Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CII, No. 3March, 2002

Bill Crow

Last November I flew with the Cab Calloway band down to Bonita Springs, Florida, to play an outdoor concert at the Brooks Center. The bandstand was at the edge of a beautiful lagoon. We set up during a colorful sunset and began the concert at dusk. After the intermission, the band manager asked us to assemble behind the stage. He said that Chris Brooks, our bandleader (Cab Calloway’s grandson), wanted to tell us something before we went back on. We met Chris at the edge of the lagoon and he pointed across the moonlit water at the wooded shore on the other side. There, perched in the trees at the water’s edge, we could make out the ghostly shapes of over two dozen large white egrets. “They tell me the birds have never come here before during a concert,” said Chris. “I just wanted you to know that the birds are digging the music, and so is the audience.” I told him, “I know what it is. They saw you out there in the spotlight wearing your white zoot suit and your white hat with the long feather in the brim. They think you’re the daddy of the egrets!”

Clark Terry maintained a very busy schedule for years, appearing at festivals and jazz concerts all over the world. But illness has required him to cancel a few things recently, and he has been spending more time at home. Jimmy Owens asked him, “Have you been practicing?” Clark said, “Just with the mouthpiece.” “Does that do it for you?” asked Jimmy. Clark took out his mouthpiece, and played what Jimmy described as unbelievable things on it. “Man,” Jimmy told him, “you don’t need a horn!”

On the phone one day, Clark told me about the golf party that Manny of Manny’s Music used to throw at his country club every year for some of the recording musicians who frequented his store on West 48th Street. Clark said they would all take a lesson before the match and would look good off the first tee, but by the last hole everyone was playing a pretty raggedy game. One year Clark was in a foursome with Milt Hinton, Osie Johnson and Tyree Glenn. On one drive, Osie’s ball went into the woods. He followed it and was gone for a long time. As the other three golfers proceeded up the fairway, they heard strange noises in the woods and went to see what was up. Through the trees they spotted Osie, thrashing away at his ball, which was in a terrible lie. Tyree sneaked up behind him as Osie whiffed again, and whispered, “That’s twelve, mother——!”

During intermission in a club where Russ Moy was playing with a jazz group, a couple of the musicians were visiting with enthusiastic fans who kept buying them drinks. Russ and one other member of the group didn’t drink alcohol, so the leader said to them, “It’s up to you guys to figure out which one of you will be the designated player.”

When the Clyde Trask band was playing the Island Queen riverboat in the late 1940s, there was an explosion at the landing in Pittsburgh. Trask was injured and all the band’s instruments and arrangements were destroyed. Fortunately, the rest of the musicians weren’t on board at the time. After collecting from the insurance company Trask reorganized, had his arrangements recopied, and went on to other bookings.

Bob Kross was playing trombone and singing with the Trask band when they finished a club date one night in Toledo, Ohio, and the band members packed the cars they traveled in. Bob and the female vocalist rode in the drummer’s car, with his trombone and her evening gowns in the back seat and the drums in the trunk. They drove back to Cincinnati, unpacked the back seat and said goodnight. The drums were left in the trunk until the next gig in West Virginia, a week later. When they packed the car for that gig, the female vocalist had so much stuff with her that they decided to squeeze the trombone into the trunk with the drums. The drummer opened the trunk and discovered that there were no drums in there. They had somehow been left on the sidewalk in Toledo the week before. They had to phone ahead to rent drums for the gig – and when they informed the band’s insurance company, it was the last straw. They immediately cancelled everyone’s policy.

Fred Smith told me that he was once rehearsing with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, and gave them the rundown on his feature number, “Sweet Lorraine.” He told the band, “Here’s what I’d like you to do on the bridge,” and laid out the routine. Guitarist Al Casey said, “Okay, but when I was with Fats, we used to play it this way . . .” Fred had forgotten who he was with. Casey played with Fats Waller for years, and “Sweet Lorraine” was one of Waller’s hit songs. “Forget what I said!” Fred told the band. “Let Al tell us how Fats did it . . . that’s what I want to learn!”

After a concert by a pick-up Dixieland band, a fan asked, “How often do you boys play together?” Herb Gardner answered, “Oh, about every five measures.”