Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume XCIX, No. 11December, 1999

Bill Crow

Last fall I played a concert at the Center for Mature Living in Allendale, N.J., with the Saddle River Concert Band. When we arrived to set up in the center atrium, I unpacked my tuba near two old ladies who were sitting on a couch next to the folding chairs that had been arranged for the band. As more musicians arrived and set up in front of them, I heard the ladies congratulating themselves on having arrived early enough to get such good seats. Then, as the full brass section began warming up and the tympanist and percussionists began to test out their instruments, one of the ladies remarked, “It will probably be so loud we’ll have to turn off our hearing aids.”

Playing solo piano at the Cafe Pierre, Ronny Whyte was approached by one of the customers. “Do you know any Count Basie?” he asked. Ronny began mentally running through Basie titles: “April in Paris? Jumpin’ at the Woodside? The New Testament band or the Old?” He asked the customer, “What would you like?” The immediate response was, “Take the A Train!”

Mike Pinella passed along a story from Vinnie Riccitelli: About 20 years ago Vinnie was working at the Maisonette, where the alternate band was led by a guy named Quintero. One night Quintero told Vinnie that the hotel was cutting his band from five pieces to four. Vinnie told him, “You can always change your name to Quartero!” Vinnie said Quintero wasn’t amused.

Jo DeRisi told this story on the internet about her late husband, Al, who traveled and recorded with Patti Page in the 1950s. After being semi-retired on the West Coast for a few years, Page had her manager phone Al in 1971 with an offer to be her lead trumpet player on a road tour. Jo heard him refuse, saying, “I just can’t go out for that money . . . I have two kids in college.” The manager said, “Yeah, well, we paid for them to get there.” Al answered, “You did not! You paid for my house!” After a lot of laughter, Al agreed to do the first week for old times sake. When he arrived at the job he found that his riposte had been passed on to Patti Page and the rest of the band, to everyone’s amusement.

Herb Gardner passed along a story he got from Randy Reinhart. On a gig with a “clown band,” the musicians took a 20-minute break. They ordered food from a concessionaire who promised service in ten minutes. When the meals finally arrived two minutes before the break was over, most of the guys began to wolf down what they could in the time remaining, but Joe Hanchrow angrily accosted the manager, demanding his money back. Bruce McNichols observed, “Joe’s argument might be a little more forceful without the floppy shoes and big red nose.”

From the internet: The Boston Globe travel section noted in October 1997 that a foreign visitor had been detained at a U.S. airport when a customs agent thought he said one of his cases contained a neutron bomb. What he had said, with a heavy accent, was that it contained a new trombone.

Hal Galper, on the road with his trio, came upon a related incident as he watched CNN in his hotel room. At the bottom of the screen was a text bar that ran news highlights during the show. One item concerned a small town in Vermont where the local sheriff had a bomb-sniffing dog check out the high school. After the dog showed interest in a small black box, the sheriff slated it for destruction. They later discovered that they had blown up a clarinet.

Stuie Scharf writes: Before we replaced Jerry Ross as their producer, Bob Dorough and I were hired to do a couple of charts for a Spanky & Our Gang session. Jerry had the knack (“Lazy Day” and “Sunday Will Never Be The Same” were his productions), but he didn’t know a thing about music. Since we were using an orchestra already decided upon by other arrangers, I called Jerry’s office to find out the composition of the string section. Jerry was, as usual, on the golf course, but his secretary said she’d find out and let me know. Later, she called back with this message. “Jerry says it’s eight regular and two baby uprights.”

Roy Markowitz and his wife sent their young son off to camp last summer. Soon a letter arrived with a concise message: Dear Mom, send my good clothes. I met a girl.