Space is the Place
When I was an impressionable youth, my dream was to win the Publisher's Clearing house Sweepstakes. Their contests were a scam of sorts for you didn't have much chance of winning a not very big award (back then the top prize was only $100,000) although you didn't really have to buy anything (otherwise it would have been a lottery, which was illegal then.) Still, I dutifully tore out the stamps and sent in my subscriptions: Popular Science, Esquire (for a 16-year old!) and Downbeat. It was the only music magazine available. I knew a little about Jazz- I'd heard Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and of course Louis Armstrong- but I was pretty uninformed. When each issue of Downbeat arrived I would study it intensely. There was a section about regional clubs- New York, LA, Philadelpha, Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago- who was playing where, and with who. Every so often there would be an article about a guy named Sun Ra who had an "Arkestra." He said he was from the planet Saturn, and he was always referred to as "innovative" and "eccentric." Just the kind of music I was looking for. His LPs and 45s were never in the record stores.
Jump forward 14 years, I had been in and out of the music scene for some time, when news came that Sun Ra was finally coming to Minneapolis. A couple of us guys who had been in the same band went, and it was everything I had imagined. He, and his outlandish musicians were truly "out of this world." Sun Ra was an old man then, although he continued to perform for many years after wards. He was eccentric, to be sure, but he was a true innovator, and he was a true visionary, and he remained true to his vision. Nowadays, his music is easy to get (Amazon has more than a dozen titles) his Greatest Hits - Easy Listening For Intergalactic Travel is a good place to start.
He never came back to Minnesota- he was scheduled to play at a nightclub I used to frequently work in, but was caught in a blizzard. We were waiting at a nearby bar when heard the news, along with another avid fan- Tony Bennett.