segregation northern style. Quiet but omnipresent.

We white suburban kids did not realize we were listening to our own American blues when we heard Eric Burdon sing “House of the Rising Sun” or Mick Jagger sing “You Better Move On.”

British bands like the Animals and Rolling Stones reinterpreted American blues, but bands like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were revitalizing or simply continuing the blues tradition.

Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie

Gene Dinwiddie

Gene Dinwiddie, or Brother Gene Dinwiddie as he was often known, was part of that tradition.

He had already been playing in bands for 10 years when he joined Butterfield which presented him the opportunity to record. The American music scene was typically as segregated as my home town. Whether it be exclusionary tactics by record companies, recording studios, publishers, or venues, black musicians faced barriers at each entry. I certainly cannot speak for Gene Dinwiddie or any black musician, but I could understand the inclination of joining a band led by a white musician with hopes that the white musician had access that he did not.

Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

He joined Paul Butterfield Blues Band in mid-1967 in time for the group’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

“Love March” became the band’s best known song because of its inclusion on the Woodstock album. It was Dinwiddie and drummer Phillip Wilson who lead on that song.

The longer Dinwiddie was in the band, the more he influenced its sound. The band ended in 1971, but a few of its members including Dinwiddie formed Full Moon.

Brother Gene Dinwiddie also played as a session musician with BB King, Melissa Manchester, Jackie Lomax, and Gregg Allman.

His most visible appearance on record in the 1990s was playing tenor sax on Etta James’ album Stickin’ to My Guns.

Remembering Brother Gene Dinwiddie
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Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

September 19, 1959

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet
Khrushchev watching Shirley McClain during a Can Can rehearsal
Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Nikita Khrushchev

Nikita Khrushchev had come to power in the Soviet Union following the death of Josef Stalin. He among others, but eventually he was the leader. It was a time of animosity between the West, represented and led by the United States and the Soviet bloc, represented by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In 1959, the U.S. and Soviet governments surprised the world by announcing that Khrushchev would visit America in September and meet with Eisenhower face to face.

He arrived on September 15 for two weeks and in addition to many planned diplomatic exchanges, Premier Khrushchev wanted to visit Disneyland.

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

September 19, 1959

Khrushchev arrived in Los Angeles around noon that day. He had flown from New York and expressed his disappointment at not having the “opportunity of coming into contact with the ordinary people, the workers, who are the backbone of the life of the city, the producers of its wealth.”

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Anti Communists lunch with Communist Head

20th Century Fox President Spyros Skouras hosted a luncheon for Khrushchev at the Cafe de Paris, the studio’s commissary. There was a blitz of requests to attend and many Hollywood stars attended such as Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe among others. Such enthusiasm to attend an event for a Communist leader was ironic given the blacklisting of so many of Hollywood’s writers, directors, and actors earlier in the decade because of supposed or actual ties to the Communist Party. A few, such as Bing Crosby, Ward Bond, and Ronald Reagan, did turn down their invitations. [Perhaps Reagan said, “Mr Khrushchev, I am tearing up this ticket!”]

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Tomato incident

During the luncheon, the Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker informed Henry Cabot Lodge, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the he, Parker, could not guarantee the safety of Khrushchev though Parker had thought so earlier. During Khrushchev’s entourage from the airport to 20th Century Fox, someone had thrown a tomato at Khrushchev’s car. It missed, but still worried Parker.

Lodge agreed with Parker’s concerns and said that another event would replace it. Word got to Khrushchev and sent a note to Lodge: “I understand you have canceled the trip to Disneyland. I am most displeased.”

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Spyros P. Skouras

     Skouras spoke. He represented the immigrant’s American dream. Arriving in the US at 17, selling newpapers, being a bus boy, with his brother investing in a movie theater and then others, by 1932 he managed a chain of 500 theaters.

      He said at the luncheon, “In all modesty, I beg you to look at me, I am an example of one of those immigrants who, with my two brothers, came to this country. Because of the American system of equal opportunities, I am now fortunate enough to be president of 20th Century Fox.”

     Khrushchev’s following remarks included how he, too, had worked his way up from manual labor to be the powerful person he was.

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

Khrushchev Can Can

After the luncheon, Skouras brought Khrushchev to the soundstage where Can-Can was being filmed. They stopped and greeted various celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe.

He said to her, “You’re a very lovely young lady.”

Perhaps presenting a dance scene was not the best choice for the prudish leader. After the dance, he denounced that it was a pornographic exploitation, despite his smiles while watching it.

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet

No M-I-C-K-E-Y

That ended his Hollywood visit and there was no Disneyland for Khrushchev.  Lodge decided that taking the premier on a tour of tract housing developments instead was the alternative.

Politico article

Premier Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland Nyet
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