With all the recent news about shooting and gun control, I was reminded of a story that Jimmy McPartland once told me about the gangster days in Chicago during prohibition. Jimmy’s band was playing in a speakeasy. During an intermission, a known killer walked in. He was drunk and angry. They found out later that his girlfriend had just left him. He looked around for something on which to vent his anger and saw the string bass leaning against the piano. He pulled out his revolver and shot several holes through the bass. Slightly mollified, he went over to Jimmy and asked, “How much for the bass?” It was an old plywood Kay, but Jimmy quickly said, “Oh, that’s a fine old Italian bass. It’s worth $500 at least.” The gunsel pulled out a roll of bills, peeled off five hundred and handed the money to Jimmy. And that was that.
Kirk Silsbee quoted the late comedian Mort Sahl: “I was flying with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman into Connecticut, and Stan was about to get a divorce. But he would never say something as overt as, ‘I’m going to get a divorce.’ Instead, he said, ‘I may not know anything about life, but I don’t think women should marry creative artists.’ I said, ‘Stan, women want to get married. Who do you think they should marry, if not us?’ He said, ‘They should probably marry the guy who O.K.’s their checks.’ Stan got up and went to the men’s room, and while he was gone, Woody said to me, ‘I’ve been married for 40 years, and I love my wife, but that guy has such a powerful personality that I’m going to get a divorce!’”
Michael Rose had the band at a club on Long Island in the late 1950s. Alan Dale of “Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White” fame was the evening’s featured act. Michael had brought the broken house piano to the attention of the owner in the previous week. It was now painted white. When Alan Dale’s agent complained about the piano after the show, the boss thought it was the piano player’s fault. He immediately approached Michael and said “I expected that you would have a good piano player. You see that I had the piano painted?” Michael said, “We have a good piano player, but as I explained to you last week, there are four important keys on the piano that are not working.” The boss replied, “So, don’t use them!”
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Steven Dale Myers posted this on Facebook. (I’ve edited it slightly.)
I played a monthly one-man band gig at a nursing home. We always had a good time. However, on one occasion, the staff met me at the door to warn me about a fellow who had been dropped off a few weeks earlier. He was making life miserable for everyone. “He doesn’t want to be here, and he’s sitting in back. We expect he’ll be as disruptive as possible.”
Everything was going okay. I was asking the ladies for requests because I told them, “I know every song there is.” Of course, the old geezer in the back pipes up: “You know every song? Do ‘Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo!’
Well, it just so happened that my great aunt Mary Bell had left us her 78 RPM record collection, and ‘It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo,’ recorded by Wendell Hall on Victor Records in 1908, was one of our favorite songs when we were growing up. I knew all seven verses. Apparently, the man was familiar with the same recording, because when I finished, he perked up and said, ‘By God, he does know every song!’ His whole demeanor changed immediately.
The next month, the staff met me at the door again. “Thank you so much! We don’t know what you did last month, but since then he’s been a pleasure to work with. He keeps asking when you’ll be back.”