Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CX, No. 9September, 2010

Bill Crow

The vuvuzela has become popular with its exposure at World Cup soccer games. Cathy Calabrese, in the Electronic Media (Recording Dept.) office on the second floor at Local 802, brought one in one morning. A long plastic horn, It looked like those things that sometimes turn up at the tables on New Year’s Eve gigs.

Everyone in the office had a try at making a sound on it, and musicians who were calling in to see if there were checks in their files must have wondered what those mournful mooing sounds were in the background.

Around the same time, I got an e-mail from Ian Royle, with an attachment titled “Vuvuzela Concerto in B Flat.” It consists of 54 measures of half notes, all tied together, with a repeat sign at the end. Circular breathing, anyone?

Joe Bennett sent me a tribute to the late Hank Jones, saying that clean living accounted for his remarkable longevity. Hank didn’t smoke or drink. (His one weakness was candy bars.) Joe says Hank was a gentleman, but he wouldn’t take any lip. When Benny Goodman gave him one of his famous stares, Hank just packed up and went home. Benny called him and said it wouldn’t happen again, but after that Hank kept his hat on the piano, and whenever Benny looked at him, Hank would grab his hat.

When David Wundrow was a member of the Marine band that played functions at the White House, Stan Getz played there several times for president Lyndon Johnson. The president took a liking to Stan’s Swedish wife Monica. When Stan’s name would be announced in the receiving line, Johnson would grab his hand and pull him past him, and then would give Mrs. Getz a big bear-hug and engage her in conversation for several minutes before returning to the other guests.

Stan was invited to the White House several times, and each time the president was most attentive to Monica. Stan would bring his horn and sit in with the Marine dance combo, but after several visits, the White House stopped asking him to bring his horn. It was obvious to Wundrow that LBJ only wanted to see Monica. He would dance with her several times during each evening that they were there. Wundrow commented, “Journalists in those days refrained from reporting that President Johnson had an eye for the ladies.”

The anecdote I ran a couple of issues ago about trumpeter Conrad Gozzo’s father prompted Jonathan Tunick to send me this:

“Last year I was in Washington, D.C. and took the opportunity to look over the new Billy May collection at the Library of Congress. Written above a solo in the first trumpet part of Billy’s typically satirical arrangement of ‘Poet and Peasant’ was the instruction: ‘Play like Gozzo’s father.’”

When Doug Shear got his first music director/conductor position, in 1974 at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., he hired his mother, Phyllis Wood, who had been a pianist/vocalist around New York City before their move to Washington. On a particularly stressful day of rehearsing, Doug called the mandatory 10-minute break, and Phyllis came onstage with a giant platter of homemade chocolate chip cookies and brownies, which were eagerly attacked by the cast and crew. When Doug called for the rehearsal to resume, Phyllis said, “Break ends when the platter is empty.” When Doug was overruled by his mother, everyone was greatly amused. Doug said, “We never made it to Broadway, but the rest of that week went much better.”

Andy Drelles sent me a couple of stories:

When Andy was playing the musical “Fosse,” Kenny Berger, who did not have a show of his own at the time, came in to sub for Allen Won. There were three acts in “Fosse,” and the second act began with a number called “Shoeless Joe,” from the show “Damn Yankees.” Just as they were about to begin, Kenny whispered to Ed Joffe, “Hey Ed, for a minute there, I thought this next chart was about me: Showless Jew!

Kenny and Andy played in the short-lived musical, “Steel Pier.” Even though it didn’t last long, they did get to do the cast recording. It was one of those all-day affairs that went from early morning well into the evening. Kenny and Andy sat next to each other in the pit and also at the recording session. They had played together for years by that time and always had fun joking around together.

Near the end of the day, one of the last numbers required several takes because everyone was worn out, and there were several mistakes. Finally, it seemed as if they had a good take. As the conductor, David Loud, lowered his baton, he looked at the orchestra and said, “Well, I think we finally got it. I didn’t hear anything wrong. Anyone have any confessions?” In the dead silence that followed, Kenny proclaimed in a monotone, “I’ve never liked Andy.” The whole place fell apart.