When I was growing up in Kirkland, Washington, my mother, Lucile Crow, was a soprano and often sang on radio stations in Seattle. One day she received a fan letter from a lady who had heard her on the Gold Shield Coffee Hour. She addressed the letter to Lou Seal Crow, at the radio station. The letter read, “Dear Mrs. Crow, I just love hearing you sing. Your voice is so nice and shrill.”
She used to take me along sometimes while she sang and played the organ on a weekly religious program called “Morning Reveries.” I was fascinated by the radio studio. The pipe organ console provided many different sounds, including a drum set and a series of bells… doorbells, telephone bells, a gong… that were installed for use with dramatic shows.
In the next room was a complete sound effects collection. They had a wind machine, marching feet, breaking glass, doors to open and close, wood blocks, steamboat and train whistles, a blank cartridge pistol, “boing” springs, a rain machine, a thunder sheet, a water splash basin and a theremin. I was free to play with all those toys when Mom wasn’t on the air. What kid could ask for anything more?
After being part of locally-produced radio shows for several years, Mom’s on-the-air career came to an end when the Seattle stations began piping in network shows that originated in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. So she transferred her talents to the local funeral home, where she played the organ for many years.
It was starting time on a concert, but Bill Wurtzel’s bassist and drummer hadn’t arrived. They were stuck in traffic somewhere. Bill started by himself, giving a talk about different guitar styles. He illustrated with examples of solo jazz and classical playing. Someone in the audience asked about improvisation, and Bill said, “It’s what you do when the rest of the band doesn’t show up!”
The other musicians arrived for the second set. Bill feared he had blown the account, but the following year he was hired again, and with a request that he repeat the same format: solo and lecture on the first set, trio on the second.
Richard Abramson attended a vocal recital at a liberal arts college. He overheard one of the singers being praised by an audience member: “You sang so beautifully. You should join the union and take some lessons.”
Guitarist John Whimple had a gig playing for a rummage sale at the Historical Society. There was no parking near the site, so he dropped off his equipment on the grass in front of the lawn sale and moved his car to the parking lot two blocks away. It was a good thing he was a fast walker. As he returned to his gear, he found a woman rummaging through his gig bag. He stopped her just before she took his cables and microphones up to the donation sale table to buy them.
Steve Wallace, up in Toronto, told me about a legendary Canadian drummer named Andy Cree. Andy was a hipster, who once played a gig with a club date band at a golf and country club in conservative Alberta. He showed up wearing dark glasses, and one of the patrons objected to the bandleader about the presence of this “beatnik slob.” The bandleader quickly replied, “Sir, our drummer is blind. Have you no shame?” The man was beside himself with embarrassment, and for the rest of the gig did everything he could to make up for his gaffe, buying the band drinks and apologizing profusely. Of course, Andy played the “blind card” to the hilt. After the gig, the guy helped Andy pack his drums, and insisted on carrying them to the car. Then, as the leader got in on the passenger side, Andy thanked the man for his help, slid behind the steering wheel and drove off.
Don Stein told me about a gig Lou Caputo was on, a band whose leader often romanced young women by offering them a chance to sing a tune with the band. Often they weren’t very good singers. After one of them gave a fairly dreadful performance, Lou deadpanned: “Next, we’re doing our Peter Pan medley. You’re not afraid of heights, are you?”
Sean Fox was on an archeological tour of the Yucatan, exploring ancient Mayan ruins in an area where the Mayan language is still spoken. In one of the villages, a festival was taking place in which the Princess of Spring was being chosen from a group of girls, ages five to nine. Sean wondered if this was the continuation of some ancient rite. He decided that was not the case when the girls climbed onto the stage and the local band began to play “Uptown Funk.”
Herb Gardner sent me this one. Question: What does “802” mean to some New York musicians? Answer: It’s the time they leave the house for an eight o’clock gig!