We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Follow Your Heart

Moving with the Giants of Jazz, Swing, and Rhythm and Blues

Joe Evans

Publication Year: 2008

Detailing the career of Joe Evans, Follow Your Heart chronicles the career of Joe Evans, an alto saxophonist who between 1939 and 1965 performed with some of America's greatest musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, Jay McShann, Andy Kirk, Billie Holiday, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lionel Hampton, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Evans warmly recounts his wide range of experience in the music industry and comments on popular New York City venues used for shaping and producing black music, such as the Apollo Theater, the Savoy, Minton's Playhouse, and the Rhythm Club. Revealing Evans as a master storyteller, Follow Your Heart describes his stints as a music executive, entrepreneur, and musician. Evans offers invaluable insight into race relations within the industry and the development of African American music and society from the 1920s to 1970s.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: African American Music in Global Perspective

Title Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.2 KB)

Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (169.4 KB)

read more

Foreword by Tavis Smiley

pdf iconDownload PDF (500.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii

The life story of Joe Evans as voiced in Follow Your Heart will touch your spirit. This moving account of an unsung musician and record company executive who is now in his nineties should be required reading...

read more

Foreword by Bill McFarlin

pdf iconDownload PDF (513.8 KB)
pp. ix-x

Follow Your Heart is historically compelling and beautifully written. The book chronicles several eras of American popular music as the saxophonist and record company executive Joe Evans lived them. The importance of the story is underscored...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (501.4 KB)
pp. xi-xii

It is not often that an author gets to say, “This is the story I was born to tell,” but in the case of Follow Your Heart, it is an accurate and appropriate statement. I first met Joe Evans in fall 1994 when he audited my African American music course at...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (505.6 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

At the outset, I must acknowledge the role of Joe Evans’s beloved wife, Anna Mae Evans (1923–99). Long before I arrived on the scene in the early 1990s, she believed this was a story that needed to be told, and when Joe Evans and I came together, she played a pivotal...

Part One

read more

1. Pensacola Blues

pdf iconDownload PDF (687.5 KB)
pp. 3-11

One day in 1921, when I was about five, I heard a fishman on a horse-drawn wagon singing a song. Between the pauses, he blew what looked like a cow’s horn, alerting people on the outskirts of Pensacola, Florida, that he was in our area...

read more

2. Music Crazy

pdf iconDownload PDF (685.5 KB)
pp. 12-19

Once the music bug bit me, it became my obsession and my passion. It was as if the rest of my childhood quickly sped away. Music eventually became my great discovery, but the initial path was a bumpy one...

read more

3. Boy Meets Band

pdf iconDownload PDF (548.6 KB)
pp. 20-31

My first and lasting impression of Raymond Sheppard was that he was very neat. He was brown-skinned with dimples, clean shaven, and always well dressed. Even when he was giving lessons, I can’t recall seeing him without a shirt and...

read more

4. "Ma" Rainey's Deep South

pdf iconDownload PDF (690.8 KB)
pp. 32-40

As the youngest members of the Ray Shep band, Bobby Johnson and I got to be pretty close. In the Shep organization, everybody was supposed to be equal. Everybody got the same salary. But when it came to discussing business, it was a...

Part Two

read more

5. New York, New York

pdf iconDownload PDF (709.6 KB)
pp. 43-55

In September 1938, I was on my way to New York City for the first time. I had already traveled up and down the East Coast with Shep as far north as Richmond, Virginia. New York City was just about four hundred miles beyond. When I arrived at the...

read more

6. Hootie and the Bird

pdf iconDownload PDF (695.4 KB)
pp. 56-65

By 1942, World War II had turned the country’s economy right side up again. There were so many jobs around that the comedians joked about how choosy people had become as to where and under what conditions they would work. As a result...

read more

7. The Big, Big Bands

pdf iconDownload PDF (717.1 KB)
pp. 66-79

Louis Armstrong was still one of the hottest musicians around. I had known of him since I was a child listening to him on the radio and records. I was amazed to be playing with this music legend. Since I was a seasoned musician, I wasn’t intimidated...

read more

8. Call Me "Italy"

pdf iconDownload PDF (693.8 KB)
pp. 80-88

Back in New York working the freelance scene again, I was running into fellow musicians at the usual spots. While Charlie Parker was becoming an American musical icon by the late 1940s, his fellow bebopper, Dizzy Gillespie, was also gaining a reputation...

Image Plates

pdf iconDownload PDF (569.7 KB)

read more

9. The End of an Era

pdf iconDownload PDF (702.4 KB)
pp. 89-100

When I returned to the states in March 1954, I had to reestablish myself back in New York. Even though I hadn’t been gone that long, everything looked so strange. In Italy things moved very slowly. It would take us two hours to eat a meal...

Part Three

read more

10. The Rhythm and Blues Scene

pdf iconDownload PDF (543.5 KB)
pp. 103-113

When the Savoy closed, it was the end of a musical era. I felt a social and economic void. I filled the social void by increasing my time at the Apollo Theater. In order to fill the economic void, I supplemented my income by working for...

read more

11. The Rise of Carnival Records

pdf iconDownload PDF (745.8 KB)
pp. 114-134

Before I went back to Motown, I met with the Manhattans at Kenny Kelly’s house to rehearse. His mother owned the building. I picked some songs I wanted them to rehearse, and I rewrote several of the songs they had written. “When you get them the way...

Image Plates

pdf iconDownload PDF (397.5 KB)

read more

12. After the Manhattans

pdf iconDownload PDF (703.5 KB)
pp. 135-146

I was sitting in my office considering options, when I heard an announcement over the radio: “You can go to college on weekends, in the evenings, even on Sundays; just come to Essex County College for more information.” Essex County College was just...

read more

Epilogue: Long Good-byes

pdf iconDownload PDF (673.8 KB)
pp. 147-151

This story was to have ended in the mid-1990s with my eightieth birthday. Although I never imagined I would make it this far, I turned ninety-one on October 7, 2007. But the last several years have been punctuated with a loneliness and sadness...


pdf iconDownload PDF (655.6 KB)
pp. 153-155


pdf iconDownload PDF (754.9 KB)
pp. 156-167

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091131
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252033032

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: African American Music in Global Perspective

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Evans, Joe, 1916-.
  • Jazz musicians -- United States -- Biography.
  • Rhythm and blues musicians -- United States -- Biography.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access