Years later, after earning my degree in Jazz Performance from Howard University, I joined a country band where I was the only Black member. It was 1983 when we visited Frederick, Maryland, and played at an all-white bar (a bar where Blacks were legally allowed to enter but wouldn’t be welcomed). After I finished a set, an older white man approached and said, “I sure like your piano playing, this is the first time I’ve ever heard a Black man play the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
The comment didn’t offend me, but I took the opportunity to explain how Jerry Lee got his style from Black blues and boogie-woogie piano players. The man invited me back to his table to continue the conversation, and that’s when he told me, “You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a Black man.” I was mystified. A friend of his then urged him to tell me the reason why.
“I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan,” he told me, and I immediately burst out laughing. I thought he was joking until he showed me his membership card. I immediately recognized the Klan’s symbol — a red circle and a white cross with a red blood drop at its the center — and I stopped laughing. It was for real.
But our conversation continued, and every time I played at the bar after that, I’d give him a call and he’d come down with some of his Klan friends. — Daryl Davis, People