The late pianist and certified bopologist Walter Bishop Jr. was also an exceptional poet. This is the third in our series of Walter Bishop Jr.’s poetic reflections, courtesy of the ever-gracious Valerie Bishop.
FROM WALTER TO WALTER
(From Walter Bishop Jr. to Walter Davis Jr.)
I was very distressed at the news that you were in critical condition in the hospital.
I had come to hear you at Bradley’s, I heard myself instead.
All the while you were lying in NY Hospital, damn near dead.
I remember our beginning.
You came to me a teenage student.
And your work was always prudent.
What a joy working with you.
I taught you much of what I knew, and watched as you grew and grew.
Quickly you became a wiz and then you got a job with Diz!
And as you heard, I was with Bird.
You were with the father and I was with the mother.
That made you a BeBop Brother.
You went to all those exotic places as Dizzy put you through your paces.
I never told you about the time I walked into the store
And through the record albums I would pour.
I ran across your Davis Cup and said: “What the fuck is up?”
I was proud and I was pissed you see because they recorded you instead of me.
Although it amused us, many people confused us.
It was annoying to me – people mistook our identity.
I wish I had a dollar for each time I heard someone holler:
“Hey Bish, I heard you played such and such a place
Or are you going to play such and such a place?”
To which I would reply: “It’s not me it’s the other guy, Walter D., I’m Walter B!
Can’t you see. I’m taller and older. He’s younger and bolder.
And then there was the time in Holland:
Some people at the station greeted me with flowers and a presentation.
After a word or two I realized they thought I was you.
What was I to do?
You once visited me on a busted knee as I lay sick and ailing.
I knew right then I had a friend whose love was never failing.
And then I remember those fierce piano shootouts. We faced each other in the arena.
We were armed with hoards of chords, floods of Bud, chunks of Monk, and tastes of Tatum.
And when all was said and done we had big fun and everybody won.
We danced together those nights, the Dance of the Infidels.
Whether you played Bud, Monk, or Tad, you always gave it all you had.
Their spirits flowed through you.
Sly as a fox. Strong as an ox.
You could sing. You could dance.
You could even make a suit with two pairs of pants.
In Arabic you could sign your autograph, but most of all you could make us laugh!
Yes, yours was a joyous spirit!
Maybe you would have liked to have been thinner
But by and large you were a heavyweight winner.
“Anyone for Chinese Dinner?”
So, Humphrey, if you split the scene at fifty seven… I’ll catch you later in BeBop Heaven.
Love, Bish Bash