Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Coincidences

Bar Hopping
For some strange reason, I'm getting invited out to drinking bouts with so far gentle regularity, but regularity enough that if it continues, it's going to get rough.

Most of my friends are musicians. Very talented, too, I might add. Though, and I'm sad to say, mostly unknown to most of the world, though they are liberally self-advertised all over the Internet. You know, you type in my friend the drummer's name and hell, he's all over, described as one of the world's leading drummers, blah, blah, blah. Yet, I know the guy; I know he has to keep a day job to survive. I also know, I, definitely a totally unknown legend in music, work with this drummer a hell of a lot, so I guess, using my newly found "backward logic," that makes me one of the world's leading singers, or "blues" singer as this one chick flautist/singer insists on calling me. I never thought of myself as a singer, though, like Nat "King" Cole, I was told I either started singing or I didn't work, so, hell, like Nat "King" Cole, I started singing. Was Nat "King" Cole a blues singer? Nat "King" Cole was what I really am, too; he was a great piano player, and so am I. I'm devoted to the damn piano. I care less whether anybody likes my singing, but my piano playing, that's different.

Me and the old piano go back to when I was 7 years old and my mother, a piano player herself who specialized in the W.C. Handy Songbook and could wail "Memphis Blues" like a pro, the one I requested her to play everytime she was talked into playing (she was a God-fearing Christian woman, I'm sad to say, so after her conversion, playing the devil's music, and the blues was certainly music that flowed right straight up from the bars and dives of hell to refresh this balmy Christian air up here in this rosy crucifixion of a world--so, though she often was excited about playing, she would have to ask God's forgiveness and then she'd play one tune and that would be it). My mother played damn good stride piano. She could read music so she learned her Handy right from Mr. Handy's handwriting--his own sheet music of his compositions--with his own left hand instructions and syncopation marks. See what I mean? My mother was playing Handy's music the way he had written it adding her own feelings as they boogied out of her as she wiggled her booty through that "Memphis Blues."

Back in 1963, I went to a Dallas nightclub with my special woman of the time, I called her "Liz" and she called me "Dick," because it was the time of many "Liz and Dick" intrigues, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, doing their Hollywood shennanigan thing--you know, divorcing their latest husbands and wives to marry each other only to divorce a few months later because the drinking, the work pressures, the pill taking, the drinking, the diamond buying and both their extreme egos, and the drinking eventually sent them both into therapy, I think hurting old Dick Burton more than it did Liz Taylor. So this woman and I ran around as Liz and Dick--and, by Godfrey Daniels, my Liz was prettier than the real Liz, who I thought was already looking downhill by the time old ruddy F-up Dick banged her into submission.

So this beautiful woman and I went to this Dallas nightclub, it was called the Swiss Chalet if you'd like to check me out, to hear one of my all-time favs, Jack Teagarden--I just remembered that Liz and I signed the club's guest book that night as "Mr. and Mrs. Carl Crude"--boy, those were the days, my friends.

Anyway, as we settled down with our bags of booze and ordered the necessary setups [you see, in 1963, you couldn't serve mixed drinks in bars in Dallas, so what you did was, you brought your own bottle in a paper sack to the club and then, for a price, the club provided setups: a bucket of ice and big bottles of soda, tonic, or Coke. You mixed your own drinks, don't you see--mine was CC and 7 and hers was Seagram's and 7--oh we were so compatible!].

The lights went down and out stepped old Jack Teagarden (he was with a trumpet player I had gone to college with, Don Jacoby, and a North Texas State University jazz school rhythm section, two of whom I also knew) and the first thing old Jack does is sidle over to the mic and say, "I'd like to open with a tune that I basically grew up on, Mr. Handy's music being a particular favorite with my piano-playing mother." And you can figure out the rest; yes, it was "Memphis Blues," and you see, old Jack (his brother Charlie was a great trumpet player) was born and raised in Vernon, Texas, which is only a few crow's flights from where I'm from--yeah, much later, me being many years younger than Jack at that time, but still the same wind-blown soil, the same high skies, and the same heat in the hells of summer and freezing cold in the bitter hells of winter.

The Coincidences Continue
You will note how I'm suddenly hung up on coincidental occurences in my life. It is amazing to me how coincidental the best things in our lives are. I suppose that's because we are always plugged into our lifestyles which naturally lead us into coincidental experiences.

For instance, there is a coincidence connected with this Jack Teagarden coincidence of his playing my mother's and his mother's favorite Handy tune. Only a brief time later--in May of 1964--after my wife and I had moved to New Orleans, we were going out and eating and drinking at a different great place every night and this night we were in Your Father's Moustache on Bourbon. Anybody recall those Your Father's Moustache chains? They were Dixieland-based clubs, and we had gone there especially to hear old Turk Murphy, a San Francisco-based white Dixielander who played a weird bassy trombone--old tailgate New Orleans style. Turk, I believe, is on some of the early Jazz at the Phiharmonic recordings.

We sat at a table for two along the back wall of this big joint. It was a cosy table with a dim but warm table light--candles on restaurant tables were yet in fashion in those days--we called what they used then "table lights," cylinder-shaped electric lamps with umbrella heads that gave off a dull orangy sort of light through their orangy glass shades. We ate like ravenous wolves that night, then we ordered big schooners of Regal beer (lager spelled backwards) and a tub of raw peanuts and settled down to enjoy the raucus music of Turk and the boys from the West Coast.

Though I had been sitting by it for at least an hour, I hadn't noticed it until my wife said, and she was blind as a bat so I now wonder how she even noticed it, "What does that plaque behind that light say? Can you read it?" "Wha! Plaque...what the hell...oh...." And, yes, there it was, a brass plaque screwed in the wall, very small, indiscreet. I moved the lamp away from it so the light hit directly on it. It said, "This club was formerly the Dreamland Ballroom. It was on this stage, on January 14th, 1964, that trombone great Jack Teagarden played his last set before returning to his hotel where he was found alone in his room dead the next morning, January 15th, 1964."

I had been married in Dallas on January 11, 1964. I had come to New Orleans to find us an apartment right around the 15th. I stayed at the Jung Hotel over on Canal, but the rental office where I went to look at their list of cool French Quarter apartments, was on Conti, right off Bourbon. Maybe, you won't believe this, and I may be off a day at the most, but I might have been in that rental office the morning Jack died at the Prince Conti Hotel, which was--you guessed it--right across the street. Holy shit.

I'm haunted by these coincidences suddenly. I can tag a million of 'em together, a million of 'em--that was Jimmy Durante's line everytime he told a joke--and the Schnozzola was a damn good piano player, too, who started his entertainment life playing the piano on the Bowery in NYC. Jack led an interesting life, starting off in far West Texas like he did. Check it out:

Here We Go Again
Well, I'm all showered and shaved and preparing to go down to the East Village to do some drinking with a couple of the boys, one of them the world famous drummer I mentioned before and the other one another friend from Michigan, an artist, but a musician, too. We're just gonna hang, as we say. And, yes, tomorrow, we will suffer from the hang--that's why it's called a hangover I suppose. But I'll have a hangover tomorrow morning but I'll have a hell of a time tonight.

I'll be collecting more coincidences maybe.

for The Daily Growler

A Daily Growler Note:
It seems that Israel is doing its best to start World War III. I like the way Georgie Porgie, our "president," is having to sidestep all over the place on this one. Remember, some of his and his Pappy's biggest backers are Saudis--I mean, come on, Prince Bandar Bush is in this mix--Saudis hate Israel the same as all those Middle-East Islamic regimes, especially the poor old hapless Palestinians--these poor blessed souls who have had no peace or prosperity since Israel was mandated by the UN in 1947. WWIII will be a HOLY HELL war. Don't you worry, the nukes will be flying wildly all over the place. These assholes just love this god-damn WAR bullshit. I can't understand it. Peace of any kind is so much nicer than war or any kind. We are ruled by the wealthy. They get wealthier during wars.

War on, you war whores!

1 comment:

liz said...

My dad was just telling us stories about a bar called "Your Father's Moustache" in Denver -- he said they played French music and on Wednesdays sold glasses of champagne to the ladies for a nickel and my mom would dance on the tabletops.