Autograph Letter Signed, 2pp on 2 separate 8vo air mail sheets of thin paper, with signed air mail envelope postmarked, Juan les Pins, Alpes Maritimes, Aug. 7, 1954
by BECHET, SIDNEY
Bechet writes to his wife, Elisabeth, in Paris claiming that she put him, "in a mess that I will never get out....," beseeching her to help him, "out of that mess...." Sidney Bechet married Elisabeth in Antibes in 1951. It was a good time of his life professionally as well. He was getting a lot of work and, in 1953 he signed a recording contract with Disques Vogues. See "Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz" by John Chilton for most of the following information: 1954, the year of this letter, began with Bechet playing a two-week stint at the Alhambra in Paris, then, in mid-February he went to Geneva where he was accompanied by the Claude Aubert band, including the British saxophonist Wally Fawkes. He worked as much as he could, moving on to Belgium, the Paris, and back to Geneva for a month's work with Claude Aubert's band again from March 11 - April 4. Besides Elisabeth, Bechet had a mistress, Jacqueline Pekaldi. While he was in Geneva he received word that Jacqueline had delivered a son (April 3, 1954), Daniel. Bechet left Geneva and returned to Paris to be with Jacqueline and their son. "Sidney's wife Elisabeth accepted the situation with a certain calm. She was a stoic woman and not at all vicious... resigned by Sidney's way of life...." But Jacqueline wanted a house for their son and in the end Sidney began to spend more and more time with them. "Their marriage was never the same again." In fact, five years later as Bechet's health was failing, he went to Jacqueline and Daniel to die. In June of 1954 Sidney was due to perform at a major Jazz festival in Paris, but became very ill and had to have surgery on an ulcer which was hemorrhaging. The recovery was fairly swift and by August he was ready to perform in Juan-les-Pins from where this letter was written. The Juan-les-Pins performance was the first after his surgery and he was still nursing himself back to health, eating little but often and taking walks. His letter to his wife certainly makes it sound like things were very bad for him, apparently common in his letters. He could be referring to his health, but more likely seems to be talking about having to change things in his life with the birth of his son and wanting to spend his time with Jacqueline and Daniel. It is unclear what Elisabeth did to make this difficult for him... perhaps nothing. With his typical limited use of punctuation, Bechet writes that he hopes Elisabeth is well so that she, "can get that money," for him. "I am sorry to tell you but I am very sick but I must keep on working there is no other way out for me it is very sad for me now...I cannot understand why I must suffer like that I have always tryed[sic] to be good...I do hope that you will sell the care...I am very unhappy...I have never write[sic] you a letter like this one...when I come back to Paris it will be the same thing...if you could help me out...I would be happy...." He signs, "Yours Sidney.
(Inventory #: 4326)
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