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Piano Demon: The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Brendan I. Koerner , The Atavist
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $1.99

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Book Description

Piano Demon: The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia

At age six, Teddy Weatherford was working in the coal mines of Virginia. By his early twenties he was the toast of Chicago’s jazz scene, rivaling Louis Armstrong and wowing Jelly Roll Morton with his piano talent. But when Weatherford left segregated America for the allures of Shanghai and Bombay, he set out on a adventure he hadn't imagined. The man they called “The Seagull” would become the globetrotting jazz king of Asia in the shadow of World War II, and provide the soundtrack for the last gasp of an empire. Brendan I. Koerner presents the true tale of how a forgotten legend lived the American Dream by leaving it behind—and helped globalize music with a piano and a sharkskin suit.

Brendan I. Koerner is an award-winning journalist and the author of Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier’s Flight From the Greatest Manhunt of World War II (Penguin, 2008), which was optioned for film by Spike Lee. He is also a contributing editor at Wired, and contributor to, The New York Times, and many other publications.

Editorial Reviews Review

This profile of a forgotten jazz master is an object lesson in crafting form from content, structure from subject, the right story from the right life. Born into veritable child slavery in coal country (southwest Virginia), Teddy Weatherford wove a natural ear for music and an inborn wanderlust into international stardom half a world away (Shanghai, Bombay, Colombo, Calcutta). Following the money, he brought matchless talent and a commanding stage presence to a jazz-crazed Asia from 1926 through the end of World War II, his music "providing the soundtrack for the last gasp of empire." In a continent enamored with black American culture, Weatherford wasn't black; he was just American, a darling of the elite wherever he went. Few lives stray this far from the beaten path. Fewer still are done such justice in the retelling. --Jason Kirk

Product Details

  • File Size: 784 KB
  • Print Length: 37 pages
  • Publisher: The Atavist (January 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004IWRCG6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,481 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Short, Happy Life of a Forgotten Legend January 29, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fats Waller....Jelly Roll Morton....Louis Armstrong....Teddy Weatherford....

Teddy who--? That's exactly Koerner's point in this breathtaking, short biography of a nearly-forgotten pianist, a coal-miner's son from Virginia, who was at one time "Asia's greatest jazz star." The subtitle of Koerner's mini-book is "The globetrotting, gin-soaked, too-short life of Teddy Weatherford, the Chicago jazzman who conquered Asia" and he delivers a portrait of an overlooked legend that moves at the speed of a rousing Jazz Age rag. As Koerner tells us near the beginning of The Piano Demon:

Weatherford usually receives no more than a skeletal paragraph in jazz histories. His Wikipedia entry is thinly sourced and error-ridden; his music is almost entirely absent from the Internet. He is the sort of figure whom scholars typically dismiss with a single, damning noun: footnote.

A child prodigy who developed international wanderlust (and, as his fame grew, an insatiable need for all the finest things money could buy), Teddy Weatherford quickly moved from tickling the ivories in Chicago clubs to playing in popular house bands in Shanghai, Bombay and Calcutta--exotic locales where segregation was less prevalent than in America. Weatherford was a workaholic and would often bounce between three or four gigs in the same evening. He was a big man with large hands--qualities not usually found in pianists--and he was a showman to the core, appearing on stage dressed in a distinctive white sharkskin suit. Here's how Koerner describes him in one scene:

Weatherford honed his showmanship in the Harbour Bar, entertaining British soldiers and sailors who craved good times before they set off for distant malarial outposts.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting musical history lesson February 1, 2011
By T. Nash
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Piano Demon is a fascinating look at a little known (at least I'd never heard of Teddy Weatherford) jazz musician who, based on this Kindle Single really should be better known. Full of glimpses into the history of jazz and Asia before and during World War 2. Well researched with extensive references, and a clear easy to read style, the only problem I have with it is that now I want to learn more, and to find some of Teddy's music.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story well told February 1, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a captivating story about the life of a gentle giant who was talented beyond words. The ins and outs of this wandering minstrel includes a backdrop of life in the Far East during the 30's which becomes nearly palpable. The reader is more and more intrigued as the story unfolds toward its poignant end. If the reading wants to enjoy the work of a very gifted journalist then this story will delight.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jazzman's Conquest of Asia November 24, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This is the story of Teddy "Seagull" Weatherford, an apparently brilliant Jazz pianist who, as the author of the book Brendan Koerner notes, "opted for adventure abroad (mainly Asia) instead of fame at home." As you read the book you do wonder if Weatherford would have been much more famous and revered - not unlike the Louis Armstrong with whom he did gigs for a year at one stage and cut an early jazz label - if he had not moved to the Far East and India? Or, on the other hand, he may well have found it hard going to swim against racial prejudice and jostle for the limelight with other musical greats and risk ending up being even more of a footnote in the history of music.
Leaving aside all this speculation, Weatherford may never have considered seriously returning to the West because he was enjoying life in the East so much anyway. As The writer Langston Hughes observes, "If I were a performer, I thought, and could play or sing or dance my way to Hong Kong and Singapore and Calcutta and Bombay, I would never go home at all."
As Weatherford is nevertheless so little known today - and because the work deals with events that happened several decades back - it would certainly have been quite hard to identify original resources and track down the few people alive today who may have recollections of those events. Despite this, the author presents a very informative and engrossing biography of this Jazz musician.
This book is a brilliant evocation also of the times and places that Weatherford lived in. Some of the descriptions are so vivid, it is almost like watching a period movie about early twentieth century Asia, particularly the poverty and sleaze of Shanghai and Calcutta. What is more, Koerner - in his portrayal of someone who "provided the soundtrack for the last gasp of Empire" - does not commit the common mistake of many historians of viewing events through the prism of today's moral expectations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an Inspiration for the young May 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
to only a select few this man may have been known. The story shows he had to work for what he got. It may be inspirational to a person, young or old, in his or her attempt to do something new.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Piano Demon October 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Piano Demon is an amazing tale of an amazing man! Teddy Weatherford's journey from Chicago to Asia is one of perserverance, talent and being in the right place at the right time. The book is fast paced and sometimes you forget it's a real story about a real person. I recommend this book for all lovers of Jazz and it's rich history.
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