When I returned to Kansas City in 2000, I mentioned to Mr. Ollie Gates, owner of world renowned Gates' Barbeque, my intention to write this piece. Subsequently, people always ask me why I chose to write about barbeque, the assumption being that I was commissioned by Mr. Gates. I was not commissioned. I tell them that the way I compose is similar to the way Duke Ellington composed, which is to find a theme, not necessarily a musical one.
Barbeque has always represented a celebration in my life. My Grandpa and Grandma Wilkes ran a barbeque establishment on the grounds of their property in Merriam, Kansas. Whenever my parents took me and my brothers for a visit, I always looked forward to having some of their barbeque. It was a celebration. As I grow older, smoking meat remains near and dear to me. It is relaxing and exciting at the same time. During the 25 years that my family lived in NYC, I had a small Weber grill that I kept on our terrace 27 floors above the streets of Manhattan. I would work my magic out there on my terrace, accompanied by the sounds of the New York City traffic…..at least until someone called security on us. You see, it is against the law to barbeque on most apartment terraces in New York City!
Between the mid-80's to the mid-90's, my wife Pam, our children Aaron and Lafiya, and I would drive to Kansas City to spend time with our families. We wanted to give Aaron and Lafiya the opportunity to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. However, as soon as we got to town, our first stop would always be Gates' barbeque! ….either a beef sandwich or short end! This has become a family tradition for us that continues until this day. Even now, whenever Aaron and/or Lafiya come back to visit us, ( they still live in NYC), their first stop after leaving the airport in always Gates'. After they make that stop, their visit can begin. So….let's begin our musical journey into the world of Gates' Barbeque.