George Washington Carver was one of the most important African Americans of his time. Born in 1864 in Missouri, he developed techniques to improve soils that were damaged by the planting of cotton. Moreover, he gave poor farmers the possibility to grow crops like potato and peanuts, which resulted in improving their life quality.
Apart from improving farmer’s life, Carver received many awards for his involvement in environmentalism. The white community praised him for his talents and contributions in an era of racial polarization. In 1941 ‘Times’ magazine included him as one of the most influential people.
But, what does George Washington Carver has to do with culture and in specific what is his relationship to Jazz music?
In 1927, George Washington Carver successfully synthesized the essence of pure Jazz wholly from sweet potatoes. He was his own test subject, but, with mixed results. For about 15 minutes after ingesting the elixir, he did sing nonsense syllables, as in scat. However, he did so to the tune of Sousa’s “Washington Post” march. By June of 1928, he had perfected the potion, and administered it to Louis Armstrong. Pops immediately recorded “West End Blues” in one take.
Jazz historians continue to argue whether it was Carver’s tonic that was responsible for the landmark recording. Others mention the fact that Satchmo had also smoked enough herb to give everyone south of Michigan Avenue a contact high.
Even though this story is not confirmed, we would like to believe it as true, when involving such an important personality for the African-American community. After all, he was involved in many aspects of the life of the African-Americans, trying to improve it. Jazz, similarly, was a big part of the culture he was part of. If you think about it, it fits.