The Band Room
Volume 121, No. 6June, 2021
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When the pandemic shut down all gigs, there weren’t any places to play or to hang out with musicians, and so my supply of stories for the past year depended heavily on things that musicians posted on Facebook. I recently had used up everything I had collected, and while I was scrolling around one day in early April, a notice appeared on my computer screen announcing that I had “violated community standards” and would no longer be allowed on Facebook!
There was no information about what standards I had violated, but there was a button for me to click, so I clicked it. I was then taken to a page that said something like “Help Us Confirm That You Are You.” A button below that message was marked “Continue,” but it was grayed out, and nothing happened when I tried to press it. I was frozen out.
I tried every way I could think of to communicate with someone at Facebook, but everything I tried brought me back to that same frozen page. I reported this problem to friends via e-mail, and some of them tried to go to my locked-out Facebook page, but it wasn’t available to them. I was in Facebook jail!
I wrote a letter to Facebook explaining my plight and asking what I could do to get back to my page. I snail-mailed it to them at their address in Encino, California, and kept trying to log on with no success.
After nearly three weeks had passed with no change, I sent a message to the editor of Allegro to tell him that I had no sources remaining with which to construct a column, and so I would have to bring the column to an end. I started writing this column in February 1983, and it seemed a shame to bring it to a close, but I didn’t know what else to do.
Then, one morning, when I clicked on my Facebook link, I was taken right to my page, as if nothing had happened. There was no explanation or indication of what rule I had broken. Maybe my letter reached someone with a heart, and they just gave me a “get out of jail” pass. Anyway, I plan to continue the column as long as I can. I’m still looking for stories. You can always e-mail me at email@example.com.
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When I got back online at Facebook, I saw a lot of posts commemorating the birthday of the late bassist Percy Heath (who was born on April 30, 1923). Percy had been a good friend of mine, and I remembered something he once told me. Most non-symphonic bassists these days have a leather holster attached to the tailpiece of their bass to hold their bow in a handy spot when they aren’t using it. Percy thought he might have been the inventor of the bow holster.
I can remember, when I first began playing the bass in nightclubs, I would lay my bow on the piano while I wasn’t using it. When I joined Gerry Mulligan’s pianoless quartet, there was often no piano on the stage when we were playing, so I took the bottom of a folding music stand, put a hook on the top of it, and hung my bow there. But Gerry was always backing into my bow and knocking it over, and so when I saw the holster Percy was using, I immediately had one made for myself.
Percy said he had been having a problem with where to put his bow. He was with the Modern Jazz Quartet, and he had found that pianist John Lewis didn’t like to have the bow in or on his piano, because it sometimes vibrated and made a noise. So Percy was trying to find a way to hang his bow on his tailpiece. Then he saw one of his nephews playing with a toy bow and arrow set, and realized that the quiver that held the arrows would be a perfect holster for his bow. He borrowed the quiver and tried it out, and then had a leatherworker make a sturdier one for him. Everyone saw what a useful thing it was, and before long many luthiers were carrying bow quivers for sale, and many bass players were attaching them to their basses.
I modified my bow holster by lining the mouth of it with white glow tape, so it was easy to holster the bow on a dark stage or in a theatre pit. But I always have given Percy the credit for the invention.
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Speaking of glow tape, I once used it with great success when I was playing at the Nanuet Dinner Theatre, a theatre in the round. The show was “Man of La Mancha,” and we had to memorize the first 16 bars of music after the overture, when the house lights and the bandstand lights went out while the actors took their places.
I had to take off a few shows in order to have a hernia operation, and I didn’t want my sub to have to memorize that music. Spotting a roll of glow tape, which the stagehands used to mark the actors’ positions on the darkened stage, I pasted strips of the tape on my music, drew bar lines on them, and wrote out the bass notes. During the overture, the music stand light activated the glow tape, and when the lights went out, there was the music, glowing in the dark.
I didn’t tell my sub about it, and he was delighted the first time the lights went out, and he could see the music.