The Band Room

November '17

Volume 117, No. 11November, 2017

Many years ago, Lou Caputo and the late Joel Perry were playing a wedding in Arizona on a horse ranch. During the cocktail hour the waitress kept coming over to them and offering them drinks of what she called “cactus juice.” It was a warm evening, so they had a few tastes, not realizing that the cactus juice was spiked with tequila. For the rest of the evening Joel and Lou were sailing. When the musicians got back to the hotel after the gig and hung around the pool to socialize a bit, once again the cactus juice began to flow, and Joel was in an especially merry frame of mind.

The singer in the band was handing out cigars. He was a tobacco connoisseur, commenting on the quality of the various smokes, and Joel lit one up. A little while later the singer came over again. He said “Joel, you gotta taste this one,” and handed him a cigar. Joel was still smoking the first cigar, so he took the new one and put it in the inside breast pocket of his tux jacket.

A minute later he jumped up, knocked over the chair he was sitting on, knocked the drinks over on the table in front him and began beating his chest and trying to remove his jacket. He hadn’t realized that the singer had given him a lit cigar.

At performances of his “Not So Big Band,” Lou Caputo always used to introduce Joel as a man who once put a lit cigar in his pocket and lived to tell the tale.

Jon Taylor sent me this note:

“Your story about Morty Geist reminded me of a recording I did in 1982 for an ABC Afternoon Special called ‘The Revenge of the Nerd.’ I was playing euphonium, which was supposed to represent the Nerd. Steve Margoshes, who wrote the music and conducted, kept telling me I sounded too good to be the Nerd. Finally, he said to me that he had played baritone horn in junior high school and that was the sound he was looking for. I knew there was no way that I could get that sound out of my terrific Willson euphonium. So that night I called a seventh grade friend of my son Josh, also named Josh, who had just started baritone. I asked if I could borrow his school instrument, which was leaky and out of tune. When I came in the next day and started playing the school horn, Steve said ‘Yeah, that’s the sound I’m looking for.’ As a rental fee, I gave Josh a box of baseball cards.”

For a gig with Carol Sudhalter, Bill Wurtzel agreed to pick up Sarah McLawler in front of her East Side home. But when he arrived, he discovered that her street was blocked because of a parade on Third Avenue. She didn’t have a cell phone, so Bill couldn’t reach her. Fortunately, an understanding police officer let him drive around the block on Second Avenue against traffic. Bill said, “Since Sarah didn’t notice anything unusual about me backing all the way up her street, I kept my agita to myself.”

Vito Dieterle posted an “only in New York” story on Facebook. He was playing trumpet one afternoon with a jazz band out in Central Park. One of the many tunes he called was “How About You.” As they were playing it, he saw a cheerful looking elderly lady being wheeled up to the band in a wheelchair by a young woman, who approached him mid-song and said, “Young man, do you know who wrote that song you’re playing?” Vito said, “Of course, ma’am, it was Burton Lane.” The young woman then pointed to the lady in the wheelchair and said, “Do you know who that lady is? That is Mrs. Burton Lane, my mother and Burton’s widow.” They finished the song, and Mrs. Lane praised the musicians for their rendition.

Also on Facebook, Clovis Nicolas posted that he was heading for an escalator with his bass one day when a man stepped aside and said, “Be my guest. I know… my grandfather was a bass player too.” “Oh really?” said Clovis. “What was his name?” The guy answered, “His name was Milt Hinton.”

I got a nice letter from Jean Packard down in Florida. She told me about a gig she once had at the Hilton in Washington, D.C., playing the piano and singing. The piano was in the dining room, and there were drapes which separated that area from the bar. When she finished her first set, Jean went into the bar, where a man was sitting. She asked him, “Could you hear me through the drapes?” “Oh,” he said, “Was that you singing? You were good. But you have to get rid of your accompanist. He’s awful!”

At my desk in the Recording Checks Department at Local 802, I looked up Mark Patterson’s e-mail address recently to let him know that we had a check for him, and I got a laugh. His e-mail address begins: grouchomark@….

Songwriter Margo Guryan attended a friend’s bar mitzvah party. The bandleader asked what tune they could play for her. She said, “Night in Tunisia.” She got a blank stare as he walked to the next person.