Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CVII, No. 5May, 2007

Bill Crow

Mikael Elsila got this story from a friend of his who used to work at the Andre Stein Senior Center. The seniors from the center were from working class backgrounds, and none of them had ever been to Lincoln Center, so someone arranged for a group of them to be given tickets to a 10 a.m. rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic, which was then conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Since it was to be an all-day trip, the center had provided the group with lunches in paper bags. At the rehearsal, many of the seniors began to open their lunches while the orchestra was playing, causing an undercurrent of rustling and crackling paper. Bernstein stopped and told the group that they would have to wait until intermission and eat their lunches in the lobby. As the music resumed, a couple of old gentlemen began making their way to the bathroom, causing more disturbance as they politely excused themselves while moving toward the aisles. Bernstein again stopped the orchestra and told the group, “Everyone who has to go to the bathroom, please go now!”

He waited until the group reassembled, and then asked them, “How many of you belonged to a union?” Many raised their hands. “Well,” said Bernstein, “You know that when you work overtime, you get time-and-a-half. Now, the New York Philharmonic musicians all belong to a union — Local 802 — and we can’t afford to pay them overtime, so do you think you could sit still now, until the intermission?” They nodded, embarrassed, and the orchestra went back to playing the Brahms Fourth Symphony. This time, Bernstein didn’t stop them once.

At intermission, the group leaders decided to take the seniors back to the Andre Stein Center, since they wouldn’t be able to sit through another long session. As they headed for the lobby, Bernstein came out from the wings and asked, “Who’s in charge here?” The group leader responded, and Bernstein told her, “These are wonderful people. The salt of the earth! They remind me of my grandparents. Do me a favor. Don’t ever bring them here again!” The group leader said emphatically, “You can bet on it!”

A Long Island music office sometimes would send out a band fronted by one of its office contractors. He wasn’t a musician, but he had a Fender bass strapped around his neck. The connecting cord came out of the bass and went into his pocket, and the bass amplifier behind him had a grille, but no speaker. When Jim Tartaglia was hired to play keyboard with this band, he discovered that he was expected to play the bass lines with his left hand while the leader pretended to strum. At a bat mitzvah on Staten Island, one of the guests was Bon Jovi’s keyboard player David Bryan. He went up to the leader during the first set and asked if he could sit in. The leader said, “Sure… we’ll call you up in a little while.” As Bryan left the stand, he said, “Hey, you play pretty good bass!” Tartaglia silently accepted the compliment for himself, but saw that the leader was in a panic. He was terrified that Bryan would find out that he couldn’t play the bass at all. When it came time for Bryan to sit in, the leader pretended that his beeper had gone off, and he hurried away to make an “important phone call.” Bryan and Tartaglia played some four-handed rock and roll that pleased the crowd, and no one was the wiser.

Several friends e-mailed this one to me. (This is a slightly sanitized version):

The house was packed, people were dancing and screaming, the band was in a great groove, and the folks from the recording label seemed really impressed.

The lead guitar player was thinking: “We’re gonna be famous! I’M gonna be famous! Kids everywhere will want to play like me!”

The singer was thinking, “The chicks are gonna love me! REALLY love me!”

The drummer was thinking, “We’re gonna be rich! I’M gonna be rich! I’m gonna buy tons of gear!”

The rhythm guitar player was thinking: “I’m gonna be taken to all the best parties in town!”

The bass player was thinking: “G-D-C-D-G…”

Bernie Glow made a name for himself as a lead trumpeter on Woody Herman’s band in the late 1940’s. When he left the band to pursue studio work in New York, one of his first gigs was a recording date at the Hotel Edison Studio. Lee Cohen told me that the other three trumpet players on that date were Jimmy Maxwell, Red Solomon and Charlie Margulis. Each of them played lead on different charts, and Bernie played magnificently on the one assigned to him. When the producer called a break, Margulis, who was known as “Gabbo,” playfully grabbed Bernie by the lapels and said, “Listen, kid, there’s only one Bernie Glow in this town, and THAT’S ME!”

I recently played a Dixieland job with a band Phil Sasson put together for the opening of the new indoor pool built by the town of Ossining. We were stationed in a hallway at the recreation center, near the entrance to the gymnasium and the adjoining pool. A lady stopped and asked the band, “Do you know the way to the pool?” Cornetist Lew Green quickly replied, “We don’t play requests!”