John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was born in a house on this site on Oct. 21, 1917. His family lived here until they moved to Philadelphia in 1935. A founder of modern jazz, Gillespie was an innovative trumpeter and bandleader known for his bent horn, bulging cheeks, sense of humor, and showmanship. In the 1950s he became a good will ambassador for the U.S. State Dept., playing concerts around the world.
Gillespie was invited to perform at the White House by eight presidents from Eisenhower to George Bush. He received the National Medal of Arts, the highest prize awarded to an American artist, in 1989 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1990 for his lifetime contributions to American culture. Among his best-known songs were "A Night in Tunisia" and "Salt Peanuts." He died in New Jersey Jan. 6, 1993.