George Argila sent me a note remembering the late Doug Allan, with whom he studied drums and mallet instruments at the Henry Adler studios during the mid-1950’s. Doug wrote a letter of recommendation that helped George get out of the Army a month early so he could attend the Fall semester at Juilliard in 1959. While Doug was working in the recording department at Local 802, George realized that he hadn’t spoken to him for a number of years, and gave him a call. George said, “When I told him who I was, he immediately asked if I wanted my money back.”
Here’s a story I picked up off the Internet: A letter arrives at Gene Krupa’s house addressed to “The World’s Best Drummer.” Gene says, “This isn’t for me…I’m not the world’s best drummer.” He sends it to Louis Bellson, who also refuses to open it. It goes around to all the other great drummers in the world until it reaches Buddy Rich, who says, “This is for me,” and opens it. The letter begins, “Dear Ringo…”
I played a gig with Doug Proper up in Brewster, NY last month, on which the guest artist was Joe Beck. At the end of the night, Joe packed up, said a few goodbyes, and headed for home with his amp, forgetting his guitar which was lying near the bandstand. As Doug was packing up his own guitar he noticed Joe’s. He took it home with him, and decided to have a little fun with Joe. He got on the Internet and downloaded a photo of an armed, hooded Afghan rebel holding up a document of some sort. Doug erased the document and superimposed a photo of Joe’s guitar that he had taken with his digital camera. He e-mailed the doctored photo to Joe with the message: “To the jazz infidel Joe Beck from the middle-east musicians’ front. We are holding your infidelic instrument of evil. If you wish to see it again, you must submit to the following demands: 1. Deposit one hundred fourteen American dollars and thirty-seven cents in a Swiss numbered account. 2. Stop making jokes about Arabs and limos…we drive SUV’s. 3. Stop playing all those chords…Allah forbids it. If you do not follow these demands, we will have no choice but to send your guitar to a polka band in Utah.”
John Thomas, out in Mason, Ohio, writes: Last night, I was sitting at the bar between sets with drummer Melvin Broach and vibraphonist Rusty Burge. A nearby diner looked up from his plate of lamb chops and asked, “Do you take requests?” Rusty replied, “Yes, we’ve been known to.” The patron said, “How about ‘In The Mood?’” There was a long pause while none of the musicians answered. “You do know In The Mood, don’t you? Everybody knows In The Mood.” Reluctantly, the musicians admitted that they knew the tune. Then the drummer, spoke up. “I’ve got a request.” “What?” said the patron. Melvin pointed to his plate. “How about one of those lamb chops?”
William Zinn toured with the Minneapolis Symphony during the 1950-51 season for about six weeks via Pullman train. His seat mate was one of the orchestra’s cellists.
Zinn wondered why the cellist wasn’t wearing his shoes, as it was wintertime and the floor of the car was cold. The man explained that his right foot was killing him. He cursed the Florsheim company for making an expensive shoe that didn’t fit right.
Zinn took a look at the shoes and discovered that the left was a Florsheim, but the right was a Thom McAn. Both were the same design…patent leather concert black shoes. The cellist said his right foot had bothered him since the tour the previous year. Zinn decided to do some detective work.
Surmising that the night porter had mixed up the shoes when they were left outside the berths to be cleaned, he asked the orchestra manager if he still had the last year’s tour schedule. He did, and they determined that a trombonist was in the berth above the cellist’s.
Zinn located the trombonist, examined his shoes, and found an identical mismatch. When the shoes were again properly mated, the problem wasn’t completely solved. Since they were so uncomfortable, the cellist had barely worn his shoes, but the trombonist had worn his almost daily. So at the end, they each had a pair of shoes that fit, one shoe looking worn and one looking brand new.
Vinnie Riccitelli once played a gig with a trumpet player who owned a violin. The leader would add him to his strolling string group to make it look bigger. Vinnie saw the guy rubbing soap on his bow instead of rosin, to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally be heard. Vinnie asked him, “Do you take requests?” The trumpet player laughed. “What would you like to hear?” Vinnie replied, “I’m Forever Bowing Bubbles.”