20:10 has proven to be, thus far, the most challenging year of my life. The illness and eventual loss of my father, Walter Payton, has caused much sorrow to not only myself and my family, but also to the ones who truly loved him. If that weren’t enough, the level of disrespect that has been shown to both my family and I from Benji Jaffe and others in the Preservation Hall camp is of unprecedented enormity. I find it rather ironic being that Benji Jaffe leads an organization whom purports to preserve the rich history of New Orleans, its music, and musicians. From my vantage point, he’s nothing but a vile predator who sucks the life blood out of the artists whom he uses to help maintain his wealth and status. None of whom receive a fair percentage of the wages which they work so tirelessly to earn.
Please allow me to provide a little backstory of why I’m so peeved.
When my father had his first stroke in January while on tour with the Hall, there was an article that came out on NOLA.com about his illness (http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2010/01/preservation_hall_bassist_walt.html
). The article was written by Keith Spera (of whom I share a similar disdain as the one I have for Mr. Jaffe). An article that was distastefully laden with information about his association with Preservation Hall and their tour itinerary. It read more like a press campaign for Preservation Hall than an account of my dad’s health. In fact, the photo pictured in the story was not one of my dad, but rather, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It also went on to mention what “lifestyle changes” were recommended from the doctor and other things I found equally unnerving and unnecessary to print. None of which my father, or anyone else in the family, was consulted about. I understand that being a public figure makes some people feel as though they have a right to broadcast his personal information, but not at the expense of talking it over first with either the person in question or his next of kin, which is standard journalistic procedure.
Those of you who know me may be familiar with the fact that in recent years I have been very vocal about a myriad of issues via email, my blog (http://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/
), facebook, etc., and was very close to blasting the aforementioned parties then, but remained quiet as not to draw more attention to it. I did, however, make it known to both Mr. Jaffe and to Mr. Spera (via Jaffe) that neither I, nor my family, appreciated those remarks and asked if they would refrain from doing so in the future.
Granted, Benji was close to my dad, but that gives him no right to speak for my father or my family. There are countless other ways in which Benji and others in the Preservation Hall camp have blatantly disrespected my family during his hospitalization, but I’ll spare you the details for the sake of being succinct.
Fast forward to my father’s obit when again no one was consulted in the family before it went to print, and once again Keith Spera writes, Benji Jaffe is quoted (http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/2010/10/walter_payton_longtime_new_orl.html
). Quite regrettably, it was not mentioned in the original obit that besides the “Grammy-winning trumpeter”, my father is survived by two other children (Yolanda and Dario) whom he loved equally as much. It was so bad with the Hall Jazz folks, that when my sister called to alert the media of my father’s passing they replied by saying they’d already been informed. The obit was already written and published an hour and a half after my dad’s passing, only after which Keith Spera decided to give me a call to fact check. To quote my sister Yolanda, “they’re cold-blooded people who won’t even give us the consideration of our grief”. Even still, I remained silent.
Most recently, I get a call yesterday from someone who works with Preservation Hall, three weeks after my father’s passing, that Preservation Hall is having a memorial and second-line in Walter Payton’s honor and that our family is welcomed to attend. Yet again, no one called to ask to get our blessing, to invite us to participate in some way, or to even see if we’d be available on that date to attend (not that we’d want to after the way they’ve treated us). Well, I can sit still no longer.
The kind of treatment exhibited by Benji and some in The Preservation Hall Jazz Band institution is endemic of those who have controlled things in the music industry since its inception. You would think a cat who has roots, and who fancies himself a bassist (or rather he owns a bass) would hold his proclaimed mentor in higher regard.
I can’t say I’m surprised at all this given that Benji routinely disrespected my father while we were in the McDonogh #15 Elementary school band together under my father’s instruction back in the 80s. You figure over time that some people grow out of such behaviors, but clearly Benji hasn’t. My father worked so hard for him in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, playing the largest venues in the world, grossing fees in the neighborhood of 40 to 50,000 dollars per gig. Sadly, he paid my father about $500 a night. Where’s all the rest of that money going when you pay the cats like that? I don’t know, but I tell you where it ain’t- in the pockets of the cats who deserve it.
In closing, it has been hell dealing with these folks the whole time my father took ill and it’s so sad that even in his passing they won’t allow him, or us, peace.
This one’s for you, Dad!