The Band Room

Volume 119, No. 10November, 2019

Bill Crow

Steve Herberman gave me this story from guitarist Mundell Lowe about playing with Charlie Parker: “Bird called me in 1950 to do this concert with him up in Harlem,” remembered Mundell. “We played ‘Just Friends,’ and he played the first and second chorus. Then he motioned for me to play. I knew the tune, so I jumped in. I played a chorus, and he motioned to me to continue. Five choruses later he resumed playing. Later, I asked him, ‘Why did you have me solo so much?”’ He smiled at me, showing his gold tooth, and said, ‘I just wanted to know how deep the water was, baby!’”

Steve also told me about a gig his friend bassist Larry Kinling had in Baltimore with a part-time drummer and bandleader whose day gig was being a judge at the city courthouse. The judge’s sense of time wasn’t up to par, and half-way through the first tune, Albert Dailey, the pianist on the gig, leaned over to Larry and said, “Someone ought to give the judge time!”


John Altman told a story online that he got from the late Benny Carter. Ben Webster was playing at a club with a group led by Stuff Smith. One day Webster came to Carter and said, “You have to help me. You’re the only person who can. Last night I got drunk at the gig and I knocked someone out. The management fired me. I need this gig back. Please talk to the manager and tell him I’m sorry. He respects you, Benny.”

Carter did as he was asked, and told the club manager about Ben’s remorse. The manager said, “Benny, I appreciate everything you’ve told me, but we still have a major problem.” “What’s that?” “The person he knocked out cold was Stuff Smith!”


Herb Gardner sent me this one: “Back in the 1960s, I played for a week with Henry Red Allen’s group, featuring the great blues singer, Jimmy Rushing, at Lennie’s on the Turnpike up in Massachusetts. After playing a couple of opening tunes, Red said, “Jimmy, why don’t you sing something? What do you want to do?” Jimmy scowled and hemmed and hawed for several minutes, but finally his face lit up with a big smile! “How about…” he said, “…a blues in B flat?!” I thought Red was going to fall off the bandstand, he was laughing so hard.”


Chris Boardman posted this one on Facebook: “When I was about 19 or 20, Bill Hughes started copying my arrangements. He was Bill Byers’ copyist, so it seemed like a logical move. I got really busy and Bill Hughes was copying my stuff all the time. Bill had stamps printed for all of his regular clients: Byers, Ralph Burns, etc. Bill had been copying my charts for several years and he would always set up a stamp manually every time he would copy one of my charts. Stamps were cheap then, so I finally asked him: ‘Why don’t you have a stamp with my name on it?’ He said, ‘I wanted to see if you would stick around.’


Also on Facebook, from Clay Moore: “I was at a seminar, and one of the guitar players was talking about going to see Joe Diorio play in Chicago. One night he was talking to Joe between sets, and said he was heading home. A few minutes later he was back. He told Joe he had locked his keys in his car and needed to call a locksmith. Joe said, ‘Don’t do that,’ and took a coat hanger out to the car and opened it for him. The guy said, ‘Joe, I didn’t know you had so many talents.’ Joe replied, ‘When you’re a jazz musician, you have to have a sideline.’


Steve Wallace told me about Trump Davidson, a trumpet playing jazz band leader who worked in Toronto. A hard drinking extrovert, he was known for his sharp wit. Once, on a New Year’s Eve gig late in his career, he noticed how old everybody in the band was and said, “Guys, next year gray suits and black hair, okay?”

In the late 1940s, his band was doing a tour of one-nighters across Ontario. Trump and his brother Teddy were rooming together. The days were long and boring, so after nursing their hangovers, they took in a lot of afternoon movies. One day they decided to see “Lost Weekend,” without knowing what it was about. On the way they picked up a fifth of Scotch and cracked it as soon as the theatre darkened. By the time the newsreel and cartoons were over they were halfway through it, and by the time the really dark alcoholic delirium tremens scenes began in the movie, they had finished the bottle and were smashed.

When the movie ended, they were pretty shaken up. They stumbled out into the bright afternoon and Trump sat down on the curb in front of the theatre with his head in his hands. Teddy said, “What’s the matter, Trump, you okay?” Trump looked up all bleary-eyed and muttered, “That’s it – no more movies!”