Transcript:

Speaker So if ever I give you a jumping off place, you just be sure you start.

Speaker Oh, boy, it's tough. I know. I know. I'm doing a documentary myself and boy, were we really having trouble because they're saying yes and no and things like that. It's awful. Yes. Yes.

Speaker And if I do speak also wait for my question to clear good before you begin to feel really tough. Oh, that's much I won't be.

Speaker It's much more grown up. My voice is all through mine.

Speaker And just take care of your part, sir. In my case, I am. That's true.

Speaker OK. You start.

Speaker It's a different card. Yes. Oh, heavens. Oh, you're going to be on the air. I got to make it up to show. I didn't pick up. Oh. So you know about me and Casper. Yes.

Speaker Yeah. You start with your family or you start with the time to tell. Right.

Speaker I think the Congress hotel is where I first heard Beneš in person, so. All right. I first heard Benny Goodman in person in 1935. He was playing at the Congress Hotel in Chicago and a very handsome room called the Urban Room, Joseph Urban Room. And it was the depths of the Depression. But everybody wore evening clothes every night. It was like a Carole Lombard movie. And this gorgeous orchestra was there dressed in evening clothes, playing every night for dancers. You'd listen to the radio and you'd hear Benny Goodman orchestra every night. They had a remote. And then about a half hour later from the Grand Terrace, you'd hear Fletcher Henderson's orchestra playing the same arrangements and they sounded quite different. And they were both marvelous. But Fletcher had all those great stars. You know, I didn't really meet Benny. We danced by and I'd ask him questions about. I asked about the personnel. Mostly, I'd say. What's the drummer's name? And I was sure he said, Mr. Cooper. So for them, I was crazy about Mr. Cooper. I thought it was him. But ultimately, I did get to know Helen Ward. She was the belle of Chicago during those years. This was a period when swing was coming into the language. At least it was new to me, a civilian. I think Esquire magazine had a piece about swing music. And so you were able to kind of identified it. It helped to have a word. I don't think Benny had been crowned king yet, but he was playing swing music. All right. And as I say, Helen was a boat around by a lot of the eligible extra men that I. I wish I could go out with in Chicago. As a matter of fact, we did double date that New Year's Eve. I think it was 1936. She'll kill me if I put dates in. But listen, that's a matter of record. And then I went east to school and they were playing at the Pennsylvania Hotel. The room was called the Manhattan Room. And that's where Sing, Sing, Sing began. And I think she came over. My father picked me up at school and took me in to hear the band. And she came and sat with us. And she said, well, you've got to hear this new number. They were working on it this afternoon. We had the feeling that it was like a premiere of Sing, Sing, Sing. So whether they'd been doing it for a week or a month, I don't know. But I thought I was hearing it for the first time. I didn't get to know Benny until the other end of his life. Actually, I knew him in a sort of professional way. I was working with a woman who had a wonderful publicity office, Virginia Wicks, and Benny was one of her favorite clients. She just enjoyed Benny adored her. She was a lovely person. Still is. And so we had some sort of professional dealings. But then after Alice died, he lived up in the country near where I have a place. And the late Bob Boxx, my late husband, and I often went out with Benny. Then the first couple of times we went over to his house for dinner. His date was his dog. And I mean, we were a foursome and the dog was just darling. And he was very content with that. He was kind of a loner after Alex died. But then he did begin taking out a series of wonderful, attractive women and culminating with this really nifty person, Carol Phillips, who is just darling and cheap, obviously was making him very happy. And I saw them at a charity. Paul, it was something that Benny was co chairing with Bobby Short. The Third Street movie music school had has a party every year at the Carlyle and they have a wonderful dance band that plays after dinner. And there was Benny out on the dance floor with Carol. I thought, oh, this really mean something. And he was cutting a rug and doing it very nicely.

Speaker Let's jump back to OK. Yeah. Let me first.

Speaker Oh. Was jingling. Well I kind of like that, but if you don't, I'll take it off. I think you're used to. I believe in boiling things down. And of course I go a little fast. I should have made each one a segment.

Speaker Do you like jazz.

Speaker Yeah. Oh. Should I do all that? All right. Yeah. So OK with. Yeah. And I first heard jazz for the Senate. All you got. Oh yeah.

Speaker All right. Yeah. Okay.

Speaker Look your way.

Speaker Well, like Benny Goodman, I grew up in the Midwest and it was a marvelous place to be. In those years, because there was so much good music around. My parents were guarantors tours at the symphony and they were into opera and both had studied music, played and sang. But Daddy was crazy about jazz and we had louis' hot five records around the house and Ethel Waters and a lot of good stuff. So my ears were pretty well shaped by the form. By the time I was ten and eleven and twelve, and when I finally did get to hear the big bands, they were in sequence. I think the ones that played in hotels were the ones I heard mostly Ben, Bernie and Hal camp. And you can see this is all pre swing era and and gene gold kids. And there are a lot of good bands in the Midwest. But of course, the crowning moment was when Benny Goodman came to the Congress Hotel, and that was in 1935. And you were working for. No, I was. I was an undergraduate at prep school at the time. I was going to school in Chicago and I think thirty five and 36. Yes. A classmate of mine had a boy whose father owned the hotel. So that meant we got to go to every night. It was marvelous how we managed to get through the school day. I'll never know. But we were out there dancing off both our shoes and there was a lot of dancing then. It was really marvelous. And I've read in interviews subsequent, I think Helen Oakley interviewed some members of the band at the Savoy and they said that watching the dancers energize their playing that they loved. There was a kind of give and take, and I don't know whether that affected Benny's playing, but I know people adored to dance. And that was the big thing.

Speaker You got dressed up and you could tell a story. Yeah. That this handsome devil, mr. Yeah. You find that you ended up marrying.

Speaker Oh yeah. OK. Yeah. That's good. All right. The band played every night at the Congress Hotel and we got to go a lot to hear the band. And I didn't get to meet Benny at that time except just to kind of chat with him as one danced by ask him questions about the arrangement or the the soloist. And I remember asking him the name of his drummer who was so attractive. And I said, What's your drummer's name? And I was sure he said, Mr. Cooper, I was just so sure that was Mr. Cooper playing. And it was so formal. Betty didn't say Gene Krupa. And years later, calendar pages flip. I got married to the trumpet star with Gene Krupa Assurity Shamrock, and we used to refer to Gene as the flower girl at our wedding.

Speaker And it was a happy union movement. That gene present gene was adorable when Count Basie died.

Speaker I asked friends of mine whose husbands had worked in various bands if they knew of any other leader who is well liked and by the by the men in the band. And it's very hard to think of. I mean, Shortie, my husband worked with all the big bands, both Doris's. Well, Jimmy was rather sweet, but Bob Crosby. Oh, a lot of big jazz bands and leaders were not too well thought of by the men who played. But Gene Krupa was was a lovely guy and I think he was unusual in that respect. He was decent and nice. But years later, when I was having dinner at Benny Goodman s. He said to me that by now I'm married to Bob Barker, the late Bob Barker. It was my second husband and we used to hang out with Benny a little bit. And he said to me one night he was kind of looking off into the distance. Benny was. He said, Gene, he said, when did charity play with my band? And I said, Benny, he didn't play with your band. He said, yes, he must've. I'm sure he did. I said, well, curiously enough, he played with almost every other major band of the period. But he never got to play with your band. Well, he couldn't believe it. I mean, he was so sure. But it shows how kind of absent minded he is because of was a lot of people claim to have worked from that. He didn't remember. And he thought he remember charity.

Speaker And didn't you my placing you in the social scale.

Speaker Yeah. You were you were covering the band.

Speaker Well, oddly enough, I, I.

Speaker I think timing had a lot to do with my interest in jazz, because it was a marvelous period to be growing up in Chicago and all my I did not having to have a formal coming out party. But most of my chums did. And there were big bands that played at all these parties. And you'd go to one party and there'd be Tommy Dorsey and another one, there'd be Glenn Miller. I mean, that was the that was the program. And so because of that, because I went to so many of these parties and was so crazy about what was going on, I got a job on the Hearst paper. So suddenly I found myself in the newspaper business before I was 20. And I wrote the young news and it gave me a chance to plug my friends. I got a record column out of it. And it was it was a nice sequence of events.

Speaker More about Helen Ward, what she meant, and he actually is amazingly glamorous. So she was on the phone. They just made a full sized picture in the lobby.

Speaker Well, as well they might. Helen Ward, I'm told. Well, Benny said that when he discovered her, she was part of a two piano team, a man and a woman. And I think she was dressed in white and playing a white piano. And he was in evening clothes and he was playing a black piano. And I don't know whether she sang in this act or not, but at any rate, that was her beginning. So obviously, she had a good background in music. She had a way of standing in front of the bandstand that was so provocative. She kind of leaned in sideways like this and kind of sing over her shoulder. And we all thought that was just so great and hip and we all tried to stand that way. It made you look kind of more beguiling. I don't know. She dressed stunningly, of course, and she was very, very spectacular. And she was the belle of the town.

Speaker Were your family and your father? Yeah, we're quite encouraged when you ran off, as it were, with the band musician and went on the road. How did they feel? A little bit about that. Yeah.

Speaker You're like, oh, well, I must say mother and daddy were very patient and understanding during my my my fondness for all the music when I was a little girl, they'd take me to hear the bands and some my father had an advertising business and sometimes he knew the leader and I'd get to meet the leader. And and when I was about ten, I was listening to the radio one night and Ben Bernie had a remote and he had a way of sending out plugs to his friends. And he said that song was, You're driving me crazy.

Speaker It was arranged by Jean Henzinger. That was it, just through. And nobody knew the difference.

Speaker But it just made me feel kind of I was in that world. And then when the whole camp band came to Chicago, my parents invited them for Sunday brunch and we got to know them socially and it was fun. So I think they probably weren't prepared for my running off and getting married so unceremoniously. But by that time they'd gotten a divorce. I think they were relieved. They didn't have to put up with a serious wedding anyway. Shorty, I met him New Year's Eve. He was playing with Gene Krupa, this time at the Sherman Hotel. And within a month we had eloped and went on the road with the band. And then I got to know that end of the world. I couldn't do it. I couldn't imagine anybody doing it today. But in those days, everybody was more resilient and it was like I was six. Oh, that's good.

Speaker Well, traveling on the road was. Precarious.

Speaker And mainly because everybody was short of money. The salaries were very low. People got under 100 dollars a week. And you have to take your wife along and pay her fare. Or if you're on the bus, of course, it was free. But to feed her and buy your hotel room and everything, it was it was nip and tuck.

Speaker I think I'm told that when Claude Thornhill worked at Glen Island Casino, the salary was thirty five dollars a week for each musician. So they must have doubled up or something because you couldn't do it otherwise. But riding on the bus was kind of fun in a way because the humor was was wild and I was think hip musicians. Humor is it's never good when it's reproduced. You know, these books that come out with musician jokes you think is supposed to be funny, but at the time it's hilarious. And if you're on a bus for any length of time, you get a little giddy and there are running gags and suddenly somebody starts laughing. And that's what Shorty is referred to as the bus sillies. And everybody breaks up and it's just marvelous. And so that was it was an interesting period just for that reason, I'm sure now everybody flies first class and several different scene.

Speaker How about a train?

Speaker We did trains. We did trains a lot. And you never had a drawing room. You can be sure you were in berths, but usually they got to lower berths. At one point, Horace Hite decided to have an all star band and he had every every member of the band that had been with some other major band would get introduced that way. He'd say on piano, just Dacey formerly with Benny Goodman and he'd say, Irving Zola, formerly with whoever he played with Ben Polic or something, said Joe Rushton, formerly with Benny Goodman. So, I mean, this was this this band of types that were on the train. And one member of a band was looking for one of the singers in the band. Was open the verse along the train. I remember that he was saying, Dorothy, darling, Dorothy. I thought, oh, God, does he think we're all asleep and we don't hear this madness? But trains were we're not as commonplace as the bus was better because you could pull up to the job with your instruments, you know, and then just unload right there with the. With the.

Speaker Arrangements, the book radio you mentioned before was very important in that got all the information since it was heard that he was a little bit about them, about his programs, remember? Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker Radio was very important during the late 20s and 30s and probably early 40s. You heard everything that you needed to know to build up your knowledge of jazz. When I was, I think twelve, eleven or twelve, I remember every Wednesday afternoon there was a remote from the Savoy Ballroom. It was Claude Hopkins one time and it would be somebody else. And at the time, you really got to hear a lot of good sounds. And I think you talked to musicians from the period. And they'll all tell you people like Miles used to say that he listened to the radio a lot. It was it was very useful. And you've got to hear it. And talking about Benny Goodman, the fact that he would play an arrangement at 11 o'clock at night and at 12 o'clock I would come Fletcher Henderson and he'd be playing the same arrangement. But you'd get to hear to Barry or Roy Eldridge or something taking solos, and it made it sound quite different. So we all had pretty sophisticated ears in those days. And Artie Shaw. And he was then known as Artie Shaw. And that was a big scoop. Art shone as orchestra. You heard him marvelous. It was.

Speaker Valuable it was during his stay in the Congress for the first time.

Speaker I know that Chicago was quite liberated in the UK family.

Speaker Do you remember anything about that, about a meeting or later any things changed? Oh, yes.

Speaker All right. I don't remember any Sturr being caused by Teddy's appearance there, mainly because Benny kept denying it. He said. What's the difference? I mean, I don't see any Benny. Absolutely. You know, there could have been a race riot going on in front of him and he'd say, I don't see anything. He just didn't accept that fact that there were these differences. And so which is marvellous because he just he was. It wasn't politically correct. It was just apolitical. It was just a great musician. But it's very hard to put yourself back in that period. I've recently celebrated a fiftieth anniversary of fond friendship with Bobby Short PIN. Bobby tells me that during the early days of our friendship, we had to meet in stairwells of the hotel where he was working. I don't remember any of that. He said, Oh, Lord, yes.

Speaker Don't you know, we had to sneak around corners and I don't remember that. It's just it it's the way you forget pain. When I was on the road with the shirt, Shorty Schirach got a band finally after playing with everybody else's band except Benny Goodman. And we. We toured the South. And it was horrifying to me because I'd heard all these stories about how how bad it was in the South for black people. But I hadn't seen all the signs, the separate water fountains and stuff. It's a little jolting.

Speaker Benny Goodman loved to sing. And I think, oh, baby is probably one of the few records that you can hear him singing on. Mean, it's really charming. And he sings cutely and got a nice sense of rhythm. Sings in tune. But one night, Bob Bach and I took Benny into the Carlyle. We said. Bobby shorts in there. And he plays all these great Cole Porter songs. You like Cole Porter and Benny said, Say there's a Cole Porter song I'd love to hear. It really makes me laugh. It's got a clever lyric. So Bobby came over at the table and Benny said, Bobby, he said, you know, all all the Cole Porter songs. Bobby said, I believe I know most him. He said, this one guy, I can't think of the title. I think it's about some business, man. Perhaps he's thinking, what the heck can be said?

Speaker It goes like this da da da da da da dum dum dum dum dum dum.

Speaker Where's the where's the melody? Were they. And he's done. Don't don't you get it?

Speaker Bobby and Bobby say, I'm trying Benny and I'm done.

Speaker Well, I mean, I thought, is this the commitment? He thought he was singing. I mean, in his head it sounded like a song. But he didn't have words to put to it. And it was a lost cause. Bobby said, I'm sorry. And weeks later, we found out what the song was. And it wasn't a song with much of a melody. I'll grant you that. It's called Mr. Mrs. Fitch. And I don't think it's such a clever lyric, but I was in P.J. Clarke's with Benny and somebody I don't think it was the divine Carol Phillips. I think it's before she came into his life. But another very attractive, wonderful lady. And she was at one end of the table with Bob. And I was at the other end with Benny. And we got talking about how we're both so insane about the Stephen Sondheim show a little night music and we're talking about one song being greater than the next. And suddenly Benny said, you know, the best one is he said, song, you must meet my wife. Well, I said, I couldn't agree with you more. My dear, he sang that song. I've had that record ever since the show came out. I still haven't learned the lyric. He knew every lyric I could only sing along. Da da da. But he was singing it. And really it was charming. And it was. It was a warm moment for me. I remember it fondly.

Speaker Dancing.

Speaker Oh, the kind of dancing. Very much dancing. Yeah.

Speaker And you write a story about a specific date. You had some dance.

Speaker Oh. Mr. Eyes in Drag.

Speaker Was that about.

Speaker Oh no. Wait a second. No. The main person that I that I went to here, Benny, with you would go out with anybody who took you to hear Benny Goodman. I mean, it didn't have to be your your dream prince and the fellow. I got to go out with most of the time was a sensational dancer. And he later became a movie actor. He was very good looking and dumb as they come and but always showed up in white tie and dance divinely. So, I mean, who could ask for anything more? We weren't there to discuss Plato or anything. I went in one time to the urban room with a fellow who was a manager, Muggsy Spanier, I admit him with Mugsy and he was a marvelous dancer and a dreary fellow. But again, as I say that the dancing was where it was at. You didn't stand around. I think that standing around came in a couple of years later.

Speaker But back in the thirties or Stonewall in the dance, you did the sort of country club Peabody thing. But then if you were athletically inclined to, you swung out a little bit and back. It wasn't this this feverish stuff that you see now that these swing dance society, they're wonderful. By the way. But they meet, I think, every Sunday at some ballroom here, but that they're almost on a professional basis. They're really doing a lot of calisthenics. This was more more in keeping with the dance.

Speaker I don't think so. Point to it, it's.

Speaker One time, Benny was over at our house in Washington Mews and we're just sitting talking. But Bob Buck was a compulsive agitator. He was always trying to get stuff started. And he went over to the phonograph and he put on a Miles Davis record and Benny listened. And I'm sure, you know, being the musician that he is, he got it all. But when it was over, we're waiting for this great remark. This comment. And he finally said, now, what is he trying to say? What is he trying to prove? So we thought, well, he's a he heard it, but he didn't buy it.

Speaker You describe a little bit about the climate change band difference where your.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker I'm fascinated by the report or lack of same between the sidemen and the leader, and I realize from going to the Philharmonic all the time that the conductor has to be kind of an autocrat and a tough guy. But I think a lot of the dance band leaders carried it to extremes. And Benny, of course, is famous for that. And the stories are legend. He would fix a glare that he didn't have to say anything. Although we often did, which was withering. He said, it's Mandella one time. When are you going to learn to play the saxophone? And the guy was suicidal because he was a great lead player. But the famous Goodman glare was the called the Ray. And a lot of victims will tell you about that.

Speaker Friend of mine was working with Marshall Royal on a biography of Count Basie. And she said what absolutely intrigued her was the contrast between the the atmosphere and the basic band and the Ellington band, whom she knew from having worked for Duke as a press agent. And she said in Duke there were all these feuds. And S.H., I guess it is. And a lot of unpleasant it's going on. But in bases band, everybody was jolly and happy and like detailer.

Speaker You actually tell us more specifics about traveling in the south and going to Selma.

Speaker Oh, Selma, Alabama. Yes.

Speaker Well, our bus tour of the South, the Shortie Chirac and his orchestra was harrowing, to say the least, in the first place. We were broke all the time. We just have enough to get us to the next stop. And oftentimes what they paid you depended on how many people showed up at the dance, and that was difficult. We landed in Selma, Alabama, all badly in need of getting some laundry done. And I decided that I looked up from the ceiling and there was a revolving fan. This is before Selma got in the news, by the way. But it was bad enough. I felt the vibrations of the South. And so I did our laundry shorties in mine, in the bathroom, and then hung everything on the fans revolving around. And that was kind of good. And I donated to anybody who wants to do a story about the band years as the visual touch.

Speaker She got a different shot. I didn't quite get the image.

Speaker All right. Yes, a lot.

Speaker All right. The laundry was done in the bathroom, probably in the bathtub. This is pajamas and nightgowns and underwear and everything. And then where to dry it? Well, here was this ceiling fan. So pieces of laundry were hung on the arms of the fan as it spun around slowly. And it worked very well.

Speaker Tell me a little bit about.

Speaker Just Dacey was one of the greats and Benny's band right from when I first heard the band. And we all admired him. None of us knew him very well. But when Bud Freeman came to Chicago with the cymbal come loud band with them, Eddie Condon and the next Max Kominski and Brad Gallant. They had a girl singer who happened to be Lee Wiley, who was hardly the kind of canary that you'd put with with a band. I mean, she was the first, but she was terrified. She couldn't stand appearing in front of people and she was not glib and announcing her numbers or anything. But she would get out there and sing and then go back and die quietly, but look stunning all the time. So she hung out with the members of the band. They were all her chums. That's why she came out to Chicago to appear with them. And one day we were in the room of one of the members of the band, I believe it was the pianist Dave Bowman. And the musicians were all in there and they're telling stories. And that's just kind of an easy afternoon. And the door opens and framed in the doorway is this lovely person, just Stacey. And they're saying, hi, Jess. He's not saying much. And suddenly Lee is looked up and their eyes have locked. And he appeared the two most inarticulate people I've ever met, looking at each other and just getting messages. Nobody's saying a word. I think he finally muttered something about he loved her record of I could cry salty tears. How long has this been going on? And she said, Yeah. She liked the song too or something. And just so we're kind of pre-programmed. They got up and they just went off into the sunset together. And it was a real romance without much conversation. I should add. And it became really agonizing for leave because at this point she was engaged to some fellow from Denver, a rich guy who had not ever worked in his life.

Speaker He just spent his life drinking and inheriting money. So he was perfect to hang around gin mills and listen to Jazz with Lee. I don't think he was paying much attention to music, but at any rate, they were indeed engaged. And Lee had this terrible dilemma because now she really had fallen in love with Jess and vice versa. So the engagement present from the rich man was the most expensive mink coat that you could buy in those days. Five thousand dollars. And Lee would wear this coat on her date with Jess, and suddenly it became apparent that it wasn't going to work. She could not stay engaged to Mr. Denver. And the question then became, what do we do with a coat? Do we have to give it back or not? So I had a neighbor who was a secretary for a law law firm, and I said, ask your boss. What? So her first suggestion was that we put it in some neutral territory where neither one had claim. And then eventually it would sort of sort itself out. So it was parked over at the sister of Lee while a woman named Pearl Doan. And so it hung in pearls closet for a while. I think Pearl wore it quite a lot. And ultimately, Pearl married Westbrook Pegler and gave the coat back to Lee and the end of the story. Well, meanwhile, Leon Ann just did indeed get married and I don't know how long that lasted. She was married to him when he took the job with Horace Hite at Shortie Chirac's suggestion. And Lee was not what you'd call the regular kind of orchestra. A wife shoots a little grand for all that. But she was so crazy about just they were so happy together at that point that she went along with him to the West Gene's way.

Speaker Oh, and Lino's wife. Yes. That is cute. Yeah.

Speaker Gene Krupa married an adorable pretty lady who was a phone operator at, I believe, the Edison Hotel or one of those musician hotels, the Forest Hotel. There were about three where the musicians stayed around Broadway and she was indeed a phone operator and that was her world. And as Jean began to rise in the world and get successful, his social context got a little too complicated for Ethel and she was not too comfortable. And mainly, I guess her main problem was what to wear to various occasions. But Lionel Hampton's wife, Gladys, who had been a dressmaker to the stars and was very smartly dressed herself, said to Ethel, Listen, you'll never get it. I could explain it to you. What goes with what? But this is the simplest thing. Get the absolutely best tailored suit you can afford. Have it made by somebody terrific and wear beautiful blouses with. And get a mink coat. And that's your uniform. And if people come in bathing suits, if they show up in ball gowns, you're in this very good suit and this very good mink coat and you can always get by. And Ethel did. And she always looked terrific.

Speaker Um, uh, tell us a little bit about Ziggy Olman and about the baseball games.

Speaker I was thinking, boy, this good that you remember all I could see, I'd forgotten it again. No, that's fine.

Speaker And don't specify especially specified before there was when he was with Dorseys. Oh, don't say that. That's all right. Okay. All right. And you you talked about here in baseball. Yeah.

Speaker A lot of the bands of the period played baseball. Harry James was very serious about baseball and he got uniforms for his band members and they they weren't lighthearted. Some of the other bands were kind of more freeform count bases band played in Central Park and Bob Barker played. I think he played shortstop or something. And Lester Young was the pitcher. And I forget the bands he said he played against. But when Ziggy was playing baseball, Ziggy Elman, he was very funny. Well, I mean, he didn't take it seriously. But of course, he was as powerful as could be. We've heard him play. I mean, he could just knock the ball into the next county, but he'd stand up at bat with a cigar in his mouth. I think that unnerved the pitcher. Here's that cigar coming, getting in the way. And he was it was fun to watch.

Speaker We have a wonderful picture of the team. Oh, that's good. Oh, perfect. Oh, that's good.

Speaker Did the.

Speaker Tell her about about John Hammond, because I know you knew he was a man and we have you know, we know the job was important. Yeah. There was some tension there, if you can tell a little bit about their relationship. Let me give you some thought.

Speaker See, I knew them separately and it's very hard.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Come back to that here again from us, from our other conversation, going back to the race issue. You used the phrase with egg shells, time hanging around black musicians. He was cautious. Yeah, because although he just said it wasn't, like, forbidden, it was. Got to be careful.

Speaker Yeah. I wonder if jazz was an opportunity. Oh, I'm sure it was free for racist coming together. I think I've been there. I think you're absolutely right. Yeah. Yeah. Moman Oh yeah.

Speaker Joining enthusiasm. And you know, you said as a young woman you could go and Collington.

Speaker Oh yeah. I could go to Harlem when I was working for Virginia Wick's. I'd go up to Harlem to collect the what. Ella Fitzgerald. Otis. I'd go backstage at the Apollo and I'd come out with a water bills and, you know, nobody mug me or anything. It was wonderful. I was lucky as a young person to have the parents that I did who had no problems with the race issue.

Speaker My father's second wife was Irene Castle, who had traveled in Europe with Jim Europe's orchestra. I think Noble Sissel is the pianist, or maybe it was Eubie Blake. So she had associated with black people all her life. The movie, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle has one giant booboo because the the manservant they took to Europe with them was indeed a black person, Walter. But when they made the movie, they said we can't have a black person on intimate terms with you like this. So they cast Walter Brennan in the role. And it kind of destroyed the whole point of the movie because at one point they're there stony broke and he goes out and teaches the French cabdrivers how to shoot dice, and that's how he gets money for them. Well, at any rate, Irene was comfortable around black people. Daddy was a. Was what was in the advertising business. And he would go periodically to New York and he knew all the people in the Harlem Renaissance. Madam C.J. Walker, he went to her place and he knew a lot of the writers and so forth. So that was all easy. But it is true that nobody defied anybody. There weren't any marches or there was no no street theater. We just. Did it quietly. We did our integration quietly. We had a black opera singer to dinner one night and she brought her accompanist, who is as black as your shoe. Wonderful man named Theodore Thomas Taylor. She. Her name was Avi Mitchell. She's. She sang Summertime in Porgy and Bess. And Mother just said, well, you know, I don't think anybody in the building is going to say anything, but we'll have some answers. Ready? Well, nobody did say anything. I mean, this was the time when people were more polite. I mean, up north, I can't speak for the south.

Speaker But jazz is an opportunity. Good point.

Speaker They do say that the more you get to. No people different from yourself, the more comfortable you are, and certainly musicians appreciated each other's talents and the white jazz musicians adored being accepted by the black musicians and hanging out with them. My first husband, Shorty Schirach, got such a crowd. He was a Dixieland musician, but he got such a crush on Roy Eldridge that he just everything Roy did was sacred to him. And when he switched from being what Jimmy Dorsey called an imaginative Dixieland player, he said he was really good. He tried to play like Roy. He dressed like Roy. He got these absurd zoot trousers and this jacket with the shoulders out to here in the hat with a huge brim. I mean, it looked preposterous. And then he got a car just like Roy's. It was at La Salle convertible and the payments on it were eighty five dollars a month and his salary was eighty five dollars a week. So it was not easy. And he was standing on the corner in front of his car one day and Bobby Burnett came by. He was a trumpet player with Charlie Burnett's orchestra. He said, Shorty, what happened? And Shorty said, Man, when I change, I change all the way. And that that was an example of integration beginning to work.

Speaker Now, you also tell that.

Speaker I could swing that well. Oh, I'm sorry.

Speaker The question really for the one she answered. Yes, I know that you heard that. That was fun. OK.

Speaker By the time I got to go out to hear jazz music, my parents had gotten a divorce. So it made it easier for me to kind of operate on my own. I had a job on the Hearst paper in Chicago, and my father never questioned me as to where I was going. I was self supporting and we were kind of like roommates. And that was it. He had his own private life and I had mine. And I did indeed go out with some black musicians. I went out with Ellington and I went out with several others. And how it worked was, I think you'd meet some. I can't even remember how it worked now, but I don't remember them sending you home in a cab. They'd get out of the cab and send you home by yourself. So when you went to your own neighborhood, I think I would get in a cab and go and pick the person up, whoever it was, or at the job. I think when I went out with Roy a couple of times, he had a car.

Speaker Yeah, I had a couple of dates with Roy Eldridge and he had a car and he was always taking musicians places and I'd just get in the backseat and we'd chat one time. I think it was John Collins. It was in the backseat. I was up in front with Roy and and somebody else in the back seat can't remember who. And they'd missed that day's installment of Terry and the Pirates, which was a funny paper at the time. And Roy proceeded to tell them what they had missed. And it was all in jive talk, funny swing talk. But this little cat man he got, such as for this dragon lady and I don't know what everything it was terribly funny. I thought, that's better than the funny paper. It was just an example of.

Speaker Any any thoughts on on John and Betty?

Speaker Well, you mentioned before was that, you know, John took credit, as he did for other kinds of Benny after a while. Yes.

Speaker When I went in that John's claim that he was the first to discover Billie Holiday when I was very young, it was any.

Speaker Yes. There's some question. Well, it was so comfortable for everybody to attribute everything to John Hammond because it seemed so kind of illogical and wonderful that this young man is getting some standard something.

Speaker Yeah. All right. A monkey with a nervous. I think those go away. It's a great space. My God.

Speaker I think that it was kind of logical that everybody attributed everything to John Hammond because he had been present for a lot of the beginnings of jazz. And so it just became almost a matter of legend. But there seemed to be some question about his role in Billie Holiday's rise to fame, because somebody pointed out that Benny had recorded her.

Speaker I don't know whether that was whether he found her and put her on records. I don't have that information entirely. But John generally took Bouse on everything about Billy. I heard Billy in Chicago in 1935, and she was prominent then. But I think that maybe it was even earlier. It's whoever gets the person, the record contract. I guess that's how it begins to work.

Speaker Did you ever see them together or get a sense of attention that they feel?

Speaker Well, I didn't see that in action. I just knew I knew that. People kept saying, oh, John, you've had such an interesting life. When are you ever going to write your book? And he would say, don't worry, I've got all my notes. Don't worry. I plan to write my book, but of course, I'll have to wait until Benny dies. So we thought. Good night. What on earth is he going to say about Benny? I mean, finally, the book came out and nobody died. It was perfectly all right. There were no sparks flying or anything. But he kind of like that little little Cheshire cat smile of his thing. We'll have to do it later because I have so much to tell.

Speaker I think probably Penny could be difficult.

Speaker And so heaven knows what transpired between them. But friends of mine who were on the band when they went to Russia said that Benny fitted right in with the Russians. He was marvelous. He understood them. And the guys in the band were all uncomfortable and couldn't eat the food. Benny thought it was delicious. It was just what he was used to, I guess, when he lived in Chicago, boiled potatoes and stuff. And the one wonderful thing that he did was allow them to save face.

Speaker There was some goof up between the Russian cameramen. They were supposed to come in and photograph the concert. And because I think originally Benny had said he wanted to bring some photographers and some camera people to make a movie of the concert. And they said, no, they do it and then they didn't. And instead of getting boiling mad, Benny allowed them to preserve their dignity because he understood the workings of the writing. I guess it eventually did get covered. I'm not sure it did. Oh, that's great, Joy. Cheryl, have you talked to her? No. She's terrific. And she's she's got wonderful memories of that. That tour and how the Russians all were so fascinated when they went swimming, looking at their bare brown bodies and all that stuff. Yeah, she's good.

Speaker You told a story about Whitney Ballard wrote about quoting your husband.

Speaker Oh, that's right. Hilton, for all that, you had a reputation for being the most absent minded man robling.

Speaker That's right. He was right on target. Yes. One night we were over at Barney's having dinner. And it turns out that when Whitney Balliett was writing about was the fortieth anniversary of Benny Goodman is a concert at at Carnegie Hall. He was looking for somebody who'd been there. Well, I mean, Bob and I were the two oldest people we knew. And it turned out Bob indeed had been there. He was a kid then and his best friend's mother took the two boys to the concert or they were probably in their teens. And so he had fond memories of the whole evening and was pretty good at recollecting. And then he made some kind of gratuitous crack about Martha Tilton. Well, we'd all been so crazy about Helen Ward. I guess that she Martha Tilton was second best. And he said something not too charitable. And Whitney Balliett printed it in The New Yorker. So months later, we're up at Barney's having dinner. And apropos of nothing at all, Benny suddenly looked at Bob and he said it didn't care for Martha Tilton. Hey, and perhaps what's he talking about? And of course, it was this kind of moment of Total Recall.

Speaker Can is so marvelous that you should come. So here's this guy gets a report. Yeah. I being uncharitably. Yeah.

Speaker It's been big business lately telling A.J. Benny Goodman stories because a lot of disgruntled musicians have been carrying around these gripes. But I remember a very sweet side of Benny when Bob Bach was in the hospital breathing his last. He had all kinds of tubes attached to the wall. They were, I guess, feeding tubes. And there was something in his nose. And it was he was a miserable person and no visitors were allowed in. But somehow Benny, who lived near the hospital, managed to get through. And he went up to Bob's room and he looked at Bob Benny at the stoop and he said, Hey, Bob, you're getting a nose job. Hey. And it was so darling. It just broke the tension and it made Bob very happy. Joy, that. Penny was kind of an anomaly. I always thought he sort of dressed like a Wall Street banker. You know, he could have passed for somebody very conservative. And he did kind of abide by and believe in certain conventions. And he told us one night of a House guest, a young House guest who had been brought into the family by one of his daughters. And this young man was there for the night. And the next morning, Benny was down at breakfast. He was the first one down. And then this young man came down to breakfast and Benny and telling a story said and he didn't have his shirt on. He said, what was I going to do about that? He was very offended. And I thought, that's a fascinating here's this man that's lived this wild, kind of crazy life of the band business. And yet this thing really got to him that this kid showed up bare chested at breakfast.

Speaker I mean, it's hard for people to get the sense, you know, what, this whole era was like swing musicians, and that it was sort of like a breath of fresh air of freedom.

Speaker I mean, I grew up in the 60s. Oh, God. 60S is when it start. Oh, yeah.

Speaker You know, but it was like it was the same kind of spirit of freedom and everything that you can sort of tell what or, you know, that's my sort of take. Yeah. Revisionist or whatever you to say about it.

Speaker What it was like to be young. Is that how the media just became like superstars? I think part of the.

Speaker Ethos, is that a word I won't use that. I think part of the kind of freedom that these musicians felt. He had to do with the hours they kept. Now, they were working late at night when everybody else was asleep. And the same rules didn't apply. You could get drunker, you could smoke pot. You could do a lot of crazy high jinks. I mean, the stories of just Charlie Burnett's band alone would fill a lifetime of crazy practical jokes. It just didn't fit you for any kind of nine to five life after that. And when my late husband quit the band business briefly and went into the studios. It was an entirely different spirit. I mean, everybody the jokes were it is funny and the spirits word is flying and wild. I think at the time. Situation kind of determined how one behaved.

Speaker So. What's that?

Speaker Well, it's come up, but it's. Three slightly room tone for a hissing radiator. Have about 30 seconds that. I guess we can. You think we can live with this as long as it's consistent under the whole thing?

Speaker Yes. I hope night. Yeah. Huh. I mean, I'm also curious about this.

Speaker If in a sense you were unusual in being a woman from a well-to-do family who would end up marrying a judge? Yeah, that was part of that, that those at the time was appealing, opening up a different party.

Speaker Did I tell you that that pixellated thing I used to say when when I'd be on a panel is how did you get interested in jazz? Because in those days, there were no women that follow jazz. You know, they were all guys. I said, that's why people join the Communist Party to, you know, to meet girls. So I most of my chums who were jazz fans were felons or all of them were. I guess it just worked out nicely. This crazy abandon, that's all it was attributed to. Jazz musicians, I think has a lot to do with their working hours because they're working when everybody else is home asleep.

Speaker It's going to stop until is.

Speaker People tend to think of of jazz musicians of the period to the 30s and 40s and 50s as being such Wildeman. But I think it has a lot to do with their working hours. They're at work when everybody else is sound asleep and then when they want to play, it's after hours and they can do more unusual things. They can drink more and they can smoke more and they can kick up their heels. And people that lead sort of nine to five lives have to obey the conventions a little more.

Speaker Thank you.

Jeanne Bach
Interview Date:
1993-03-03
Runtime:
0:55:02
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-930ns0mf6w, cpb-aacip-504-9k45q4s68q
MLA CITATIONS:
"Jeanne Bach, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 03 Mar. 1993, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/399
APA CITATIONS:
(1993, March 03). Jeanne Bach, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/399
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Jeanne Bach, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 03, 1993. Accessed October 19, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/399

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