Bill Crow’s Band Room

Bill Crow

British jazz writer Steve Voce sent me a couple of stories several years ago, and I just discovered that I filed them and never ran them. The first tells of the much-reported 1957 tour of England and Scotland by a band put together by Eddie Condon, which included Wild Bill Davison, Gene Schroeder, Cutty Cutshall and George Wettling. It was a drinking band and they began celebrating before the plane landed, arriving considerably the worse for wear. Steve says: “It seemed the whole city got drunk for a week. I took two weeks holiday from my work in Liverpool to be there. The local band led by trumpeter Mick Mulligan joined Condon at the centre of the revelry. One of Mulligan’s band members, playing a concert on the same night as the first of Condon’s, had to be sent home because he couldn’t play. He just stood on the stage giggling. Someone called his wife and said he’d be home at eleven. He was — two nights later. Another of Mulligan’s musicians climbed into the car of a total stranger, believing it to be a taxi, and was thrown into the gutter, where he slept until some friends found him. Condon recalled that the next day he spent ten minutes in front of the mirror in his hotel room, trying to tie his tie. It finally broke through to him that he had forgotten to put on his shirt.”

Steve also told of interviewing Sidney Bechet. “He was a martinet when he was over here. He was very strict with the Belgian band that accompanied him. We had a party in Liverpool which Sidney declined to attend, but his pianist, Eddie Bernard, decided to come. We literally had to kidnap him to get him away from Sidney, who wanted his musicians to dine with him after every concert. When I interviewed Sidney in his dressing room, I asked him, ‘In the late forties you gave up playing the clarinet completely in favor of the soprano saxophone. Many of us particularly loved your clarinet work. Why did you give it up?’ He answered, ‘That’s a very interesting question and I’ll answer it with another. What the hell has it got to do with you?’ And he got up and stormed out of the room.”

Trombonist Milt Bernhart posted this one on the internet: “Around 1950 I worked a Latino dance job with a pick-up band of beboppers. The reason we were all there is that the great Latino jazz pianist Eddie Cano was a distant relative of the leader, Don Ramon. Eddie had convinced Ramon that the town was alive with talented young jazz musicians (it was) and that he’d be doing himself a big favor to hire some for his next Saturday night dance at the El Sombrero, in the heart of the old Los Angeles barrio. Conrad Gozzo and Pete Candoli were the trumpets, Harry Babasin, bass, Jackie Mills, drums. The saxophones — Art Pepper, Herb Geller and Herbie Steward — were sitting in front of me, trying valiantly to ignore the uproarious laughter behind them.” The laughter in the brass section was being caused by Gozzo. He had given up trying to find the right parts of the tunes, which were unnumbered and all had long Spanish titles. Goz just put up the first arrangement on the pile and played it, no matter what the rest of the band was playing. “He kept that up all night. We went on the air halfway through the evening. Gozzo never had the right tune up. By that time I was sick from laughing. I only played about three notes that night … I just came apart. Don Ramon disappeared below the border, and Eddie Cano suffered great embarrassment for a while because we didn’t get paid. Later on, I’d remind Candoli or Gozzo about it and we’d break up, except for the not getting paid. To be honest, Don Ramon didn’t really owe us anything, did he?”

I got this via e-mail from Carlos Burns. It’s a list of new and improved effects pedals for guitarists:

TIME DISTORTION: Makes guitar solos seem longer. Can also be achieved by ineptitude.

BLAME SHIFTER: Shifts the pitch of mistakes down one octave so that the audience thinks it was the bass player.

DEPANDER: Filters out popular cover songs.

OVERJIVE: Makes Hootie songs sound like Parliament.

ACTIVE PICKUPS: Amplifies “signals” sent to attractive audience members.

FLUFF BOX: Filters out excessive musical substance.

REHASH: Stores and plays back your favorite riffs constantly and forever.

FEEDBACK ELIMINATOR: Drowns out “constructive criticism.”

BAND PASS FILTER: Eliminates sexual advances between bandmembers.

DEPRESSOR: Changes any chord to E minor.

PARALYTIC EQUALIZER: Makes you as good as other guitarists by injecting them with nerve toxins.