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Doane Beal & Ames

OBITUARY

Jack Bradley

January 3, 1934March 21, 2021

Jack Bradley—a masterful photographer, a gifted sailor, and a beloved Cape Codder—passed away on Sunday evening, March 21, at the Pleasant Bay Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Brewster. A man with the heart of a kindly lion--and the good taste to marry his marvelous wife, Nancy--has left us.

Born in Cotuit in 1934, Jack discovered his two passions—boating and Louis Armstrong—early, thanks to a father figure, Bob Hayden, who opened up his home to Jack, introducing him to Armstrong’s recordings on 78’s. Little did young Jack realize the role that Louis Armstrong would play in his life.

Jack wore many hats over the years—photographer, road manager, manager, writer, booking agent, charter boat captain, nightclub manager, disc jockey, lecturer, concert producer, and founder of both the New York Jazz Museum and co-founder, with the late Marie Marcus, of the Cape Cod Jazz Society. To those who knew him, Jack will always be remembered for his warm-hearted crustiness, his absolute honesty, his ribald humor, and his ceaseless generosity.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Jack did a stint as a Merchant Marine before landing in Manhattan in 1959 with a camera around his neck. Through a girlfriend, Jack met his idol Louis Armstrong, soon becoming like a son to the musical giant. “The first time I visited his home in Corona, Queens, I was so nervous that I was shaking,” remembered Jack. “Louis, though, had a way of putting you at ease. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Everything’s cool, man. We’re just two guys hanging out.’ Instantly my nerves vanished.”

For the next 12 years, Jack attended hundreds of Armstrong concerts and recording sessions. “I think Pops liked me because I never asked him for anything. He had a lot of hangers-on always asking for bread—and Louis was generous to a fault. But for me, just hanging out with him was enough.”

Jack believed that Armstrong was the perfect subject for any photographer. “With that face and his beautiful smile, how could anyone take a bad shot?” Yet a Jack Bradley photograph of Louis Armstrong seems to dig deeper to the true soul of the man. Perhaps it was because Pops loved, respected and trusted Jack so deeply.

Soon an in-demand photographer, Jack’s photographs of Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, and dozens of others are considered to be some of the very finest Jazz photographs ever taken. In fact, Jack’s photograph of Billie Holiday in early 1959 is believed to be the very last picture of Lady Day taken in performance.

Jazz musicians loved Jack for his humor—and his heart. Jack Bradley’s generosity was legendary. When the trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen died in the spring of 1967, Jack immediately organized a benefit to bring in much needed money for the Allen family. When trumpeter Bobby Hackett died in Chatham in 1976, it was Jack who raised the money for a headstone for this magnificent musician. “When help is needed,” remembered the late cornettist Ruby Braff, “Jack is always there.”

Let’s allow Jack himself to speak about his wife Nancy, a retired Cape Cod educator: “To my dear Nancy, my wife, my partner and my love. Our time together has been more precious than any treasure.”

After leaving Manhattan for Cape Cod in 1976, Jack began a successful charter boat business, as well as co-founding the Cape Cod Jazz Society. Renowned Jazz musicians such as Bobby Hackett and Ruby Braff also moved to the Cape after Jack rhapsodized about our island’s many charms. A man driven by his love of Jazz, Jack founded a top-notch record store, “Vintage Jazz,” and produced his own Jazz radio show on WFCC.

A voracious collector, Jack amassed a Jazz collection of over 25,000 recordings (ten thousand 78’s alone!); over 200 hours of 16 milimeter Jazz films; over ten thousand pieces of sheet music; and thousands of photographs, books, magazines, and paintings. In 2005 Jack sold the Louis Armstrong section of his collection to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, nearly doubling the museum’s holdings. “I was paid a fair price,” he said at the time. “Plus, I now know that my collection will be taken good care of.”

When Jack visited New York City for the last time in February 2015, it was to see his superb photography exhibit at the Armstrong House Museum. When Jack visited nightclubs such as Iguana and Birdland, the musicians lined up to say hello and pay tribute to one of Jazz’s finest photographers, philanthropists, and characters.

Says legendary radio host Dick Golden: “It’s been said that ‘teachers affect eternity’ and among Jack’s many skills was his ability to teach…through his jazz photography, captivating lectures, and producing concerts. I’ll be eternally grateful to have had Jack and Nancy as friends and being a guest in their Harwich home viewing great Jazz films and listening to Louis Armstrong recordings. Whenever I had the honor of having Jack as a radio guest, or in many personal encounters and phone conversations, when Jack spoke about his friend Satchmo, I always felt as if Louis Armstrong was in the room with us!”

Throughout his life, Jack’s touchstone remained Pops, the one and only Louis Armstrong. “Louis is my grand guru and idol. I feel that everything great in music came from Pops. For me, Jazz is two words: Louis Armstrong.”

A celebration of Jack’s life will be held later in the spring. He is also the subject of a soon-to-be-released documentary, Through My Lens: Classic Jazz Visions with Jack Bradley.

Jack Bradley is survived by his beloved wife, Nancy, as well as by his brother Bob Bradley and his wife, Joan, of Punta Gorda, Florida; his sister Bonnie Lee Jordan of East Falmouth; his youngest sister Emmy Lou Shanley and her husband Brian of Saunderstown, Rhode Island; as well as three nephews and one niece. Jack is predeceased by his mother, Kay Beatty; his stepfather, Walter Beatty; his sister, Polly Ann Bradley; his nephew, Allen Bradley; and his niece Kim Quigley.

Services

No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.

Memories

Jack Bradley

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Vicky Bates

March 26, 2021

My former now deceased husband Dave Failows considered Jack a mentor and father figure in some ways, and visited him many times as a child with his Aunt Jeann Failows his former common law wife. I met Jack several times in the late 70’s before he moved to Cape Cod in Manhattan when he graciously welcomed us at some of his famous house parties, crammed with many musicians of the day and later visited his home in Harwich where he and Nancy were welcoming and generous hosts, and he was a great cook. I remember sleeping in his sunroom with brass trumpets displayed overhead as I slept and another time in the downstairs bedroom with jazz singer Alberta Hunter as a roommate. Will always treasure his memory and know he once again is with his beloved Louis- Vicky (Failows) Bates

Mick Carlon

March 23, 2021

Ah, Jack, you are one of the dearest friends of my life. Dick Golden introduced us in September 1991--and what a gift your friendship was. You were an artist, a truth teller, and a generous-beyond-belief friend. Love ya, man. Enjoy many a muggle with Pops.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY