The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 112, No. 5May, 2012

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The letters here do not necessarily express the views of Local 802. E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words.

Photo: Ed Berger

Cheers for our salute to Bill Crow

It was great reading Todd Weeks’ interview with Bill Crow in the last issue. I’ve been a working member of Local 802 since the 1950’s, and of course you hear the name Bill Crow along with many other admired musicians.

I actually started to see and hear Bill in the late 1990’s and was grateful to have worked with him over the past 10 years.

If you don’t already know him, you might ask “Who is this guy?” when you first see him on the bandstand. Then the band plays, and you hear a seasoned gentleman who proceeds to rip down that music. There is never a doubt as to where “1” is.

The article gave me insight into a man who I had already been in awe of for many years. What a trip to read these stories about Bill, who has literally walked the walk (from the George Washington Bridge to a town 50 miles from the Canadian border!) and talked the talk: stories, jokes and so much more.

Bill Crow has become more than a friend. He is an example of what the love and power of music can do. Thanks to this article, I am even more in awe of Bill now, knowing who he really is and where he has already walked.

Thanks so much.

–Gene Bensen

What a pleasure to read the profile of Bill Crow in the April issue of Allegro. With space at a premium, the article only skimmed the surface of Bill’s incredible – and thankfully ongoing – career. Aside from being a superlative musician, a consummate professional and an empathetic colleague, Bill is a treasure trove of music history. Ask him anything about music and musicians. Finally, as if all that were not enough, Bill is living proof that Leo Durocher was wrong when he said “nice guys finish last.” Thanks, Bill, for brightening our lives with your music, your stories and your kindness.

–Fred Griffen

Thanks for your interview with Bill Crow in the last issue. Reading it brought back a lot of great memories. I used to do a lot of commercial recordings back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, including a few dates with Bill. We’d finish our sessions at 9 or 10 or 11 at night, then head down to a jazz club in the Village called the Half Note. We’d hear Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Eddie Costa, Osie Johnson and Milt Hinton. Bill Crow himself would sometimes sit in. There was a stage in the middle of the bar, and the bartender would hand drinks up to the musicians as they were playing. At 3 or 4 in the morning, we’d then head up to 50th Street to the Roxy Bowling Alley. Those were great days, and reading Bill’s interview brought those memories back to me. It was a groovy time and a lot of fun. Thanks.

–Moe Wechsler

Here are some thoughts about the interview with Bill Crow you ran in the last issue. Musician humor is absolutely unique, and Bill has a keen eye and sharp ear on what is really funny to us musicians. The general public might sometimes wonder why we roar with laughter at stories they don’t find funny. Most of the stories have a “had to be there” quality.

For example: an accordion player does an afternoon gig and then goes to visit a friend who lives in a tough section of the Bronx. He leaves his accordion in the back seat and locks his car. Later, he returns to his car and finds two accordions in the back seat.

That’s musician humor! My best to Allegro and the brilliant Bill Crow

–Jimmy Wisner

Bob Swan, I’ll remember you

Bob Swan (1921-2012) hired me to play the organ at Radio City in 1981. Bob was more than a contractor, he was a friend and mentor who helped shape the lives and careers of many musicians. He came to my church and replaced the timpani heads at his own expense and then gave a large donation to the church’s music program.

The last time I visited Bob, he no longer recognized me. His wife Anita suggested that I play the piano. When playing “Kamenoi Ostrow” (a tradition at Radio City’s Easter Show), Bob perked way up in his seat and with tears rolling down his face and his hand patting his heart he said with a grand smile, “I know it’s you.” I am grateful for that spiritual connection. My prayers are with Anita, Carolyn and the family.

–George Wesner

[Editor’s note: see our obituary for Bob Swan on page 22.]

Dick Clark in 1961

A tribute to Dick Clark

Dick Clark died on April 18 at the age of 82. Although he wasn’t a musician himself, he was important to many musicians and I wanted to remember him here.

The first time I really met Dick Clark in person was at the first Philadelphia Music Awards in 1987. As someone who had played with Bill Haley, I managed to get the original 1954 Comets together for the first time in 25 years. Dick Clark was also an honored guest at this event. He met with all of us, but he didn’t stay in the same place for more than three seconds because there was such a constant crowd of people waiting to talk to him.

Over the past 30 years, Dick Clark and his secretary would regularly write to me and send me video clips of various Bill Haley concert footage and have me identify everybody in the clip. He would then use these clips in his TV specials.

The tricky part was that over the years in the Comets, there were three upright bass players in succession who had the first name of “Al” and who all looked alike: Al Rex, Al Pompilli and Al Rappa. They were all dark-featured Italian-Americans with black hair and dark eyebrows, and it took an expert on the Comets to be able to correctly identify them in photographs and film. Not even Dick Clark was sure who was who, so he’d regularly send me the clip and I would write back with the correct names of everyone and what their addresses (or their survivor’s addresses) were, to mail release forms! He’d always send me a nice letter on his letterhead thanking me for my help.

There’s more to tell, but I’m out of space. Here’s to Dick Clark.

–Bill Turner