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Tracks Unwrapped

Fables Of Faubus


Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

This track from Charles Mingus appeared on the classic Mingus Ah-Um album and has an interesting background. Mingus wrote it explicitly as a protest against Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus who in 1957 sent out the National Guard to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School by nine African American teenagers.

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

Here is Fables Of Faubus from Mingus Ah-Um.





Faubus served as Governor from 1955 to 1967, and he is best known perhaps for defying the United States Supreme Court decision to allow the integration at Little Rock Central High School. Apparently Orval’s father said of his child: "Little Orval was different from most Faubus speaking to a crowd of protestersboys. Kids liked to get into mischief, but all he ever did was read books. He never done anything if he couldn't do it perfectly. You'd never find a weed in his row of corn."


Governor Faubus speaking to a crowd protesting about integration in Little Rock.


Wikipedia tells us that in Orval’s early political life he was: ‘A 'moderate' on racial issues, his political realism resurfaced as he adopted racial policies that were palatable to influential white voters in the Delat region as part of a strategy to effect key social reforms and economic growth in Arkansas.’ In the 1954 general election, Faubus defeated Remmel by a 63% to 37% percent margin.

The election made Faubus sensitive to attacks from the political right. It has been suggested that this sensitivity contributed to his later stance against integration when he was challenged by segregationist elements within his own party.


Then he's a fool! Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

During the first few months of his administration, Faubus desegregated state buses and public transportation and began to investigate Little Rock Schoolthe possibility of introducing multi-racial schools, so his stand on the Little Rock School issue seems surprising. Commentators have argued that behind the situation was a move earlier that year in which Faubus introduced a controversial tax to increase teachers’ salaries. His position was also being challenged by conservative Senator James D. Johnson, a segregationalist.

Journalist Harry Ashmore said that Faubus used the Guard to keep blacks out of Central High School because he was frustrated by the success his political opponents were having in using segregationist rhetoric to arouse white voters.

Picking up the Wikipedia account: ‘Faubus' decision led to a showdown with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and former Governor Sid McMath. In October 1957, Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to return to their armories which effectively removed them from Faubus' control. Eisenhower then sent elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Arkansas to protect the black students and enforce the Federal court order.



Name me a handful that's ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.
Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?


Little Rock Student

On the 25th September, 1957, the BBC reported: Nine black children have finally been able to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But they had to be surrounded by more than 1,000 US paratroopers to protect them from segregationist whites.

On the orders of President Dwight D Eisenhower, the troops arrived last night in full battledress with fixed bayonets and rifles and took over from local police following three weeks of disturbances.

The children, six girls and three boys, had to walk through a cordon to get to the school building. Outside about 1,500 whites demonstrated and at least seven were arrested. Inside, students were warned by the commanding officer, General Walker, that anyone who disrupted the school day would be handed over to local police.



Here is a video with a commentary by Jefferson Thomas, one of the nine young people involved.




In retaliation, Faubus shut down Little Rock high schools for the 1958—1959 school years. This is often referred to as "The Lost Year in Little Rock”. I wonder how far Faubus underestimated the consequences of his action and how far Eisenhower over-reacted with the amount of military power he sent in? The end result of both actions resulted in highlighting a moment that became a significant part of American history.

Faubus served as Governor for six two-year terms to 1967, so the Little Rock event did not unseat him. After his period in office Wikipedia tells us that: 'During the 1969 season, Faubus was hired by new owner Jess Odom to be general manager of his Li'l Abner theme park in the Ozark Mountains, Dogpatch, USA. According to newspaper articles, Faubus was said to have commented that managing the park was similar to running state government because some of the same tricks applied to both.'

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello.


When the song was first recorded for the Ah-Um album, Columbia refused to include the lyrics, and it was not until 1960 that the lyrics were first included on the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus on the Candid label. Because of contractual issues with Columbia, the song had to be renamed Original Faubus Fables.

Here is the Original Faubus Fables with the lyrics. Charles Mingus (bass, vocals); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone); Ted Curson (trumpet); Dannie Richmond (drums, vocals).




The song, either with or without lyrics, was one of the compositions which Mingus returned to most often, both on record and in concert.

The tune has been played many times since and seems to be a favourite for youth jazz orchestras who regularly use a distinctive baritone sax introduction. I wonder, hoever, how often the history of the tune is recognised?


This video that does recognise the background, down to the original words that introduced the lyrics, but with a different arrangement by the Italian band Quintorigo who introduce a Latin flavour into the tune.




In 2009, Marc Myers wrote an article for the jazzwax website about Fables of Faubus. In it he says: 'Up until May 1959, no jazz composition recorded by Charles Mingus had been as controversial or as politically charged as Fables of Faubus. The song, first recorded ... on Mingus Ah Um, was meant to be a condemnation of Arkansas governor Orval Faubus ... Along with Sonny Rollins' Freedom Suite in 1958, Mingus' composition courageously raised the ante among jazz artists, insisting they become creative agitators for change rather than just concerned bystanders.'...

'Contrary to most fans' impressions, Mingus wasn't a political protester, per se. He was first and foremost a composer who was vocal from the bandstand about all things unfair and unjust—from noisy ice in glasses to Jim Crow. As Mingus told Brian Priestley in Mingus: A Critical Biography: "I just write tunes and put political titles on them. Fables of Faubus was different, though - I wrote that because I wanted to."

'  ... To gain insight into Mingus' strident recording of Original Fables of Faubus in 1960, I spoke briefly yesterday with Nat Hentoff, who produced the Candid session: ... “During the Little Rock standoff, President Eisenhower dragged his feet, which angered Louis Armstrong. Louis made uncharacteristically heated comments about Eisenhower during a newspaper interview that belied his cheery disposition. I'm sure his unrestrained public statement partly motivated Mingus to write Fables of Faubus. Louis simply said what many in the jazz community were thinking and feeling at the time.”

Click here for the full text.


We end with this video from the Australian band Mingus Among Us playing in Melbourne on 21st Feb 2015
(solos by Nick Mulder, and Tim Wilson)




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© Sandy Brown Jazz 2015