Bill Crow’s Band Room

Bill Crow

Dave Walter wrote me a letter remembering his friend Andy Ferretti, who was one of our most respected lead trumpeters back in the 1940s and ’50s. (Andy’s most famous line, when his doctor asked if he drank more than a pint a day, was: “Doctor, I spill more than that!”) Dave recalled some other examples of Andy’s dry wit: On the afternoon of one Christmas eve, at a rehearsal for the Kate Smith show, trumpeter Manny Weinstock brought in a carton labeled “Macy’s Liquors.” Knowing that Manny was a teetotaler, Andy asked, “What are you doing with that?” Manny explained that a couple of friends were coming over that night, and “my wife said to pick up some drinks.” Andy inspected the contents of the carton and discovered a bottle each of Creme de Menthe, Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Cointreau. Aghast, he asked quietly, “Manny, what are you going to serve them? Fudge?”

Andy was rehearsing with singer/bandleader Vaughan Monroe at the Nola studios on top of the Steinway building. The windows were shut and the air-conditioning, like Monroe’s conducting, wasn’t functioning well. The trumpets sat on risers against the window wall. Hymie Schertzer asked Andy, “Can you open the window?” Andy answered, “If I could open the window I would have jumped an hour ago!”

There were no risers at a rehearsal with Harry Sosnick and Andy, not a tall man, was hidden from the maestro by the musicians sitting in front of him. Sosnick yelled, “Andy, can you see me?” Andy shook his head sadly and replied, “Harry, I never could.”

Greg Gisbert once ordered a trumpet and a flugelhorn from Giardinelli up in Liverpool, N.Y., to be shipped to his address in the Bronx. When the horns were over a week late, he called the company dispatcher. He was told they had been sent out, and had been signed for by a Mr. Lance Willoughby. Further checking revealed that someone had written one digit of the mailing address on the parcel incorrectly. Greg went looking for the address, a few blocks away, and it turned out to be the local Burger King. A waitress told Greg that Lance Willoughby was the manager. She called him over, and Greg asked if a package that said Yamaha Band Instruments on the outside had been delivered there. Mr. Willoughby said, “Yeah, it’s here. I put it in the freezer, under the French fries.” Greg didn’t keep the trumpet, having found one he liked better. But he still plays that flugelhorn, probably the only one that ever spent a week or so in the freezer at Burger King.

Clarinetist James Campbell told me about some friends of his who were doing a mime show in a night club. They had an agreement with the house that, if there were ever fewer customers than there were actors on stage, they wouldn’t do the show. One evening they nearly invoked that privilege, since the only patrons for the last show were a party of four at a front table who were busy entertaining themselves with loud conversation. But, just as they were about to cancel the performance, another party of four came in and sat at a back table. Outnumbered, the actors went onstage and began the pantomime. The audience at the front table ignored them completely, continuing with their boisterous conversation, but the table at the rear seemed to be paying close attention. When they were finished, a couple of the actors stopped by the back table and asked the customers if they had enjoyed the show. “Yes,” said one of them, “but those people at the other table were making so much noise, we couldn’t hear a word you were saying!”

When bassist Trigger Alpert was serving with the Glenn Miller band during World War II, a small group that included drummer Ray McKinley, pianist Mel Powell, guitarist Carmen Mastren, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko and trumpeter Bernie Privin was sent to Paris to entertain the troops. One evening Gertrude Stein invited them to the apartment she shared with Alice B. Toklas. Trigger was impressed with the number of original Picassos on the walls. He also admired a needlepoint pillow on one of the chairs with a likeness of Stein’s poodle, Basket. Trigger said, “When I went to sit on that chair Gertrude Stein said, ‘No, Trigger, you can’t sit there — that’s a Picasso!'”

Herb Gardner sent in this one: In an uncharacteristically serious conversation during a break, the members of the Smith Street Society were discussing different approaches to making up a jazz solo — harmonic or melodic thinking. Jon-Erik Kellso was the guest soloist that night, and they asked him, “Jon, what you think about when you’re improvising?” Jon thought a minute and then said, “Mostly I think about candy, and little animals in the woods…”

Chick Corea told me about a hostage situation he heard about. Some terrorists were holding 30 drummers hostage, and were threatening to release one of them every six hours until their demands were met.

Terry Ripmaster is doing research for a biography of Willis Conover. He would like anyone associated with Willis, or who has information about him, to contact him at RD3 Box 335B, Hackettstown, NJ 07840.