Transcript:

Speaker John Hammond during the early Second Street jazz days when he was acting his writing as a critic for Downbeat and various other magazines that had jazz as its basis.

Speaker And now, you know, nobody.

Speaker I don't know if anybody really got that close to John Hammond, but he was a friend and he remained a friend until he wrote a bad review of Benny.

Speaker Benny threw him out of the control room.

Speaker I don't mean literally throw him, but he made some suggestion. I guess Benny didn't like it. So and so. But he then wrote a review of the current at that time, Benny Goodman band, and which contained Gene Krupa and myself and some many other great musicians. But he characterized Gene Krupa by saying the drummer rushes. And he said that the bass player is Tapan. That was the end of that. What I did speak to for about six months after that. And then we kind of made up. And what was it?

Speaker I know that you were interested in politics and in sort of civil rights issues and stuff like that. He was a little bit about that, about John and the cause and how that related to music.

Speaker Well, I wasn't close to John Hammond. I had no relationship with him in that sense, in the political sense. But I was politically motivated, mostly because I was I felt very upset about the fact that some of the great jazz artists were black.

Speaker And as a matter of fact, as you know, the jazz is the probably the only indigenous musical culture in our country. And this is not it wasn't at that time recognizing our country at all. Probably more throughout the world than in our own country. And he was a kind of a I guess, a champion of the black musicians. And so that I had a lot respect for him for that reason.

Speaker Tell it again. Tell me again about the story about him hearing you when you were playing, when you were known, instead of calling him in on his voice, distant and afraid.

Speaker And the offer and what I think one of the first three, I use the word important. I'm not trying to be egoistic, which I probably.

Speaker It's kind of sick joke. When this all happened, when I was 18 or 19, I think. Okay.

Speaker Any time today. When I was about 18 or 19 years old. The first one I thought was significant job that I had was with one arm trumpet player from Norway, as we've known.

Speaker And we had what was probably the first small group, four pieces we used to call the four. We called it the four. And we played with our drums, which is quite unusual in those day. The first group consisted of Dave Barber, Tommy Macie clarinet, Dave Barber guitar and myself and we on trumpet. The first night we played was at the President Hotel is called Adrian's Tap Room. Adrian was a vibraphone bass saxophone player, worked at NBC and since he was somewhat of fluid for a musician.

Speaker He started this club were other musicians might come down and sit and come to the club and hear some jazz. And this is in 1934, 35. If I was more 14, that would make me 20 years old, I guess. In any event. They Barber and Tommy Mays left for other areas. And then we hired Carmen Masten and Joe. The kind of player from Chicago come ashore with a guitar player and destroy. I want to go back a little bit because when we first opened on.

Speaker Sorry for interrupting. That's fine.

Speaker If if we were not going to have time, I don't think to get in all the nuances and the changes and the different groups. Right. Important to this group.

Speaker All right. Well, I can just say that we moved from the president or talked to a famous door.

Speaker Okay, don't start that. I describe with the.

Speaker OK.

Speaker Someone later on the left, the president or Adrian's tap room and got a gig at the famous door and Fifty Second Street in New York, which had a bunch of little Amalia's jazz clubs, at which time the we played that Teddy Wilson was the in between the love piano player.

Speaker You can imagine Teddy Wilson being called low piano player. John Hammond came by one night and apparently heard me and liked what I was playing. Asked me if I would be interested in joining Benny Goodman. I was really frightened at that prospect because I had and I didn't have any really heavy schooling and so on. And he was a top professional jazz band, Big Man in the World. So I told him, no, I wasn't really ready for that.

Speaker I often wondered whether I did the right thing.

Speaker And I. But I believe I did because I had an opportunity to do more school schooling.

Speaker And you told me that he had been I live years like Louis Armstrong hadn't thought of them. Your own words.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker One of the reasons I might have been frightened about John Hammond asking me to join Benny was the fact that he was a somebody who is my idol, so to speak, of the atoms I had in those days were Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny. And so on. So I just felt that was I wasn't ready at 4:00 for that kind of a major league situation.

Speaker Then.

Speaker The next time you join the band, I think you told me, or that opportunity came up when you were hanging out in bars around, was it Hurleys or Charly's and Kouf and Quy whimsies with the band?

Speaker Was that the time that you were allowed sort of looking for work and.

Speaker No, I haven't. I just left Tommy Dorsey. I had played with Tommy Dorsey.

Speaker And I have I called after a.

Speaker Left Tommy came home to be with the family and so on. And I call a Bennie's office. Very good man, answer the phone. I said I just left. I told Freddy that I had just left. Tommy Dorsey. Ben. I was looking.

Speaker Does he need a bass player and face? No, he's all set. And ten minutes later, the phone rang and Benny was on the phone. And he said, I'd like you to play with me Friday, if you would. And he gave me a gig for a record date. And it was at Columbia. He was working for Columbia Records at the time. That was my audition, I guess. And he seemed to be pleased and he hired me. So I went with the band.

Speaker Then you remember what that recording date you describe, like the recording studio and showing up and what they'd given take wasn't what that appearance of the hall meeting, you remember?

Speaker Well, it was done at later Crites Hall in New York, which was originally a chamber music place.

Speaker They had other affairs there, but Columbia Records bought all kinds of terrific sound. Acoustics in the place were really excellent.

Speaker And I really can't say I remember the details of that particular date. But it was sometime when one of the record session I did with Benny that Alec Wilder was very active with managed to come to The New Yorker a lot when we were playing.

Speaker And he knew we were going to do a record date like two days later. And he said, Mitch Miller is on this date, you know, famous oboe player.

Speaker And he had this big giant chorus chorale and he said, come on, was your so-called German accent when you do. I won't tell him and he won't know it's gone. And he'll even enjoy that kind of humor anyway. So finally, we got the record date and Mitch Miller had to play a solo. And I was fairly near the mike and he started edging. And Mike and I, I turned her home.

Speaker I said, please don't don't get too close to me. And he'd he broke off. He. He didn't know at the time that I was, you know, putting it on.

Speaker But it was cute.

Speaker And we became friends after that because he and Alec Wilder had talked about the Taliban hanging out in the bars in New York. You were telling me last time about the atmosphere. There were certain bars where musicians hung out and you would go, and Charlie's in earlies.

Speaker Yeah, well, there was a class structure in that sense. There was the musicians who hung out on Forty Seven Street were like at the bottom of the class level and there was some really marvelous players.

Speaker Louie Garcia, King Garcia is called marvelous trumpet player, hung out in that area and had some others and the trombone player was young and time forgot his last name. But the his nickname was MF cause he was a trombone player after a math model. And then there was a group at forty nine st. They were next level up class wise. And then there was Charlie's and Charlie's, as were most of the musicians who were doing a better class of work, but not at the top of the line, which was doing studio work. And that was Hurleys Bar and on Forty Nine Street and Sixth Avenue and represent in the NBC building.

Speaker So many of the musicians who worked in the studios would hang out there, but I don't know how you could move from one to the other, depending you described like the well-known names today of jazz that you went into Hurleys.

Speaker I'm like, whatever, whatever the time was described, like the evening, the time when you go and who you might see the boxing style with.

Speaker Chauncy Morehouse's question will be to start with walk into Mrs. Hurleys was the top of the line. You might run into almost any one of the great musicians who were working in the studios in Chauncy Morehouse, a great percussionist, was there. He recorded with a hall. So temporaries. I think Gene Krupa later did the same kind of thing at seven, temporaries on the stage.

Speaker And I guess you wouldn't see people like Benny there, but you might see Artie Shaw before he got his own band.

Speaker Dick McDonough, Chuck Carl Kresse, guitar player, both guitar player and Adrian or Lenny, maybe. So the musicians sometimes Bunim might show up there. Too many Barrigan trumpet player, but. Anyone at the top, studio musicians who could find their.

Speaker Tell a little bit about your joining Goodman, you were there for that first record date and then when you joined the band about that with the outstanding guys, we're playing with him then.

Speaker And when the atmosphere was like an event after John after Benny had called me, I joined Benny at The New Yorker Hotel. And that was December. No, I couldn't. Was probably November 1940.

Speaker Start again because of that. Well, OK.

Speaker After after the phone call from Benny and the record recording session, I joined Benny at The New Yorker sometime in November of 1941. It was shortly before Pearl Harbor. I associate the dates because I remember was a Sunday afternoon and that well, wife and I were sleeping in that day. And all of a sudden we heard this news, which you could hardly believe, but the band was fantastic.

Speaker Cootie Williams was in the band, but he was on his way out because he had some other commitments that he was going to do. But for the two weeks that I was in the band that when he was in the band, I was just out of sight. He was a really a spark plug, you know. And when he started to play, the whole band just lifted up. Jerry Jérome was in the band and he said, well, Ralph Collier was the drummer, I believe Tommy Morgan only later called Tommy Morgan.

Speaker And I think with Mel Powell, the piano player.

Speaker As you described last time we talked, you described that Mitchell had a special way of playing and. And you just described the band. You said it was like a time when he was changing the musicians change the band could change the song.

Speaker Right. Not telling, man. No, he didn't change.

Speaker The thing that was currently happening with Benny at that Benny Goodman at that time was he had said he had just one star of OK.

Speaker The thing about Benny Goodman at that time was that he would fire and hire musicians like a change the band like was changing his socks or change musicians. I was changing his socks and Irving collodion.

Speaker Also another great critic who is he was a critic of other guys, too, not just music and jazz, but he was very sharp for jazz.

Speaker He said Benny changed his.

Speaker He had three bands, Scutari, and they had the band and he had the band that he had and the band that was coming in. But many fired a lot of guys at that time. There was a current thing going on about Benny and his ray and what that means. He'd look over his glasses at you like this. And when he did that, it means you better watch how I'm coming after you. But I was fired from Benny. Sometime later, we were in Boston doing a playing at a vaudeville house. You know, they had a movie. There's been a movie ban the movie. You might do seven shows in one day. But at that point, I was the oldest, second oldest person in rhythm section. Mel Paul was the oldest. And the rhythm section. He'd been the longest hired and so on. Anyway, Mel had a habit of playing with his head down on the nose, practically touching the keys like this. And we. We just started started to start the story again, and that's how we know how to have a Moharram, Mel had a habit of playing piano with his nose practically on the keys and he'd play like this. Well, one day he happened to glance over to his side. And now is Benny at the Keys giving him the ray. So the fact that he had that position of playing it didn't matter anyway. Mel, it was sharp enough to realize that that was the beginning of perhaps being fired or on the way out. So he quit immediately. And Benny, we couldn't allow that to happen. Of course, you know, nobody quits Benny. And so he Benny came to miss it. What's the matter? And so on and up to salary and so on. Just to keep and so on. I don't. Later, Mel left anyway. But that was the situation with the ray. Now is the next oldest.

Speaker And so one day I looked up and I was getting the ray, but I didn't know what to do about it. So I just ignore it.

Speaker And I got off the stand after that show and Freddy Goodman approached me, said, Benny is gonna let you go because he's getting a jazz Knick player who plays jazz.

Speaker And Frasier, after all, you're married. Well, George Burgoo is a saxophone player and is somewhat of a wit. I suggested that I bring a balloon in full with helium and cross the tub a long live the king and hold it up. Maybe that would help. Well, whatever it was, that was my experience.

Speaker I've kind of shattered me first time my life had ever been fired from anything.

Speaker And here I am being fired by the greatest in my idle very you know, so I went home and I just hung out in New York.

Speaker Things were kind of rough for me because I wasn't that well known at that point. I went to work for a motion picture production company Matter Fact. I took a course in motion picture production at NYU.

Speaker After that.

Speaker Also, it wasn't too long after that that many call me like a year after I was fired and had me asked me if I would play with them. First of all, I said, how are you doing? Pops, call everybody Pops. Or he would call me sometimes Sidney. Ace, any man wants to do it. And so I said, well, I'm doing fine. I wasn't. But he asked me if I would play with him on the following Friday. This is Monday or Tuesday or whatever.

Speaker So I said, let me check my schedule. I those guys were by check anyway.

Speaker And I said, okay, I'll I'll be there at the Astor Hotel at 1:00 30, Friday. So I showed up there with my bass and suddenly there was nothing there.

Speaker All the little start where you came to the hotel and nothing was there. Oh, different. Terrorism was tight. OK. So you showed up.

Speaker Benny Goodman asked me to be at the Astro Teller 130 on this Friday. And so I assume there was a gig that would be a job to play in. OK. I could use a bread and so on, the money, as we call it, and something. Ready? Okay. Go. I am showing up at the Astro Tell, assuming that it would be a job with a gig for Benny Goodman. And I was looking forward to it anyway.

Speaker And I was doing a lot of practicing in those days. I had done some serious studying with a bass player. Who is that? That just a slight time before played with the National Symphony or the principal bass player? I'm not Kestenbaum. And so I was in pretty good shape and so on. But I assume there was a job, as I said, a gig. And I got there at 130, went up to the Astor roof and there was all the tables had the Dylan removed and the chairs were piled up against the tables, you know, like they usually do after lunch is over. So I said, well, what kind of a thing is this anyway? Just Stacey and Alan Roche were there and Benny was there. So I walked up. I said, what was going on? You know what's happening, man? He said, well, let's play a little bit, you know? So I said, okay, I'm here. And I remember I had played with Benny for a year and a half and he knew what my playing ability was and so on anyway. So for an hour and a half, we played.

Speaker I got rhythm and we just while it's too bad we didn't record it even without a drummer.

Speaker And then we stopped playing and he said, How would you play with me tonight? And here at the Astor, I said, Why? Yeah, I guess so. I probably will. I well, it's OK. So I left my bass there. I went home and got dressed. I, I forget what that usually involves. Big bands had the band uniforms, if you remember that time, but that was quite a nice evening. The band was in good shape. I forget who is in a band and there was at that time. But in any event, Benny Dance after the first set came over me, says, you know, we're starting a big gig almost immediately and we're gonna double from here to the Paramount Theater. And I'd like you to join the band, you know. And then he said afterward. Well, who knows what what's going to happen with the I don't know, and so on. But he kept looking at me and I kept a glum look on my face. And finally I couldn't help. But I had a smile that I did. He look he says, Oh, you're smiling, OK? But I did join the band then and at a reasonable reason salary to believe me. But then we played at the Astor, I mean, and also the the Paramount for a while. And there's one anecdote, if I may elaborate at this time, about Benny. Benny was notably was known as the absent minded professor, too. He had a tennesee, although I don't think he was I think he was pretty sharp and knew what was going on. But he had gone after all this playing at the Astor and Parama, which meant I mean, he had to be up early in the morning in order to make the first show around 10 o'clock. And after that, he'd gone down to the village to hear some good jazz and so on, came home about three or four in the morning and had to get up for a first show at the Astor. Well, shortly after he fell asleep, there was a pounding on the door and he woke up and say, Hey, what's this?

Speaker Okay. Oh, don't bother me now. And so on.

Speaker And this went on for like ten or fifteen minutes. And the voice is kippot. And then whoever was kept pounding and said that. Now you left the nightclub and left me. Stephanie didn't pay the bill. Now I want the money. So this went on for another ten minutes. And finally, Ben, Benny went to the door, open the door and the man down there was a man down the road about four or five hours away was trying to get somebody who had really stepped up.

Speaker Well, he went back to bed. He was five. That was one of the anecdotes about his absent manners.

Speaker OK. So you were about to tell that after the asteroid, how you stayed with Benny on and off for five years. You go into the race?

Speaker Yeah, well, after I joined Benny the second time, I remained with him for a while and he was still doing the ray business. Still changing his musicians like you change as somebody changes their socks. But there was a period when Benny had rescued Gene Krupa from the slammer. And if you want me to elaborate a little bit, what would happen if he had gotten busted for it?

Speaker Yeah, he would play with them and get that because it was like no one else would. Okay. You have to cast any allusions on who got here or what happened, OK? No tactics.

Speaker Mezquita, this. Jamie glances back. Yeah. A tiny bit up at the backs by your ear like that. Yeah. Just, uh. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I bet I can still see. Okay.

Speaker There were very glasses, computer stuff that I messed around with, Gene.

Speaker Yeah. I certainly after the aster there was a big news story. Gene Krupa was busted for Gresh marijuana, whatever.

Speaker And that turned out to be a fault.

Speaker Well, he was not just pardoned. He was exonerated. I mean, you know, it was more than that because of some kind of a funny thing that happened. I don't remember the exact details, but in any event, Benny hired them. Many stories that somebody else did and so on. But as I understand it, I was told by on Jacoby that Benny was actually the person who hired him and I was in a bad time. Well, Gene came into the band and it was like Gene Krupa. 1937, 36, 38. You know, he he had so much humility before the Carnegie Hall concert. And I was just thrilled. I couldn't wait to get to work every night. He was such a thrill to play with Dean. He had marvelous ears and he had marvelous technique and he had a lot of soul and just a great drummer. And the rest of people in the band were in the rhythm section anyway, were just Dacy at that time.

Speaker A little bit about just what it was like playing with just a desk.

Speaker It was, of course, he's a beautiful gentleman. He's just such a wonderful person, but just had the reputation of being a little more and not Molly Fink. Exactly. If somebody knows what Molly figures, I mean, he's old fashioned. I assume that's one. But he played a little more and a Chicago type Dixieland style. But he was a great musician. So whatever he did was fine with me. And he had a good feeling for baselines and so on. So he's even better than that. And I enjoyed him there when he died. Gross. And tell you little anecdote about just Stacey and Benny going to Juilliard. Benny was doing a clinic or talking to the class at Juilliard. I'm not sure whether they were all clarinet players.

Speaker I'm sorry, May. So we hear the rustling of the paper. If you just, you know, get it to where you want to read and then wait.

Speaker To my question, Desert changed the pages. So start start again with just going to Julio. I mean, I can just pick up on that.

Speaker Adjusts and Benny had an occasion to go to Juilliard. Benny was addressing a classic kind of a clinic or just a I'm not sure whether all clarinet players or whether all musicians. And during the course of this, one of the little wiseacre clarinet players put his hand up and said, Mr. Goodman, what do you think of Peewee Russell Aperio Russell, the famous Dixieland type at that time, clarinet player. And he was recognized by myself and many others as like the town drunk. And at that time, it wasn't realize what a tremendous talent he had. I'll get into that in a minute. But Benny's reply to that question was, well, people, Russell's a great artist. But if you want to play like him, don't practice. That was just told me that story and just as also for a friend of Peewee. Now, the kicker of this whole story is that suddenly in the last maybe 30 years or so, just I mean, a fig leaf suddenly found be bop and he fit in like a glove.

Speaker It was just amazing.

Speaker You know, when somebody who is recognized as straight ahead Dixieland player who was always mumbling and stuff and just a wonderful man, if I can pull Paskey, who later played with Benny in a tribute at a little PBS stations, was just taken with Peewee. He thought he was really great to get back to. Gene Krupa anyway for that period. When Gene Krupa joined the Benny Goodman band, we went on a USO tour at that time was during the war. And so that was one of the things one did. And to me, it was just a verse. One of the greatest thrills I had and I couldn't wait to get to work. Now, picture that word in one of these U.S. tours. We wound up at Annapolis and they have a giant amphitheater there. I see 10000 people. It's all concrete. And it was packed at night. It was just packed. And we played and we finally got to our flag waver as we call those heavyweight loud, big numbers.

Speaker And we got to the drum solo.

Speaker And Gene played for 20 minutes straight. It's been said before that if a drummer can't give you the message in four bars, forget it. But this was completely unusual. I mean, he told a story, told many stories. He told all kinds of stories. And he had a crowd just, you know, breathless about this whole thing at the end of 20 nights. He gave a cue, which is bump up, up, up, up a bum. And then the band comes and bump, bump and so on. And you couldn't I couldn't hear Jean. I was standing next to Jean, and he's a pretty loud drummer. I couldn't hear a thing, couldn't hear Benny, couldn't hear the band. And there's no way you can play it. You can't hear anything else. You have to have good anyway. Benny waves the band out, Jean played for another 20 minutes, and then we finally went out on Sing, Sing, Sing. Well, from then on, it was no longer Benny Goodman featuring Gene Krupa with Gene Krupa, with Benny Goodman, his man. And it went to ridiculous kinds of situations where we went back to New York. Gene would come in with his own uniform. You know, you wear a different jacket. And he was acting like a straw boss. He'd get the band together on the stand and he'd make remarks like, let's go, fellas, get on the stand, because I may be coming back here with my own band. And now we get to another of this. So nitty gritty is that Benny would beat off. He had a wonderful talent for being a band. He knew time and tempo very well, but he would beat off a piece of music like whatever it is, and he'd go, one, two, one, two. And the band Deanwood would come in one, two, three, different tempo. And now Benny, for some reason, couldn't figure out what was going on. I looked around. There was just Dacey, Alan Ruth, Gene Krupa, and he used to be Harry Goodman.

Speaker But Sid Wise, I don't know about that. You know, maybe he's the cause. So I started getting a ray and he gave me a at one rehearsal, we had a piece where I had a solo or a play the last of the last four bars I play to bar solo. And when I played it and he stopped the varnishes, let's do that again. So and I did it. We did it again. And then he stopped the band again. He says, let's do it again. And I said, a Benny, you play the clarinet, I'll you. He got very much umbrage about it and called the rehearsal off. Well, I knew from previous since I, I walked over to the band manager that time was Freddie Goodman, his brother. And I came two weeks notice. Well, that night at The New Yorker, he came over. I was sitting on a bandstand and he put his hand on me. Hey, Pops, what's the matter? You know, everything's just great. We're going to Hollywood to make a picture. What are you doing? Anyway, I. I decided to stay with the band after he raised my salary. Anyway, that's what this other anecdote.

Speaker What happened with Gene? I mean, did he make it out west? He cut off already?

Speaker No. Did Gene quit shortly, Gene, after this incident, sensitive gene quit and.

Speaker Martin.

Speaker How can I pick this up now? You say you it. Well, we'll cut in different places. You know? OK.

Speaker Shortly thereafter, Jeanne left Benny to form his own band. In a matter of fact, he called me and asked me to join the band. His band at the Capital Theatre. I played with him for two weeks at the Capitol Theater. Well, when he wanted me to join the band, I'd go on the road and so on. Two problems. One was I wanted to be home and my family and I was doing fairly well in the studios at that time. And secondly, he had seven or eight timpani lined up at the front of the stage. That wasn't bass.

Speaker Players have always had trouble with some drummers. And the fact that they didn't know how to control a bass drum so that the tone wouldn't interfere, the tone of their bass drum wouldn't interfere with a bass note. So I decided that was really not my cup of tea, specially since I wanted to stay home with my family. And Gene went on and he had quite a bit of success it as he worked with Benny.

Speaker Then when Gene asked you to join. No, I wasn't. I was.

Speaker I had left Bernie Madoff, I barely had brought the band up before we went to Hollywood. And I. But he asked me to go with him. You know, I was very, very close to Bernie. And in Hollywood, I played in the recording.

Speaker And Bill Harris was in the band. A great trombone player. And Bill Harris did the recording of the trombone for Jimmy Cardwell, who is the actor who is supposed to be the trombone player. And Bill has also did the sideline work. That is, he sat in the band making out like he's playing because we always play back to our recordings, you know? And so as as it's often put with Benny, I was on a honeymoon. No, he referred to me as a great white bass player that ever lived and all that kind of thing. But after that, then we will go around the country duvet, for example. He played at the Pittsburgh Symphony and he we did our number just before the intermission. And then he come back and play Mozart or DBC or whatever he would want to play.

Speaker Let's go back to when you decided when you decided to do the movie. Help us for the time if you could sort of set it up and say every year what it was like 1947. Let's go to Hollywood and his friends are coming to Hollywood.

Speaker Which studio your movie was happening and where you to give us what we can kinds of shots around here we can film. Great. Yeah, I have some. How you got here? You you take the train or you drive or what happened is set up for those kind of details. Yeah. All right.

Speaker After Bernie, as I guess is kind of rihad me your way. I didn't I hadn't actually fired me. I'm the one that quit. We went to Hollywood then. And my wife didn't go along with me. Mae didn't go with me because at that time we had this one child, Mark and I went along. So but just Stacey and I roomed together in the first place. We got a room at the Hollywood Roosevelt. I went into satisfactory because the studio was 20th Century Fox and it was all the way over west from where we were living. So in the interest of that, in the interest of also saving money and so on. Because George had a car, a dominant Buick. I also shortly before this, the reason that he was able to make himself available the room with me was that he had just broken up with Lee Wiley. Remember the great singer Lee Wiley? And so we looked in the paper and we found a place up Beverly Glen and the lady's name is Kaiman. One of her sons, I think was a pretty big wheel in the motion picture industry. Anyway, we drove up the Glen and we decided to share this room at this, and this private house was only five miles. The studio, which made it nice and gas was a big problem, gasoline for cars and so on. And that was fine and just was stone sober at that period and everything was just worked out really great. Now, we were doing a movie and Sweet'N Low down. Archie Mayo was a director, a really nice guy. And he later he was so taken with Italian things and Italian people that he finally wound up in Italy. He died in Italy. I guess he knew that anyway around the sets, right? Well, I was I got Eddie. Rosa was the first saxophone player, Benny, and he was not one of the sideline musicians. He was an actual musicians that did the recording. I forget some of the others, but I mentioned Bill Harris more. He felt was the drummer. It just was a pianist and I think was Alan Roche, who played the guitar in that picture. Anyway, Archie approached Eddie Rosa and offered to make him a movie star. I mean, I liked Italian people, but anyway, it was a kind of loose and wonderful engagement because the picture I was in two other pictures before, this one with Tommy Dorsey called Las Vegas nice. And it was very, very poorly done. Let me put it that way, except for the music itself and I guess. That was the reason for it. But an already show I did a picture called Mensing Cohen, Lana Turner on anyway. Meanwhile, all of a sudden just days he gets a call and leave while he's back in town. And he told him that this Texas millionaire that he had been having a relationship with him with. That's the term we use now. I understand. I see. I had either burned or thrown away this multi thousand dollar fur coat and had flustered a diamond ring down the toilet. So it just went back with we.

Speaker And it fell off the wagon and said, why was left Beverly Glen with no transportation?

Speaker And I finally got a bicycle from Alfred Létourneau, who was a famous French racing racer, bicycle racer. And I did not race but ride this bicycle to the studio, which is five miles. I got very healthy within two weeks. But meanwhile, Jesse was saying now he'd fallen off the wagon. He would get his shots of B one in the morning, stop at the doctors before he came to the studio. Well, everything still went when it went well and very often would take me out to dinner and so on. He was I told you I was on his honeymoon list when I went home.

Speaker But then we broke up after that and I went back to New York.

Speaker I think that meeting I describe again what Europe was and how you got to L.A., OK?

Speaker And the atmosphere was very loose in the studio of shenanigans at the movies referred to the show. OK.

Speaker You don't forget that. I know. I can't remember how I got there, whether it was on a plane or whether we went by train.

Speaker Oh, that's. Can I just say it was one or whatever? Yeah, it was 42.

Speaker It's set up for the year that we did this movie, Sweet'N Low, down in forty two. I can't remember exactly how we got to Hollywood, but we got there anyway and they finally getting to the studio and so on. I was really amazed at how friendly and loose the, the whole set was and everything else. People were really friendly and I know I got to feel kind of important because of Alan. Jocelyn was in the picture.

Speaker Ray Mayor.

Speaker I know Ray mayor of privacy, cause he and his wife had an act, a vaudeville act. And I played at the Strand Theater and I met him then because they did this vaudeville. He played on it and I wouldn't call a piano. I am a smaller spinet type piano and his wife would tell jokes and so on. And Lynn Berry. And God, it's hard for me. Jack Oakie was in the picture. And there was a much bigger picture. But I had when I said I haven't personally and I did a recording with Benny called Jersey Bounce. It was, I guess, a fairly big seller. But for some reason I had a solo after the first opening opening style. By Bom bom bom bom. And then I had to bar saw. But. But whatever. And on the record and Harley came. I couldn't hear it. But in the movie for some reason that so still stood out. Really well done. So happy by Tali's. But all of all the people, the technical people, the groups and everything else were really loose and destress friendly as could be.

Speaker You remember that scene? That is where they play. It's gone after hours joint and you're playing. I was waiting for sunrise, if anything, about filming it.

Speaker One of the scenes in the picture is it shows the small or small group playing on an after hours spot. It's like a jam session, really. Although it was well rehearsed because we were still sidelining many by that. It was recorded first and then we made out like we were playing when they were selling. And the dramatic part of it was that Jimmy Cardwell, who supposed to be the lead trombone player, I tried to sit in a Benny shoot him off and said, no, not now, get lost. And I think so. But that was very interesting. It was well played by everybody. It was just they seemed more I felt Bill Heteros, Benny and myself, I think I'm not sure whether Alan Ross played in that scene or not, but it was very well played. And we also did a scene where I had a big giant close up with a tuba showing us going some ways I forget what it was and it closes up on my face with a mock tuba mouthpiece blowing into the tuba like a train.

Speaker But a picture was a I mean, the writing, I guess, was rather ordinary.

Speaker I would watch the scenes in that film where you're actually going around on trains like the guys on the road. Yeah. Remember, those are how they were shot. Now, compared to the real life when you were traveling on trains.

Speaker No, but I do have an anecdote I must tell you about the train. I wasn't with many at the time, but and I've been told to me so many times, I assume it to be true. We've been before before Benny went to Hollywood to do the first picture was called the big broadcast.

Speaker I think it was or start again. Or maybe was Hollywood Hotel. No. Would you say before? Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker Somewhat before. The essence I talked about was a picture that I sent with Benny. Benny did a giant picture. I think it might have been a big broadcast, but I'm not sure. But anyway, the band at that time had not gained a tremendous reputation. It did after the 1938 concert, although he'd Benny had been on the NBC Saturday night show, the dance, this one around. Let's dance. That's where the theme song Let's Dance comes from anyway. So Benny and the band were they've gotten to some town in the Midwest about half way to Hollywood, and they were playing a place that maybe 30, 40 miles from where they were supposed to pick up a train to take them to Hollywood. And so and I was talking about Benny's trip to Hollywood first trip. And at that time, Benny had gained just kind of adjusting.

Speaker Oh, okay. Say, when? Now.

Speaker I was talking about the fact that Benny, who had not gained complete recognition because of just before this was before 1938 when he played the Carnegie Hall concert. But the band was on their way to Hollywood to make this big movie. And it was the original band, wonderful band. And they played some one nighter, about 30 or 40 miles from the center line of a train. They'd gotten off and they took a bus to the place where they were playing that night. And then they were supposed to, after the job, pack everything up quickly and get on a bus and complete this train. And then they were just going to go on a Hollywood meet their wives and just a wonderful kind of a feeling. And so they did. And just close at one o'clock, I guess, was and the gig ended. Everybody was packing up all their playing goodbye. The last theme song doing that and playing. And the band boy was running around packing up things. And all the guys were excited and so on. And so they got outside. And Harry James Trumper was on the ground and the bus ride a horn. It was just a mess. And they everybody gets on the bus finally and then the driver is driving and they're going, like, mad to make sure that they get there before the train. And so now they get there and they're all unpacked. And they just made it in about a minute or two later. And they see this spotlight, you know, waving on the train and they hear the whistle of the train. And the train is getting closer and closer and closer and it gets much closer and keeps on going.

Speaker There's some there are they finally got to Hollywood. But that by itself is a fantastic story.

Speaker And then they did the pictures and so on and went on to this tremendous fame and recognition.

Speaker Now, if you just Sweet'N Low down, you did another film with Benny, but it was the cartoon.

Speaker Oh, yes, it's in Hollywood. Apparently, Benny had, through the management or whatever, had made some contact with Walt Disney and Disney. I must have asked Benny if he wanted to do an animated film or be part of one. And the title of it was called Make My Music. It had more than just big band or jazz things in it. It had dance and so on and other forms of musical culture. And Benny asked me to be the contractor to get the band together, which I did. And.

Speaker Small band consisted of cozy call, Teddy Wilson made me, myself and Benny. And we played. After you've gone, after you're gone or after you've gone, whichever turns you on. But at that point in time we're playing after you're gone so fast that it was interesting.

Speaker Not as fast as we played. Whatever we played, I think was either after you're gone or all the world is waiting for a sunrise in seven lively hours with Benny. But anyway, I similar man had done byas. Mick. Mick. Mick. Mick. Mick. Nicole. I think Charlie Shavers royalties.

Speaker I can't remember the personnel exactly, but just wonderful. Himy Searcher was a ruban, Dave. I forget his first name now. And Rubins saxophone player. Arthur or. Vernon Brown. And just a wonderful, wonderful band.

Speaker And cause he was a drummer. I just was in it. But Teddy wasn't played in this short sequence of. After you've gone. Not a fact. We've got a credit on film as a black eye kind of thing in four names were put up there. If you didn't blink, you could see it.

Speaker But that went very well. And it's in the picture. And we didn't know number with a big band called the All the Cats join in. So that was of great interest. And that's one of the things I did with Benny in in the middle of going on a road with once in a while, whenever he would call me. For example, we went to Hull, Quebec, which is across the river from Ottawa. And Quebec had a place called Standish Hall. And some of the jazz groups played there. We had a really terrible problem there because they are the place. Didn't want the band to play the other group, whoever it was, to play too long because he wanted to sell beer with Canada's beer.

Speaker You know, that's the great thing. And Benny insisted on it. He says we can't wait to get started the way you want us to play, you know? So we have to stretch this.

Speaker And we did the wonderful engagement more felt the hurt in L.A. Are you waiting out there?

Speaker All right.

Speaker I hope does. I know it's not organized, but I assume you guys are going to be the greatest entertainer that ever lived.

Speaker And we'll take on. It's very quick.

Speaker I was talking by Standards Hall and in whole Standish Hall in Hull, Quebec, is across the river from Ottawa. And the band consisted of Paul Smith, a great piano player, played very fast. My father was supposed to be the drummer, but he heard his foot. He got Cotton Dawai taxi cab and followed by name, said Mulkern, playing the drums. And myself, I think Terry Gibbs was played vibes and Betty, I think that was a small group. And while we were up there, the Columbia.

Speaker Records representative called Beneš and asked them if he wanted to go fishing. Well, I guess many agreed to go fishing and he asked me if I'd go fishing. Well, the first thing to me was no big thing I remember as a kid is to have a string with a safety pin, a piece of bread.

Speaker No, you go fishing on the creek or the stream. Usually good fun. And when this was a big deal, because you had to have a guide and you have proper equipment and for the fish in northern Pike was the main thing you're going after and trouble along the pike. They have this long snout and they have razor like teeth. Anyway, it was for my first cast I cast out with Flug about this big about three or four inches long. And I start ruling it in. I got about three feet from the boat and power, I was hit by a northern pike. Well, I got so excited when I did, I probably hoisted in, which is not legitimate and so on. But I got the fish in a boat and I put my hand near its mouth and I got bitten.

Speaker No bleeding there. Well, I didn't care. That inoculated me. I became a fisherman at that. Anyway, we brought the fish back and they prepared for us at the Standish Hall. There was one incident and Benny was really interested and excited about fishing. He called me the following year and said, Hey, man, we're going fishing. I said, What again is I know this time we're going to Nova Scotia with golf or salmon. That's the biggie.

Speaker And we did we arrived in Nova Scotia, which is probably the most. How can I phrase it, the bleakest place in the world. The so-called beaches are covered with cold because do a lot of mining under the ocean. And we played at various places called forums or Beneš before we left for this trip. And we travel and limousine was only five hours. Almost the same group that we play, Standish Hall had gone to Abercrombie and Fish and bought like three hundred dollars worth of fishing gear. You're not allowed to use live bait, only artificial words and only fly rides. And he spent this money and we're going to go catch some salmon.

Speaker Well, we got that Nova Scotia salmon was out of the season and he couldn't even buy it.

Speaker Or anyway, it was that was enjoyable.

Speaker Cheap because it was like hang out with him. He knew you were sort of unusual, I think, in that respect amongst the guys in the band that you did hang with him and describe a little bit of what he was like to be fishing trips or you you just and taking you out to dinner and would pick up. You know, he's famous for being a cheapskate with you. He picked up the tab. Tell him about the personal side of it.

Speaker Well, I must say that on this trip to Nova Scotia and whole Quebec and many of the others, I heard rumors about Benny being very close with a buck, that he was a kind of a cheapskate.

Speaker Well, they said the same thing about Artie Shaw. And Artie Shaw was a cheapskate. Mahalo Forest told us that they took her out to lunch one day and made her pick up the check. But anyway, Benny was not like that with me. There was no limit. And, you know, whether I offered to pay or not, he wouldn't let me pay the kind of thing. And I never really hung out with Benny. I was never invited to his home or anything like that.

Speaker Well, somehow he took a kind of a liking to me. I don't know why, but.

Speaker He always respected professionalism. It showed in the band what I could say about Artie Shaw. Artie Shaw had the tremendous ability for training. A. He'd get young, talented musicians and he'd whip them in a shape like you can't believe. Whereas with Benny, you expect to sit down and POW, just do the right thing. Be professional like you are. But I don't know all those things that Benny carried on with. There's a story that you may have heard from Chris Griffin about eating breakfast on a train. Yes. Yes. But all these so-called Absent-Minded professor thing and so on. And he was he was someone like that only because he was so concentrated on what he was doing it almost to the exclusion of other things. But he also was a seeker.

Speaker I mean, he he wanted to understand what was going on in the world. And member that Benny was one of the first, maybe not the first to hire.

Speaker In those days, they were called black musicians, no Afro African-Americans. And the way the black musicians our country was treated was shameful, really. But he was amongst those and he was I use the word liberal in that sense. You know, I'm not afraid to be called a liberal. But anyway, that's my feeling.

Speaker Once you talked about politics, people said that he would be very soon reading the paper. You want to keep up with what was happening in the world. You were there when the war time. So it must have been interesting conversation.

Speaker Yeah. Oh, Benny, I guess because of his parents came from Russia. I guess that's the background he had. And so he had some feelings for Russia, although I the same thing my parents came from what was then Russia, but really was Poland. You know, my father came from a town called Lodz, my mother or Warsaw, but they were considered Russians.

Speaker And I didn't have the same kind of warm empathy for Russians themselves. But during the war, remember, at that time, it was more than fascism because we were allies of the Russians and sent things and so on to Russia, help out the last 25 million people, I believe. But he was he had to be liberal because his approach to music by itself was enough to tell you that. And he also had warm feelings about what's going on in our own country, you know, and what the needs were and so on. So I got along with Benny aside beside or despite whatever forth other people may have found in him.

Speaker When you look back and you think about your career, you talked about high points being the gig with Duke and a gig with the classical concert you play. Yeah. Where where do you put your experience was good in that part of your career and what it meant to be a part of that musically?

Speaker Well, I my career consists of various ups and downs, which was a way of also thinking in terms of professionalism. On some nights when you were on the road, regardless of who was Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Benny, you cannot go below a certain point. Some nights a spark will come up and power. Your band just opens up and really hits the ceiling, but below a certain line. That's the line of professionalism. And people come there, pay their hard earned money to hear the band play and dance and so on. And that's always my feeling that that's what you're there for. And so despite the fact that there's differences in how I perceive playing with Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, we're talking about apples and oranges or different kinds of things. But at that level, we're talking about high professionalism. And with Benny, to me, I was one of the high spots of the bands. And I played with I played with Charlie Barnett or somebody once said to me, I couldn't hold a steady job with it and stick with it. But I've had other high spice, too, and low spots, too. But that's how I look at playing with Benny.

Speaker Anything musically that was different or special. Did you learn anything you didn't know from your other experiences in music you got from playing with him or personally anything that was unusual?

Speaker Yes, I learned by just being there and listening. One of the things that any young musician should know is when you have to practice.

Speaker It's the one performing art that requires daily practice more than anything else. I know ballet dancers practice and actors practice theater arts and so on. But in music, there's no escape. Every day one has to practice and there's a lot of Alagoas. But I will buy the same. It's well known. The other thing is that for young students, ears, good ears, listen, listen to other players. And I'm not saying to copy anyone that I don't mean it that way, but be influenced perhaps whoever that you are impressed with. And if that's a basis.

Speaker Right, how did you get them from either of those things from your connected? He did those things. I mean, I know that practicing. Did you get a sense of here's somebody who just as good as the others have is you still practice?

Speaker That that's another thing. My wife's father was a musician and so was her brother Barney, who played at the show and more televising for twenty six years.

Speaker That worked a a steady game here.

Speaker But it seems to me that they looked at once you played professionally, you know, you don't take lessons anymore. But here's Benny Goodman and, you know, the great clarinet player that maybe the one of the greatest who continue to scour along with practicing every day. And maybe that's one of the reasons he was preoccupied by having to concentrate on that aspect of it. And he now he practice every day, but he studied with regional cal as well known. And he was a constant secret to to improve himself. And that's not one of the things I learned about being with Benny, that when you're on the stand with Benny, you're a professional. Are you not supposed to be there? It's that simple. And I think that's one of the more important things that I learned from Benny.

Speaker I think that we've covered just about everything. This is anybody else that you particularly want to talk about or any anecdotes you feel left out. The important thing about playing with Teddy, maybe it's hard, is for us to get a sense of Teddy Wilson is such a self-effacing guy. Yes. You talk about him musically. Yes. With him would help us picture two things.

Speaker One, Peggy Lee and one Teddy.

Speaker I'm not sure everybody thinks of Peggy Lee as a jazz singer like Mildred Bailey or Ella or Sarah or Billie Holiday.

Speaker But when she first she first joined the band when I was with Benny and I think was forty one. But whatever it was, she had this tremendous voice. I had a little bit of tremolo almost. And I believe actually that because she was slightly frightened by what was going on. But if she sang were one at the New Yorker Hotel, I would come home and tell my wife that I was just really a to hear her and she would stop the show. I mean, she was so great at doing that.

Speaker And the other thing was, who was I?

Speaker I just mentioned another Teddy. One thing about Terry, the word of self-effacing was said about Terry Wilson. And he was he was tremendously but he was very strong, strong person. He had strong ideas and good ideas. And within himself, inwardly, you know, he would do those things. But when I played with Louis Prima at the famous door and.

Speaker By the way, I think I mentioned that diet played that the famous door woman no. That's not true.

Speaker I actually played at the Hickory House. That was on the other side of the Fifty Second Street and west of 6th Avenue. But we. Teddy was playing lopiano. I mentioned that earlier at the famous store. And at that time, I was studying at Juilliard. And this was I think he was still playing with Benny at the early stages. It was just the quartet cause the band Pappe I was just Dacy and he used to sit there for hours picking the changes and a song and just running scales for techni, you know, up and down the piano. He'd play the chords of the particular song he was doing. And then one night he was playing, he happened to be playing Duke Ellington songs, either in my solitude or whatever it was.

Speaker Our records start again to say, as I said when I was playing, Teddy was playing in my solitude. Obviously, it was written by Duke Ellington, as I said, and some Southern lady came into place and she was apparently upset by the fact that Teddy Wilson was playing, you know, war piano. And she made this remark about if the composer of that piece of music knew a black man was playing it, he turned over his grave. And, of course, it was Duke Ellington, which is ironic. Yes, but Teddy Wilson, I wonder for many, when he was a he's also another guy that's so engrossed in what he's doing, concentrating on practicing and everything else. But that was an interesting way for him to learn that marvelous technique and perfected, I should say, because I guess he didn't learn it at the famous DAR.

Speaker A little bit of a phone, that's the problem, isn't it?

Speaker You said he was very knowledgeable, he was, you know, in cared about things. He also I was interested in politics, if you talk to tell him, Tony. Oh, yes, of course. How about that? People don't understand that, you know.

Speaker Well, people that will be listening to this with similar exceptions, will remember McKinzie days. But and J. Edgar Hoover is No. One on the panel for his thing about life.

Speaker But in those days, I guess I was considered by the left wing, as you can get, regardless of what my political feelings were. But Teddy was also very active in how active you can be when you're on the road all the time. But whatever he could do, there was some kind of a thing for those bundles for Britain or something else for Russia. And anybody that participated in that, even though we were allies, was considered to be a communist or whatever.

Speaker But beyond that.

Speaker I wasn't that close to Teddy, and I was never invited to his home, you know, like buddy buddy kinds of things. But the. Being, in a sense close to somebody when you play well, you know, and understand.

Speaker So. I don't know what else to come.

Speaker What did you do? I sat and talked about books or talked about the newspaper or had any conversations where you got a sense of that. Yeah, but it's just this just. No. OK, I think we should we should probably finish and may.

Sid Weiss
Interview Date:
1993-01-01
Runtime:
1:11:08
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-f47gq6rn88, cpb-aacip-504-696zw19670, cpb-aacip-504-p843r0qk6g, cpb-aacip-504-kh0dv1dc11
MLA CITATIONS:
"Sid Weiss, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 01 Jan. 1993, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/429
APA CITATIONS:
(1993, January 01). Sid Weiss, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/429
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Sid Weiss, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 01, 1993. Accessed January 23, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/429

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