Thursday, February 16, 2006
We all make mistakes. Mea culpa. In the writing business, where we tend to throw around a lot of “facts” often culled from other sources, those mistakes can have an impact. I probably juggle a greater flow of information than many, and on occasion I’ve been known to get a date or a phone number wrong, which can lead to trouble when it’s reproduced 22,000 times in print, and often as not there’s no way to take it back in time to alter unintended results: Someone going to a club to hear a band on the wrong night or at the wrong time for example.
Then there are the cases where writers simply pass along misinformation. Of course I’ve been guilty of that too — sometimes people call me on it, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they believe the misinformation and pass it along. When a falsehood is passed along enough times, people start to see it as a fact. (As evidenced by public perceptions of the current administration that I won’t go into here.)
The repeated falsehood factor seemed to be in play with some information I came across while preparing to interview the legendary jazz pianist, McCoy Tyner. If you scroll down a bit on this page or click on the right link, you’ll find a Q&A version of our conversation. At one point I asked him about something I’d read in a biographic sketch on All Music Guide, a source on music and musicians I’ve been using for years. Scott Yanow, who does a lot of their jazz bios, wrote that, “After leaving Coltrane, McCoy Tyner struggled for a period, working as a sideman (with Ike and Tina Turner, amazingly) and leading his own small groups…” I jotted down a note — “Ike & Tina” — on a page I referred to when we spoke Tuesday morning.
When I asked him about it, I could tell the question upset him. He told me, “That’s not true. You know why people say that? Azar Lawrence was playing tenor sax with me a long time ago. He worked for Ike and Tina… They did an interview with him and it got mixed up. I don’t know how you can do something that stupid. It got mixed up with my biography, I don’t know how. How the heck would they do that?”
Later, when we got off the phone, I took a look at the record again, found that a number of sources on the Net seemed to have the facts misconstrued — many of them could be traced back to the All Music page.
I also found an interview with someone from Jazz Review who asked him the same question. He offered pretty much the same answer adding, “Believe me, if I played with Ike and Tina I would’ve remembered that.”
All Music also lists Ike & Tina as among those Tyner was “influenced by.” Ike & Tina’s page shows McCoy as their “follower.” If you know his music and theirs, well, it just does not make any sense.
There is a link on every All Music page to “Make corrections to this entry,” so I clicked on it and filled out a form. Then I did a Google search for Yanow and came up with an e-mail address.
When I wrote and told him what McCoy had said he sent this reply:
“That's funny about McCoy Tyner and Ike & Tina Turner. I remember reading that he played with them in an old issue of Downbeat. And I wouldn't discount it since he did get stuck playing in r&b groups and in unsuitable circumstances. But if he says it isn't true, and since there are no recordings of it, who are we to contradict him?
I'll see if I can get the All Music Guide to change that.
Take care – Scott”
Now I’m aware that All Music is not like the reader maintained Wikipedia, where mistakes are made and corrected constantly. We’ll see what happens.
One more thing, in the interview with Jazz Review, Tyner wanted to add something, telling journalist Charles Sudo, “Well, while we’re here, I should make another correction. I did not drive a cab in New York before starting to find some success in music. I thought about it, but I never went out and applied for a hack license. Like I said, I went through a series of survival skills back then. Around 1970, it changed and I got a contract with Milestone Records. I came through it, and I’m proud of it.”