The Band Room

Volume 124, No. 3March, 2024

Bill Crow

When I joined the Army in 1946, I got into the 51st Army Band at Fort Lewis, Washington, near Tacoma. I bought a 1930 Model A Ford coupe for $50 so I could drive the 60 miles home to Kirkland on weekends. Then our band got transferred to Fort Meade, Maryland, and was renamed the 2nd Army Band. I drove my Ford across the country to my new post. When I got through Pennsylvania, my four-cylinder engine had begun to run unevenly, and I pulled into a gas station that had a repair shop.

The mechanic was delighted to see Washington State license plates, and quickly opened the hood to see what was the matter. He cleaned the carburetor. No, that wasn’t it. He cleaned and adjusted the electrical system. No, that wasn’t it either. Then he pulled out the four spark plugs.

“Oh, here’s your trouble,” he said. “One of your plugs is all carboned up.” He put the plug in a little sandblasting rig that he had, cleaned it up, and replaced the plugs in the engine. The car started up and ran just fine.

“Great!” I said, ‘What do I owe you?” He replied, “A dime.” “What do you mean?” He said, “That’s what I charge for cleaning a spark plug.” I asked, “But what about all that other work you did?” He looked surprised. “Oh, I cain’t charge you for that! That weren’t what was wrong!”


Jason Caputo sent me the following. It was written by his late father, bandleader Lou, about the late guitarist Joel Perry:

You might remember that from time to time when I introduced Joel from the bandstand I would say “Joel Perry on guitar, one of the few men to put a lit cigar in his breast pocket and live to tell about it.” Well, it’s actually a true story. Joel and I were in Arizona, on a horse ranch, playing a wedding. While Joel and I were playing the cocktail hour, the waitress kept coming over to us and offering us a drink of “cactus juice.” It was a warm evening, so Joel and I had a taste. The two of us were making comments like, “Oh, wow! It has a little bit of a citrus taste,” not realizing it was spiked with tequila. Tequila doesn’t quite affect you in the same way that other alcohol does, and it took us a few tastes before we realized what was happening. So, for the rest of the evening, Joel and I were having a rockin” good time.

We got back to the hotel, and the bandleader, Gerry Polci, suggested that we hang around the pool and socialize a bit after the gig. Once again, the “cactus juice” began to flow. Nick Darkides, the Sinatra singer in the band, was a cigar connoisseur and was handing out cigars for anyone who was inclined to smoke one. He was commenting on the quality of the various smokes that he was passing out. Joel opened up the wrapper on one and lit it up.

A little while later, the singer came back over and said, “Joel, you gotta taste this one.” Joel assumed that he meant him to try this cigar later, since Joel was already smoking one. He took the cigar and put it in the inside breast pocket of his tux jacket. A minute later, Joel jumped up and knocked over the chair he was sitting on. He also knocked over the drinks on the table in front him, as he started banging on his chest and trying to remove his jacket. The singer had given him a lit cigar! Once we knew what had happened, we all were in hysterics, Joel more than anyone else. Joel was a guy who liked to laugh, even if the joke was on him.


Rich Shanklin sent this one:

Sammy Nestico told a story of attending the Famous Arrangers Dinner, held yearly in LA. Seated at the table was a who’s who of great writers (Bob Florence, Bill Holman, Gerald Wilson, Pat Williams and others.) The conversation got around to “inspiration.” Sammy said, “I told those guys that for 28 days out of every month, it was a real struggle for me to come up with good ideas. But for about two days, the great ideas just poured out and I couldn’t write fast enough.” With his dry sense of humor, Bill Holman remarked, “How’d you get those two good days?”


Joe Petrizzo sent me this:

In 1975, the late John Frosk and I were playing in Barry White’s “Love Unlimited Orchestra.” I was playing lead trombone and John, sitting right next to me, was playing lead trumpet. We were playing the first rehearsal and were in the fourth or fifth chart. All of a sudden the band leader (he called himself Symphony Sid) stopped the band and asked us what chart we were playing. John told him the name of the tune. Sid said: “You’re playing the wrong chart.” John replied, “How would we know we’re playing the wrong chart? They all sound the same!”