I Remember Hayward

I never thought I would write an obituary on my blog, but then I never thought I would write about cancer. Last week, my dear friend since 1964, Buzz, or formally, Hayward Sylvester Blackledge III died at 56. This is my eulogy for the wake today. In tribute to Hayward, I have interspersed album covers I made up to honor this wonderful jazz musician.

I remember my first impression of this skinny, tall kid in 1964 from the West side of Providence. He seemed so young at 13 but so self-assured, particularly about girls. I had a dance party that year at my house and I knew then that Buzzy had something special with the girls, and I should pay very, very close attention.

When I remember Buzz, I think of when we played with the Fowler brothers band, the Soul Sounds and wore matching blue satin shirts, and did steps. We practiced in the Baptist church on the West side of Providence. It was 1966. The black kids in the neighborhood would come into the church and ask, “Why is that white guy playing in this band?” and Buzz would always defend me. Buzzy’s favorite tune was “Cold Sweat” because it was all about the drum part.

I remember when he came into my house on Olney Street one day so excited to play a new record, something he did very frequently, but this time was special. He put a new album on my record player, and he played “Fire” off the first album of Jimi Hendrix. I keenly remember he did not play “Purple Haze”, because “Fire” was a drummer’s tune. He announced we were going to see Hendrix at Brown University, which we did March 8, 1968.

When I remember Buzz, I remember all the times we would stay up until the morning listening to music. Hayward introduced me to jazz, and we would listen to Roland Kirk and Ahmad Jamal and Horace Silver all night long. We would want to play and I would take out my guitar, and Hayward would get some pots out of the kitchen and use them as bongos. We played until we were so sore.

When I remember Buzz, I think of all the concerts and music we took each other to over the years. He took me to all three Hendrix concerts in Providence – once with counterfeit tickets that cost $8 – but we got in. I remember all the music at the Newport Jazz festival we went to. I remember going to the old Jazz Workshop in Boston with him. But then I remember when he played the Jazz workshop with Victor Brasil and Buzzy was playing at an incredible level. I was so proud of Buzz.

When I remember Buzz, I remember living with him in 1981. He let me move in for several months when I was having girlfriend problems, about which he was much wiser. I remember his cooking. His signature dish was a slow cooked lamb with allspice. I had never seen someone be so patient to cook something for so long, and then when he ate it, he ate it slowly. I gobbled it up, it was so good. But Hayward could out-slow-eat anyone on the planet. He would push his dish away half eaten and you would find him at one in the morning nibbling on a few more spoonfuls.

When I remember Buzz, I remember his years obsessed with clothes. So many clothes, his closets were full and he had racks of them hanging in his Cambridge apartment. He took me shopping for platform shoes and flowered shirts, and he convinced me to buy platform sandals with 4-inch heels and a pair of High black boots with 3-inch yellow heels and a yellow stripe up the side. Hayward, I still have those boots, but I will never ever be as cool or as hip as you were then.

When I remember Hayward, I remember my best man. I think of him playing at my wedding, and coming together with my musician friends from college and later in life. He looked so handsome. He played with finesse. He was so excited about playing with my accomplished friend Dan Siegel. I will cherish that last time I played with Hayward forever.

When I remember Hayward, I think of all the times we never thought Hayward would live to be 56. Hayward lived on the edge, and he scared us many times. But then something happened. What changed everything was this woman Angela came into his life. For the first time Hayward settled down. For the first Hayward had peace. Hayward adored Angela and was enveloped by this incredible, warm, wonderful woman who had so much love for him. Angela is why Hayward made it so far and had a great life, a life we can all honor now.

I remember Hayward.

10 responses to “I Remember Hayward

  1. Jeffrey, I am really sorry about your loss.

  2. Very moving Jeffrey; thank you for sharing. Like Sherali I am sorry for your loss.

  3. Jeffrey, a touching piece. I too experienced a tragic loss this week. In their memory, I’ll look forward to some slow eating with you followed by blowing on Horace Silver tunes. I’m very sorry.

  4. very nice memories you shared there Jeffrey. Commiserations.

  5. Eric Hill (Hayward's Nephew)

    Dear Jeffrey,
    I’d like to sincerely thank you for the warm, funny, and loving eulogy you did for Buzz. I also need to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for being there during such a trying time in our life. I know that you wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Because of you I learned more of uncle Buzz than he’d told me about and I grew even closer to him even in death. I’ll be sure and call you next time I’m going to be in your area. Thanks again Jeffrey and I look forward to seeing you again. Eric
    P.S. Man those album covers are right on time!

  6. Sandra Blackledge Johnson

    My dear Jeffrey,
    I was so proud of you when you spoke these words at the wake of my beloved and only brother, my”Sweet Prince, “Buz. ” I, too, worried that my special name for you, Buz and Peter (The Three Musketeers/The Three Stooges) might not EVER grow up.
    Wow, have you EVER grown up! You are an outstanding man and a loyal friend to” Buzzy B. III” One of his secondary school friends wrote to tell me that that was the way he signed his name while at the Tyler School. He was a unique individual from the very beginning.
    It was great to see you and Peter, even under the
    nearly unbearably sad occasion. Thank You for everything- for being there, for the slide show, for the opportunity to meet your lovely wife, and most of all for the honest and unabashed love you’ve shown for my brother.
    I hope you’ll get my email ads. from Eric Hill(my son in law) and drop me a line every now and then. That will help to maintain a connection to Buz. I need all the help I can get right now.
    I’m so glad you conquered your cancer. Keep up the good work. I haven’t read your blog about it yet, just a little too close to home right now…..
    Iwill read your blogs. I”ll also, always think of you fondly. My brother loved you. Thanks for being his friend.
    Love,
    Sandra

  7. Dear Jeffrey,

    I just heard about Buz (Buzzy as we called him back in Providence). So shocking and so sad. I’m in tears thinking about him, and am remembering your whole gang. I thought you guys, a few years older than me and teenagers, were the coolest kids ever. I remember seeing a group of “hippies” walking along Irving Avenue one day after school, maybe in 1967, or early 68? It was you, Peter (my brother), Buz, and a few others. My friend and I couldn’t believe it when you all walked in my house. We were thrilled, and couldn’t wait to walk in the front door and check out this strange and wonderful new breed of youth. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that my brother had grown his hair and had this new posse of friends until that moment. My friends and sisters all got crushes on the guys and were in awe of the girls. I remember taking guitar lessons from you and going to those Jimi Hendrix concerts! I also remember giving Buz dance lessons, which I was studying. He was so into the arts that he wanted to try everything. I loved having a chance to share something I was so enthralled with, but it turned out to be much harder than I thought to explain how to execute the steps. Eventually I became a dance teacher, and taught kids for about fifteen years. Those lessons with Buz were the beginning. I had dinner with Buz and Angela (and my brother and sister-in-law) a couple of years ago, and it was fantastic to see him and meet her. What a lovely woman. They had just celebrated an anniversary and seemed so very in love. It was a blast to reminisce about our years in Providence. I’m so sorry to hear that he has passed. My deepest sympathy and condolences to his family, and to his friends. I know how much he will be missed. And that fabulous personality and huge spirit will always be part of my memories.
    Edith told me about your blog because a dear friend was just diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Your post is really inspiring, and I hope to show it to her. Thanks for making the effort to share your experiences. So many people must find this helpful. I’m really glad to hear you are doing well. With warmest wishes, Cynthia Millman

  8. Anderson Kurtz

    Sometimes news does not reach Florida. I am just now findout out about Haywood’s death. I knew him from the Providence days and we reconnected in Massachusetts when I worked for a high tech company there and he wanted to do some marketing for us. Nothing casme of ther effort, but we reconnected as friends. I mourn his passing.

    • Sandra(Alexandra) Blackledge Johnson

      Dear Andy,
      Thank you sincerely for responding to the news of the passing of my dearest and ( only) brother: My “Sweet Prince, Buz. It was a brutal shock and one from which I am still reeling from today. I loved him as only a sister can love a”baby” brother. Thanks to Cleveland for getting the news to you and thanks again for the kind words.
      Sandra

  9. I remember Hayward not for his music ,which I think was sacred to him because he never mentioned it to me. We were co-workers on the Comdex computer tradeshows. I remember him fondly as I played blackjack for the first time in Vegas with him also at a Chicago tradeshow too. I never forget the first time I visited New Orleans calling it “new Orleeeeens and Hayward immediately telling me it’s pronounced” New Owlens”,you fool !!!!!!! Love you Hayward God bless…………..Martin Kelly

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