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Issue 27 - Joe and the dragon

Whisky Magazine Issue 27
November 2002

 

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Joe and the dragon

Michael Jackson reports from the centre of the universe

Jumping Joe Danno's last voicemail contained four worrying words: “Retirement home” and “Las Vegas”. He sounded uncharacteristically anxious, and that seemed to have made the machine nervous. It chewed up most of the message, but spat out a mystifying question, “Can you handle the stuff?”

What stuff? The machine garbled the next bit, then and coughed up the phrase, “pre-Prohibition bourbon”. Joe had left a phone number, but that had been gnawed senseless. I put my people in Chicago on to the case, but zilch. Half a year passed, then, the other day, I heard that Joe had been grounded, by The Man Upstairs. Worse than grounded: six feet under.

Rest in peace? You couldn't do that in Vegas, where the neons flash all night. Nor would rest accord with Joe's pivotal belief: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing. They called him Jumping Joe because he had a radio programme on jazz called “The Jazz Philosopher”.

We were listening to a tape of the programme the last time I had a drink with Joe. We were at his bar, The Bucket'o'Suds. I wish the Americans wouldn't call beer “suds”, but I could forgive Joe anything. “Fancy a 1914 Stitzel Weller Old Mock?” he inquired. How could you get mad at a man who put questions like that? He asked me how I would like it. I hummed a few bars of Straight, no chaser. He turned down the tape and asked me to hum the whole song. I turned the tape up, louder.

Not all the spirits at the Bucket'o'Suds were in the bott...

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