November ’16

The Band Room

Volume 116, No. 11November, 2016

Bill Crow

In 1980, I was playing in Joe Grimm’s band at the Coachlight Theater in Nanuet, New York, for a dinner theater production of “South Pacific.” Julius LaRosa was the star. One afternoon before the show, some of the musicians and actors were telling stories, and I told them a shaggy joke that I thought was appropriate to the show. Julius loved the story and insisted on telling it to the audience before the performance began. Here’s the story:

A guy following a religious calling joined a very strict monastery on a mountaintop in Colorado. All talking was prohibited, except each morning at dawn, when all the acolytes gathered together, faced the east and chanted “Morning.” The new member went along with this for several months, but one day he felt a little rebellious, and as the others were chanting “Morning,” he softly chanted, “Evening.” The head monk held up his hands for silence, surveyed the group severely, and intoned, “Someone chanted ‘Evening’!”

Julius told the story with flair, but when he got to the punch line he said, “Somebody chanted evening,” leaving his audience puzzled, and me groaning in the dark behind him. bass-clef-divider

Traveling on a concert tour in Italy, Carol Sudhalter was picked up in Milano by the guitarist. They headed out of town to the foothills of the Alps to do the gig. Carol described the guy as kind of an absent-minded intellectual. At a stop sign, he stopped the car and tarried there for a bit too long. Finally Carol said, “You can go now.” He replied, “Is the light green?” Then he realized there was no light and they both burst out laughing. Carol spent the rest of the drive telling him some of the forgetfulness anecdotes about Benny Goodman that we all know so well. (If you don’t know them, see my books.)bass-clef-dividerBill Wurtzel & Howard Morgen played as a guitar duo for many of Paul Simon’s after-concert parties. One year when Bill was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, he got a call from Paul’s manager for a last minute gig in Montauk. It would have meant a full day of travel each way, so Bill turned it down. Then he got a call back saying they’d send a plane. Bill agreed, and the trip took about 15 minutes. It was an experience that he says is “still crazy after all these years.”bass-clef-dividerWhile on a tour, Kirby Tassos was excited about playing at Southeastern Louisiana University, because several famous musicians had studied there. The young musicians on the touring band didn’t understand Kirby’s enthusiasm. The trombone player asked, “Why are you so jazzed about playing in this dump?” Kirby answered, “Because this is where Bill Evans and Carl Fontana went to music school.” The trombone player responded, “Who are they?”

bass-clef-dividerA few years ago Roger Post and I were on a big band gig in Brewster, New York. The leader had written a chart for “Gentle Rain,” which featured a very long guitar solo. The band played the first section well, and then the guitar solo started, and went on, and on, and on …. After about three to four minutes, trumpet player Gene Bensen leaned over and asked Roger, “Where are we?” Roger replied, “Brewster.”

bass-clef-dividerEric Knight, who served for five years as music director and arranger/pianist for Sergio Franchi, told me about a record date they did at the old Webster Hall for RCA. Knight had written an arrangement of “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha” in which he had inserted the theme from Ravel’s Bolero as a background for the line, “To right the unrightable wrong.” When they came to that place in the chart, Jimmy Fogelsong, the A&R man, ran out of the booth screaming, “What the hell are you doing?” It turned out that Ravel’s nephews, very much alive, were also very litigious, and that quote could have cost RCA a pretty penny in a copyright suit. The arrangement was scrapped for the recording, but Franchi liked it so much that he used it on all his nightclub appearances.

bass-clef-dividerBob Alberti was on Charlie Spivak’s band in the early 1950s. When they were playing at the Café Rouge in the Hotel Statler, the musicians spent their intermissions in the wings of the dining room, which were cordoned off with curtains. They shared the space with entrees that had been brought out in chafing dishes with cans of Sterno to keep them warm. One day Bob lit a cigarette and tossed away the match, which landed in an open Sterno can, setting it on fire. The girl singer on the band, an innocent, asked Bob, “What’s that?” Bob kidded her, “It’s Jello… what did you think it was?” She looked puzzled. “Does all Jello burn like that?” she asked. “No,” said Bob, “only the raspberry.”

bass-clef-dividerDonna Wood shared a funny photo on Facebook. On a pole at an intersection sits a street sign that reads ELECTRIC AVENUE. Below it, on the same pole, there is another sign that reads NO OUTLET.