Thursday, August 11, 2005

Keter Betts R.I.P.

Keter Betts died August 6th.,1,1209697.story?coll=la-news-state

One of my sisters wrote to a DC newspaper:

“After my husband accepted my proposal 18 months after I introduced myself to him, I told him we could not set the date until I checked with Keter Betts. After he caught his breath he wondered who was Keter Betts and what does this man have to do with our wedding. I told him that we would be in for a fantastic night of all kinds of world class jazz. My brothers used to sneak me into the jazz clubs of DC starting at 8 years old because Felix Grant had made us all jazz aficionados especially of the local talent. My childhood dream came true. He had one weekend in June six months from my pleading call and not another one until the following year. It was magical. Three years ago I called into a WPFW lazy Sunday afternoon live interview and asked him if he would write a DC theme song. He remembered our wedding and let out a booming laugh and said it is so political here no one would agree.”

Keter also played at the wedding of my niece. Her mother (my sister) wrote to her:

I was so touched by your call last night in the sadness of Keter Bett’s death. I thought more about his legacy and discovered this Beauty….
A love for stringed instruments is deeply embedded in our Family Soul. That magical moment when Sam (my sister’s grandson) touched my guitar was an awakening of that Soul in a profound way. His great grandfather made his living as a Banjo Player. His great grandmother – my Mom -- was a piano teacher. You exist, Cathy, as a result of the coming together of the Son of the Banjo Player and the Daughter of the Piano Teacher – My Mother had offered to accompany your Dad’s musical. But, in the end, it was I who played beside the Banjo Player for that musical.
My brother (Bill) played the ukulele as a teenager. When he went to Mexico in his early 20s, he came back a guitar player. That’s when he discovered Charlie Byrd and Keter Betts at the Showboat Lounge in Adams Morgan. Keter was a wild man on the bass – he played that huge instrument as if it were a small fiddle – bringing out the beauty of its sound in a way none of us had ever seen and heard. We loved that sound and the interplay between Charlie’s classical and jazz guitar and Keter’s incredible bass. As Marie described – these were the sounds that fed my siblings and me as teenagers.
Then you follow the trail ….Marie and Curtis’ wedding reception…. And decades later… in their gorgeous house, at Marie’s instigation, Keter played for the wedding reception for you and Gordon, where your grandfather John Duncan – the Banjo Player – danced with you to Keter’s music.
And then you move forward almost a decade – and there is Sam – seated on the floor of my house in Mt. Pleasant, lovingly stroking the strings of my guitar – only a few blocks from where the Showboat Lounge was –

I’ve gone to some trouble editing this second note for a more general audience because the relation of our family to Keter Betts was impossible a hundred years ago. Evidence of moral progress in our country is the fact that only the music mattered.


Anonymous Howard Lee Harkness said...

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12:45 PM  

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