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Distinguished SOTW Technician.
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My friend is doing some research about Chu Berry.
I remember reading about the events leading up to the car accident - I thought it was in my Dizzy Gillespie book, but can't find it.

Maybe I read it online somewhere but a search can't find it. I'm wondering if it was on a jazz podcast.

Does anyone know where I can find such an account ?

(Briefly from memory, one of the band didn't like the driver. He'd had a prang the week before. Cab Calloway was going to Canada and they were going to go by train but to cut costs they'd hired a couple of cars and were driving to gigs. The band member refused to travel with the driver and so Chu agreed to sit in the first car instead. They followed in the car behind and saw the care begin to swerve and then crash into a steel bridge.)

That's basically what I remember. I think there was some detail about the driver being a drinker but he'd been told to stay off the booze but had some dental treatment and was on medication.

If anyone can point me to a book or something online that has this story I'd be grateful.

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try this

He was unbelievable," Chris explained to Mabel. "I'll play some records for you. (You, dear reader, can hear Chu's magic by visiting this site) His solos had a swing and drive that I've never heard before from a sax player, and I've heard a lot of them. It was a style all his own, and it showed an imagination for melody that folks are beginning to copy. He was only 33. I can't believe more of you kids don't know him. He was the greatest sax player ever. And he was from your hometown."

"How did he die," Mabel asked.

"It was a car accident," Chris responded. "He had a fractured skull and died last night."

Chris heard the rustle of newspapers to his left.

"Hey, here's something about him in the papers," one of the loafers said. "I'll read it. It says 'Ob..obse..obseq' something…"

"Obsequies," piped up Lizzie, whose vocabulary was the envy of most folks who entered the little world of the Minns family. "It means burial ceremonies."

"Okay," continued the young man. "It says, 'Obsequies will be conducted in Simpson Methodist Church Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock for Leon (Chu) Berry, 33, native of this city and featured saxophonist with Cab Calloway's orchestra, who was fatally hurt in an automobile accident near Conneaut, Ohio early Monday. Rev. Mapson F. Hayling, church pastor, will officiate, and burial is to follow in Peninsula cemetery. Chu Berry, as he was known, had been connected with prominent dance bands over a period of years. The Calloway orchestra had just completed an engagement at Conneaut Lake Sunday night and Berry and another member of the group were en route to Toronto, Canada, to fill an engagement when the accident occurred. Their car struck a stone bridge abutment during a heavy fog. Berry is survived by his wife, his mother, one sister, a stepdaughter, and a step-grandson. The body will remain in the Kepner Chapel until 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon when it will be taken to the church."

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鈥 from the Afro American (Baltimore) Nov. 8, 1941, p. 14:
Thousands Attend Last Rites for Chu Berry at Wheeling
Death Ends His Career

Funeral for Saxophonist Held Sunday

WHEELING, W.Va. -- Finis was written to a brilliant career Sunday with the funeral and interment here of Leon (Chu) Berry, former saxophonist in Cab Calloway's band.

Mr. Berry died Thursday of injuries sustained in an automobile crash on Monday fifteen miles from Conneaut, Ohio, when a car in which he was riding skidded during a heavy fog and crashed into the end of a steel bridge.

Suffered Fractured Skull

Physicians at Brown Memorial Hospital attributed his death to a fractured skull and other internal injuries.

Funeral services were held at the Simpson Church with the Rev. Mr. Hayling officiating. Interment took place in the Peninsula cemetery.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Geraldine Berry; mother, Mrs. Margaret Berry, and sister, Miss Anne Berry. Pallbearers were: Duncan Hill, John James, Charles Scott, William Riley, James Wood and Wilkes Kinney.

Cab Comes by Plane

Calloway, who came by plane from Rochester, N.Y., to attend the funeral, was visibly touched. He expressed deep regrets over the loss of the greatest member of his band. Cab also stated that Chu would always be a member of my band.

The band contributed a floral design shaped as a heart, while Cab's personal design was a spray of lilies that covered the entire casket. Numerous other pieces banked the whole front of the church.

Thousands Pass Bier

More than a thousand persons viewed the remains and hundreds of cars were in the funeral procession.

Among out of towners attending the rites were: Mrs. E.S. Campbell, her three sons, and daughter, Mrs. Irene Erskine of Williamson; Mr and Mrs. John James, Huntington; Perry Smith, Aspin Wall, Pa.; Wm. Wood, Huntington; Mrs. Katherine Kennedy, Nashville, Tenn., mother-in-law; Mr and Mrs. Oswald Kennedy and Mr and Mrs. Harold Grave, all of Pittsburgh.

Second to Hawkins

Generally recognized in hot jazz circles as second only to Coleman Hawkins on his instrument, he came into prominence in the middle 1930s with the rise in popularity of swing. A college graduate from West Virginia, he was given the designation of Chu from his way of working the saxophone mouthpiece between his lips on a hot chorus, much in the manner of a person chewing.
Cab Believes Berry Had Premonition

WHEELING, W.Va. -- Did Leon (Chu) Berry have a premonition of his untimely death?

At least Cab Calloway thinks so.

He revealed that the ill-fated car in which Chu was riding came within three feet of having an accident at a railroad crossing Sunday night.

Berry Nervous

Leon, Cab said, told him after that he was nervous while riding with the driver of the car. I couldn't understand after he had that feeling why he would ride in the same car, Cab added.

Cab received news of Berry's death while playing before 5000 people in Toronto, Canada, where the band was en route when the accident occurred. He worked four hours without letting the band know of Chu's death.

He stopped the band twenty minutes before the close of the engagement and made the announcement, after which the band played God Save the King.

Calloway announced that hereafter the band members would have to travel in the band bus or not at all.

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I was friends with Jonah Jones many years ago and Jonah was working the Cab band the night of the Chu Berry accident. I was working in NYC and Jonah would come by my gig late and we would grab a late night snack.

Jonah told me his first hand account of the Dizzy spitball incident and also the Chu accident. I remember him telling me that someone, possibly a friend or fan of Cab had a new car and volunteered to drive some of the band to the next engagement. I seem to remember Jonah saying that he missed his turn for the car ride so he stayed on the bus.

He said that at some point during the early part of the journey they came across what looked like a bad car accident that was blocking the road. A few band members left the bus to investigate and found Chu lying on the road. Jonah said Chu didn't seem to be injured and was speaking to him but not really making sense. He said that Chu asked him to look for something and when he went behind Chu to look for whatever he wanted, he could see what had to be fatal head trauma and he knew then that Chu would not recover.

I was very fortunate to be able to get to know Jonah Jones and learn history first hand from someone who was on the scene when history was being made. Also, Milt Hinton, another personal friend, wrote about this incident in the book he wrote about his career (not the photography collection he published) and he also mentions how the bus arrived at the accident scene. I have Milt's book here but I'm not up to finding it at the moment, I think the title might be Bass Lines?
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