David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes — Good Deeds (and Bad)

Good Deeds (and Bad)

• At a concert featuring hardcore group Black Flag, a bouncer unnecessarily roughed up a woman in the audience. Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski saw what was happening, did not like what he saw, and hit the bouncer’s head with the end of his bass, resulting in the bouncer going to a hospital to get stitches. After the show, Black Flag’s kick drum was missing, and a different bouncer said that to get the kick drum back they would have to go to the manager’s office. The kick drum was there, and so was the manager — who felt safe because his bouncers were also there. The manager criticized the Black Flag members, calling them “f**kups,” but they got the kick drum. They also learned that the club’s owner had called other clubs that Black Flag was going to play at and told these clubs not to pay Black Flag because they were troublemakers. Unfortunately, at this club and at other clubs women are often not safe at music concerts. In 1984, during a Black Flag concert in Hamburg, Germany, three women in the audience had their tops torn off. Mr. Rollins gave his shirt to one of the women, but his shirt was also torn off her body. Mr. Rollins says, “So much for my good deed.” And at a club in Los Angeles, Mr. Rollins noticed that the security guys were frisking everybody who came in. He says that “[t]he girls got searched extra carefully” because “the security guys [were] getting in a good feel when they could.” One way in which Mr. Rollins — a big, muscular man — is sensitive is that when he notices that he is walking behind a lone woman, he will slow down and let her put some distance between him and her. He knows that often women are afraid that they will get attacked on the street. He also knows that they can be scared by his presence. He says, “I’ve had girls run into stores and wait until I pass before they come out.” Unfortunately, women sometimes have good reason to be afraid of men.

• When Count Basie put together his 15-piece Count Basie Orchestra, it took time for the band to jell. They were playing at the Grand Terrace in Chicago, and they were supposed to play a score that the ballroom provided. Unfortunately, many of the musicians in the band could not read music, and they were forced to fake it. Trumpet player Buck Clayton said, “We had to do the best we could, which was nothing. We abused that show every night we were there.” Fortunately, bandleader, composer, and arranger Fletcher Henderson saw the show, realized the musicians were struggling, and helped them. He lent Count Basie his own arrangements for the show, and he helped coach the musicians on how to play his arrangements. Count Basie said, “He was the only bandleader in the business who ever went out of his way to help me. Without his help, we would have been lost.” Of course, the band soon jelled and became famous, and Count Basie helped other musicians, including a young Quincy Jones, whom he had met when young Quincy snuck backstage at a show by carrying under his arm a music instrument case — which was empty. Years later, Count Basie tried some of Quincy’s arrangements and liked them very much — and made popular records out of them. Of course, Count Basie learned a lot while making music in St. Louis, Missouri, where musicians played hours and hours, including hours and hours after the show ended. One song could last a very long time. Pianist Sammy Price remembered those long jam sessions: He played, and then he left for three hours. He said that when he returned, “They were playing the same song.”

• Country singer/songwriter Hank Williams could be very generous. One day he was in a car with guitarist Clent Holmes driving. The car was filled up with various items, including fishing poles, but when they saw a hitchhiking hobo, Mr. Williams told Mr. Holmes to stop the car. Mr. Williams told the hobo, “We’re full up and can’t you take you anywhere, my friend, but here’s some money so you can buy some food.” (Hank Williams fan and biographer Paul Hemphill wrote in Lovesick Blues, “The way he [Mr. Williams] spread the wealth when he had it, you can be sure he didn’t just give the fellow a couple of dollar bills.” By the way, Mr. Williams worked with Fred Rose when recording his music. Mr. Rose helped manage Mr. Williams’ career and once went to Decca and several other labels trying to find the right record company for Mr. Williams. After Mr. Rose walked out of a Decca executive’s office, the Decca executive telephoned Mr. Williams and tried to take Mr. Rose’s place, saying, “What can Fred Rose do for you?” Mr. Williams was loyal and snapped, “He’s got you calling me, ain’t he?” before hanging up.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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250 Music Anecdotes (Kindle eBook: $1.99):

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