(For a list
of individual artists with commentary, please scroll down.)
I began doing studio work in 1965. The term “studio musician” elicits a variety of responses, from admiration
(a lot of people) to “sell-out” (jazz critics in particular). In well over forty years as a
studio musician I have had the privilege of working with some of the world’s greatest musicians and playing a lot of
interesting, beautiful and challenging music. Sure, there were rare occasions where the challenge was staying
focused (or even awake), and occasionally a colleague wasn’t up to the demands of the job, but for the most part it
has been a great way to earn a living.
The people I worked for came from a variety of backgrounds, from those with conservatory educations in jazz and classical
music to rock and pop musicians who got their training on the job. But almost without exception (almost) they were talented people who made going to work fun and often exciting.
Among the composers, conductors, arrangers and producers I worked for are
Ron Abel, Brian Adler, Allen D. Allen, Gerald Alters, David Angel, Gil Askey, Burt Bacharach, H.B. Barnum, Dee Barton, Harold
Battiste, David Bell, Richard Bellis, Ian Bernard, Shelly Berg, Charles Bernstein, Elmer Bernstein, Peter Bernstein (the composer,
not the guitarist), Lou Blackburn, Terence Blanchard, David Blumberg, Leland Bond, Sonny Bono, Richard Bowden, Tommy Boyce
and Bobby Hart, Bruce Broughton, Bobby Bryant, Harold Budd, Chris Butler, Billy Byers, Joseph Byrd, John Cacavas, John Cage
(one piece involved a bouncing basketball), Sean Callery, Edward Cansino, Larry Cansler, Chris Caswell, Paul Chihara, Stanley
Clarke, Richard Clements, David Cohen, Stephen Cohn, Buddy Collette, Manuel Compinsky, Frank Comstock, Bill Conti, Stewart
Copeland, Carmine Coppola, Don Costa, Robert Craft (see Lazy Dogmas Of Impossibility), Leigh Crizoe (who had a different name
in those days), Mike Curb, Hoyt Curtin, John D'Andrea, Martin Davich, Hod David, Don Davis, John Davis, Peter Davison,
Richard DeBenedictis, John Debney, Bert DeCoteau, George Del Barrio, Nick De Caro, George Delerue, Milton Delugg, Eumir Deodato,
Frank DeVol, Steve Dorff, Carmen Dragon, Richard Dufallo, John Du Prez, Harry "Sweets" Edison, John Ehrlich, Jack
Elliot, Don Ellis, Bob Estey, Percy Faith, Vinnie Fanuele, Sid Feller, Allyn Ferguson, Ralph Ferraro, Frank Fetta, Jerry Fielding,
Bob Findley, Clare Fischer, Tom Flaherty, Bob Florence, Dan Foliart, Lukas Foss, Lawrence Foster, Charles Fox, Ian Freebairn-Smith,
Evelyn Freeman, Terri Fricon, Gerald Fried, Paul Gemignani, Pia Gilbert, Alexander Goehr, Billy Goldenberg, Maurice Goldman,
Jerry Goldsmith, William Goldstein, Miles Goodman, Ron Grant, Dave Grusin, Bobby Hammack, Joe Harnell, Anthony Harris, Jimmie
Haskell, Neil Hefti, Leonard Heifetz, Ken Heller, Richard Henn, Christopher Hogwood (whose crimes against music should not
go unpunished), Bill Holman, Craig Hundley (who became Craig Huxley), Michael Isaacson, Gordon Jenkins, Quincy Jones, Artie
Kane, Elliot Kaplan, Dana Kaproff, Eddie Karam, Fred Karlin, Mickey Katz, Roger Kellaway, Jackie Kelso (John Kelson, Jr.),
Art Kempel, Hial King, David Kitay, Kenneth Klein, Oliver Knussen, Karl Kohn, Nelson Kole, William Kraft, Ernst Krenek, Marvin
Laird, Ben Lanzarone, Jack Lee, Sylvester Levay, James Levine, Alan Lewis, Michael Lewis, Mort Lindsey, Michael
Lloyd, Jerry Long, William Loose, Alexina Louie, Teo Macero, Peter Matz, Dennis McCarthy,
Matthew McCauley, John McDaniel, Gil Mellé, Bruce
Miller, Bob Mitchell, Grover Mitchell, Henry Mollicone, Eugene Minor, Guy Moon, Hal Mooney, Angela Morley, Peter Myers, Frederic
Myrow, Oliver Nelson, Roger Nichols, Ted Nichols, Patrick O'Hearn, Tommy Oliver, Steve Orich, Johnny Orvis, John Oseicki,
Gene Page, Johnny Pate, Michael Patterson, Antony Payne, Don Peake, Howard Pearl, D’Vaughn Pershing, Bill Peterson,
Stu Phillips, Don Piestrup, Basil Poledouris, Ray Pohlman, Reg Powell, Bob Prince, Spencer Quinn, Don Ralke, Ron Ramin, Don Randi, Don Raye, Mac Rebennack (Dr. John), George Rhodes,
Lucas Richman, Nelson Riddle, Lorin Rinder, Pete Robinson, John Rodby, Shorty Rogers, Leonard Rosenman, Milton Rosenstock,
Laurence Rosenthal, Lance Rubin, David Rubinson, Pete Rugolo, Leon Russell, Craig Safan, Gerhard Samuel, Eddy Samuels, Andrea
Saparoff, Walter Scharf, Peter Schickele, Lalo Schifrin, Nan Schwartz, Misha Segal, Bernardo Segall, Marc Shaiman, Ralph Shapey,
Joe Sherman, Sahib Shihab, David Shire, Lawrence Shragge, Bebu Silvetti, Michael Skloff, Jack Smalley, Mark Snow, Dorrance
Stalvey, Leonard Stein, Fred Steiner, Mort Stevens, Christopher Stone, Billy Strange, Horace Tapscott, John Tartaglia, Michael
Tilson Thomas, Joel Thome, Ken Thorne, Jack Tillar, Jack Tracy, Jules Vogel, Jeannine Wagner, Roger Wagner, Shirley Walker,
Richard Warren, Carrol Wax, Jimmy Webb, George Wilkins, Patrick Williams, Lynn Willis, Brian Wilson, Stanley Wilson, Charles
Wourinen, Frank Zappa, Michael Zearott, Robert Ziegler, Harry Zimmerman and others. I was a member of the bands on the Carol
Burnett Show (1968-71), The Jimmie Rogers Show (1969), Your Hit Parade (1974) and the Dinah Shore Show (1970-80), as well
as numerous movies, records, commercials and TV shows.
There have been too many individual artists to name
them all here. A partial list includes ABBA, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Muhammad Ali, Betty Allen, Steve Allen,
Amory was booked on an episode of Dinah! (See
Dinah Shore, below) along with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Robert Fuller, an actor
with a brief career on some forgettable tv shows. Amory was a well-known advocate for animal rights, Fuller an avid
hunter. Zsa Zsa was clearly shocked that someone considered shooting animals a sport. "Why can't you
shoot at clay pigeons?" she asked him. His scornful expression was no doubt the best acting he had ever done.
Ed Ames, Hedva Amrani, Anacani, Lynn Anderson, Julie Andrews, Paul Anka, Susan Anton, Ashford & Simpson, Frankie
Avalon, Lauren Bacall,
having met Leona Helmsley, I will have to go with Pearly Mae as the “Queen of Mean”. She hired
a saxophone player (mid-1950s) who took a train from Boston to San Francisco to join her band. With him
was his wife, in her ninth month of pregnancy. They arrived in time for the rehearsal but too late to find
their accommodations. The saxophonist’s wife accompanied him to the rehearsal but was
barred from entering the hall because of Pearl’s “closed rehearsal” policy. The policy
remained in place even after the circumstances were explained to Pearl and despite the fact that it was raining.
Pearl was a Republican and a supporter of Richard Nixon, whose “Southern Strategy” is thought to have contributed
to his victory the 1968 election. According to Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips:
"From now on, the Republicans are never going to
get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted
if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the
sooner the Negrophobe (sic) whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.
That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable
arrangement with the local Democrats."
Pearl Bailey, meet Sammy Davis, Jr. (See Sammy
Davis, Jr., below.)
And her nanny-goat vibrato militates against any consideration of her as a serious singer.
Lucille Ball and Gary Morton,
Gary gave up a successful career as a comedian to manage Lucy's career. He was hilarious
on their appearance on Dinah!
The Bay City Rollers,
The Beach Boys,
The first time I was called for a
session with the Beach Boys, Plas Johnson said, “Don’t make any plans for the rest of the day.”
(See Brian Wilson, below.) (See Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant, Bill Green and Plas Johnson, below.)
Some performers achieve a little recognition and act as though
they had discovered the cure for cancer or brought about world peace. Harry Belafonte, who has actually
worked hard for world peace, treated everyone with respect and was a professional in every way. I asked
him about Tony Scott, his musical director in the early 1950s, a clarinet player and arranger who had a tendency to disappear
from time to time. He spoke warmly of him but had no idea where he was.
Tex never seemed to get tired of the Glenn Miller association.
One former Miller sideman said, “Sometimes I wish Glenn had lived and the music had died." Sometimes?
I worked with Tony, a nice man and legendary singer, on TV
shows and at the wedding of Bud Yorkin, a TV producer (All In The Family, Sanford and Son, etc). Imagine
my surprise when I got to the wedding and found out who the singer was.
Benny, David Benoit, George Benson, Ken Berry,
David Birney and Meredith Baxter,
David Birney and
Meredith Baxter starred in a tv series, Bridget Loves Bernie, which was cancelled after one season. According to some
sources the cancellation had more to do with objections to the inter-religious marriage depicted than to ratings. During
its run, they appeared together on Dinah's Place. Birney insisted on doing a cooking segment and explained how to
make a peanut butter sandwich. It was pretty dumb and bombed pretty seriously. After the show, as I sauntered
to my car, I passed them in the parking lot and heard him berating her for her "lack of professionalism."
Funny, I saw it the other way around. On a subsequent show, he apologized to Dinah.
Joey Bishop, Shecky Green, Alan King, Jan Murray, Don Rickles,
There is a "show-biz" axiom that says "comedians say funny things, comics say
things funny." I never heard any of them do either. Jan Murray told a very long, very boring story with
no point and no punch line, his voice rising, the cadence increasing as he went on. From time to time he would raise
his right hand and say, "true story," as if that somehow made it funnier. How did any of these guys ever
get his second gig?
wonder, his Let The Little Girl Dance made it to #7 in 1960. During rehearsal for a show at the Regal Theater
in Chicago, Billy was out supervising his chauffeur (when he should have been inside rehearsing) as the poor guy wiped the
raindrops from his rented limousine. It got worse. (See On The Road At 18.)
Elvis’s erstwhile bass player. During each show at the Regal
he would turn to the house band and announce, “Look out Basie (or, variation, Brubeck), Bill Black’s in town.”
(See On The Road At 18.)
lot of mileage out of one song and one dance.
Erma Bombeck, Debbie Boone,
Once, when Walter Murphy (remember A Fifth Of Beethoven?) and Pat were guests on Dinah!,
Pat asked me (I was the closest musician), with a very serious expression, what Beethoven would have thought of Walter’s
adaptation. I explained as well as I could about Beethoven’s use of development. I
found Pat’s “conversion” to Judaism a little disingenuous.
The show was about celebrities and their offspring.
When Dinah asked each of the kids for a few words about his/her parent, the answers, predictably enough, were celebratory.
No "Mommy Dearest" here. Victor's daughter, Rikke, the last to answer, broke the spell. "Well,
I kind of like that tie," she said.
Barry Bostwick, David Bowie,
Yes, that Terry Bradshaw; remember when he became a country singer? I’ve heard worse.
(See Dennis Weaver, below.)
Known for her novelty
songs, Teresa was a jazz singer married to a jazz record producer, Bob Thiele. She worked with Duke Ellington,
Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Talk about Music, Music, Music.
Rather improbably, I thought,
he sang As Time Goes By on Dinah’s Place and sang it great.
Roscoe Lee Browne,
Bobby was, in the words
of a mutual friend, “kind of stand-offish” but once I got to know him I found him to be a warm-hearted guy.
He was a great trumpet and flugelhorn player. One of my favorite gigs in my long career was a series
of ten half-hour shows that were telecast at 6:30 AM during Black History Month. How did he get NBC to
use live music on a show that aired at that hour? Bobby did the writing and he and I and a wonderful guitar
player, Mike Anthony, comprised the ensemble. Later, Mike and his wife moved to Albuquerque to open a dance
studio, far out of the rat race.
George Burns, Harold
Burrage, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Yul Brynner, Jeanie Bryson, Peabo Bryson,
Buddy Collette’s autobiography [with Steven Isoardi], Jazz Generations, for his recollections of the Carol Burnett Show.
They may surprise you.) (See Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant, Bill Green and Plas Johnson, below.)
The Carol Burnett Show Orchestra,
Leader: Harry Zimmerman
Trumpets: John Audino (1968-69), replaced by Pete Candoli (69-71), 1st, Jimmy
Zito, 2nd, Bud Brisbois, 3rd, Don Fagerquist, 4th. When Bud was unavailable
Cat Anderson was the sub.
Trombones: Gil Falco, 1st, Roy Main,
2nd, Vernon Friley, 3rd, Dick “Stretch” McQuary, bass trombone. Lloyd
Ullyate subbed for Gil on occasion.
Saxophones: Buddy Collette, 1st
alto, John Bambridge, 2nd alto, I played 1st tenor (replacing Plas Johnson who did the first year and
then engineered it for me to take his place), Lennie Hartman, 2nd tenor and Chuck Gentry, baritone.
Harry Klee and Bill Calkins subbed for Buddy; John Bambridge should have but contractors don’t think like that.
Rhythm section: Jimmy Rowles, piano (who told me years later that he came in the same
time I did, at the beginning of the 1968-69 season), Red Callender, bass, Tony Rizzi, guitar and Jerry Williams drums, replaced
after the 68-69 season by Cubby O’Brien. Al McKibbon subbed for Red Callender.
Percussion: Dale Anderson.
Strings: Jacques Gasselin, concertmaster, Joe Quadri, Bill Nuttycombe,
H. Arthur Brown, Jerry Reisler and Ralph Silverman, violins. Bob Ostrowski, viola. Vic
Sazer, cello. Dan Neufeld subbed for Bob Ostrowski.
Verlye Mills was a fantastic musician and a very nice person. Buddy Collette wrote a three movement piece
for flute and harp and asked Verlye and me to record it, which we did one afternoon. Verlye spoke in a
sort of stream-of-consciousness style that included a lot of run-on sentences. I knew she had played on
some of the Charlie Parker With Strings sessions and I asked her about them. “I never saw anyone
that could drink like that, you know I’ve made two million dollars in my life and where is it now?” she said.
Jacques Gasselin was born in 1899 and began work in the Paris Opera Orchestra when he
was 14, in 1913. That was the year that Le Sacre du Printemps caused all that commotion in Paris.
I never thought to ask him for a contemporaneous account. My loss for sure--among others.
Most of the orchestra members were successful freelancers but I never saw Joe Quadri anywhere
but at the Burnett show. He was a quiet guy, among the oldest in the orchestra and had a beautiful smile.
One day I got to work early and only he, Chuck Gentry and I were in the room. Joe was playing behind
the glass partition where the strings sat. I didn’t pay much attention but when I sat down Chuck
said, very emphatically, “Listen to that guy. What a sound.” I did and Chuck
was right. Sitting next to Chuck was a real valuable part of my education.
I’ve written about Buddy Collette on another part of this page. (See Buddy Collette, Jewell
Grant, Bill Green and Plas Johnson, below). There is a lot of sitting around on a show like Burnett (which
was about as well organized as any gig I’ve ever had) and the chance to listen to Buddy talk about subjects as varied
as the amalgamation of the white and black musicians union locals in LA and his musical education was priceless.
A lot of the things he told me are in his book (with Steven Isoardi), Jazz Generations.
I had always loved Duke Ellington and looked forward to when Cat Anderson subbed. He gave me copies
of several Ellington recordings that had gone out of print.
Brisbois was very quiet and very intense. I worked on a lot of record dates with him and once, when a producer
had decided to lean on me a little, Bud spoke up. “He’s not the problem,” he emphatically
told the producer and I guess it worked because we both got called back. Most people won’t stand
up for someone in that situation; in fact I can think of only one other instance (thanks, Warren Luening and Alan Kaplan).
Dale Anderson never made a mistake no matter how many notes he faced.
I asked him about that once and he said, “I was a composition major at Northwestern.” There
may have been more to it than that.
Jerry Williams, the drummer, was the
de facto conductor of the band. A show like that has a lot of
tempo and meter changes and Harry Zimmerman, a fine arranger, was a little less skilled as a conductor. Jerry
never missed a thing and got us safely through the often difficult arrangements.
After the 1970-71 season, Harry Zimmerman was fired and the new leader, Peter Matz, brought in a whole new band.
I believe Ralph Silverman was the only holdover. There are details in Buddy Collette’s autobiography,
Jazz Generations, a very interesting book.
back from time to time. There will be more as I think of it.
I got a call late one night from Mac Rebennack (“Dr. John”) to play clarinet on a record date the next
night for a group called The Cake. The arranger was Harold Battiste and the ensemble was four clarinets
(two b-flat clarinets, an alto clarinet and a bass clarinet) as well as a string quartet, harpsichord and guitar.
Harold’s music was beautiful, sort of like a classical piece from the eighteenth century. We
asked him how he happened to write for alto clarinet, a pretty unusual instrument (see Lazy Dogmas Of Impossibility) and he
said, “Because I wondered what one sounded like.” Actually, he already knew, having written
a quartet for the same instrumentation when he was a college student. We also recorded that piece that
night. The other clarinet players were Jim Horn, John Neufeld (alto clarinet) and Plas Johnson (bass clarinet).
A fantastic session.
The Captain and Tennille, George Carlin, Barbara Carroll, Jack Cassidy,
Perhaps a bit
Shortly after 11:30 PM on March 6, 1970, my friend Dana Chalberg
called and woke me up to tell me, “Baker and Rampal are going to be on Cavett.” Jean-Pierre
Rampal was the most famous flutist of that era, Julius Baker the greatest ever. “Cavett” was
Dick Cavett, who had a brief career as a late night talk show host.
Also on the show were Lillian Gish, Satchel Paige and Salvador Dali, who walked onstage with
an anteater on a leash. Not the sort of thing you would forget, right?
A little later Cavett was a guest on Dinah’s Place (see
Dinah Shore, below), probably the highlight of his career. I had a chance to tell him that the show with
Baker and Rampal and those other people was the best TV show I’d ever seen. He frowned and said,
“I do a lot of shows...” and went on to say that he shouldn’t be expected to remember individual ones.
OK, but how do you forget Julius Baker, the greatest musician who ever lived (along with Heifetz, Tatum and a couple
of others), to say nothing of Satchel Paige and Salvador Dali with an anteater?
Chad And Jeremy, Len Chandler,
Weird voice and cornball
persona but you could set your watch by Carol hitting her cues.
Among other things, I played the little oboe solos on Eleanor
Rigby. I think Ray changed every note in every part and by the time we finally got a “take”
it may have been back to the way the arranger, Sid Feller, wrote it in the first place. Sid was practically
in tears by the end of the session, but I don’t think there was anything malicious about Ray’s “corrections.”
Chubby may have had a few other hits, but I wonder who can name any besides
The Twist? He sure got a good ride out of it. In the 1980s I worked with him on a Monday
afternoon at Warner Bros. The previous day I had played a concert that included the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto
of J.S. Bach on which I played oboe and Phil Ayling played flute. On Chubby’s date I played flute
and Phil played oboe. We got a kick out of how the music business works.
Cheech and Chong, Cher,
The Chipmunks, Roy Clark, Robert Clary,
Clooney, like Teresa Brewer, was best known for her novelty songs and was also a jazz singer. Teresa was
a good singer, Rosemary a great one. Her ballad, Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair? on Dinah! was one
of the most beautiful and expressive performances I’ve ever heard.
It was either a “sweetening” session, where we overdub over prerecorded tracks,
or maybe it was the basic track itself, but Joe wasn’t there, not unusual under the circumstances. I
remember a woodwind quartet or quintet with a fine flutist, Andy Kostelas, and Jackie Kelso, who was the contractor and (legendary)
clarinet player. At one point the arranger, Leon Russell, told us to improvise but said, “I don’t
want none of that Scooby-do s**t.” Jackie translated it for us: “No bebop, folks.”
Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant, Bill Green
and Plas Johnson,
In June 1964, not long after I
turned 23, Sheridon Stokes, on the verge of a huge career as a studio flutist, introduced me to Buddy Collette.
We read through some flute quartets and quintets. (The others were Louise DiTullio, also headed
for tremendous success, and Libbie Jo Snyder, another fine player.)
We met again the following week and Buddy
invited me to participate in a “self improvement” (he called it) project, a little woodwind ensemble that rehearsed
at his house once a week. I got there to find Buddy, Bill Green, Plas Johnson and Jewell Grant.
I had never heard of Jewell Grant but of course the other names were well known to me. (Students
of jazz history may remember Jewell from recordings he made in the 1940s, usually on alto saxophone, with, among others, Benny
Carter and Charles Mingus. In Buddy’s group, he only played baritone and bass clarinet.
Jewell was a nice guy and an excellent player. I never really got a chance to know him as he died
not long after we met.)
I had met Bill Green once a few years earlier but Plas was known to me only by reputation.
He was about the hottest musician in town in those days. Almost from the beginning they all began
trying to help me into the music business. Bill sent me to sub for him on numerous occasions.
One time it was a record date where I met Bill Perkins. There was a rehearsal with Oliver Nelson
which lead to other work, including sessions for The Six Million Dollar Man and a gig at a private jazz club in Beverly Hills,
The Jazz Suite, where Oliver’s band was the opening attraction. Once, Bill sent me to play 2nd alto
with Willie Smith, one of the all time great lead alto players.
Another time it was
a gig at the Greek Theater in LA. Two woodwind sections had been hired, one for the Judy Garland Show on
the first half of the bill, the other for The Los Angeles Ballet on the second half. Judy was having her
problems and on the day of the show it was not certain that she would be able to appear. As curtain time
approached and there was no sign of Judy, the decision was made to move the ballet to the first half of the show.
The problem was that the ballet orchestra woodwind players had been called for 9PM and only a few of them were there
for the earlier starting time. The music was already on the stand and I noticed that most of it was music
I had played on a couple of tours with the San Francisco Ballet, the most recent one having been only a few months before.
One of the other saxophone players, Joe Skufca, had been the oboist and contractor for our tour. He
gave me a wink and mouthed “not a word!” and said to the contractor, “we can play that.”
The contractor, a former horn player (see LTD, below), looked skeptical, but they had no other choice except
to cancel the entire engagement and refund a lot of money. So with the woodwind section from the Judy Garland
Show, we did the ballet music. After eight weeks on tour, neither Joe nor I really had to look at the music
(which we did to preserve the illusion that we were sight-reading it) and the flutist, a doubler named John Rotella, played
it as if he had been on tour with us. After all this time I guess it’s OK to fess up now.
If Bill and Buddy were unceasingly supportive, recommending me, sending me to sub, introducing me to everyone
that might be interested, Plas seemed almost on a mission to get me work. Immediately we teamed up in our
own little self-improvement effort, trading lessons (tenor saxophone for clarinet) several times a week. I
ate dinner at his house, hung out with him when he wasn’t working, went to hear him when he played a club (pretty rare
at that stage of his extraordinary career) and he would take me along to recording sessions to acquaint me with protocol and
introduce me to the musicians and contractors.
There is little mystery about Plas’s success. He’s a fantastic saxophone player with
a unique sound and a gently sardonic wit that pervades his solos, which take surprising twists and turns. He
is a great section player, able to sublimate his personal sound when he has to, and is excellent on the other saxophones as
well. He has a beautiful sound on flute, big and intense and well controlled. The problem
from my standpoint was that there was no way I was going to be able to imitate him. He told me that Jackie
Kelso had him down to such an extent that if he didn’t remember some detail of the session (which would have been difficult
given the amount of work he did), he couldn’t tell which of them he was hearing. I’m not sure
I believe that, but Jackie did do a remarkably accurate imitation. I found a Buffet bass clarinet for Plas
and his clarinet mouthpiece (Boosey and Hawkes) and he picked out a tenor saxophone (Selmer Mark VI) and mouthpiece (Berg
Larsen 130/0) for me, both of which I still play.
It was Plas who convinced
me to take up the oboe. Other people had suggested it (Sheridon Stokes, for one) but I had resisted, aware
of the time and effort (and frustration) that went into making reeds. In October, 1965, Plas and I went
to a World Series game and afterward, on the way back to his house, he brought up the oboe again. He said
that it would open doors that would otherwise be difficult to open and reminded me that once I was established I could always
give up the oboe if I still didn’t like it. The argument made sense; it took a while (about four
months), but one day I turned to the LA Times classified ads, the first time I had ever done that, and saw an oboe for sale.
An omen for sure. I bought the oboe and have experienced the time and effort (and frustration) that
goes into making reeds ever since. It has worked out, however. (See Look Both Ways.)
Finally, Plas engineered
it for me to replace him on the Carol Burnett Show, which gave me a base of operations as well as a little financial stability
and the chance to sit in a section with Buddy Collette, John Bambridge and Chuck Gentry and learn from them. Plas
was probably the most significant person in terms of my career and I will be forever grateful.
Post Script: Buddy Collette died
shortly after this page was added. There are a lot of good stories from the forty-six years we knew
each other. There were jazz clubs, restaurants, ACLU fund-raisers, meetings in his home about the future
of the musicians union, concerts with his band, times we just hung out and of course the rehearsals with Plas, Bill and Jewell.
Once, I sat next to him in movie theater while we watched him on-screen, talking about Eric Dolphy.
generosity was legendary and his kindness and consideration unfailing, but I think the best description was the one Sonny
Criss gave me: “Who else do you know that everyone likes?”
Plas is still going strong. His sound, technique
and imagination are undiminished. He still records, plays clubs and concerts, finds new songs to play and
new ways to play old songs. I expect to have the privilege of hearing him for years to come.
failed to break up Harvey Korman when he was a guest on The Carol Burnett Show. It was fun watching Harvey trying to
stick to the script--and failing.
The persuasive powers of Joseph Byrd, an extraordinary arranger, composer and scholar, were apparently
too much for Ry to withstand. Joseph convinced him to participate in an album to be called Jazz, and wrote
some very interesting arrangements of pieces by Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, Bert Williams, etc. Ry
seemed ill-at-ease throughout the project and even aborted one session in a fit of petulance. I worked
on the album but not the brief tour or TV show that followed, which ended, according to participants, with Ry locked in his
dressing room and Joseph, who only appeared with his back to the camera, all but ignored in the credits. Among
the musicians on the album was Earl Hines. Earl and I were on different sessions and I didn’t get
to meet him.
Several years later my nephew, Eric Epstein, a heavy metal guitar player who lives in
Columbus, Ohio, bought an lp by one of his favorite bands. The record was the one he wanted but the inner
sleeve was from Ry’s Jazz album and my picture was the first thing he saw. How’s that for a
From the first
time I heard Sonny Criss, in 1956, I was hooked. His passionate playing and the burning intensity of his
sound were unlike anything or anyone else I had ever heard. I would go to hear him whenever I could but
never had the nerve to introduce myself. In 1965, Plas recommended me for a gig with Harry “Sweets”
Edison. The show was at the Friars Club, a showbiz hangout where old time comedians ate lunch and told
each other jokes. I got to the rehearsal and set up my tenor and clarinet and began to look through the
music. Someone sat down next to me and said, “Sweets, will you introduce me to the tenor player?”
“David, I’d like you to meet Sonny Criss,”
Sweets said. I shot up out of my chair and only landed after what seemed like about a minute.
That night, before the gig, Sonny’s
alto, the only saxophone Selmer ever made with an inscription (“To My Son from Mrs. Lucy Criss”) was lying in
the open case. I bent over to look at it and when I straightened up I saw Sonny looking at me with an amused
The gig had other surprises,
too. Mickey Katz, the “musical director” of the Friars Club, brought his clarinet and soloed
on I Found A New Baby, in sort of a jazz-meets-Klezmer style. The notes were right, the style pretty weird.
Jimmy Bond, who had “forgotten” the rehearsal (Sweets called him at home and he said he would be there
that night) also forgot the gig and we worked without a bass. Earl Palmer, one of the most successful drummers
in history, read the charts flawlessly at the rehearsal and then didn’t open the book at the gig and made every tempo
change, meter change, style change, dynamic change, etc., perfectly. That pretty much sums up my experience
with him over the next thirty years.
The show was billed as “A Tribute To John W. Bubbles”, the famous dancer (Buck and Bubbles). When
he was called upon to speak, Mr. Bubbles thanked the Friars but most of all thanked a guest who couldn’t be there that
night, Eddie Fisher, for the resurgence of his career. He went on at some length. Seated
at the front table was the Friar who had organized the tribute, Harry Karl, described as a “shoe magnate”, along
with his wife, Debbie Reynolds, whose divorce from Fisher had been very public. They both frowned.
(See Debbie Reynolds, below. She deserved better.) (Also, see Eddie Fisher, below.)
During the song by Lil Greenwood and René Robin, which included the line “Even
ol’ Sonny Criss was there”, Sonny played a solo, which, as usual, brought down the house. After
the gig, Mrs. Katz, Mickey’s wife, told Sonny, “You’re a Heifetz”. Somehow, we
wound up at the other end of the room, Sonny with his alto. I said, “You sure can play fast”.
“That wasn’t fast,” he said.
He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the kitchen, played a chorus of I’ve Got Rhythm changes in about eight seconds
and said, “That’s fast”. (Later,
when I got to know him, I referred to his fantastic technique and he said, “It’s just a means to an end, David,
just a means to an end.”)
I asked him if I could buy
him a drink. He said, “From the time I was eighteen ‘til I was thirty-five I drank enough to
float a battleship. The doctor told me if I had one more drink I would die. You can
buy me a Coca-Cola.”
I heard Sonny frequently
over the next few months and he would always spend part of his break with me. On his thirty-eighth birthday,
he worked at The Golden Bear, a club in Huntington Beach. A few days later, he called and asked what I
was doing the next day.
“Can you come over to my house?”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“I’ll tell you when you get here. Bring your alto.”
“OK. What are we going to do?”
Sonny lived on Mary Ave. in the Watts section
of LA. I had known that from the time I joined the musicians union and looked up his name in the directory.
He gave me directions and we agreed on 10 AM.
I arrived, his mother answered the door and sent me to a little building in the back yard where Sonny was waiting with his
alto. There was a pool table in the middle of the room and a metal rack with suits, the kind you see wheeled
along the sidewalk in the garment district in New York. There was an upright piano, the old kind, ornate,
and on the music rack was a Handel oboe sonata. Sonny grinned and looked a little embarrassed and said,
“My mother asked me to play for her luncheon club. You know how it is, they hear her son is a musician…Usually
I play jazz but this time I wanted to try something different.”
He had learned the notes and wanted advice on the baroque style. One of my idols was asking me for a music
lesson. We spent the next three hours on the sonata. At one point he asked me about
an articulation I used, a kind of bouncing semi-staccato which had no real application in jazz and which he had never encountered
before. This from a man who never found a teacher that didn’t wind up asking him how he did it! I tried very hard to justify his confidence and when we finished
he thanked me and asked me if there was anything he did that I would like to know about. My mind raced.
Even though I had sublimated my interest in jazz to my interest in earning a living, I thought fast and asked him about
the bridge to Cherokee. He thought fast, too, and boiled it down to four scales.
Until the end of his life, twelve years later, we remained friends. There
were stretches of months when he would live with his mother and stepfather and not leave the house. Then
he would call and we would go to a basketball game or to a club or just hang out. He came to one of my
concerts where I played a piece, Black Flowers (which was mostly silence), by Harold Budd. After a pretty
depressing gig one night, I went to hear him at Marty’s, a club where Bill Green had worked for years, and he invited
me to sit in. One day when I complained about the kind of work I was getting (and not getting) and told
him I thought about giving up, he said, “well, music brought us
together”. The ultimate psychologist. That cheered me up immediately.
In early 1973 I had a new girlfriend, a classical pianist who was open to my suggestion
one night that we “go to hear some jazz.” When we got to the club and were seated, Sweets Edison was soloing and
Sonny had the neck of his alto off and was trying to adjust the position of the reed. The club was dark
and he couldn’t line it up the way he wanted to. He left the bandstand and headed for the door; outside
in the light from the street he would be better able to see what he had to do. As he passed our table he
handed me the body of his alto without pausing. Every eye in the club was fixed on us. He
came back a moment later, reclaimed the alto (I had had time to show her the inscription and explain its uniqueness) and told
us he’d see us at the break. The ultimate wingman!
Once he called to tell me that he had moved into a place in Inglewood and invited me to visit. When I arrived
I found him in a bare apartment, listening to a Lester Young recording on an old phonograph. We sat around
(on the floor) for a while and someone came up the steps. He opened the door and a young woman came in
and handed him a pile of posters advertising a concert for a scholarship fund. He introduced us and she
stayed for a few minutes. After she had left the subject changed to saxophone mouthpieces.
I asked him about his and without a word he went into the bedroom and returned with his alto. He
handed it to me and said to try it. (I would never have asked.) It was a Selmer metal
“Jazz” mouthpiece and practically played itself. Long before we had met I would hear him in
clubs and he never seemed to have the same mouthpiece twice. It was easy to see why he never changed after
he got this one. The alto, the Selmer with the inscription, was the best alto I have ever played, including
to this day. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t think to ask him if the mouthpiece had been altered;
no Selmer mouthpiece I have ever played was anything like that one. When I got up to leave he said, “Sometimes
things get tough and I have to pawn my soprano--but never my alto. Sometimes I can’t afford my own
place, but I have nice clothes and my car (a new Mercedes two-seater!) and I have that nice woman bringing me posters.”
I asked him how he did it.
He looked a little embarrassed and said, “I don’t know.”
Sonny’s recordings are wonderful but hearing him live was an experience I doubt anyone ever forgot. (See
Melissa Manchester, below.) (See Marlene Dietrich, below.) Bing Crosby, Scatman Crothers, Dap Sugar Willie, Adele Davis,
Sammy Davis, Jr.,
I wonder about someone with that much fame and fortune who has that constant
need for attention. Every gesture was a huge one and he was always “on”. If
I remember correctly (and mostly I do), Sammy was a guest on the very first Dinah! show. The other guests
were Jack Benny and Tom Bradley, who had been elected mayor of Los Angeles the previous year. At one point
Sammy approached the mayor who said, softly but sternly, “don’t hug me”. That was a reference
to the Republican convention where Sammy endorsed--and hugged--Richard Nixon, a crook who went on to win the presidency and
who subsequently resigned in disgrace after he was caught defiling the Constitution.
I worked on a number of Sammy’s records as well, including Mr. Bojangles.
Invariably, he would make a reference to my pretty substantial and very black beard (remember, it was a long time ago):
“You look just like my rabbi.”
Once I responded, “Why is anyone surprised
you’re Jewish? Every Sammy Davis I know is Jewish.” I got a hug for that
I always felt that beneath it all he was
a nice guy. (However, see Ben Vereen, below.)
Dietrich Show ran for three weeks at the Ahmanson Theater in the LA County Music Center. She seemed businesslike
and professional at rehearsals. Her musical director, of whom she was very proud, was Burt Bacharach.
You almost would have thought he was the star the way she
introduced him at the concerts. Burt seemed like a nice guy and is a good musician but so was his replacement
when Burt left after the first few shows to fulfill other commitments. The replacement (I can’t remember
his name) was an excellent pianist and conductor and a nice guy, but he wasn’t Burt Bacharach and she began to lean
on him pretty heavily and for no reason. We all felt sorry for him--Pete Christleib even invited him to
his parents’ house (Pete’s father was a pretty famous bassoonist) for dinner one night. Although
there had been no problems during his stewardship, other than in her imagination, Marlene freaked-out and demanded that Burt
be brought back to finish the engagement, which he was. After the last show she left cheap champagne for
us in the basement dressing room. Each of us was given her picture, stamped with an autograph.
I gave mine away.
Frank Strozier a great and under-recognized musician was the lead alto player. I played 2nd alto, Pete
Christlieb played tenor saxophone and Meyer Hirsch played baritone. Great section. Meyer
was beginning to be successful but quit playing to work for and eventually become a photographer. During
the engagement, Pete and I participated in Sonny Criss’s album Sonny’s Dream, one of the highlights of my life.)
Jackie DeShannon, Phil Donahue, The Eagles,
very nice guy, a great musician and a dedicated advocate for jazz, he employed Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker early in
their careers. I worked with him on Dinah! and at a three day “Unity” festival in Sacramento
with Bobby Bryant’s band. He was completely accessible--hung out with the band in fact--and loved
to talk about jazz. And he always spoke his mind.
Harry "Sweets" Edison,
(See Sonny Criss, above.)
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (Paul Weston and Jo Stafford),
hilarious but you had to be there.
After his father
died, Mercer took over the Duke Ellington Orchestra and brought it to Dinah! The saxophone section had three musicians,
Dave Young, Lenny Spivak and Harold "Geezil" Minerve, who had made contributions to jazz history and one, Ron Brown,
who soon would make his own contribution and whose remarkable career continues to this day. (I can't remember the
name of the 2nd tenor player.)
Geezil had a huge,
powerful sound that evoked the Ellington Orchestra of old. I didn't find out until later that he had worked with
Ernie Fields on two occasions--before and immediately after WW2-- during which two of my bandmates, Luther West and Jack Scott,
had been on the band. I'll bet he had some interesting stories. (See On The Road At 18.)
During a break I went to get some coffee and saw Mercer, his wife and small child staring at me. It was a little
awkward until I broke the ice.
"Mr. Ellington," I said, and he
corrected me: "Mercer." I told him that I was a member of the Dinah! show band and that it had been my ambition
at one time to play Jimmy Hamilton's chair with the Duke Ellington Orchestra if he ever left.
"It's too bad (!) you're so well established," he said. I told him that I didn't take
anything for granted.
"Well, give me a call," he said. Then
he explained the stares. "My son wanted to know if you were Henry Winkler."
Mama Cass Elliot,
Kendis Rochlen, the writer who worked with the intellectuals, apparently the only
one on the Dinah! staff who was qualified, invited me to lunch with Daniel Elsberg. Kendis was an informal
mentor who read whatever I wrote and made excellent suggestions. She introduced me as a member of the band
and he asked me what instrument. When I came to “oboe” he said, “Oh, I love the oboe,”
and went on about Yusef Lateef. His lunch consisted of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, a bagel with
cream cheese and a Coke. He kept offering me half the sandwich. Daniel is a true American
hero, probably one with a high cholesterol count.Lola Falana, Marty Feldman, Jose Feliciano, Freddy Fender,
An American hero, Carol appeared at the White House with the Ray Conniff Singers at a dinner honoring the founders of Reader's Digest. As she took her place on stage, she held up a banner that said "Stop
The Killing." She addressed President Nixon and said, "stop bombing human beings, animals
and vegetation. Carol lost what had been a thriving career. Come to think of it, so did
Nixon. The difference is that Carol told the truth and Nixon, it turns out, really was a crook.
(See Sammy Davis, Jr., above and Eartha Kitt, below.)
The Fifth Dimension,
Marilyn McCoo was a couple of years behind me in grade school. My mom met hers at PTA.
Both her parents were doctors and from the time I was seven or eight until we moved away a few years later they were
our family doctors. The families became close and spent a lot of time together. When
the Fifth Dimension appeared on Dinah! I (re)introduced myself and Marilyn remembered us. A few years later
I worked at a fundraising show for Meharry Medical College, the alma mater of both her parents, whom I saw for the first time in about twenty-five years. I remembered giants,
at least seven feet tall. In fact, they were normal size. We had a nice reunion.
was best known among musicians for his difficulty with rhythm. People who had worked with him said that
the conductor sometimes had to go as far as to mouth the words so he could stay with the orchestra. I worked
with him on The Jimmie Rogers Show. (See Jimmie Rogers, below.) Coincidentally, Jimmie’s
conductor, Eddy Samuels, had previously worked for Eddie. Eddy was the pianist on Jimmie’s show;
Frank Comstock was the arranger/conductor and of course he would be the one to have to deal with the problems.
To make matters worse, Eddie (or someone in his management) got his signals crossed and was a day late.
Eddy Samuels was normally a very good-natured, funny guy, but when Eddie failed to show up and I said, “Boy,
his time really is bad, isn’t it?” Eddy’s response was a not very jovial, “very funny.”
very limited experience with Ella but my impression is that she was as nice and sweet as she sounded. I
had the feeling that despite all the acclaim she was a little shy.
Jane Fonda, Tennessee Ernie Ford,
Right around the first time I worked with Redd (See On The Road At 18), there was a TV commercial for some cleaning
product that featured “The White Knight” riding his horse and turning things white with
a touch of his lance. At the Regal Theater, Redd turned that into a bit about the White Knight riding through
Harlem. He pantomimed the lance trick and when he got to me he said, “Looks like he already got him”.
Redd’s presence was evident in the halls of the Sutherland Hotel, too, but not in such a way that I can recount
Probably the greatest lip-syncher ever. You already know about her singing.
Bonnie Franklin, Penny Fuller, Robert Fuller (see Cleveland Amory, above), Zsa Zsa Gabor (see Cleveland
Amory, above), Kelly Garrett,
On The Road At 18.)
Gloria Gaynor, Bobbie Gentry,
During commercial breaks on Dinah! the band would play for the audience.
One tune featured a solo by Ray Pizzi and Dizzy was so impressed he hired him on the spot for a session he was doing the next
day. After the show he invited the band to his dressing room. Truly a nice guy.
I played Beethoven’s G major
piano concerto with him in a pickup orchestra at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the LA County Music Center.
The highlight of the gig as far as I was concerned was the guy sitting behind me, the 1st clarinet player, Don Ransom.
Mona and Renee Golabek,
The Poulenc Concerto For Two Pianos with another pickup orchestra, this one conducted
by Manuel Compinsky. Manny had been the violinist in the Compinsky Trio (with his brother Alec and sister
Sara), a famous chamber ensemble in the early and middle years of the 20th century. He was a formal guy
but funny, with an English accent and a very soft voice and you couldn’t help but have a good time when he was around.
I met him when he recruited me for Mount Saint Mary’s College, where he taught chamber music. Some
thirty years later, I attended a reception at the college and was surprised that my adviser, Sister Maura Jean, was dressed
informally; no more habit. Manny walked in with his new girlfriend, a woman perhaps half his age.
Sister Maura Jean said to me, “Every time I see Mr. Compinsky he’s with a different woman.”
I couldn’t think of a response
“Hey,” she said, “more power to him!” It may
have had something to do with the Second Vatican Council, but don’t ask me. Like a lot of the guys
in the music dept. at MSMC, I’m Jewish.
An excellent clarinet player. He seemed a little shy and didn’t
Mickey Katz’s son. (See
Sonny Criss, above.) He is a good deal more reserved that his parents seemed the night I met them.
Lil Greenwood and René Robin,
(See Sonny Criss, above.)
Like Sammy Davis, he never missed an opportunity to mention my beard. Big
personality--too big perhaps--but not at all difficult to work with, at least in my experience. My most
enduring recollection, though, was getting to one of his sessions early and hearing Jack Nimitz trying out baritone saxophone
reeds. Man, what a sound!
(See Johnny Paycheck, below.)
Dora Hall started her career in vaudeville
and then gave it up when she married the guy who owned the Solo Cup Company, you know, the little paper cups in the holder
by the office water cooler. Years later, he produced a TV special and some records for her.
He made a point of showing up at the sessions and beginning each of them with a diatribe against the musicians union.
Imagine, musicians expecting a living wage and decent working conditions. (See Osmond Bros., below.)
Marvin wrote the theme song for a short-lived tv series called Beacon Hill. It
featured an alto saxophone player who sounded great. No one seemed to know who it was and we assumed it had been recorded
in New York. On one of Marvin's guest appearances on Dinah! I asked him the musician's name.
know, just someone the contractor hired," he said.
John Rodby (see The Dinah Shore Band, below) heard the exchange and told me of a recent conversation he had had with
with Henry Mancini who had also asked Marvin the musician's identity. Marvin's answer was, "who remembers
the names of sidemen on sessions?" Well, Mancini for one (see The Young Americans, below) and a lot of other people,
I guess, or a lot of us would be out of work.
Herbie Hancock, Richard Harris, Isaac Hayes, Sherman Hemsley,
I hired the orchestra for Terence Blanchard's Jazz In
Film cd and Joe was one of the soloists. When he arrived for the session I was introduced to him and told him I had
heard him at a club in Hollywood a few months before.
improved a lot since then," he said.
Sweetening sessions for Freddie’s record Bundle Of Joy.
He wasn’t at the sessions. About a dozen or so years earlier, I had played 1st clarinet at
the Cabrillo Music Festival in Aptos, California. One of the violists was Denis DeCoteau, a nice guy and
interesting and I spent some time with him. I never saw him after that but knew that he had become the
conductor of the San Francisco Ballet. When I walked into Freddie’s date I saw a man I believed to
be Denis on the podium; but what would he be doing here? He saw my confused look, guessed right and said,
“No, I’m his twin brother, Bert.
Janis Ian, Jermaine Jackson, Jan and Dean, Conrad Janis,
The Joffrey Ballet,
Elliot Kaplan, who had studied with Paul Hindemith and Nadia Boulanger,
was not only a great film composer but wrote chamber music, ballets and operas. His opera, Gulliver, was
commissioned for the opening of the Tyrone Guthrie Theater. He did several pieces for the Joffrey Ballet
including Two A Day (a reference to vaudeville), which included soprano saxophone solos in two of the ten movements.
He said he wrote it with me in mind and asked them to hire me when they did the piece in LA. There
were to be five performances spread out over the run but the co-director of the company, Gerald Arpino, got mad, left and
took his ballets with him after the second performance. Because we had a union contract I was paid for
the other three performances but the music was so beautiful and so interesting and fun to play I sure missed doing them.
Elliot’s music was always exciting, challenging, beautiful and interesting.
Once when we had played a particularly difficult “cue” (as the individual pieces in a film score are called),
I asked the librarian to make a copy for me so I could frame it and hang it in my studio. By the time he
got back to the stage, about an hour later, we had played two more cues that were even harder. (For more
on Elliot Kaplan, ask Ron Brown [the great saxophone player, not the government official] the next time you see him.
Mention my name.)
Grace Jones, Shirley Jones,
A truly weird guy, he had the entire Dinah! staff in an uproar when it was announced
that his alter-ego, Tony Clifton, would appear on the show. A memo actually circulated reminding everyone
not to call him Andy. No mistakes! It even got so bad that we started calling
one staff member, Andy Belling, Tony just to avoid any misunderstanding.
& the Sunshine Band, Sally Kellerman, Rose Kennedy, Chaka Khan, B.B.King,
Eartha was invited to the White House by Lady Bird Johnson in 1968. When the subject of the Viet
Nam war came up, she said, "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel
and take pot." Her career suffered but eventually she bounced
back. Another hero. (See Daniel Elsberg and Carol Feraci, above.)
Gladys Knight & The Pips, Kris Kristofferson, Major Lance, k.d. lang, Linda Lavin,
Great vibrato. A lot of flute and oboe players could learn something from her.
Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé,
Dinah asked them the secret of their long marriage and Eydie said it was because, “In all the years,
we have never had a serious conversation about anything.” Good singers and very funny people.
Vicki Lawrence, Peggy Lee, Michel Legrand, Peter Lemongello,
The call came a few minutes after the date had started.
The contractor, Ben Barrett, nobody’s favorite person, had forgot to hire three flute players. I
raced to Capitol Records and only as I entered the building did I stop to wonder what I had gotten myself into.
I calmed down very quickly when I saw Arthur Gleghorn, then the premier flutist in LA, sitting in the room.
I had met him once before but this was the first time I would work with him. He made it easy for
Jay Migliori, the other last-minute flute player, and me. Jay and I talked it over and decided that he
would sit across from Arthur and I would sit next to him and we would compare notes on the break. Arthur,
in his own quiet way, had a real presence; you could feel the excitement when he entered a room. Nevertheless,
he was a nice guy, friendly and helpful and his playing was spectacular. Arthur died in 1980 and eventually
I bought one of his flutes, the very one he played that night, Powell #849. “It’s a dandy,”
wrote Verne Powell, but it’s not what made Arthur great.
A boorish, obnoxious clod. What on earth is (or was) the appeal?
Jerry Lee played Iago in a rock musical version of Othello
called Catch My Soul and, despite the lurid headlines he had generated over the years, seemed like a nice guy.
During rehearsals he hung out with the band. He showed up for work on time, knew his lines and didn’t
cause any problems at all.
Abbey worked on the Black History Month show that I did with Bobby Bryant and Mike Anthony in the mid-1970s.
She was incredibly intense, riveting, a little frightening in fact. (See Bobby Bryant, above.)
Another fine clarinet player, like Peter Graves, but with no discernible humility. What did he accomplish
that made him so (self) important?
Little Richard, Priscilla Lopez, Gloria Loring, The Los Angeles Philharmonic,
The guy who hired me for the
session had a license plate that read “BIRDIZ”. I waited while a horn-player-turned-contractor
struggled with his part. (Same guy as in the Greek Theater incident: See Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant,
Bill Green and Plas Johnson, above.) When it was my turn, a voice from the booth said, “We need the
“Oboe?” said one of the singers.
“We must be coming up in the world.”
Lucien, Lorna Luft,
His appearance at the Regal Theater in 1960 was described as a “comeback”. He was all
of seventeen years old. He tore it up. (See On The Road At 18.)
Paul Lynde, Loretta Lynn,
Jackie “Moms” Mabley,
Moms was in her seventies when I worked with her. She dressed in a bathrobe and slippers
and worked without her teeth. She was very funny.
Probably the worst lip-syncher ever. (See Aretha Franklin,
liked to talk about her father, a bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera when my oboe teacher, Bill Criss, played co-principal
oboe there. Two of the most influential musicians in my life were William “Bill” Criss (1921-1984)
and William “Sonny” Criss (1927-1977). (Actually, Sonny was William Mansfield Turner before
he was adopted by his mother’s second husband, Willie Criss.) They had more in common than just their
names. Each was a unique and fantastic musician and each was a little difficult--maybe “thorny”
would be the word--although I got along great with both of them. Bill had the most beautiful sound of any
oboe player and played classical music with the kind of intensity that characterized Sonny’s jazz playing.
As with Sonny, you could hear Bill's heart in every note. I sure miss those guys.
(See Sonny Criss, above.)
Chuck sure laughed a lot for a guy who, one would hope, wasn’t stoned when he appeared
on national TV.
Barry Manilow, Julienne Marie, William Marshall, Dean
Martin, Steve Martin, Johnny Mathis,
Next time you see John Rodby (see
Dinah Shore Band, below), ask him to do his impression of Andrea singing Tomorrow from Annie. It's pretty funny.
You never know what you’re getting into. The call usually comes
from the contractor’s answering service and goes like: so-and-so has a record date (or TV film, or movie, etc.) for
you. You are given the date, time, length of call, place, leader, etc.
This time (1968) it was at United Recorders with Eddie Karam, a fine arranger. The singer was Rod McKuen.
I was told to bring flute, oboe and English horn. What I wasn’t told (you almost never are)
is what I would be doing with them, in this case, solos on each instrument. The music included one of Eric Satie’s Gymnodédies,
and the orchestra was sizable. The session went very well, word got around and it provided a boost at the
beginning of my career. A couple of years later I worked with Rod again, this time at the Hollywood Bowl.
During a lull I spoke to him. The record had never been released, he said, although another version
of the piece, recorded in England (where it is cheaper to record) had been issued. Several years after
that, he came to Dinah’s Place. I spoke to him and he said he remembered me from that session and
although the record had never been released he would send me a copy. He wrote my name on a little piece
of paper and put it into his pocket. Months later, at Christmas, I received a beautiful… Christmas
card. Once again, this time on Dinah!, I spoke to him. (He’s very accessible and
a nice guy and I know that pestering guest stars is not good for career longevity; I acted judiciously.) He
laughed when I told him about the card and said this time he would attend to it himself. Soon after, I
received a package with what appeared to be every record in his (own label’s) catalog. But still
not the Gymnopéde I had recorded.
Harvey Newmark, my favorite
bass player (see Look Both Ways, Otherworld Music and The Davie Code), occasionally works with Rod and agrees that he’s
a real nice guy. I wonder if…nah, I give up.
Melvin & the Blue Notes, Robert Merrill, Ann Miller, Roger Miller, Liza Minnelli,
Martha Mitchell appeared on Dinah's Place
early in the second season. She was the wife of John Mitchell, Attorney General under Richard Nixon. For
anyone too young to remember, Nixon was a crook who became president of the United States. (Nixon and his
vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, also a crook, both resigned from office. See Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carol
Feraci, above.) When the Watergate scandal broke, Mrs. Mitchell began a series of phone calls to people
in the media with what at first seemed like bizarre charges. The administration went on a campaign to discredit
her but in an interview (for which Nixon received $600,000) the disgraced ex-president said, "If it hadn't been for
Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate."
A number of Watergate conspirators were indicted and many served time in prison.
The Monkees, Chris
Montez, Dudley Moore, Rita Moreno,
Pat Boone, above.)
A fine singer, Holly is an extraordinary
human being, selfless and generous. She could have had a much higher entertainment industry profile but
chose instead to work her entire life for social causes and peace. A fantastic person.
The New Seekers, Wayne Newton, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Ochs, Donald O'Connor, Ludwig
Olshansky, Tony Orlando & Dawn,
The Osmond Bros.,
Nice kids. Some of the sessions were at a studio called MGM Fairfax (later called Cherokee) and
some were in a studio in an apartment building the Osmonds owned in West LA. At one of the sessions in
the apartment building, their father, George, started the session by telling us “if it weren’t for the musicians
union we would make some real money.” Shades
of the Solo Cup guy (see Dora Hall, above). I don’t think “we” included the musicians.
And I'm pretty sure the Osmonds made some real money.
Owens, The Pacific Symphony, Priscilla Paris,
with Dolly on the set of a TV movie, Unlikely Angel. She made everyone around her, extras, crew, band and
all, feel important. She posed for pictures with anyone who asked and if they didn’t like the way
the first one turned out she would pose again. Her brother in law, one of the musicians, told me she was
always like that no matter how long or difficult the day or what the circumstances. And on heels that looked
I worked on her cd What Sweeter Christmas. The instrumentation included string quartet,
wind quintet, harp and piano, with some synthesized percussion. Not all the instruments were on every track.
She sings beautifully and Shelly Berg’s orchestrations should be studied for how to achieve great variety with
relatively few resources.
(See Dennis Weaver, below.)
asked Johnny Paycheck (or was it Merle Haggard--I can’t tell country singers apart) what kind of music he liked.
“Anything with a heart and soul,” he said. I considered finding out how to contact him
so I could send him a Bach Aria Group recording, but thought better of it.
and Herb, Minnie Pearl, Bernadette Peters, Esther Phillips, Scotty Plummer, Iggy Pop,
I think the reason Clare Fischer lasted so long with Prince is that they never met.
and versatile guitarist, Carsten plays jazz, Bach and Berio. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately
when we met at Music Omi in 2001. (See Look Both Ways.) (See artomi.org.)
Dinah Shore asked Tony when and where, if he had his choice, he would like to have lived.
“1828 Vienna,” he said. She asked him why.
Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann were there.”
Mozart died in 1791.
Haydn died in 1809.
Beethoven died in 1827.
Schubert died in 1828 (one right out of five!).
Schumann lived 1810-1856
(but doesn’t seem to have spent much time in Vienna and none of it when he was eighteen.)
Tony was actually a nice guy, however historically challenged he may have been. On another show, near the
end of our run, the only time he ever sang on the show, he was very complimentary when I played a clarinet solo in one of
Boots Randolph, Kenny Rankin, Johnny Ray,
the slightly manic exterior is a heart of gold. During the time Jerry Fielding was blacklisted, she employed
him to write arrangements for her nightclub shows, a brave thing to do. (See Jazz Generations, Buddy Collette’s
autobiography [with Steven Isoardi], for more about Fielding and the blacklist.) She once gave funny T-shirts
to the band on Dinah! And she is said to have been an excellent French horn player.
Marlene Ricci, Marty Robbins, Robert and Johnny,
Near the end of my first season on the Carol Burnett Show I began to worry about how
I was going to get through the summer without depleting my savings. My goal was to accumulate $500 so I
could pay the rent ($125 a month!) on my apartment in West LA. The other musicians were older, well established
and in some cases very well known (Buddy Collette, Red Callender, Jimmy Rowles, Don Fagerquist, etc.). Some
had trips scheduled, others had studio work, some just planned to stay around home.
I expressed my concern to the baritone saxophone player, Chuck Gentry, another legend, who sat next to me. “What
are you worried about? he asked. They’ll rerun the show and you’ll be making money hanging
out at the beach.”
Then the producers announce that there would be no reruns
that summer, there would be a summer replacement show starring Jimmie Rogers.
“See,” said Chuck. You’ll do the summer show and make a lot more than $500.
Then the producers announced that our conductor, Harry Zimmerman, would not do Jimmie’s show. Instead
it would be Frank Comstock, who had no idea who I was. Ditto Frank’s contractor, Bobby Helfer, the
biggest contractor of that era. Back to square one.
A little Twilight Zone music if you please: Jimmie and his wife separated and Jimmie moved in with his road manager, Gene
Behrman, who lived in the same twelve unit apartment building where I lived. Jimmie heard me practicing
and we got to talking and I told him I was in the Burnett Show band. He asked me if I would like to work
on his show. I said I would but that Frank Comstock (who turned out to be a very nice guy and a fantastic
arranger) might have other ideas.
“But it’s my show,” Jimmie
said. He went to a meeting in Lake Tahoe, where Frank was working, and when he mentioned it Frank was initially
skeptical. Jimmie held his ground and finally Frank agreed that if his two regular oboe doublers, Gene
Cipriano and Jules Jacob, turned it down, he would hire me. They did and he did. It
was a huge boost to my career; it led to my introduction to Bobby Helfer and almost immediately I was working
Jimmie had had big hit records and made movies yet remained a sweet,
humble guy. He went to bat for me and I will never forget it.
Rogers, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans,
showed up at CBS with Redd Foxx one day and there was a pistol sticking out of his back pocket. At least
it stayed in his pocket. (See Danny Thomas, below.)
I was riding with Buddy Collette
on Wilshire Blvd. near Crescent Heights one day and Mickey honked his horn and yelled a greeting to Buddy. Buddy
is that kind of guy: famous people want to be seen with him. Another time it was Sammy Davis, yelling to
him from his Rolls-Royce. Hanging out with Buddy was always an adventure. (Read Buddy
Collette’s autobiography [with Steven Isoardi], Jazz Generations.) (See Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant,
Bill Green and Plas Johnson, above.)
Diana Ross, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The
San Diego Symphony, The San Francisco Ballet, Ronnie Schell, Seals and Crofts, Neil Sedaka, George Segal, Doc Severinson,
I worked on Shatner's first album. He got to the session, discovered he couldn’t sing and talked the lyrics. No one seems to
think it’s a very good record.
& Lee (and, years later, “Shirley & Co.”),
When I was a kid, despite the best efforts of my parents, who played recordings of The Nutcracker and The Love For
Three Oranges for me, the only music I listened to was pop. The Four Aces and Frankie Layne were favorites,
but I also liked The Crows and The Chords, r&b groups that crossed over onto the pop charts. In ninth
grade I discovered r&b for real. I was fascinated, not the least by Shirley & Lee.
Her squeaky voice, his bad intonation-- what more would I need to annoy the grown-ups around me?
In 1960, I worked with Shirley & Lee at the Regal Theater. (See On The Road At 18.) Some
fifteen or so years later, I looked at the day’s schedule on Dinah! which listed something called Shirley & Company.
Sure enough it was her, Shirley Goodman. I spoke to her but she didn’t remember me (or Redd
Foxx’s joke). I asked her what became of Lee. What does become of an r&b singer
when the magic fades before the big money comes rolling in?
“Oh,” she said, “he finished his masters and he’s a social worker in New Orleans.”
what becomes of an r&b singer when the magic fades before the money comes rolling in.
Dick Shawn, Lucy Shelton,
Dinah was great and I loved working on her show. She
had been a very big star for a very long time with all that goes with it--including a lot of people telling her what they
thought she wanted to hear--yet she was easy to work with, fun to be around. In all the years I worked
with her, I don’t remember anything to suggest she was less than genuine.
She had been away from TV for several years when Dinah’s Place started in 1970. Despite a lot of
fumbled balls at the beginning while the producers completed their on-the-job training, the show was a hit. The
show was cancelled after the fourth season, in which it won an Emmy. Word was that the cancellation was
the work of one executive at NBC who didn’t like Dinah, perhaps the only such person in the world. (I
always interpreted Oscar Levant’s “I can’t watch Dinah Shore, I’m diabetic” as affectionate.
I guess Dinah’s “Buttons and Bows” image left more of an impression than her “Chamber Music
Society Of Lower Basin Street one.) CBS jumped in immediately and Dinah!, a ninety minute daytime talk
show, began in September of that year.
Maybe the producers’ training wasn’t
so complete after all. Dinah’s Place had had one song, Dinah’s, in each show and if there was
a musical guest (or an unmusical one who sang anyway) maybe one more. Someone multiplied the music budget
by three (thirty minute show to ninety minute show) and calculated what the music would cost. Someone,
however, didn’t take into account that the new show was often wall-to-wall music; costs soared and immediately budget
experts were dispatched to the Coast to figure out what was wrong. It was pandemonium at first and although
it calmed down after a while, there was always a sort of tension.
The executive producer the entire ten years was Henry Jaffe. Somehow, Henry and I hit it off; he had no
relationship with any of the other musicians or in fact any of the other workers except some of the writers. One
day, after a month or so of Dinah!, I returned early from lunch and saw him sitting alone in the audience. He
invited me to sit with him and said,
“I was born during the recession of
1907 but I did all right for myself. There were many years when I made more than a million dollars.
This is the first time I’ve ever worked for anyone else (CBS) and I’ve never made this much money.”
At some point CBS bowed out and Henry, Dinah and an accountant, Murray
Neidorf, owned the show, which went into syndication. Money became even more of an issue. The
band was cut from eight to six and there was considerably less music. One night, on the way home from work,
I stopped at Canter’s Delicatessen to get a bagel for the next morning. Henry, his daughter, Margaret,
and a comedy writer, Jay Burton, were having dinner and invited me to join them. Henry started in almost
“Why do I have to pay you to double?” (“Doubling”
means playing more than one instrument and the union contract requires higher pay. See Lazy Dogmas Of Impossibility.)
“After all, I’m giving you year-round work.”
I asked him why he didn’t bring it up at negotiations when the contract expired. (I knew it was pretty
safe; that issue had been settled years ago and was not likely to change.) He brushed off the suggestion.
He started in on the bandleader, John Rodby, a fantastic pianist and arranger.
(See The Dinah Shore Band, below.) I told him that I didn’t think any musician in the world
could have done that job (or a lot of others) as well.
“Oh, yeah,” he
said, “what about André Previn?” I pointed out that Andre was probably not available
to work for scale on a daily TV show.
He calmed down and as I left he said, “anyway,
you’re a fine fellow.” I never found out what the attraction was.
At the start of Dinah! Carolyn Raskin was hired as “Co-Executive” producer. One day, at the
beginning of rehearsal, no one was in the studio but Dinah and the band. Dinah commented on how nice the
weather was. John Rodby, who lived in Woodland Hills and ordinarily took the freeway to work, said, “yeah,
I drove through Topanga Canyon and along the coast today.”
There was a pause and Dinah said, “what do you say we get out of here?” We snuck out of the
studio and crossed the parking lot to a large outdoor market separated from CBS by a chain link fence. We
walked around to the various stalls, bought food and went up to the roof of the studio and were in the midst of a picnic when
Carolyn tracked us down. Relations with the band were strained ever after. At
one point, she had a party for the entire staff--but not us. When someone asked where the band was, she
said, “The kind of money we pay them, they can have their own party.” Dinah heard that and
didn’t like it. She invited us and our guests to her house for dinner and a showing of Young Frankenstein,
recently released. If you never had dinner at Dinah Shore’s house you don’t know what you are
Fred Tatashore worked his way up from stage manager
to producer, third in line after Henry and Carolyn. Fred did most of of the nuts-and-bolts stuff; he was
capricious and arbitrary and often indecisive but he was a genius at putting together incendiary combinations of guests.
One show included Tom Waits and William F. Buckley (see Tom Waits, below.) Another paired Sammy
Davis, Jr. and Ben Vereen (see Ben Vereen, below). Yet another included songs by Dennis Weaver and Luciano
Pavarotti (see Dennis Weaver, below).
The Dinah Shore Band,
The band was fantastic. Quickly, word got around that our versatility was such that
no one need bring a backup band onto the show; we could play their music as well as, or better than, the people who traveled
with them. It was true.
Dinah’s Place started with a six piece
band. The leader was John Rodby, who had worked with Dinah for a couple of years at that point.
When she decided to return to performing after a hiatus, she called several people who had worked with her previously.
None were available; all recommended John Rodby, not long out of college and living a pretty spare existence.
She was immediately impressed. John apparently knows every song ever written and can play them in
any key, in any style at any tempo. His technique is extraordinary, his touch beautiful. He
is a great jazz player and has a degree in (classical) piano performance. And he’s hilarious.
John’s first engagement with Dinah was at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
in New York. The orchestra at the Waldorf in those days was said to be “unruly” at best.
That was the word Dinah used and she’s very polite. She said that from the beginning of the
first rehearsal John had them sounding disciplined and professional and that the performance went smoothly. Between
shows, he knocked on her dressing room door. He told her that it had been the first time he had ever conducted
an orchestra. By then she had been completely won over but she told us that if she had known that, she
would have hired a more experienced conductor for that engagement. Needless to say, when Dinah’s
Place started, John was to be the leader. From the first rehearsal of the first Dinah’s Place show,
the band sounded great.
At the beginning, the band included Dick Hammergren, a trumpet
player John had met on Si Zentner’s road band. Dick had settled in Las Vegas after leaving the road
and when Dinah’s Place started he commuted to LA for the show while keeping his Vegas gig. Soon,
he moved to LA but after a few years quit and moved to Denver. His replacement was Warren Luening, one
of the most successful trumpet players in LA history. So successful, in fact, that he was hardly ever there.
A number of fine trumpet players subbed, primarily Bob Findley, a great player and arranger, renowned teacher and all-round
nice guy. Like Warren’s, Bob’s success was inevitable. Others were Bobby
Shew, Jay Daversa and Bill Stapleton, jazz players who had no trouble handling the commercial requirements.
The original bass player was Don Greif who had traveled with Dinah on her tours prior to the beginning of the TV show.
He was replaced early in the second season by Ernie McDaniel, a great musician and a friendly, funny guy.
John Morell was the guitar player, a great jazz and commercial musician
who came from a family of guitar players. His father, Lou and his brother Tom were both successful studio
musicians. John was touring Europe with Shelly Manne when the show started and for the first few weeks
Mike Anthony (see Bobby Bryant, above) replaced him. John left the show during the first year of Dinah!
and was replaced by Barry Zweig.
Mark Stevens was a versatile drummer who
could play in any of the styles (and there were many) that were required over the ten years.
When the show expanded to ninety minutes the band expanded to eight with the addition of Ray Pizzi on reeds and Randy Aldcroft,
trombone. That lasted until Henry Jaffe and Murray Neidorf took over and returned to the six-piece instrumentation.
Over the years, Mike Altschul, Vic Morosco, Lanny Morgan and Bob Hardaway subbed on reeds.
John Rodby would never “phone it in”. Over the ten years I don’t ever remember an arrangement
that didn’t have something of musical interest, no matter how restrictive the assignment or limited the performer.
Sometimes he would be writing for the evening show (we taped two a day, three days a week) while the afternoon show
was still in progress, but as harrowing as things could get or as fast as he had to work, there was never anything perfunctory.
It’s too bad that band couldn’t have existed independent of the show.
Lonnie Shore, Bobby Short,
Trilogy was recorded live (no overdubs) by a 100 piece orchestra, a huge
chorus and Frank, a real pro.
Frank Sinatra, Jr.,
Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Smothers Bros., Suzanne Somers,
Jim Stafford, Sylvester Stallone, Starbuck, Kay Starr, Gloria Steinem, Barrett Strong, Sally Struthers,
Tom Sullivan, Loretta Swit, David Tanenbaum, Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna,
Danny Thomas was a guest on Dinah! on several occasions and on one of them, after the show had finished,
he stood next to the bandstand while we were packing up, took a gun out of his pocket and proceeded to load it.
It got real quiet. The next day at rehearsal we told Dinah what had happened. She
told us another story. She said that he kept a knife in a holster at his ankle. One
day on the golf course he forgot it was there, felt something, reached down and almost cut off his finger. Like
Timmie Rogers, a good guy to stay away from. (See Timmie Rogers, above.)
Irma Thomas, Mel Tillis, Tiny Tim,
A fine singer but thoroughly self-absorbed. He was a guest all three years I did the
Carol Burnett Show and occasionally on one or another of Dinah’s shows.
The arranger on the Burnett Show was Harry Zimmerman, a little crotchety and very arbitrary but a good arranger, if a little
old fashioned. Harry had written a typically lush background for one of Mel’s appearances and Mel
decided to flex his muscles. He started to change the arrangement a little at a time. He
would suggest (demand, actually) a change and we would rehearse it. Another change, another run-through.
After each alteration he would ask Red Callender, our bass player and a jazz legend, “that’s a good idea,
isn’t it Red?”
“It must be lonely
at the top,” Red said.
Finally it was just the way he wanted it and the show went
fine. The next night I went to a revival theater in Hollywood to see a couple of 1930s movies. During
intermission I was on the stairway to the rest room and ahead of me was Mel Tormé. But Mel wasn’t
going to the rest room; he invited himself into the projectionist’s booth and (I paused just outside to listen) suggested
a better lens. It must be lonely at the top.
Torres, Tina Turner, Jerry Vale,
Vaughn was a fantastic singer and a great musician, and, according to Ernie McDaniel, who knew her pretty well, a very nice
person. Billy Eckstine spoke of her lovingly. (See Billy Eckstine, above.)
he was more subtle about it, Ben had the same need as Sammy Davis, Jr. for attention. Once they were booked
on the same Dinah! show and Ben began to talk about Sammy. He spoke glowingly but never once referred to
him by name, only as “this man”. He was alone on camera, seen in close-up for the entire long
soliloquy and anyone who tuned in after it had started would have heard the nice guy with the angelic face saying wonderful
things about someone. But who? As the segment wore on (and on) and the camera never
strayed from Ben, Sammy’s face became contorted with rage. None of that was caught on camera, no
doubt a wise decision by the director, Glenn Swanson.
Another of Fred Tatashore’s brainstorms paired Tom Waits with William F. Buckley. I
was able to speak to Tom briefly and asked him to ask Buckley why, if he’s so smart, he’s always wrong.
“It opens up a can of worms,”
During the show there was a question and answer session with the audience
and someone asked the very same question. Tom turned to the band and smiled and gave a thumbs-up.
Later in the show, Dinah asked each of the guests (I don’t remember the others) what he or she had learned in
high school. The answers, predictably enough, were long on platitudes until she came to Tom.
“I learned to smoke,” he said.
Jimmie "JJ" Walker,
Yet another unusual combination was the show that featured two singers, Dennis Weaver and Luciano Pavarotti.
Dennis had been a guest on Dinah’s Place and had attempted, without much success, to recite Desiderata--remember
the poem that was for a while thought to have been written in 1692 but turns out to have been a 20th Century creation by someone
named Max Ehrmann? This time Dennis chose to send us into overtime with a song. He rehearsed
first, before Pavarotti, with only the piano, bass, guitar and drums. Warren Luening and I went to the
Green Room to watch Monday Night Football. After a while, Robert Wagner, another guest on the show, stuck
his head into the room.
“Who’s winning,” he asked.
I couldn’t resist. “So far it’s Dennis Weaver but Pavarotti hasn’t finished warming
Dennis seems like a nice guy, he just can’t
sing or recite.
Lawrence Welk, Anson
After budgets had been cut and ratings were starting to slip, Dinah! became a show called
Dinah And Friends, the friends being revolving co-hosts Don Meredith, Fernando Lamas, Charles Nelson Reilly and Paul Williams.
They were all nice guys and, I think, added to the show. Paul spent his breaks hanging out with
the band. He was very successful as a songwriter and singer, but he was just one of the guys around us.
Brian’s sister-in-law, Diane Rovell, called me for the session, to be held at his mansion in Bel
Air. (Plas Johnson was right. See The Beach Boys, above.) I arrived
in plenty of time for the 2PM start but was told that Brian had just awakened and was meditating. Then
came breakfast (his, not ours). Finally, at around 4:20, we were ready to start.
The music was written on school notebook music paper and copied in soft pencil. The notes didn’t
stand out much from the paper and it was a little hard to read. It was notated chorale style, four parts
and not rhythmically intricate. I was told to play the third line on English horn, which meant transposing,
something I’d rather not have to do, especially since I had to pick my notes out of the four. Brian’s
father came into the studio, said something about Lawrence Welk, and counted off the rehearsal. Strangely,
the session went smoothly and didn’t go all that far overtime.
One of his other sessions
was held at a studio in Hollywood and involved ten saxophones, bass and drums, too much for the studio in his house.
Of course none of us were told what to bring and the studio was full of woodwind instruments, probably over a hundred.
When Brian arrived, less than an hour late, he stood in the doorway, slapped himself on the forehead and said, “Oh,
I forgot the arrangements.”
He asked what we had brought and settled
on seven tenors, two baritones and a bass. He proceeded to construct an arrangement on the spot and we
For all his peculiarities, in my experience
he was not difficult to work with.
Barry White, Nancy Wilson, Henry Winkler, Stevie Wonder,
Chuck Woolery, Tammy Wynette,
The Young Americans,
gift from Plas. (See Buddy Collette, Jewell Grant, Bill Green and Plas Johnson, above.) The
show, Henry Mancini and The Young Americans, was at the Greek Theater in LA and Plas sent me to sub for The Young Americans
half. Almost all of Mancini’s regular woodwind players did the show. (Ronny Lang
was the exception.) It was a fantastic opportunity to work with a lot of great, successful musicians.
Among them were Ted Nash, Bud Shank, John Lowe, Harry Klee and Ethmer Roten, (who had “the best flute sound I’ve
ever heard,” said Mancini) and it provided a big boost to my career as well as a real learning experience.
Henny Youngman, Pia Zadora, Frank Zappa,