The Band Room

Volume 123, No. 6June, 2023

Bill Crow

When I first came to New York in 1950, Charlie’s Tavern, on 7th Avenue in the old Roseland building, was a favorite musicians’ hangout. That was where I met and was befriended by Dave Lambert. Dave knew everyone that came there, and introduced me to many musicians, one of whom was Neal Hefti. I knew Neal’s name from his credits as an arranger for Woody Herman’s band. After that, every time we saw each other in Charlie’s, we exchanged hellos.

About six months later, Neal had planned to record a demo for his vocalist wife, Frances Wayne, and he asked Dave to put a vocal group together to accompany her. Dave hired me to sing bass, and we arrived at the recording studio together. Dave greeted Neal, and then said, “…and you know Bill Crow.” Neal looked surprised. “Bill Crow?” he said. “Then, who’s Brew Moore?” He had thought he’d been saying hello to Brew all that time.


Gary Atkins posted this:

A friend of mine had worked with a ventriloquist. When the guy got married, he invited my friend and his wife to the ceremony. The ventriloquist was marrying a woman who was also a ventriloquist. The couple was at the altar, with their dummies exchanging their vows. Everyone at the wedding except my friend and his wife were there with their dummies, all 50 people. My friend said it was the most surreal wedding he ever attended.


This story was posted by Rich Woolworth:

My friend Joel Kaye played saxophone on the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the early 1960s. This is the band that won back-to-back Grammy awards for their recordings “Kenton’s West Side Story” and “Adventures in Jazz”. Here’s a story Joel told me about the “Adventures in Jazz” recording sessions that produced “Malaguena” and others.

When Joel came on the band, it was to play the 5th saxophone book, baritone and bass saxes. Joel didn’t have a bass sax yet, so he borrowed one from his section-mate Sam Donahue. In December of 1961, the band recorded three albums’ worth of music in just ten days. The band was playing at a high level, but the workload was exhausting.

When they got to “Malaguena,” there were something like 11 takes. The bass sax part was grueling; an ostinato played in unison with the bass trombone and the string bass, fortissimo, for the entire final chorus. In the finale of the tune, Joel’s bass sax part went down to a low C#, and he had to hold it, fortississimo, until the cut-off.

This he did, and on the final take he lost consciousness due to lack of air (a common thing among Kenton’s trumpet section, but not so much in the rest of the band). Suddenly, Joel “came to” and found Sam Donahue standing behind him, holding him up under the arms. Surprised, Joel asked “What are you doing?” Sam replied, “You passed out, and I didn’t want you to drop my horn!” Joel told me THAT was the take that was used for the album.


Rich Shanklin posted a story about Billy Byers:

Billy called Sammy Nestico and asked for help writing a huge TV project that was due in a couple of days. Sammy went to Billy’s house and got installed in the “arranging room” (with a grand piano) while Billy worked in his kitchen. Sammy said, “I was laboriously choosing just the right voicing for this or that chord, and I’d constantly hear a ‘rip’ sound from the kitchen. That sound was Billy finishing and then tearing off yet another score page. Then, I’d hear Billy yell, ‘How’s it going, Sammy?’ ‘Oh, Okay,’ I’d say, having just done another measure. Meanwhile, from the kitchen, rip, rip, rip.”


Buzzy Bridgeford was a very good drummer from Olympia Washington, who I met in Seattle in 1949, and who brought me to New York the following year. He once told me about a job he had worked in a Wild West bar in Montana. Someone gave him a pair of pearl-handled six-shooters, and he loaded them with blanks and hung them, in their holsters, on opposite sides of his floor tom. When it came time for his big drum solo every night, he would finish by grabbing the six-guns and firing off seven explosions, timed perfectly to the triplet figure so often played by Lionel Hampton’s band. He said it always got a big round of applause from the patrons.

Unfortunately, Buzzy was a part-time junkie, and when we were on a summer job together in Tupper Lake, New York, someone sent him a little package of heroin. He cooked up a spoonful and injected it into a vein in his arm, and then we took a walk down by the lake.

A mosquito landed on Buzzy’s forearm, and he said, “Watch this!” The mosquito drove his proboscis into Buzzy’s flesh and drank deeply. Then it began to quiver violently. It withdrew, shook some more, and then dropped dead on the ground. Buzzy cried triumphantly, “I’m poisonous to mosquitoes!”