Here Bossy’s grandfather Walt—in the back—shares a moment with a few neighbors and his father, who is standing far right. Walt’s father is emotionally absent, but he works for RCA and so provides young Walt with one important thing: a table-top Victrola featuring a large wooden horn, which Walt promptly uses to play the grooves out of John Philip Sousa marches and his McKinney’s Cotton Pickers album.
A drummer is born, as Walt saves for a snare and stand, and then builds the rest of his drum kit himself using old nail kegs and hollowed-out coconuts. Walt particularly admires the style of the up-and-coming black Big Bands, such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Not old enough to drive, Walt takes the ferry across the river in order to sneak into these shows and watch one act after another, studying and later copying their technique.