Bill Crow’s Band Room

Bill Crow

Linc Milliman had a strange experience while playing a gig at the Antiques Show up at the Seventh Regiment Armory with Johnny Amoroso, Steve Gaglio and Jeff Ausfahl. The armory is located on Park Avenue in the sixties, and it was a ritzy show: admission prices were steep and the antique items were for sale at high prices. Linc had just bought a new Mooradian padded case for his bass. When he looked around for a safe place to leave it while the band strolled around the show, he realized that the area behind the show booths wasn’t very tidy; the floor was covered with dirt and scraps of this and that from the mounting of the show. He asked a security guard where he might leave his case, and was directed to a coat rack the electricians had used while they were setting things up. Linc hung the case safely above the dirty floor.

But when the band returned from playing, Johnny Amoroso noticed that something was amiss. Linc’s case was lying on the floor in the dirt, zipped up. “Watch,” John told Linc, and after a moment he saw that it was moving a little. Linc was beginning to fear that a rat might have gotten into it. Then a woman’s hand appeared from inside the bottom of the case and began to fumble for the zipper handle. As the musicians watched, the hand slowly pulled the zipper open and an attractive blonde in a black sheath dress sat up and looked at them.

Linc asked, “What the hell are you doing in my bass case?”

The young woman held up a bandaged hand and said, “I cut the tip off my finger. The doctor gave me a shot of codeine, and I got drowsy and fell asleep.” She had evidently mistaken Linc’s nice new case for a sleeping bag and used it for a little nap. Linc said it smelled of her perfume for a couple of weeks afterward.

Floyd Levin sent me this one: Ninety-six year old Rosie McHargue, who entertains regularly at a saloon in Santa Monica, recalled an episode that took place 70 years ago. “I was with the Seattle Harmony Kings. We were booked for two weeks in a club . . . I think it was someplace in Michigan. The local blue laws prohibited dancing on Sundays and we decided to defy the unpopular ruling.

“Ads in the local paper attracted a large crowd. We were on the bandstand, ready to begin. But when the leader gave the downbeat and we started the first number, just as the customers were moving toward the dance floor, a burly sheriff walked up to the band and shouted, ‘STOP!’ The music halted abruptly. From the back of the bandstand, Wild Bill Davison muttered, ‘Great! That’s the first time this band ever stopped together!’ ”

Jeff Ganz was playing an outdoor concert in Port Jefferson with Roberta Fabiano last spring, and encountered a female singer he knew in the audience. As they chatted during a break, she mentioned that her longtime keyboard accompanist had gotten very busy with other work. She had found another who, she said, played well and sang “just like Sinatra.” Jeff asked, jokingly, “Junior or Senior?” She looked at him with a bewildered expression, even after he repeated the remark several times. Then she said indignantly, “The one that’s dead!”

Pete Brush remembers how he joined the union while still in his teens. While still in high school in Long Island, he was hired to fill in on piano at the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan on Sunday and Monday nights, and was told to join Local 802. He says, “I contacted the Long Island branch of the union in Freeport and arranged to meet with Vince Rossito, who at the time was in charge of that office. The union hall was a big, empty barn of a room, except for an old upright piano off in one corner. There was a small office just in back of it.” After Pete had filled out some application forms, Vince asked him to go out to the piano and show him that he could play. “As I got up to comply his phone rang, and as I exited his office he asked if I would close the door so that he could hear his caller. I did as he asked, played a couple of choruses of ‘Laura,’ and re-entered his office. He was still on the phone, so I sat down and waited. When his call was finished, he asked if I had played. I told him I had, and he stood up, shook my hand, and welcomed me as a Brother into the union.”

Burt Collins told Leo Ball about a bandleader he was working with who often stuttered when he spoke. At one point the leader told his musicians, “I’m going to count four. If I’m not able to say ‘four,’ don’t play a waltz!”