BIG CHEEKS – By Des Kelly
Every now and then, they appear, seemingly out of nowhere, multi-talented individuals who come into our lives for no other reason other than to enhance what might well be a drab existence, otherwise.
Big Cheeks happens to be one such Character.
Not having written this very interesting story about this one, and also because the author is unknown, I can only say that it was sent to eLanka for publication, by our good friend Charles Schokman. Thank you, Charles, I am sure all our readers will play the old “guessing game” even as they read these extra special facts about Big Cheeks.
Big cheeks. A grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans
known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant
His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother.
Early in life he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids he sang in the streets
of New Orleans. His first gains were coins that were thrown to them.
A Jewish family, Karnofsky, who had emigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the
7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially giving ‘work’ in the house, to feed
this hungry child. There he remained and slept in this Jewish family’s home where, for the
first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness.
When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with
her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs.
Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnofskys gave him money
to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in the Jewish families.
They sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and
composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and
Go Down Moses.
The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907.
In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a Star of David and said that in this family,
he had learned “how to live real life and determination.”
You might recognize his name. This little boy was called: Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong proudly spoke fluent Yiddish! And “Satchmo” is Yiddish for “Big Cheeks”!!!
And I’ll bet you did not know any of this.