It's hard to know why so many jazz trumpeters wound up hooked on heroin in the late 1940s and early '50s. The list included Freddie Webster, Fats Navarro, Chet Baker and Miles Davis. The first died of an overdose, the second from tuberculosis and drugs, the third seemed to impale himself on his habit only to survive for decades in declining health, and the fourth managed to clean himself up and have a profound influence on jazz's direction multiple times. But perhaps the most unfortunate victim of junk was Howard McGhee, an early bebop pioneer with Dizzy Gillespie in the mid- and late-'40s. [Photo above of Miles Davis, center, and Howard McGhee, right, by William P. Gottlieb]
As a result of his addiction, McGhee spent critical chunks of the 1950s at the Narcotic Farm—the federal drug-treatment facility in Lexington, Ky. His first stay came in late '53 and lasted until '55. During his time away, Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown and Art Farmer rose to LP prominence on the East Coast and altered the sound and purpose of the trumpet.