Paul Whiteman’s TV show, and spending New Year’s Eve with Ella Fitzgerald
The caravan swung into a large indoor covered arena and there where several thousand people already sitting there waiting for our procession. (Dude, you gotta remember this was way before iPhones and Twitter, ya dig?) Our float pulls up to the front of the arena, positioned directly in front of the grandstand. After some very loud and garbled speeches, and introductions that were equally loud and garbled, we started to play "S'Wonderful" and "September in the Rain" on cue. During my eight-bar solo, I remember someone shoving a microphone up the bell of my horn and a half-a-second later hearing another garbled sound spilling out of the house speakers thousands of feet away. We finished playing and the people went wildapplauding and cheering us with great vigor. Hey, we were from Hollywood!
It was about 4 p.m. and we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We were to leave for home the next morning. What to do? Well, I remember that we went to see the Liberty Bell. (It wasn't what is was cracked up to be.) In that part of town, the streets were all cobblestone. Well, we did the next logical thing: We went to a burlesque show. My first! What spoiled it for me was that I kept thinking that one of the ladies might be someone's mother. (No, I was never a Boy Scout.) The next day, we flew back home to Los Angeles, California.
End of storyexcept for a few after shots: The Paul Whiteman radio show in Philadelphia was called "The TV Teen Club." Remember, the word teenager didn't even exist when I was one. Bill Haley and Allen Freed helped to give it status, especially when Madison Avenue discovered that kids 13-and-up had access to their parents' cashand hence, buying power. The staff announcer reading a Tootsie Roll commercial that day was a very young Dick Clark. ...As for Pee Wee Marquette, I don't know if being three-foot-nine-inches qualified him to be called a midget, but that's what all of the musicians that worked the room called himusually preceded by the words "that fucking little." You see, Pee Wee used to shake down the cats playing at Birdland by deliberately mispronouncing their names when announcing them to the people or on live recordings dates at the club. No one, but no one, was exempt from Pee Wee's wrath. There has been some speculation as to whether he was, in fact, a she. Terry Gibbs has told me many stories about playing Birdland, and about Pee Wee. The best was when Lester (Prez) Young said to Pee Wee: "Get away from me, you sawed-off half-a-motherfucker!..." Al's brother's first name: Was it Tim? Naw, I don't think so.
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