Online Exhibits@Yale

Ruff the Storyteller

Willie Ruff: A Call to Assembly (title page)

Gilmore Music Library

Willie Ruff
A Call to Assembly: The Autobiography of a Musical Storyteller

(New York: Viking, 1991)

Ruff is as renowned for his personal qualities as for his musical ones; his kindness, friendliness, and charisma have won him countless friends and admirers. And whether he is speaking to a large audience or in a private conversation, he is a master storyteller. He seems to have known everyone and been everywhere, and he always has a relevant and compelling story at the tip of his tongue. He put his narrative skills to good use in his remarkable memoir, A Call to Assembly: The Autobiography of a Musical Storyteller, published in 1991. It was widely acclaimed by the critics, and it earned an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.

Interview of Willie Ruff by Jack Vees

Oral History of American Music,

Gilmore Music Library

Interview of Willie Ruff, by Jack Vees

Oral History of American Music (OHAM)
May 18, 2000

The Music Library’s Oral History of American Music (OHAM) has interviewed Willie Ruff several times; indeed, he is unique in having given interviews for three of OHAM’s collections: Major Figures in American Music, the Paul Hindemith Project, and the Duke Ellington Project. Our exhibit has space to display only one page from the transcript of one of these interviews, conducted by Jack Vees, Director of the Center for Studies in Music Technology at the Yale School of Music.

Ruff has ample experience on both sides of the microphone; in 1974, he conducted a series of interviews with jazz pioneers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Eubie Blake, Ethel Waters, and John Hammond. He recently donated those interviews to OHAM. On February 16 at 4 PM in the Lecture Hall of Sterling Memorial Library, he will give a presentation entitled And This Is What They Said, featuring excerpts from these interviews.

Another interview of Ruff, this one by OHAM head Libby Van Cleve, is available online, on OHAM's Youtube channel.

Ruff the Storyteller