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Red Holloway: A Bluesy Jazzman, A Jazzy Bluesman

Like many musicians who came up during the swing era and have since spent much of their life traveling the world, saxophonist Red Holloway has a trove of road stories to share. Yet none is more vivid or revealing than his childhood recollection of leaving the segregated South for the promised land of Chicago during the depths of the Depression.

A midwife brought James Holloway into the world on May 31, 1927, in Helena, Ark. His mother was 13 when he was born; his father, whom he wouldn’t meet until 21 years later, was 17. Though Holloway spent only the first five years of his life in Helena, he has no difficulty recalling the suffocating air of racial tension, the indignity of having “to step off the sidewalk and onto the hot asphalt when white folks passed by,” and the not unfounded fears that almost consumed his teenage mother.

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