In hindsight, Charli Persip uttered perhaps the most unintentionally comical two words of his life when landing the biggest connection of his drumming career. In 1953, the upcoming drummer was playing in the house band at the Piccadilly nightclub in Newark, New Jersey, where jazz trombonist Bennie Green was booked as a special guest star. The set swung hard. Impressed with Persip’s talents, Green pressed a note into the drummer’s palm, telling him to call the scribbled phone number. Green neglected one detail: whose number it was.
Following up on the connection, Persip dialed and asked whom he was speaking to. The voice on the opposite end of the line answered, “It’s Dizzy.” Flummoxed, Persip sputtered the comical two words: “Dizzy who?” The respondent—an idol of Persip’s—answered, “Dizzy Gillespie.”
Upon joining the legendary trumpeter’s band, Persip was promptly put on the jazz map. In a tenure spanning 1953 to 1958, the swinging drummer proved himself a vital force in Dizzy’s various small and large bands, touring the world extensively and recording more than a dozen albums.