|The Miles Davis Trumpet is listed on the |
UNCG Bucket List
Arthur Taswell “Buddy” Gist, Jr. was born in Spartanburg, SC in 1925, but was raised in Greensboro, NC. His father and mother, Arthur and Louise Gist, were the proprietors of the Magnolia House Motel on Gorrell Street. The Gist family hosted an impressive array of entertainers in their establishment, including Ray Charles, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Tina Turner. Magnolia House, which is preserved as a historical landmark, accumulated such a remarkable list of patrons because it served as one of the few motels providing quality accommodations for African American travelers prior to desegregation.
In August of 1942, Gist was enlisted in the military, serving in the Navy for the duration of World War II. Into adulthood, Buddy Gist attended North Carolina State A & T University, where he was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Upon graduating in 1947, Gist continued the entrepreneurial family tradition, but relocated from Greensboro to Harlem, which provided far greater opportunity than the South during the Jim Crow Era.
Upon taking up residence in Upper Manhattan, Buddy Gist submerged himself in the thriving African American cultural community. During one evening in 1949 at the Birdland Jazz Club, billed as the “Jazz Corner of the World,” Gist was introduced to Miles Davis by US heavyweight boxing champion, Ezzard Charles. This began Buddy Gist’s friendship Miles Davis and his family. Gist met many of Davis’ recording friends and even helped look after his children while Davis was on tour.
|Miles Davis performed in concert at UNCG in 1973|
A few years after taking up residence in Greensboro, Buddy Gist allowed the Miles Davis Trumpet to be exhibited on loan to UNCG, beginning in 1996. The trumpet was not officially donated to UNCG until September 27th, 2001. At this time, the value of the trumpet, modestly estimated in the annual report of the School of Music, was $70,000. The jazz program became the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program, a memorial to Gist’s friendship with the jazz legend. Soon after the donation became public and the instrument was on display, the Missouri Historical Society requested it be loaned for an exhibit on Miles Davis. A more professional appraisal was conducted, and it was discovered that the serial number on the UNCG trumpet matched that of the trumpet featured on the cover of Davis’ Kind of Blue album. This meant the instrument Gist donated was not just any trumpet, but that is was the trumpet used during the recording of a masterwork of 20th century Jazz. This cultural treasure was revalued by appraisers at $1.6 million. In honor of Buddy Gist’s donation, Steve Haines, director of the UNCG Jazz Program, funded the construction of a custom display case in which the trumpet is featured today.
Tragically, Buddy Gist’s life took a turn for the worse. After returning from sabbatical in 2008, Steve Haines followed up on rumors that Buddy Gist, 83 years old, was homeless, living in Center City Park. By August of 2008, Haines organized assistance for Gist, moving him into Partnership Village, a program operated by Greensboro Urban Ministries. Essentially, Buddy Gist was adopted into the family of the UNCG music faculty. Chad Eby, jazz professor, invited him to Thanksgiving dinner with his family, and Gist continued to receive a steady stream of visitors who were recipients of the amazing stories Gist would tell about his life. In July 2009, Buddy Gist suffered an incapacitating stroke. John Salmon of the School of Music became Gist’s legal guardian, and he was moved into the Golden Living Nursing Center in Greensboro.
On April 18th, 2010, Arthur “Buddy” Gist, Jr. died, requesting that all memorial donations be made to UNCG’s Miles Davis Jazz Festival. The UNCG School of Music held a memorial service in the Organ Hall on April 25th, 2010. Gist’s name will be forever connected to Miles Davis through the generosity of his two greatest treasures, the trumpet and his relationship with the faculty of UNCG.