10 Things You Didn't Know About Thelonious Monk, by His Son T.S. Monk


Thelonious Monk at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with his children, T.S. and Boo Boo.

News | Oct, 5th 2017

Thelonious Monk at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival with his children, T.S. and Boo Boo.

This October 10th would have been the 100th birthday of Thelonious Monk, the brilliant pianist and composer. We reached out to Monk’s son, T.S., who shared his 10 favorite little-known facts about his father. Read below to get to know the man behind the music, and join us at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola this October 9–15 as we celebrate Monk’s centennial through performances by artists including T.S. Monk (who performs October 10 and 11).

T.S. Monk on Thelonious Monk, Sr.:

1.  He was a classically trained pianist and not a jazz musician from day one.

2.  He loved to play Yahtzee, a board game with dice. He and Nellie (his wife) would play for hours on end.

3.  People knew he played ping pong, but he was even better at pool. He would take me to the pool hall and just run the table. Even though I was a kid, he’d never let me win.

4.  He was crazy about the television show “Laurel and Hardy.” When he was home, he would sometimes sit and watch it for hours.

5.  In 1956 he brought a brand-new black and white Buick. He named it the “Piebald Beetle.” He drove it for about 2-3 months and then it was stolen. It was returned in perfect condition. My father said the vibrations in the car had changed and he never drove it again.


6. My dad loved to play “Happy Birthday” for people he was close to. So on their birthdays he would show up at their house and play it for them. Each time it was a completely different arrangement.

7. Once he played 60 consecutive games of ping pong with John Coltrane, winning 59 of them. Coltrane considered my father his mentor and as such just kept playing because that’s what Thelonious wanted to do.

8. My father enjoyed being athletic and played basketball until he was 35 years old.

9. He lived at 243 West 63rd Street from 1920-1967 in a ground-floor apartment. Outside of the door there was a steam pipe and—in the hallway, embedded in the floor—a mosaic of a star. Whenever he left the house, I watched my father spin on the star and then bang his ring on the pipe. He never gave any reason why he did it, but it was a ritual with him and he did it every time… I mean every time I ever watched him.

10. He was crazy about his family and as such wrote tunes that he named after them. “Crepuscule with Nellie” for my mother. “Skippy” for Nellie’s sister. “Jackie-ing” for his niece.  “Pannonica” for Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. “Green Chimneys” and “Boo Boo’s Birthday” for my sister. Last but not least, “Little Rootie Tootie” for me.

New to Monk’s Music? Check out this playlist of T.S. Monk’s favorite songs by his father:

Want more Monk? Swing by Dizzy’s for our week-long centennial celebration with Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble: Monk Dreams, Hallucinations, and Nightmares on Oct 9; T.S. Monk Sextet on Oct 10–11; and Joey DeFrancesco Plays Monk on Oct 12–15. 

Also join us Oct 12 for Unheard Monk – Never-Before-Heard Thelonious Monk Tapes. Join Greg Thomas, TS Monk, Zev Feldman, and Robin D.G. Kelley as they play never-before-heard live recordings of Thelonious Monk, discuss their placement in his career, and share insights into this rare and fantastic music!

(Main Photo by Don Hunstein @ Sony Music Entertainment)


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