Panama's Story: My History as a Jazz Drummer


Panama's Story: My History as a Jazz Drummer
Bloomington, IN
My name is David Albert Francis. However, I am known in the music world as “Panama” Francis, a
name that was given to me by Roy Eldridge when I joined his band in 1939. I was born in Miami, Florida,
on December 21, 1918, four days short of becoming a Christmas present to my parents.
I must tell you that I am a stutterer. Sometime, when I get excited or try to make a point, my voice
goes up about two octaves. I come across to some people as being angry but, believe me, this [what?] is
how I get the words to flow. My facial expression might appear to you to be an angry expression. What is
happening is that I am concentrating on getting the words to come out, without interruptions.
I am sick now from twenty years of life on the board, riding on a bus for hours on end, eating
unhealthy (and sometimes unsanitary?) food, and traveling 300 to 500 miles at a time without a bathroom
break. The current health of bodies of my fellow musicians and I bear witness to the pain and suffering
we experienced on the road. I am among many, many musicians who are paying now for these deplorable
conditions on the road. We have serious health ailments that are directly attributable to what we experienced
on the road and have negatively impacted the very days of our lives when we should be reaping the benefits of our long years of hard work. We are paying the price.