I grew up Texas-style, listening to Walter Winchell on the radio, yearning for bright lights or something undefinable. My education came largely from the local movie theater, which saved my life during the Great Depression. Having learned early on to read anything the Fort Worth Public Library would let me take out, at age 16 I stumbled onto two books that changed my life.

One was the white jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow's Really the Blues, which gave me an informed look at racism in action and the music that African-Americans were making famous for the rest of us. Fort Worth was an unsophisticated, deeply segregated little city in those days, but Mezzrow taught me to love modern music and to see "the race" in a different light.