John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

How Ansonia gave birth to Bebop jazz

Allen Aubrey Tinney was born in Ansonia to Allen (Connecticut 1897) and Ethel Tinney, on May 28, 1921. I was not able to find a street address.

He moved to Manhattan with his father in 1930 (“I was raised partially in Greenwich Village in New York and then I moved to Harlem. And then I moved worldwide.”)  and broke into films and stage as a child. In 1939, he performed Musical, Revue, Sing for Your Supper and Sing Out the News as well carrying a lead singing roll in the stage production of One of These Fine Days.

It is widely agreed that he had performed as a 14-year-old in the original production of Porgy and Bess in New York in 1935, although I could find no actual S&SAG accreditation for his work.  

During rehearsals, he played for George Gershwin, who was a major influence on his style of play. Gershwin provided Tinney with professional classical piano and jazz lessons and appointed him the rehearsal pianist and assistant to Gershwin.

Clark Monroe opened the Uptown House in the 1930s at 198 West 134th St in Harlem, in a building which formerly held Barron's Club where Duke Ellington worked early in the 1920s.

 Tinney formed the house band with Jazz giant Max Roach was his drummer, also included in the house band during Tinney days there, Dizzy Gillespie and Bud Powell.  During the time period, 1939 to 1943, he was created with creating a fast, flowing style that became the forerunner of the bebop sound. 
                                                               The very great Max Roach
Dizzy Gillespie

Bud Powell
The great Sax artist Charlie Parker played under Tinney’s direction. “We were playing this new thing,” Tinney said “bebop, and it had an effect on Charlie (Parker) it prompted him to leave Jay McShann's band and come to New York and play with us.”
Charlie Byrd

He served in the Army during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946, however, by then the music world, specifically, jazz, had changed radically, an endemic drug addiction swept across the bebop scene and Tinney stood vehemently against the use of drugs which led to his disengagement with jazz from the mid-40s.

In 1957 he a novelty hit, "Bad Boy," with a band he led called the Jive Bombers. The members included Earl Johnson, Al Tinney, Wiliam "Pee Wee" Tinney and Clarence Palmer. 

The song peaked at #7 on the R&B Singles chart and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has since been covered by The Escorts, Mink DeVille, Ringo Starr, Buster Poindexter (a.k.a. David Johansen), Sha Na Na, and others, and was used in the 1990 film Cry-Baby.

In 1962 he married Lillie Williams, a native of Buffalo, New York where they settled in 1969. He became director of a music scheme at State Detention Centre in New York, and later, in he taught at the University of New York in Buffalo, was the director of the Buffalo Jazz Ensemble and accompanied visiting jazz musicians in the city and recorded an album with singer Peggy Farrell in 2000. 

He performed for Bishop Tutu of South Africa when he came to the campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1999 he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Buffalo State College and was also inducted into the Smithsonian Institute.

Tinney was known nationally as a “graceful gentleman.” He died of natural causes on December 11, 2002.  At age 81. His wife of 28 years, Lillie Williams Tinney, died in 1990. He is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren.


Okay then as a dancer I think our first experience with show business, which my brother and I were in and my sister, but my brother and I worked as a team, more or less. My sister went out on her own, and she became like, soubrette at the Apollo Theater like the leader of the chorus. You know, the girl in the front. But my brother and I remained, you know, as a team. And we were like in four Broadway shows. Beginning with Porgy and Bess. Where I was like the stage band, what do you call it, drum major, type thing with the New Orleans type of a group they had on stage. We're talking '34 and, yeah 34. And then I was on most of Porgy's appearances when he, you know, came to the stage. I was the one who brought him out with the goat Cart. You know, hoping that the goat wouldn't tinker all over the stage. You know how animals are. Sometimes they'd be hard stopping these goats. They were live goats and I was afraid that they would take me off into the pit where the musicians were, (Tape Indescribable]. I had these sneakers on and I would, like, put on the brakes. I don't know how Porgy felt. And Porgy at that time was, his name was Todd Duncan and Ann Wiggins Brown was Bess.

And then one night, I was taken down by a young man, younger than I was. It shows you don't have to be influenced by older people, you can be influenced by younger people. And this guy was a couple years my junior. He took me down to this club, Monroe's Uptown House. The fellows were jamming around and there was a pianist there, forgot his name, Brownie, and I should remember because he's responsible for my job. The owner let him go and hired me and the same thing happened with Thelonious Monk. The owner of a club Murphy's let Thelonious Monk go because he fell off the bench drunk one night and Hot Lips Page, who was the leader of the band there, he came and got me and put m~ in the union and that's when I went to work in Thelonious Monk's place. I was about 18.


Then we came back and, uh, then I decided to come home. And I came home about '45 or '46, somewhere around there. And, uh, then I heard what was happening to all my musician friends. Some had become great and some had become addicted, but I saw the addictions coming.

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