Conrad Johnson, Jr. and
Ronald Johnson

Duration: 37Mins: 15Secs
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Uncorrected Transcript

Interview with: Conrad Johnson, Jr. and Ronald Johnson
Interviewed by: Patricia Smith Prather
Date: August 31, 2010

Archive Number: OH GS0016

 

 

Patricia Smith Prather (PSP): Let’s start off by giving me both of your names.

Conrad Johnson Jr. (CJ): My name is Conrad Johnson Jr.

Ronald Johnson (RJ): And I am Ronald Johnson.

(PSP): Junior

(CJ): Laughing…

(RJ): Laughing…

(PSP): Let’s start with Conrad, since I think he is the oldest.

(CJ): Yes

(RJ): He is the oldest.

(PSP): Conrad tell us a little bit about, say when you were born. Just a very brief biographical sketch on who you are.

(CJ): Well I was born of course in 1941 at the old, used to be called Negro Hospital.

(PSP): Ok.

(CJ): Right across from Blackshear. Which in fact I went to Blackshear, uh, all the way up to the sixth grade. When I left Blackshear, since we lived in Third Ward, all the other kids they went on over to Yates, which was still Yates at that time, which is now Ryan.

(RJ): Ryan.

(CJ): And then, uh, from there I went out to Washington (Booker T. Washington High School) cause my dad (Conrad Johnson Sr.) taught at Washington. And then I stayed there at Washington from the seventh grade all the way to the ninth grade- tenth grade. Tenth grade my dad got an assignment with Kashmere because they move the principal and he took all of the people he thought would be able to make that school run properly. And so, that way, when he moved out to Kashmere, I left Washington and went to Kashmere. So, basically that was a transition over my twelve years of schooling and then I went to Texas Southern and got my chemistry degree in 66’. Married, have five children. Two, three, two blended. One blended I am sorry and a total of five.

(PSP): That’s very good. So I am asking you to do the same thing Ron.

(RJ): Yeah, uh…..

(PSP): State your name again.

(RJ): Ronald Johnson. Started at Blackshear in 1949 and attended there through the sixth grade. The seventh grade and eighth grade were spent at Old Booker T. Washington, with my brother and my dad and in the ninth grade we left Booker T. and went to the new Kashmere and we were the first graduating class from Kashmere. And, uh, finished high school at Kashmere.

(PSP): What year?

(RJ): 1961. Yeah and uh, went to, I have a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from Texas Southern. I have a degree, a Masters degree in Science Teaching with a minor in genetics from Texas Southern, and a PH.D. from Ohio State in Administration, Education Administration.

(PSP): Good. Now we are going to your well known-widely known-respected dad, Conrad Johnson. Tell us what you remember about Conrad coming up as children.

(CJ): Great disciplinarian. (Laughing…)

(PSP): Ok!

(CJ): But he was a, you know, this side of him that we saw, was not really the side that kids saw at school. When we first started out, he was like, cut our hair himself.

(RJ): Yeah! Yeah!

(CJ): He was like, he was a magician. Had us..always doing tricks.

(RJ): Tricks.

(CJ): And he was..

(RJ): He was an artist.

(CJ): Yeah, he was an artist as well. He did art work and so he wasn’t just writing music and playing his horn, but he developed, of course several bands. Not just the Kashmere Stage Band, but his Big Band and he had a smaller band as well. And so he did all of that and wrote music… this is the…

(RJ): Yeah!

(CJ): He wrote over fifty originals.

(PSP): Wow.

(CJ): I guess this from ninety, I am sorry, from sixty-six up through seventy-eight or so.

(PSP): Ok.

(CJ): And, uh, when he had time to do it, I really can’t tell you because he was so busy, you know handling home and then working at the school and also working professionally.

(RJ): professionally..

(CJ): So all of that took place over, so, I may not have answered your question but my recollection of him was he was a workaholic and a very kind person, but a disciplinarian. And that was the main thing.

(RJ): And he always had good health. It was amazing.

(CJ): Yeah. Yeah.

(RJ): I can’t…I remember one time during that one stretch that my dad was in the hospital. Up until the time he passed, he had a heart attack then, but before then, I think it was one time and that was it. But my mom, dad was the disciplinarian, but mom she was the disciplinarian! She walked around with a tie one end and a strap on the other.

(CJ): Yeah, she did.

cue point

(RJ): She was like a drill sergeant. My sister hadn’t come along then. My sister was eight years later then us.

(PSP): Ok.

(RJ): And I mean on Saturday morning, hey, you lined up just like you were in the army, you got your assignment and you knew if you didn’t do your assignment, you weren’t going outside and play until your assignment was done.

(PSP): Those were the disciplinarians of the day.

(RJ): Oh yeah! Yeah.

(CJ): Of course.

(PSP): Now, you said he worked professionally. What were his professional things he was doing when you all were in high school?
(CJ): Well he still had, of course, when I say professionally, I mean his bands, not just again, the Kashmere Stage Band came along….

(RJ): Much later

(CJ): Yeah, from 68 to 79, 78. But he had he used to play, well he used to play some really tough and rough places, where you know….

(RJ): Diamond L Ranch.

(CJ): Diamond L, yeah right. There is a place right on…

(RJ): Jack Cesar(sp?) had a fight in there and it was just like in the old west, Prof, I just happened to be there with him. We all ran and hid behind the piano. Somebody hollered, “Somebody  hit Jack Cesar!”  and it was “on”, you know. Yeah, it was “on”.

(CJ): Yeah Yeah.

(PSP): The Chitlin Circuit back then?

(RJ): Oh yeah!

(CJ): Oh yeah, of course! What was the place in uh, over in uh Clear Lake? It sits out off the water?

(RJ): Ohhh? Aahhh?

(CJ): At any rate…..

(PSP): Kemah?

(RJ): Not Kemah, but Sylvan Beach.

(CJ): Sylvan Beach! He used to play Sylvan Beach. He used to drive into Beaumont and play venues over there. He used to play at the old, in Galveston, the old, well he played at the Galvez, the one that was sitting out in the water. He played all of these venues and also all over…

(PSP): When you say “he”, was it his band?

(CJ): His Band.

(RJ): His Band!

(CJ): I am sorry.

(RJ): And the amazing thing, sometimes he played during the week and he never missed school. He played at night, and got in 2-3 o’clock in the morning, whatever sleep he got, he was up and going to school the next day. That is why, I just, he was blessed with good health.

(CJ): Yeah he was. He really was.

(RJ): I mean, but he played regularly, ok.

(CJ): Practice too. At home he practiced. He practiced all the time. So he wasn’t just practicing the bands and the kit, he was practicing himself, to keep himself vibrant and …

(RJ): …up to date with his skills.

(CJ): Yeah, with his skills.

(PSP): Do you remember meeting people like Illinois Jacquet and some of the other guys he played with way back?

(RJ): Arnett Cobb came by frequently. Lord Hummingbird, the Calypso thing was really popular back in the day.

(CJ): I didn’t meet Count Basie, but Count Basie came to the school and I didn’t meet Dizzy Gillespie, but Dizzy Gillespie had…

(RJ): They had several meetings together with my dad.

(CJ): I am trying to think did Duke Ellington come there? I am not sure, I don’t think so.

(PSP): You mean the school? You mean Kashmere?

(CJ): Yeah, uh huh, right.

(PSP): He was a guest at Kashmere?

(CJ): He was a guest. So my dad was, he wrote to these guys that had a rapport with them, like right now he had written Quincy Jones he had such a strong, Grover Washington Jr.

(RJ): Right! Said that about Grover.

(CJ): Yeah, Quincy still sends a greeting, a Christmas Greeting card and my dad has been gone for a little over two years and he still sends one, and so it was just the impact he had on certain people that you will never….

(RJ): Yeah, he was a gentle giant.
(PSP): Well, the impact not only because he was a musician but he was training some of the musicians, so they went on to work with some of these greats.

(RJ); Oh yeah, oh yeah

(CJ): Oh of course! Yeah you could take….

(RJ): Donald Wilkerson

(CJ): Yeah, Don Wilkerson that was one. Man, you could name so many

(RJ): What’s the guitar player that is out in California?

(CJ): Johnny Reason

(RJ): Johnny Reason, oh god.

(CJ): Yeah these guys travel all over the world.

(RJ): What’s the bass player from Portugal?

(CJ): Gerald Calhoun

(RJ): Yeah, Gerald Calhoun

(CJ): he was over in Portugal, came back here for the reunion deal that they did for “Pop” and so, but any way John Roberts played in ….

(RJ): The Hurricanes

(CJ): Well he moved to Los Angeles and backed a number of Nancy Wilson and several other artists, “Stank” Sylvester Leblanc. He went also to California and played with several major artists. Most of the guys that he trained or studied under him, or that played music under him, when they left they were well tooled enough to get with the other big bands or the artists of the day, or other organizations and hold their own and perform.

cue point

(PSP): But he didn’t just work with them in the classroom, didn’t he also tutor or teach students?

(RJ): Oh, he was always teaching. Even when he retired well into his eighties and early nineties, he was still tutoring.

(CJ): Yeah, yeah.

(RJ): Walter Smith I think is the one person that I think we can all agree on that he took from an infant and brought him all the way up and he has performed, I think in New York.

(CJ): Yeah right right.

(RJ): Walter is an incredible incredible musician but..

(PSP): Did you all pick up any of it? Because I know your grandfather was quite a musician as well.

(RJ): Well we had to have a place to eat and sleep, so we played.

(CJ): Laughing….

(RJ): Laughing…

(PSP): So it was like that?

(CJ) and (RJ): oh yeah! Oh yeah!

(RJ): You eat my food you gonna play in my band, you know.

(CJ): That’s right and you going to learn.

(PSP): So what instruments did you play?

(RJ): I played trumpet.

(PSP): Ok and you?

(CJ): I played clarinet and sax.

(PSP): But you didn’t consider yourselves musicians? You did it because…

(RJ): Well, let me put it like this, I can only speak for myself. When I turned eighteen I gave him the horn back, cause I said I saw too many starving musicians and Sputnik was the thing of the day, so I became a scientist. Ok?

(PSP): I see.

(CJ): When I, I went to TSU and I kept, I think I played the first two years

(RJ): In the Ocean

(CJ): It wasn’t even called the Ocean back then

(PSP): Ocean of Soul, Pre-the Ocean of Soul

(CJ): yeah right, pre-ocean. So I kept my sax for two years and after that I think I left it at the house and that was it, you know I didn’t play anymore, because let me tell you, the guys that he had trained and the guys that had just a normal inclination to play and were super tough, I wasn’t able to compete with them.

(PSP): I see.

(CJ): So there is no sense in me trying, I know I had, so I decided I am going to work three jobs in order to make the money I needed to make to do it and finish school as well. So I did that.

(PSP): Did he have any connection with Don Robey and the…?

(RJ) and (CJ): Yes, most definitely. Of course.

(PSP): Did he record for him?

(CJ): Yes he did. Capitol, was it Capitol Records?

(RJ): Peacock Records

(CJ): Peacock

(RJ): Yeah but that was, but when he dealt with Don, you have to have a Philadelphia Lawyer. You know…

(CJ): Yeah

(RJ): He was a shrewd businessman

(CJ): Shrewd businessman, he was and a lot of times when they cut records he would have to …

(RJ): Get his money upfront.

(CJ): Yeah cause he wasn’t ready to pay you at the time of …he was a shrewd businessman.

(RJ): Brother Rousseau was another one.

(PSP): Oh, yeah I remember him.

(RJ): You get your money upfront.

(CJ): He still booked my dad quite a number of times. He played behind Jackie Wilson, Roy Hamilton.

(RJ): Sam Cooke.

(PSP): When they would come to town?

(CJ): When they would come to town, yeah.

(RJ): And I think it was Jackie Wilson who came to town and his band didn’t make it and he asked for my dad to play for him and I remember sitting through that conversation and I wasn’t about 10 or 12 years old. Give me my money upfront. Upfront you know.

(PSP): you learn that as a business person. I have known and admired him for a long time too but you don’t know those things about who they knew. You don’t know the full dimension of these people.

(CJ): That is correct.

(PSP): Tell us a little bit about this new release that is getting ready to come out?

(CJ): Well the movie…

(RJ): documentary

(CJ): Documentary, what happened is there was a guy, well first my dad told us that

(RJ): I am hitching him, “this ain’t going to come to fruition”

(CJ): He said, “ I have done so well and I have written my life story”, he said, “ they are going to do a movie on me”. I said, “yeah Prof”. Now this was way before I met Mark

(RJ): This was fifteen twenty years ago.

(CJ): And so and so about seven years ago eight years ago, a guy by the name of Ethan Olipot (Sp?) Egyptian guy, he heard the band on some

(RJ): National Radio.

(CJ): Yeah, I think it was NPR and when he did he said, “Who are these guys?” That is the Kashmere Stage Band. Kashmere Stage Band. And he said, “who are these guys?” I think he found out who it was and then he called my dad up and he said, “Look I want to reprint”, he found out we had about eight albums on vinyl

(RJ): Right

(CJ): He said, “I want to redo these as a compilation”

(RJ): Collection

cue point

(CJ): “And I want to get these back out and send them all over the world”  Which he did. And so he did his part. Fast forward up to three years ago, three and a half years ago, a guy by the name of Mark, and this Ethan is in Los Angeles. A guy by the name of Mark Landsman contacted me.

(RJ): Also in Los Angeles.

(CJ): Also in Los Angeles and these two guys didn’t even know each other, but Mark had also heard the music and then he heard the story. Somebody had told him the story about the band, so he says, “let me come meet the guy who has done this work”. And so he called me and trying to get to meet with “Prof” and so I told him, “Yeah let me talk to him.” And I talked to him and Prof said, “Yeah man I will meet with him.”  You know, so we invited him to town and he came and met with “Prof”. We signed a deal where he could do a documentary. First, he was going to do a feature film, but he wanted, see a feature film is somewhat fictional as well as, so you don’t have all the truth. You have some, but he said, “No, I want to do this documentary. I want to show the real deal of what actually happened.” And so therefore, he went ahead and processed the documentary in and tried to do it on a shoe string. In other words, he didn’t have anybody backing him. He was shooting it on his own at one point. Finally, he got he convinced Snoop Entertainment to…

(RJ): Out of Los Angeles (laughing)

(CJ): Yeah, out of Los Angeles to back him and help him produce this movie and which Snoop did and so he made several trips down here and finished the documentary on the first of February. Is that right now? Yeah, on the second of February. The first of February they had the at the Kashmere, that was the reunion.

(RJ): He had one ending, he didn’t have the ending.

(CJ): Yeah, he had an ending already, but see he had come to see and “Prof” was in the hospital at the time and so he came and filmed him in the hospital. Have you seen the movie yet?

(PSP): No.

(CJ): You will see it. He filmed in the hospital and he was saying, “Prof I hope you can make it.” Prof said, “I hope I can make it too. You know I want to be there, you know.” So ….

(RJ): It is heart wrenching.

(CJ): So, when he said that, he fought to be there.

(RJ): Yeah, he literally willed himself out of the hospital

(CJ): Out of the hospital to be there and at the Kashmere for the reunion. The reunion was filmed on that first. We had another event for the Foundation…

(RJ): The next day. A Friday and a Saturday

(CJ): The next day at the Hess club. Yeah and so they did the final filming that night and Mark got on a plane. Ethan got on a plane, no Ethan hadn’t left yet.

(RJ): No, he went by to see Prof that Sunday.

(CJ): Yeah. Yeah. Mark got on the plane and headed back to LA. Thought he had finished everything, Ethan came in and called me and said, “Hey man, can I talk to Prof?” I said, “Sure.” He came by and Prof was laying in the bed….”

(PSP): Now, this was after the documentary? Or after the two events?

(CJ) and (RJ): After those two events.

(RJ): After the Friday and Saturday event.

(CJ): And let me preface the conversation I was about to tell you. He asked me when we got ready to leave the final event on at the Hess Club on that Saturday night, he said now….

[Part 1]
[End]

[Part 2]
[Begin]

(CJ): “Rad” that’s what he called me. (pauses for a moment and gets choked up)

(RJ): Come on you are ok. (Puts arm around brother for support)

(CJ): He said, “Is there anything else that I need to do?” I said, “ Prof, you have done it all. You done it all.” So we went home and the next day, Ethan called me and said, “Man I want to come by and talk to “Prof”.” So I said, “Come on by.” I said, “Prof, Ethan wants to come on by.” He said, “Yes. Tell him to come on.” So he asked him and came by and so he was starting to ask questions like, “Hey, I know it was kind of rough on you to come out there out of the hospital and do the, be there for both of those events.” He said, “Look we got new projects we want to do.” Prof said, “Yeah, I want to do the new ones man.”
(RJ): More recordings.

cue point

(CJ): Yeah, more recordings. He said, “You know we haven’t gotten everything.” He said, “Yeah, I will provide what you need.” You know, and he said, “ We’ll do it.” And so Ethan said, “Ok man, I love you.” And that was, he left. That was like about three o’clock. It was Super Bowl Sunday on February 3rd and when the Super Bowl was coming on, I swear up and down it was so ironic. I was going in there to look at the game at my house and Prof said, “Man, I need to go use the restroom.” I said, “Ok ok.” So I stopped where I was and I came to the room and helped him cause you know he was still kind of weak a little bit you know.

(RJ): He just had a heart attack.

(CJ): And I kind of helped him, he just had a heart, so when I got him to the restroom to the commode, and I guess that is allowed to say, and he was about to sit down, he just gave and that was it and I caught him. I had him in my arms and he passed right there. We called, I told my wife Sandra. I said, “Call 9-1-1” and she did but they didn’t come in five minutes, it was like fifteen minutes before they got there but he was already gone and they couldn’t revive him. And so anyway that was…..

(PSP):  How old was he?

(CJ) and (RJ): Ninety two.

(PSP): That is an amazing story. And we couldn’t get this story from anybody but you two. You see, this is why these oral histories are so important, these are parts of people. We only know what we see as the public. We don’t know how he had to juggle his and raise a family and compose and so forth and so on. The movie is called?

(CJ) and (RJ): Thunder Soul.

(PSP): Thunder Soul.

(CJ): And it’s played has screenings..

(RJ): All over

(CJ): In about, I counted the other day it’s been about fourteen different cities, major cities and it’s been primarily at the film festivals at each of those cities.

(RJ): In Austin it was South by Southwest

(CJ): South by Southwest. In Dallas it was Dallas Film Festival.

(RJ): And everywhere it has gone it has won first place. Everywhere it has gone.

(CJ): In fact it won first place audience award at the South by Southwest Austin,  at Dallas, and then Los Angeles Film Festival.

(RJ): Yeah, right.

(CJ): And it just had the people on edge at LA.

(RJ): Toronto

(CJ): Toronto, Edinburgh, Scotland, Philadelphia. It is in New York now. It is playing, it will play just got an email that it is going to be playing at aw heck, I just saw it too, uh, golly, it is a new place that I just saw cause I get these alerts all the time you know and so prior to it getting here, it came here once before.

(RJ): The Angelica

(CJ): The Angelica.

(RJ): It just closed. (laughing)

(CJ): Yeah, ironically. But that was just for the family and band members to see. So actually it hasn’t really, unless you went where we had people fly from or travel to these various cities to see it. So it’s been widely accepted.

(PSP): That’s wonderful. Now tell us about the Conrad Johnson Foundation.

(CJ): Back in 99, 1999, ah Prof and met a lady named Artie Onayemi. He was trying to put together a foundation. She happened to know the structure and having had a foundation prior to that, she knew how to go about doing the IRS deal formation and so forth. So she helped him put together the Conrad O. Johnson Music and Fine Arts Foundation.

(RJ): Let me interrupt you just there. Prior to that, Prof. had retired. Wasn’t doing too much. He was literally withering away on the vine. He had nothing to live for. My mom and my brother.

(PSP): Your mother had died.

(RJ): My mom had died. My brother had died and that was his life taking care of those two. And so uh you know he was, what we going to do you know? He has been vibrant all these years. But with the advent of the foundation he was rejuvenated. He came back alive and I didn’t mean to….

(CJ): No. No. That’s right.

(PSP): That’s a very important part of the story.

cue point


(CJ): So basically what she did was come in and actually institute all of the things that took to make it happen. They set up some budgets and goals and so…

(RJ): 501(c)(3)

(CJ): Yeah, for the 501(c)(3). It was very difficult in the beginning. We had to put certain people on the Board of Directors. I was not on the Board of Directors. I don’t think Ronnie was either. But, Prof. was of course and she was. And she had we had two or three other major players that were on that board and that is how it began. And from that point on we have had Galas, golf tournaments, we had Miller outdoor Theatre.

(RJ): Right, clinics. Jazz clinics.

(CJ): Clinics. With Najee and …

(RJ): Ronnie Laws, Hubert Laws.

(CJ): Ronnie Laws, Hubert Laws. We have had all kinds of people come in for the, I was trying to think for the Gala, his 90th Birthday.

(RJ): Right, that was the biggest one.

(CJ): We had Eloise Laws was there. Kirk Whalum.

(RJ): Kirk Whalum was there, the black violinist that everybody loves..

(CJ): Yeah right. I think he is out of New Orleans isn’t he?

(RJ): New Orleans or Austin.

(PSP): Yeah, I have heard him on the radio and I can’t pull the name.

(CJ): Well anyway those are the kind of people that…and we got a surprise call from Stevie Wonder.

(RJ): Stevie Wonder, yeah.

(CJ): And he did it over the…

(RJ): They had a cell phone and they put the mic to it, you could hear him.

(CJ): Yeah, yeah. And so it was very interesting. But that was his 90th. And so, before that he continued to play with other named artists prior to that, but that was…

(RJ): Joe Sample was there all the time. He just loved “Prof”.

(CJ): Yeah Joe Sample, sure. Sure.

(PSP): I was going to ask you about Joe before this interview.

(RJ): Oh yeah. Joe Sample. He is a beautiful person.

(PSP): So what is the primary mission of the foundation?

(CJ): Uh, basically to enhance the legacy by keeping the kids, educating them, feeding them, growing them not to be just musicians and in the arts, but also to bring them up like “Prof” would have done it in terms of…

(RJ): Good citizens. Good solid citizens.

(CJ): Yeah, good solid citizens. Make them to be good men and women as they grow up.

(PSP): What’s the venue? I mean how do you get the kids, is there a place where you get them scholarships?

(CJ): Oh yes, we do give them scholarships.

(RJ): There are five divisions, right off the top that we can look at. The Conrad ….Foundation is one. Ok and they took the kids, the youth orchestra, they took them to the Carnegie and also the venue at the Miller outdoor theatre this past Friday and Saturday. Then you have the golf division, which is a fund-raising division which I head and we have an annual golf tournament every year. You have, Prof invented what was known as the CJ Ligature. And the CJ Ligature, is you know what you put on the reed on the instrument and you tighten it up? That is patented and there is a division there.

(PSP): Ok.

(RJ): Also the Kashmere Reunion Band is still a separate entity ok? And Jimmy Walker heads that particular area. He and Rollo head that particular area. Now that is fine but there are all these….

(CJ): Did you mention the big band?

(RJ): No I am sorry, his big professional band is still playing. Yeah and Barrie Lee Hall runs that.

(CJ): Yeah Barrie Lee Hall, he is the also the conductor for ….

(RJ): Count Basie. No. Duke Ellington

(CJ): Duke Ellington. He is also of Duke Ellington (orchestra). Right right. Right.

(RJ): Now, there is still another aspect that we haven’t touched and that “Prof” wrote three books before he died.

(PSP): Wow.

(RJ): Ok? And we haven’t been able to market that yet. You know we are still working on it. And I tell him all the time, “This man left so much work for us to do, we will be dead before we finish it all.”

(CJ): We didn’t even have a clue as to how much work that he had left here to be done. And so like Ronnie said, we had to sit down and divide up…

(RJ): It was about to kill him..

(CJ): Yeah cause I was trying to do all of it and so we broke it up to where he would handle his part, the golf tournament. Artie would handle the foundation and I would handle the music and the movies.

(RJ): And the records.

cue point

(CJ): records and Jimmy and Rollo would handle the reunion band. Barrie would also do the big band but also he would help us with the Ligature. So all of that is what, we don’t have anybody, I might get my sister to help with doing the, promoting the books because that is something that hasn’t been and we are getting…I get calls about the books and so we are going to have to reproduce them and redistribute them.

(RJ): We hope that we can package them with the CD, the book, the music.

(PSP): Oh, you all need a marketing person.

(CJ): Yeah, you right.

(RJ): And put that out there and stage band and serious music is one, one of the others is Jazz improvisation, you know…

(CJ): Keynotes to, lets see keynotes to, wait a minute, keynotes to was it stage band music? There were three books. I hadn’t, forgive me for not…

(RJ): I can’t think of the third one. He was a busy man.

(PSP): He was a busy man. So, now in terms of his house and all of the memorabilia that he has collected and photographs and is somebody going to archive that for you?

(CJ): Yeah, here is the plan. Or here was the plan. The foundation was trying to raise money at one point to build a museum. And, let me go back a little bit on that. About three and a half-four years ago, we wrote a grant. A one and a half million dollar grant and we wrote another small one for about eight or nine hundred thousand, but that one and a half million dollar grant was supposed to, we had gotten approval from Sheila Jackson Lee, but it never came to fruition. I have been to Washington (D.C.) twice and we weren’t able to get any type of….

(RJ): Follow-up on it.

(CJ): Yea, follow-up, nobody, after she said “yes I’ll do it, don’t worry my staff will take care of it”. It just hasn’t happened. So that idea was going to be, and we had the little design planned, Wilts…

(RJ): Simon Wilts before he passed, yes, he was in Prof’s band. He played with us.

(CJ): So, at that point we were going to use the foundation was going to build a museum and it would be an interactive museum. And we have all of these plaques, trophies, articles.

(RJ): All kinds of memorabilia.

(CJ): I have all kinds of stuff. And, let me tell you though, all of this, I was keeping it, a major part of it at my house and his house before he moved out and we sold it. So, now I have it, some at my house, Ronnie has some of it, and our sister has the bulk of it. We bought a storage facility, a nice size one, like about twenty by sixteen or something like that. And all that memorabilia is in there. I have had to, actually the pictures and the plaques, we had all kinds of stuff. And it was all the way up to this size you know. So, anyway….

(PSP): Let me ask you to think about for the Houston Public Library, we have this African American Library at the Gregory School and one of our major pieces is the Archives and Vince is the archival person. He is a Certified Archivist, soon to be hopefully, licensed in the State of Texas. He is a wonderful person.

(CJ): Oh, is that right?

(PSP): And what we are doing, what I am doing is helping him to go out into the community and ask people to consider giving their papers here. So I am talking about papers, and letters that went back and forth. I am talking about programs he was on. I am talking about some photographs that they could be archived here.

(RJ): The originals you are talking?

(PSP): Well, whatever originals you want to give us. For starters it could be copies of things you don’t want to give up yet. But that does two things, it is in a safe place and it is accessible.

(RJ): Right, to the public.
(PSP): So far we have not figured out a way to do with trophies and plaques and all that kind of stuff which is more what a museum would be interested in.

(RJ) and (CJ): Right. Yes.

(PSP): So I would just like to propose that you think about giving the papers and those kind of things that will help to chronicle his life to the Houston Public Library, in the form of the Conrad Johnson Collection.

(RJ) and (CJ): Ok.

(PSP): And the other stuff, you know, as you said keep it. And I am speaking out of turn because I don’t run anything.

(RJ): Laughing…

(PSP): But the other thought, we do also have a Curator. Ms. Danielle Burns and she might be interested in putting together some kind of an exhibit on Conrad or Conrad and some of his fellow musicians.

(CJ): Contemporaries.

cue point

(PSP): She just put down an exhibit on the history of Blacks and dance.

(CJ) and (RJ): Oh ok.

(PSP): So that is another possibility.

(RJ): I was thinking about Mr. Nash when I was coming over. Don’t know why I was thinking about Mr. Nash? He had a dance studio over on Blodgett.

(PSP): Oh, I remember that. I remember that, because there were so few things like that around. So yeah, I would like for you to think about that and Vince is here, we will talk about it. I mentioned it to Danielle, we will just mention it to her.

(CJ) and (RJ): Sure.

(PSP): Because she has got her own agenda, but certainly it deserves a better place…

(RJ): Than a garage (laughing)

(PSP): It does, it deserves a better place. And even if you wanted to get it back, they could even put a caveat in there that said, they could say it is not available to the public. That way you are protected, there is no white, excuse my , there is no Anglo that can come in and say and say I want to do this story and write it off the archives.

(CJ): Right, right I got you.

(PSP): We don’t want that to happen. We want to tell our own stories.

(RJ): Got you.

(CJ): Yes that is correct.

(PSP): And so if you wanted to give it and say I don’t want it open to researchers, but it is in a safe place. It is climate controlled here. He will take it and organize it. So if it is a letter from Quincy Jones, they will be able to find it. It is not just in a stack, like I found my daddies letters.

(RJ): I was telling, she asked about the funeral on CD. I told her we could probably get it.

(CJ): DVD

(RJ): Yeah DVD.

(PSP): Yeah, we would like to have that as soon as possible.

(RJ): She was there.

(PSP): I was there.

(CJ): So you remember KirbyJon?

(RJ): laughing…..

(PSP): I was just talking to KirbyJon, I mean I have never seen him.

(CJ): I have never seen anything like it.

(PSP): I have never seen, I told him it was one of the finest memorials I have ever been to.

 

(CJ) and (RJ): Yes.

(PSP): But anyway we are going to formally end this and but we would just like to ask you to think about giving some of your materials. Particularly the papers in the form of the Conrad Johnson Collection to the Houston Public Library.

(CJ): Would that be and ownership of the papers to you or would that just donation of them or what?

(PSP): He can explain that.

(CJ): Ok, great.

(PSP): You want to cut that off and explain. He can explain that.

Vince Lee (VL): Thank you gentlemen.

(CJ): Sure.

(PSP): Thank you so much for a very good interview and you opened up some ideas that I have never about Conrad.

(CJ): Right . Right.