I am grateful to Beth Williamson et al for the information on the actual
of the famous jazz player. However, my original enquiry concerned a
source for the term "felonious monk". Since no one has offered one,
I suppose that I must conclude that this also is a myth. (Which is not to
the adjectival half never applied to any real monk!)
----- Original Message -----
From: Dr BA Williamson, Department of History of Art
<[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 1999 02:38
Subject: Re: Thelonius monk
> I passed the query about Thelonius Monk's name on to my husband who is
> a jazz musician, and a member of Jazz-l.
> Here is what they came up with, including a URL for Monk's birth
> "I once read - and I do NOT remember where, but it was quite some time
> ago -that someone had actually looked up Monk's birth certificate. The
> name there was Thelious Junior Monk.
> No Thelonious
> No Sphere
> This story may place too much trust in the "fact" that there was a birth
> certificate to look up, given that many southerners, both black *and*
> born at the time Monk was never had a birth certificate issued."
> "This is a two paragraph quote re: Thelonious' name:
> "First, it is necessary to correct the myths surrounding Mon's birth and
> name. For a long time the year of his birth had been given as 1920. In
> 1974, however, Leonard Feather saw Monk's entry in the birth register of
> Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It reads, 'October 10, 1917, Thelius Monk.'
> The name is written with an unsteady hand, and can also be read as
> 'Thelious'. The father's name appears to be 'Thelsious' , and the
> 'Barbara'. ,,, The middle name, 'Sphere', which Monk increasingly came to
> use, is missing here....
> "According to Ponzio and Postif, the authors of Blue Monk, the name
> 'Thelonious' come from 'Thelonius', the Latizined form of the German name
> 'Tillman'. German missionaries could have brought the name to the
> in the Bible Belt. How ironic that Thelonious Monk, a musician often
> by colleagues and critics to an African shaman or medicine man, should
> borne the name of a hero of German epic. As far as the middle name,
> 'Sphere', is concerned, Monk's son Thelonious Jr. claims that it was a
> of his father's original Christian name, and derived from Monk's maternal
> grandfather, Sphere Batts. Monk did not learn of this name, however,
> the forties, judging from certain documents. From then on he used it as a
> hip accessory. He would joke that owing to his middle name he could never
> called a 'square'."
> from THELONIOUS MONK: HIS LIFE AND MUSIC by Thomas Fitterling
> (w/Foreword by Steve Lacy)"
> "I have a copy of the certificate in front of me this very minute; the
> nameis Thelious, written over the top of an initial mispelling of the
> name; the middle name is Junior. The father's name is given as
> Theloious, similarly overwriting a misspelling, and the listing for his
> age is a mess. The mother's name is Barbra Monk. The occupation of
> each is listed as ice puller and house hold work, and their educational
> attainments are listed simply as read and write.
> In the section for boy or girl, it looks like the writer begn writing
> and the over-wrote boy. The certificate also states that the child was
> a live, curious; written in long hand all other a's are clearly linked to
> the following letter, not this one. He was born at 9:15 pm, on 10 October
> At this point in time were the certificates compiled by the registrar, or
> the clerk, or who?
> The certificate can be seen on Jacques' Monk site:
> I hope this is of some interest, even if it doesn't shed any light on
> the 'felonious monk' idea, and is therefore not strictly of relevance
> to the medieval religion theme!
> Beth Williamson
> > As the jazz buffs amongst you will know, Thelonious Monk is the name of
> >famous jazz player. A little while ago I heard on a radio programme
> >that theway that he got his forename was as follows. Before his
> >christening, his mother, Mrs Monk, had (mis)heard the term "felonious
> >monk". She didn't know what it meant, but thought that it had a good
> >ring about it and would be a good name for a boy. At the subsequent
> >ceremony the officiating priest asked her how to spell the name she
> >wanted bestowed on her son. She obliged with what she thought she
> >had heard. The rest is (jazz) history.
> > I haven't had any success in locating a literary source for what Mrs
> (mis)heard. Does anyone else known of one?
> > Ron Hornsby
> Dr BA Williamson,
> Department of History of Art
> University of Bristol
> 36 Tyndalls Park Road
> Bristol, BS8 1PL
> + 44 (0)117 928 8591
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