Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CIII, No. 10October, 2003

Bill Crow

Back in the 1950’s, bassist Georges AndrĂ© developed a pain in his right foot. The podiatrist who examined it thought he needed an operation, but was unable to do the job right away as he was leaving for a three-week vacation. Another doctor was of the opinion that the problem could be solved with a special lift in Georges’ shoe. The doctor called the place that made orthopedic inserts and gave them the specifications, and Georges went there to be measured. He was told that his lift would be ready in a little over a week. Georges said, “Didn’t the doctor tell you I’m the principal bassist at the Metropolitan Opera? And that this is my beating foot?” The man apologized and had the device ready for Georges the following morning.

Lloyd Wells, who now lives down in Nashville, told me about a film date he did during his days as a New York studio musician. Hale Rood had written some interludes for a good sized orchestra, with Lloyd and Jim Mitchell on guitars. After they played a particularly pretty section, one of the four or five “suits” from the agency sponsoring the project stepped out of the control booth and approached Hale. Lloyd overheard him say that he thought the first part of that section sounded dull. Hale nodded, and the man returned to the booth. Hale picked up the score, studied it a bit, then went to the rhythm section players and made a big show of finding measure thirteen, in which he changed an A minor chord symbol to A major. Then, with great ceremony, he went to every other musician’s music stand, located measure thirteen and studied it. He changed nothing until he found a woodwind player who had a concert C in his thirteenth measure. With great care, he drew a sharp in front of it, then went back to the podium and said, “That should brighten things up.” After the next run-through the “suit” ran back out and exclaimed, “Brilliant! Brilliant!” Lloyd says, “He had no idea how brilliant it had been.”

When Greg Thymius was on tour with “Miss Saigon” in Hartford, he stayed at a Ramada Inn near the theatre. The show was heavily advertised, with a giant cardboard display in the hotel lobby and banners on the street-lights between the hotel and the theatre. Greg got on the elevator one evening, dressed in his blacks and his “Miss Saigon” tour jacket, and carrying his horns. A man and woman got on with him, told him they were on the town, and asked Greg what he was up to. He said, “I’m going to work.” “Oh, where do you work?” Gesturing toward the theatre, Greg said, “Over at Miss Saigon.'” “Really?” they asked. “How’s the food?”

Art Baron told me that at one performance of “A Year With Frog And Toad,” Brian Nalepka had come to sit in the pit to familiarize himself with the bass/tuba book prior to doing a sub for Linc Milliman. Subs on Broadway are always eager to do well the first time they come in, hoping to win the approval of the conductor for future work. But the night Brian came in to watch the show, everyone in the pit was in a funereal mood. The notice of closing had just gone up, and the musicians were indulging in the black humor that always accompanies that situation. After listening to a number of gloomy comments, Brian said, “The heck with all that…I just want to be approved!”

Frad Garner, in town recently from Denmark, found an old friend, Lloyd Moss, doing a weekday classical record show on WQXR. Frad knew him in the Army in 1945 as a swinging Dixieland trombonist. Listening to one of his radio shows, Frad heard Moss announce that his next offering would be a recording of a piece “featuring two celli.” Without a pause, he added, “It must be celli, ’cause jam don’t shake like that.”

Up in New Albany (NY) Jamey Abersold gets orders for all sorts of musical publications and supplies, but he was a little taken aback recently by a phone call he got from someone who wanted a metronome that would click on only two and four.

Steve Cohen’s wife works for a midtown corporation that provides her with an employee discount card that is honored by the record store on the ground floor of her building. Steve decided to take advantage of the perk, and sent her there with a wish list of classical and opera titles. She came back empty handed, but with a good story. She had asked a helpful clerk if he had a CD of “Boris Godunov.” He answered, “We might. What instrument does he play?”

Andy Messenger wrote to tell me that, since his life’s many demands are always cutting into his time to practice his trumpet, he was momentarily excited to see an offer in his e-mail box one morning. The subject line said, “SHED WHILE YOU SLEEP.” Thinking that was a cool idea, he opened the message to discover it was only an ad for a weight-loss pill.