Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume 111, No. 9September, 2011

Bill Crow

William Zinn sent me a musical story from his youth. When he was 15 years old, living with his parents in the Bronx, they were visited by Zinn’s uncle, the timpanist of the Cleveland Symphony, Harry Miller. Their three-bedroom apartment was already full of Zinns, so uncle Harry slept on a folding cot in one of Zinn’s brothers’ room. One night uncle Harry came in late and noisily settled himself into his cot, waking Zinn, who crept to the living room piano and played “Shave and a Haircut,” in C, leaving off the last note. Uncle Harry, who had a fine musical ear, couldn’t stand it. After much grunting and groaning, he got out of bed, found his way to the piano in the dark, and struck a resounding C major chord that woke the whole household.

Rick Palley subs regularly with the Broadway show “Jersey Boys.” He also plays on their softball team in the Broadway league. One day last May they played the team from “Wicked,” and lost 12-6. Rick heard one of the Jersey Boys, evidently still in character, remark, “We lost to some flying ******* monkeys!”

Mike Lipskin passed along a story that he got from Dick Wellstood. Dick said that, while Charles DeForrest was playing the piano in a New York club, a customer interrupted him to ask, “Where can I hear some live music?” DeForrest quipped, “I’ll tell you as soon as I finish typing this letter.”

Mike says that the same thing happened to him, twice, while playing in clubs in San Francisco. He used DeForrest’s reply both times, but got no notable response.

Herb Gardner sent me an e-mail to report that a young girl had come up to the bandstand while he was playing with the Stan Rubin Band, and gushed, “You guys are wossum!” Herb said he was glad they were able to translate.

I sent this reply: “Lucky she didn’t think you were waffle!”

Larry Benz and his wife took an early spring drive through Woodlawn Cemetery, and they decided to look for Miles Davis’s tombstone. He wrote to me:

“Following a map provided by the Woodlawn office, we came to a tri-roads with a highly polished slab of black granite reflecting everything nearby. After the dazzlement of Miles’s stone, we saw that, within eighty feet, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Illinois Jacquet were relaxing. They were possibly discussing, for all eternity, the correct tempo of ‘Lush Life.’ Irving Berlin was a little farther away, and not interested. The big four were now closer than they ever were while they were on the road on our earthly plane.”

Lloyd Wells, down in Nashville, told me about a scene from his early days in New York. Lloyd had just been in town a couple of months, and had been introduced to Jim and Andy’s bar by Mundell Lowe. Lloyd was sitting halfway down the bar one day. The proprietor, Jim Kolovaris, had stepped into the kitchen for a minute, and no one was behind the bar. The door opened, and in walked an African-American lady in a nun’s habit. She carried a small silver tray, and began asking the men at the bar for donations. Jim came back in from the kitchen, saw the nun, and immediately confronted her. “Dammit,” he shouted, “I told you not to come back in here!” Lloyd said she backed out, all the while cussing Jim out. “It was powerful!” he said. “I heard some phrases I hadn’t heard before and haven’t since. Jim saw me sitting there with my mouth wide open. He leaned over and said, ‘Lloyd, she’s never been inside a church. Welcome to town.’”

Ron Mills sent me this one: A couple of years ago the Glenn Miller orchestra was playing a concert date somewhere in Iowa. During intermission, Damian Sanchez, one of the tenor players, was in the lobby chatting with some of the concertgoers, when a scowling elderly gentleman accosted him. “Where’s Glenn?” he demanded. Damian answered, “Well, sir, he hasn’t been around since 1944, you know.” The man shouted, “What!” and then proceeded to the box office to demand his money back.

Newspapers in Switzerland carried a story this spring about the St. Moritz Jazz Festival. They had booked Ahmad Jamal, but found themselves unable to pay his contracted advance. Their check was returned to them because the American authorities had flagged it as a “donation to terrorism.” Evidently there was a suspected terrorist with the name Ahmad Jamal Al-Badawi who was on their list. The Swiss papers said the American State Department had declined to comment on the situation.