The purpose of sharing this story is not only to allow me to let others hear the voice and the talent of my father’s music but also to share the relationship and growth between a father and a son. My hope is that not only will it entertain, but also to enlighten others that may have had such a relationship with their own father. I wanted to get the story out there (as best I could) while my fading memory is still holding to them. I never really gave it a thought until David Knight asked if I’d like to share my father’s music and tell his story. Only then did I realize that there was very little that I knew (or remembered) about my father’s life.
Clarence Harry Rozelle (aka. Harry (Mr. Westside) Rozelle) was born May 15, 1925, in Memphis TN. That much I am sure of. I seem to remember hearing that he only went through to the 6th grade. Contracted TB in his early teens and almost died. Without any musical training started playing the piano and left for Chicago in his late teens early 20s. He later joined a saxophone player by the name of Sax Mallard as a jazz pianist, which eventually became the Sax Mallard Trio. He married Eva Morrison and had four children (Eva Maria, Michael, Emanuel (Manny) and Stevie) and played at various clubs at night while driving a truck during the day.
As I explained during the Back in the Dave podcast, our relationship was very strained during my childhood. Which is probably one reason why I knew very little about him or his history. I loved him (more than I realized at the time) because he was my Dad, but did not like the toll that his drinking had on the family and especially my mother. He wasn’t a mean drunk. Actually, he was very funny at times. Even with his limited education, he was very literate. I remember he and my mother would work the Sunday Crossword puzzles together and both would read and share books with each other. There were many trips to the Drive-In (which I guess was the only way they could go out to see a movie with us four kids in our pajamas and popcorn that we popped at home before leaving) and family trips to Memphis and St. Louis to visit my grandmother and relatives. And the basement parties with him playing the piano and entertaining everyone. Hot summer nights were spent by Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan. Trips to Riverview Amusement Park and Brookfield Zoo, or just going to the airport to watch the planes take off and land.
But his passion was his music. I did not really get to appreciate it or understand him until I became 18 and realized that he was struggling with our relationship just as much as I was with him. I realized that I was just as much at fault with our relationship being the way it was as he and that we both had to understand, forgive and accept what was, but didn’t have to be. I believe he always knew why I was so distant with him and felt the guilt when the few times he would try to make amends I would reject it. I am so glad that Gold healed those wounds while we still had time. Now, there is a whole new feeling I get when hearing his music and singing. The fun times are not clouded by the bad anymore and the love that he and my mother shared for each other is a more vivid memory now. My brother Manny is carrying on the Rozelle talent with his own group called The Manny Rozelle Trio with his musical piano skills.
I want to sincerely thank David (Dr. Dave I call him. Lol) for giving me this opportunity to share these thoughts and my Dad’s music to him and you listeners. Dave is extraordinary and gifted himself. I am so lucky to call him a new friend and family member (yes, I’ve adopted you. Lol) and cannot say how excited I am about our future upcoming endeavors. For those who do not know yet, what Dave has up his sleeve, hold on. He has got BIG plans in the works.
So thanks again to everyone for reading and listening to my story and I encourage all of you to share yours as well. Everyone has a story. The only rule is that you stay true to the spirit of Back in the Dave and keep it real.
And as Dave’s grandmother always says, “Keep on living!”