Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CIX, No. 7/8July, 2009

Bill Crow

I don’t often tell stories on myself, but this one is really stupid. In April I spent several hours in the studio at station WBGO-FM in Newark, recording a Benny Goodman birthday broadcast with a nice group put together by Paquito D’Rivera. After a forty-minute drive from my home, I had dropped off my bass and amplifier at the studio and parked across the street in a huge underground municipal garage.

When we finished the date, I saw that it was raining, so I stowed my equipment in WBGO’s lobby and ran across the street to pick up my car.

After a long walk to where I’d found a parking space, I drove around in many circles underground, looking for the exit.

When I found it, I came out on a street I didn’t recognize at all. I pulled over to the curb and got out the GPS device that my son gave me for my last birthday, and was pleased to find that it knew where I was, and how to get home.

Following its instructions, I drove back to Rockland County. I pulled into my driveway and opened my van to take out my bass, but, of course, the bass and amp were still back in the lobby at WBGO!

Fortunately, I had enjoyed the date so much that the extra trip down to Newark and back to retrieve my equipment wasn’t that big of a drag. But now, driving to and from jobs, I find myself glancing over my shoulder to make sure my bass is there.

Several of my friends called to tell me of Zeke Zarchy’s death last April at the age of 93. Zeke was Glenn Miller’s lead trumpet player and First Sergeant in the Army Air Force band. Bob Ringwald tells me that Zeke was also the first trumpet in his Dixieland band in Los Angeles from 1980 to 1995. When he joined the band, Zeke had never played in a small Dixie group without music to read. When they played their first jazz festival in San Diego, Bob discovered that Zeke was in a backstage panic. He peeked out at the band that was playing onstage and cried, “We haven’t got a chance… they’re wearing striped shirts!”

Carol Sloane’s blog, “Sloane View” (at is always worth reading. I recently found this story there:

Carol made a Japanese tour in 1983 with Chris Connor and Ernestine Anderson, where they were billed as “The Three Pearls.” They appeared together in concerts, and also singly in clubs. One night, when Chris was working in a club with pianist Norman Simmons, Carol and Ernestine had the night off, so they spent the evening in Ernestine’s room, talking and laughing while they sipped sake from her mini-bar. When Ernestine’s supply was used up, they went to Carol’s room for more.

Carol writes: “Suddenly I realized that April 8 was Carmen McRae’s birthday. ‘Let’s call her up and sing Happy Birthday,’ says I, terribly pleased with myself for coming up with such a thoughtful gesture. ‘I happen to know she’s in D.C., and I know the hotel where she likes to stay. And it’s perfect timing… she’ll just be getting ready for the gig.’

“The phone in her room rang three or four times, and then a typically abrupt ‘Yeah?’ came through. Ernestine and I burst into a lusty version of Happy Birthday and waited to hear her laugh.

Silence. Long silence. And then a low growl which escalated into a screech: ‘DO YOU BITCHES KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?’

“When Norman Simmons returned to the hotel, I told him what had taken place. He offered profound advice: ‘There are three things one should never do: Never spit into the wind, never step on Superman’s cape, and NEVER call Carmen McRae at six o’clock in the morning!’

“The next day I had a headache, I paid a very expensive telephone bill, and I bought a clock that displays the world’s time zones.”

Bill Wurtzel and Howard Morgen were playing a guitar duo on Celebrity Cruises. On their first night, Howard kept forgetting the changes, and a couple of times asked Bill, “What tune are we playing?” The next morning Howard visited the ship’s doctor to get more of the patches he had been wearing for sea-sickness. The doctor told him he didn’t prescribe them, and offered Benadryl instead. He told Howard, “Patches can cause memory loss.” Bill says the rest of the gig was smooth sailing.

While George Maniere was playing “Woman of the Year” at the Palace Theatre, he hatched a plan with his friend John Kitsos, a cop. John came downstairs in the theatre with George, waited to one side for a few minutes while George got out his trumpet and went into the pit. John then made his appearance. With a straight face he handcuffed George, read him his Miranda rights, announced that he was being arrested for playing out of tune, and then took him out of the pit. George imagines that some of the musicians who were in that pit still think he was really arrested that day.

Barney Bragin told me that, while playing with the Raymond Scott orchestra, Charlie Margolis and Red Solomon sat next to each other. Some good-natured rivalry existed between them. On paydays, Red would leave his check on his music stand so that Charlie could see that Red was making more money than he was.

Herb Gardner tells me that his friend, tubaist Joe Hanchrow, was playing a German band gig for Oktoberfest, wearing the required lederhosen, colorful knee-socks and little pixie hat, when a Hasidic Jew came up to him and asked, “What’s with the funny clothes?”