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Photos of Jazz's Memory Lane, for Sale

Frank Driggs riffles through the notes and memorabilia in his New York City apartment.
/ Mitch Rackin, NPR
/
Mitch Rackin, NPR
Frank Driggs riffles through the notes and memorabilia in his New York City apartment.

Jazz historian Frank Driggs has amassed a collection of some 100,000 photographs and mementoes over the years. The materials, worth an estimated $1.5 million, trace jazz from its beginnings with 1920s road bands to meccas of bop such as Birdland and Bandbox in the 1950s.

The pictures -- mostly black and white, and often the original print -- run the gamut of photography, from candid shots of Lionel Hampton performing to staged promotional photos and portraits of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and others. Stored in old filing cabinets in Driggs's apartment, the names on the back of the prints are both legendary and obscure, cataloging band lineups and noting the rise of Count Basie.

But now Driggs wants to sell his collection -- in order, he says, to spend more time writing about jazz and practicing his trumpet. As Driggs prepares to sell his trove, NPR's Renee Montagne talks with him about his most prized photographs.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.