Bill Crow’s Band Room

November 2012

Volume 112, No. 11November, 2012

Bill Crow

Another dear old friend left us recently. On Sept.
27, a heart attack took away the trombonist Eddie Bert, who I first heard on
Stan Kenton’s band, and who was one of the first musicians I met when I came
to live in New York in 1950. We shared the bandstand on countless rehearsal
bands, benefits, club dates, jazz clubs and record dates, and for several years
performed together at the Brass Conference. We started out playing that event as
Eddie’s quintet, then just as a quartet with Eddie and a rhythm section, then
as a pianoless trio, and finally, the last time around, just Eddie and me. The
very last time I played with him, at a tribute Harvey Kaiser recently arranged
for him upstate, he was suffering from the after-effects of a stroke that left
him partly paralyzed. He had difficulty speaking, but still managed to play a
little, and seemed delighted to be on the bandstand with friends one last time.

Back during his busiest years, Eddie’s daughters
wanted to have a surprise party for Eddie and his wife Mollie on one of their
wedding anniversaries, but they knew Eddie would most likely be working on any
given weekend, so they had one of his musician friends hire him for a club date
at the catering hall where the party was to be held. The party began at five,
and they told Eddie the gig began at six. In those days Mollie went to all of
Eddie’s gigs with him, and they arrived half an hour before the gig to find
the party in full swing and the band playing. Eddie ran to the bandstand,
thinking he had made a mistake about the starting time. When he found out the
party was for him and Mollie, he was delighted, but he later told me ruefully,
"It’s a nice party, but I was sorry to miss out on the gig!"

Eddie once told me about his earliest days as a
trombonist. He grew up in Yonkers, had started out playing the alto horn in
school, and had begun learning the trombone. By the age of 16, he had fallen in
love with the Basie band, and wanted to study with Benny Morton, so when he
heard that the band was going into the Famous Door on 52nd Street in the summer
of 1938, he went there and hung out in front of the club. The band was
rehearsing there for a record date, and when Morton showed up, Eddie accosted
him and asked if he would take him as a pupil. Morton said, "Well, I’ve
got this rehearsal… come on in and wait until it’s over, and we’ll
talk." So young Eddie, with stars in his eyes, got to hear and meet the
whole Basie band, including his idol, Lester Young. And the last time I played
with him, I noticed that he still was using a metal straight mute that another
Basie trombonist, Dickie Wells, had made for him, by driving dozens of little
holes in it with a hammer and nail.

Eddie kept a log of every job he ever worked, with
a list of the musicians and other pertinent facts. He often was able to help
identify musicians for archivists and producers of jazz reissues. He was getting
ready to write a book about his life in music, but he just ran out of time.

Johnny Whimple performs around Easter every year at
a local school’s "Bunny Breakfast." He plays guitar and sings songs
like "Peter Cottontail" and "Easter Parade." The highlight
is the appearance of the Easter Bunny, an adult in bunny costume. John likes to
acknowledge the volunteer parent who wears the costume by announcing something
like: "I want to thank Mr. Gasparini for bringing the Easter Bunny
today," so the parents would know the name of the volunteer without the
children catching on.

This past year the volunteer bunny got sick at the
last moment, and after a bit of panic, another parent agreed to fill in. John
wanted to thank her, but it came out all wrong: "I want to thank Kim for
bringing the bunny at the last minute. You see, the real bunny got sick, and
couldn’t make it."

After running a collection of the malaprops of
California contractor Al Lapin a few columns ago, I got some additions from
David Sherr:

"I bought my wife a dress with sequences on

"I have allergy in my swimming pool."

"He follows me around like I was a

That line reminded David of another malaprop
specialist in Dallas, who once said, "He watches me like I was a

Frank Amoss sent me a story from the late trombonist, Harry Betts. Harry once
told Frank about a visit he had made to Puerto Rico. He went to a club to hear
some local music played by a steel drum band. He arrived just as the band was
taking a break, and it was quite a while before they began playing again. When
they finally returned to the bandstand, Harry eagerly awaited the sound of some
authentic island music. What he heard, played on steel drums, was "In The