Auld Clang Syne – Redux

I’ve added a couple of stories to my last post, both of which came to me later amid all the NYE gig memories. One of them is about Rob McConnell and has nothing to do with NYE except that it was prompted by the joke about the pianist who knows only three tunes. The other is a cherished NYE memory of Alice Allair, one of many I have about that dear and now much-missed lady. Sorry for the late inclusions, but I feel both stories are worth the rereading and as usual. there’s no admission fee.

Again, Flappy Glue Near.


Auld Clang Syne

Back in the good old days when there was still an actual music business, all musicians worked New Year’s Eve. I mean everybody, except for the elite guys who didn't want to, or have to. It didn't even matter if you were any good or not; demand was high enough that you had some kind of a gig that night even if you weren't ready, if only to provide a semi-warm body on a bandstand somewhere. These 'general business' gigs paid at least double-scale for that night, so in the ‘70s you could walk away with $250 as a sideman - later $400 or $500 – which was pretty good money in those days. It usually meant a considerable amount of abject bandstand suffering and put you right in touch with your inner musical prostitute. But the payoff kept the wolf from the door during the always lean month of January, when musicians’ date-books resembled blizzards. You know, all white pages, no gigs written down. It was not unusual back then to have a NYE gig booked as early as the summer, and once you were booked, it was locked in, iron-clad. You had to give the leader a virtual guarantee signed in blood that you would be there come hell or high water, failing death – and maybe not even then. The last thing you wanted was to be double-booked on NYE, you would never find a sub. It was a kind of gig Russian roulette – did you take the sure thing that came along early, or hold out for a better offer that might come along later? These were the questions that kept working musicians awake nights more [...]

Birth of the Yule

Years ago around Christmas time, I was hanging out with John Sumner and some other musicians after a gig, listening to some records and having a few tastes. We got to kidding around, combining Christmas carols with jazz tunes to form song-title puns. As I recall, "Joy Spring To the World", "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Sing, Sing", "Silent Night In Tunisia", "Sippin' At Jingle Bells", "What Child Is This Thing Called Love?" and "O Little Rootie Tootie Town of Bethlehem" were among the ones we came up with. Many years later I started writing as a hobby, well before I had a blog site. My first 100 pieces or so were about baseball, sent by email to a slowly growing circle of fellow baseball fans on a group list. It was a way of keeping us entertained over the long winter months and when I started branching out and writing a few things about music I created a second email-list of jazz people. As Christmas approached in 2010, something made me remember the old Christmas-jazz song-puns and I sent out a few of them along with some new ones, explaining the origin and how they were put together. I proposed a sort of seasonal game, encouraging friends to write in with their ideas and takes on this to see how many jazz-Christmas hybrids we could come up with and how cringe-worthy or clever these might be. I wondered about the response, but needn't have. It didn't take long. My friend Bill McDonald was the first to jump all over this. Though not a musician by trade, he plays pretty more [...]