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What's under Dr. Lonnie Smith's turban?


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I love Korla Pandit. I've got a bunch of his Fantasy records albums from the fifties on colored vinyl. Fantasy has a Korla Pandit cd in their catalog. :tup

He used to have a TV show in the early fifties out here in LA. I guess he would play his exotic organ music and mesmerize housewives.

He only passed away a couple years ago.

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Does he live in Newark presently, jazzgroove, or was he there for a gig?

No, he lives in Florida. He was playing with Lou Donaldson at the Vangard. My friend knows him and jammed with him. When we picked him up it was a windy day, and off flew his turban. He did back in 96 have a lot of hair. Don't know about it today. He is a real cool person to talk with.

Edited by Jazz Groove
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  • 7 years later...

Strangely, the Doctor's wikipedia page now claims that he is a convert to Sikhism and cites a story at the Russian news site rt.com. Which means of course that dozens of other Sikh-related sites are now proclaiming Lonnie Smith is a "White Sikh" and citing...wikipedia.

Is there any truth to this? I thought the official word was that the turban itself may be "authentically Sikh", but the Doctor wears it simply because he looks awesome in a turban.

Edited by Big Wheel
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From what I believed to be a reliable source, I was told that the turban actually hides a smaller, but identical one. It, in turn, conceals a perfectly preserved five-ounce remnant of a ham and cheese sandwich abandoned in a New York studio by trombonist Jack Jenney after a particularly trying 1936 Nat Shilkret session. As the story goes, Toots Mondello picked it up and made an attempt to lob it some 30 feet, into a waste basket, but there was an intercept by Sterling Bose, who stuck it into his pocket. How it moved from Bose's pocket to the top of Lonnie Smith's head is something collectors will probably be arguing about for decades to come. Shortly before his death, in December of 1945, Jenney—who never ceased to claim proprietary rights—told a nephew that Bose dropped the hardened remnant into a Salvation Army money pot, thinking that it might some day have value. That rang a bell, as it were, with pianist Sam Allen, who related a similar experience involving Stuff Smith, who in 1939 found a withered leek in his violin case. "We had just finished a date for Varsity and decided to get a bite to eat at the Turf, you know, that place on Broadway by the Brill," he recalled. "Stuff always kept a couple of Tootsie Rolls in his case, you know, because he loved those things and sometimes rubbed them on his bow. Well, he reached in and came up with that old leek! We all but died from laughing, but Stuff didn't think it was funny. You know what was really funny? One of the tunes we recorded was Sam, the Vegetable Man...thought I'd die! So, we began calling him 'Stuff, the vegetable man"! He didn't appreciate that, either."

When Phil Schaap, the noted jazz authority, was asked about Dr. Lonnie Liston Smith and what he might be keeping under his turban, his response was a closed mouth smile. "Phil knows something, but he ain't tellin'," said a friend and confidante who runs trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' autograph concession. "And you know, if Phil ain't tellin', it's got to be really hot—like, maybe the damned sandwich is in his own refrigerator."

That would, of course, mean that Dr. Smith has something else under his turban—or, perhaps, just a tangle of braids.

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