Celebrating Buck O’Neil, Kansas City and Jazz

(Above: Thirty seconds with Buck O’Neil is guaranteed to brighten your day.)

By Joel Francis

Buck O’Neil, Negro Leagues baseball player and ambassador of all things good, died at age 90 three years ago this month. Today we pay tribute to Buck by reprinting his longest music-only interview.

I spoke to Buck as an undergrad back in the summer of 1998 while freelancing for the Kansas City Blues Society. For some reason the article never made it into “Blues News,” and it languished until Ken Burns premiered his “Jazz” documentary series in 2001. I was working for The Examiner in Independence, Mo. at the time. They were all too happy to run my interview.

The day photographer and I took the picture that accompanied the story (not the one that appears online), we met Buck at the Blue Room then hit Arthur Bryant’s around the corner. Now *that’s* Kansas City.

Keep reading:
Buck O’Neil: Sweet Times and Sweet Sounds at 18th and Vine.

4 thoughts on “Celebrating Buck O’Neil, Kansas City and Jazz

  1. He did speak at my high school one time – an unforgettable experience – but I did meet him briefly while at the Museum. His funeral, not the public service – but the one at his A.M.E. Zion Church just outside the Jazz District – was probably one of the most moving moments in my life. Stunning.

    1. I don’t doubt that the service was amazing, Andrew. Buck was so full of love, I imagine the outpouring was incredible. All of those who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Buck were better for it.

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