Dick Meldonian has a tape of a roast that took place at Donte’s jazz club in Los Angeles, at which Shelly Manne told this one: Chet Baker was booked into a club where very few customers showed up. “I thought I had a bigger following than this,” Chet said apologetically to the owner. The owner told him, “Don’t worry about it. Business is bound to be slow: it’s Lent.” Surprised, Chet asked, “Man, are they still making that scene?”
While Scott Shacter was playing “Starlight Express” at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, mother nature added a little something of her own to the spectacle onstage at one performance. An earthquake occurred during one of the big production numbers. Scott thought the tympanist was getting carried away until he saw people in the balcony covering their heads and running up the aisle, and realized that the floor was shaking more than tympani could manage even at their loudest. The quake quickly subsided and the performance came to its normal conclusion. Afterward, Scott heard two ladies in the front row discussing the show. One said, “All the special effects were wonderful, but I especially liked the one where they got the whole floor shaking.”
As a reminder of what has happened to the value of the dollar, Joe Luciano gave me an artifact that he got from a collector of Glenn Miller memorabilia. It is a copy of voucher number 542 of the Vincent Bach Corporation dated April 5, 1941, for the sale of “1 Bach Stradivarius Model Trombone #2001, Finish plainlacquered, including 1 cleaner, coldcream, $150.00” sold to “Mr. Glen Miller, 517 North Foothill Road, Beverly Hills, Cal.” to be shipped via express. There is a pencilled notation that $146.18 was paid on 4/21/41, deducting $3.82 for express charges. Evidently Glenn picked up the horn in New York instead of having it sent, and got a refund of the shipping cost.
Herb Gardner told me about a banjo single Bob Martinez was playing for a sing-along party at a nursing home. A particularly loud lady in the front row began to shout out her opinions. “This guy is awful! He can’t play, and his voice stinks! Get him outta here!” Bob bravely continued despite the tirade, and finally the woman fell asleep. She awoke a little while later, listened to Bob for a minute, and said loudly, “Now, this guy is much better!”
Spike Robinson learned about the Irish way of doing things the first time he stayed in a hotel in Cork. Wanting to be up bright and early for the next day’s festivities, he left a wakeup call one night for 7 a.m. and asked for the Times to be brought up. The man tapped at his door the next morning and said, “Here’s your Times, sir.” “What time is it?” Spike asked. “Nine o’clock, sir.” Spike gasped. “I left a call for seven!” “Yes, sir, but we saw how tired you looked when you came in last night, and we decided you could use the sleep-in.”
Down in Arizona, Ken Arzberger noticed an ad in the Sun Cities Independent: “REEDS – (56) FOR saxophone, like new, $45 takes all.” I wonder if “like new” means they’ve only been used once each . . . tried and rejected? A few weeks later Ken found another ad in the same paper: “Antonius Stradivarius, 1727, very good violin, needs refinish, $550. ”
Gary Rynar was a little preoccupied while setting up at a club date and didn’t realize that the leader was telling him what to play for the first dance. When he heard the leader say, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Gary said, “No, I’ve been here before!”
Milt Bernhart says he never played on the same band with Porky Cohen, but the two trombonists often met on the road. Stan Kenton’s band, with Bernhart, would be checking into a hotel as Charlie Barnet’s band, with Cohen, would be checking out. One night in Washington, D.C., when both bands were in town, Milt was awakened shortly after dawn by the sound of a trombone coming from another hotel just down the street. Porky practiced when the spirit moved him, whatever the hour. Recognizing Porky’s sound, Milt listened for a while, and then got out his trombone and joined in. Then he called Porky and they traded choruses on the telephone. It must have sounded good, since there were no complaints from the neighbors.
When the New Jersey Jazz Society gave their Pee Wee Russell Award to Ruby Braff, Terry Ripmaster, the president of the Society, called Ruby to arrange for the presentation. He waited until 11 a.m. to call, in consideration of the hours that jazz musicians work, but discovered that he hadn’t waited long enough. Ruby, obviously just aroused from sleep, answered the phone grouchily: “Don’t you know this is midnight for me?”
Joe Hanchrow told Herb Gardner about a bassoonist he played with in college whose recital piece ended on a low B-flat, not previously played. All the holes on the bassoon are closed on that note. The bassoonist stretched the bottom of a rubber surgical glove over the top of his instrument, and as he held the final low B-flat, the glove inflated and created the illusion of a ghostly hand rising to wave goodbye to the audience.