He plays recordings of a great jazz (?) musician for the musician's younger self, who had not yet developed his unique style. Might be inspired by the saxophonist Charlie Parker. I read this decades ago in an anthology, would love to see it again.

  • I've definitely read this. The time traveller is discouraged by the musician's lack of progress and is playing the records to himself before going back when the musician accidentally overhears them and is overwhelmed, with tragic consequences, yes? Jun 22, 2021 at 8:52
  • What would you call a short story written in the 1850s? "Extremely ancient"? Jun 22, 2021 at 16:54
  • Daniel Roseman's description seems exactly right. It occurs to me that time travel could explain the Robert Johnson "Crossroads" legend. Could make a good movie.
    – burrows
    Jun 22, 2021 at 17:08
  • @DanielRoseman in "Willie's Blues" it wasn't an accident; the protagonist deliberately played the recordings to the musician to try and encourage his development (something that he subsequently regretted...) Jun 24, 2021 at 15:51
  • Sounds almost like the basis for the short movie “Interview With a Time Traveler" youtube.com/watch?v=xLqmdV2Htew Jul 1, 2021 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


Except for the date, this could well be "Willie's Blues", a short story by Robert J. Tilley, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in May 1972.

It deals with a time-traveller who makes a series of trips to the late 1930s to watch performances of his favourite jazz musician, a tenor saxophonist called Willie Turnhill. He indeed brings a "spool" of music with him containing Willie's hits, including his greatest work "Willie's Blues". The result is indeed tragic. Willie ends up dying from shock when he sees the traveller in "a black skin-tight suit, with a control box strapped to his chest", preparing to travel back to his own time.

It was republished in The 1973 Annual World's Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim. A review summarises the story as:

This is a story that exudes the passion, wild spirit, and pathos of jazz. A jazz-loving time traveler gets his life mingled with that of his favorite performer and the result is tragic. The writing and the characters jump and dance in this story, but always stop in time for quiet human feeling.

  • Clara Diaz Sanchez, this has to be right, and thank you so much for identifying the story. Probably I read it in the 1970s but at the time I was making my way through boxes of cherished vintage books, a gifr from t a collector. I suppose I read newer things as well. Thanks again--awesome.
    – burrows
    Jun 25, 2021 at 2:14
  • Glad to help @burrows Can you click the checkmark by my answer, so that people can see that the answer has been accepted (and we both get some rep)? Thanks! Jun 25, 2021 at 6:10

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