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On August 4, 2006— the second of Louis Armstrong’s two birthdays that year and every year (Pops believed he was born on July 4, but his posthumously discovered baptismal record said otherwise)— Marshall was in the spirit! The coincident occasion was my writing about Louis’ recording of a Schaefer Beer commercial. And for anyone who might doubt a Bronx boy’s deep Brooklyn’s lore…—b


Dear B—

Wonderful!  Was Louis A himself author of that jingle? Is there a version of him singing it somewhere?  (Phil Schapp & fellow jazz scholars @WKCR might know.)  How delicious!

My mother’s father, Max Schur, was a teamster, driving a truck of huge beer barrels led by a team of horses.  There were 10 or 12 breweries on Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront in early 20c. I forget which one he worked for–name started w A, co eventually moved to St Louis. There’s a wonderful photo of him w his horses & barrels–my sister might have the pic.  But one spring noon, in midst of lunchtime crowd, at Flatbush & Atlantic Aves–fateful location!–the harness broke, the horses went out of control & surged into the crowd.  Max leaped on top of the horses, to keep them from trampling the crowd, but got trampled himself.  Horses were taken to stables, but he lay on the street for several hrs & bled & bled.  He lived another 10 yrs, but cd never work normally again, & weighed 70 when he died.  My mom’s fam, which had started the day as the relatively comfortable fam of a skilled worker, instantly lost all its cash income (no pension, insurance, or worker’s comp–Hey! wasn’t this supposed to be what workmen’s comp was for?), & plunged down–it was (was this Etta James’ song, or Freda Payne’s?) a long way down.

Shalom!  M

PS–I’ve had this story in my head since I was 10–I can remember when my mom told it to me–but I never wrote it down till now.  Chilling, ain’t it?


Robert Christgau‘s excellent euology of his friend Marshall has now been posted at Dissent. Also, a younger person, Ben Serby, recalls an encounter with Marshall at Columbia last year for the U.S. Intellectual History blog.

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