When William Zinn was playing in the band at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills, Eddie Fisher was the headline performer. At the start of the show, Fisher introduced his mother, who was sitting in the front row of a large audience. He then introduced his future bride, an Irish girl sitting in the third row. (He had already married and divorced Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens.) When his fiancée stood to acknowledge her applause, Fisher’s mother rose up to look at her. “Oy, vays mir!” she said loudly, “Noch a shiksa!” (For my fellow goy readers: “Again, a Gentile girl!”) She cracked up the band, and the audience as well.
On the Internet, Desne Villepigue posted a couple of stories about the late Barney Kessel:
After a Montreal jazz festival, at a table in the hotel restaurant, Hank Jones and his wife, Leonard Feather, Pete Christlieb, Louis Bellson and some others were listening to a story Barney was telling about shopping for a new amplifier. He tried out a number of them in a music store, and, having chosen one, asked if they took American Express cards. He handed the salesman his card, and the man exclaimed, “You’re Barney Kessel? THE Barney Kessel?” Barney said his head began to swell until the man went on: “Barney Kessel, the flamenco dancer!”
Barney also told of an audience member in Washington who said to him after his set, “You’ve got your nerve!” Barney asked what was wrong, and the listener continued: “I own every record Barney Kessel ever made, and you don’t even sound like him!”
Scott Robinson pointed me to Joe Pecoraro’s Website for this story:
Joe played alto with the Dorsey Brothers band, among many others. When the band was at the Palmer House in Chicago, one of the trumpet players, who always wore a lucky hat, expressed concern about a remark someone had made about his head, that it looked very big. To put him on a little, the other musicians began inserting strips of paper, one a day, under the trumpeter’s hatband. The hat got tighter every day, until it was sitting on top of his head. He constantly inspected his head in the mirror, and the musicians all agreed that it looked like his head was getting bigger. Then they reversed the procedure, removing a paper strip each day, until the hat began sliding down to the trumpeter’s ears. They finally let him in on the joke, and he was furious for a moment, but then apologized and offered to buy dinner for the band. He gave them the name of a restaurant where he had made reservations, and when they arrived, they found a large bottle of good wine on the table. They enjoyed the wine while waiting for the host, but he never showed up, and the musicians were stuck with the check. Sweet revenge!
Gabe Villani got this story from Dick Prestage, the lead trumpet player with the Dorsey band. The band was playing the hit arrangement of “Tea For Two,” and when they got to the place in the tag ending where there are seven beats of silence, trumpeter Doug Mettome stood up and shouted, “Pennsylvania six five thousand!”
Daniel Morgan says he was a fierce ping-pong partner at the Henry Hudson Health Club with former Philharmonic trumpeter Jimmy Smith. Smith told him that when Leonard Bernstein began to feel he had been sold a bill of goods which resulted in his moving the Philharmonic from Carnegie Hall to Lincoln Center, he called Leopold Stokowski to attend a rehearsal to give his opinion on the acoustics. Stokowski asked Jimmy Smith to play a high note, and Smith did so. Stokowski turned to Bernstein and said, “You called me too late.”
Dick Sheridan sent me this one: “I pointed at two old drunks sitting across the bar from us and said to my friend, ‘That’s us in ten years.’ My friend said, ‘That’s a mirror, dummy!’”
Here’s a Craigslist ad that was sent to me by several people including Ian Royle, Jim Emerson and Scott Robinson:
We are a small & casual restaurant in downtown Vancouver and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More Jazz, Rock, & smooth type music, around the world and mixed cultural music. Are you interested to promote your work? Please reply back ASAP.
Here is Howie Smith’s reply:
Happy new year! I am a musician with a big house looking for a restaurateur to promote their restaurant and come to my house to make dinner for my friends and me. This is not a daily job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response. More fine dining & exotic meals and mixed Ethnic Fusion cuisine. Are you interested to promote your restaurant? Please reply back ASAP.