In The Back Room'
An E-mail reply regarding a question
about the Orchestra's arranging staff
Colin Glascol wrote:
'I am intrigued as to how Kenton's
arrangers were always able to come-up with new and exciting charts. Can
you give us some background.'
You asked about
the arrangers . . .
Keep in mind that
even though all the arrangers had a keen aptitude for being able to
& write within the skeletal framework of the Kenton Sound each used
highly personalized constructions which pinpointed their own individual
styles. It didn't take long for a practiced ear to begin picking-up on
the many, rather personal musical signposts they left scattered across
their original and very innovative manuscripts.
Each had a particular
forte. Lennie Niehaus, for example, was responsible for the Orchestra's
dance band arrangements, marked by one or more artfully improvised
Bill Holman was
renowned for big, bravado-filled production numbers which became a
of the Kenton Orchestra and always included a series of climax chords
the conclusion of the chart which enabled Stan to control the marvelous
tension that ensued as the Orchestra thundered back to earth in a
of sliding, stair-step augmented 11th, 13th & 15th chords.
Gene Roland was
the master of the riff. Often referred to in black oriented bands as
the 'lick.' Although simple in format and easy to follow he engendered
his creations with an extraordinary grasp of how and when to open-up
Willis (Holman) he delighted in taking megaton blocks of sound and
them into a thousand pieces so they had a precise amount of buoyancy
appeared to float along the time line. Roland, to Stan's continual
was also hell bent on swinging the Band. In fact, there is a large
somewhere that contains all the charts Gene wrote which Stan felt
much too much like material done for the Herman, Rich & Basie
All of whom the very eclectic Roland contributed to while whipping-off
charts for the Kenton Band.
Capable of playing
any and all of the instruments in the Orchestra he worked closely with
Stan to subtly change the instrumentation used in the various sections.
It was he who was responsible for adding a fifth trumpet (two of which
would share the lead and high work) along with a fifth trombone. Later
suggested using three tenor trombones driving above two bass trombones,
ultimately leading to one of the instruments doubling on tuba.
Stan & Johnny
Richards may have hit upon using the mellophonium and handling all the
grunt work to make them work, but it was Roland who gave the instrument
life and vitality and proved what a lyrical instrument it could be in
hands of someone who knew what the hell they were doing. Roland's
solos on 'Misty' and on all the tracks included on the 'Adventures In
album rank as legendary, classic Kenton masterpieces.
only Gene & later, Ray Starling, were to the instrument born. The
of the horn players were frustrated journeyman trumpet players biding
time until an opportunity opened-up for them to slip into one of the
Warrior trumpet chairs.
Blessed with perfect
pitch he could (and did) write without the aid of a piano whenever the
mood struck him.
On the bus. In a bar. Shaving and bathing. Eating. While with a woman.
You get the picture!
totally irresponsible he constantly lived on the edge and was forever
chastised for leaving his instrument behind on the stand, never having
any money, sneaking women aboard the bus and fueling his system with a
smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals. Roland was the only member of the
that Stan turned a blind eye to when it came to inhaling those long,
'funny cigarettes' and self-medicating himself by injection.
Don't forget Stan and
Gene went way back to the earliest days of the Kenton Era.
Although they were never terribly close Stan had a personal affinity for
Roland which enabled Stan to transcend Gene's many immature
Roland lived for
jazz. Night and day. It was his passion. It was the guiding force which
kept him going on and off the Road. Unquestionably a genius, he often
had a difficult time handling such mundane things as tying his
settling his hotel bill, balancing his checkbook, paying his bills.
to music the only thing he was quite proficient at was bedding down an
array of women who were drawn to him like Jesus freaks to a new
he would get quite a giggle out of the fact an entirely new generation
become enchanted with his 'Adventures in Blues' charts. It would also
that so many of his manuscripts are used as teaching aids. Then again,
like Willis, being able to write as well as he did he considered no big
deal. He long labored under the delusion that everyone was capable of
what he did. It was this self modesty, coupled with his one of a kind
that made him so special.
I, like everyone
else who came in contact with him, miss him. Immensely.
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Fitzpatrick --- Lead Trombone
In reply to: 'Where is
Bob Fitzpatrick now?'
My beloved seat
and soul mate on the 'Bus To Nowhere' passed away several years ago
a long illness from injuries he sustained when a drunken driver hit him
was crossing the street.
He was, as you
undoubtedly know, one of a kind. One of the most talented musicians I
ever had the pleasure of knowing.
was bright. Generous. Talented. Cynical. Sarcastic. Gregarious.
Took absolutely no prisoners. And, as we know from listening to the
legacy of Kenton recordings he did for Stan over 20 years, a master
and outstanding creative force. He was also responsible, as you
know, for the Kenton Orchestra's signature trombone choral sound, which
has been widely imitated, but never duplicated. No one I know could
a section like he did and engender pluperfect control over the dynamics. No one!
I think of him
often and remember him with great fondness and admiration. The night
daughter, Judy, called and told me he had taken a quantum leap up to
Alley,' I hoisted a flacon of J&B scotch in his honor.
Every so often
I hear him calling: 'Noel, god dammit get your ass up here and let's go
have a drink. Or two. Or three.'
Matter of fact
I'm listening at this very moment to 'Fitz' from Gene Roland's
in Blues' album.
What a coincidence
you just checked in.
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'Adventures In Jazz'
In answer to: 'Can you give us some
background on this great album?'
This was not
the first album recorded in the 'Adventure' series.
It was Number
earlier the Band gathered in Capitol's Studio 'A' to run down charts
by Willis & Johnny Richards. No one else was present. No wives. No
executives. No star-crossed luminaries. This was a working session,
an expensive one. Two sessions scheduled back-to-back. I don't think I
have to tell you what that cost. At today's prices, somewhere
First up was an
original by Johnny Richards entitled 'Wagon.' John did everything he
including standing on his head, to convince Stan that yes, indeed,
he had managed to write definitive passageways between the three brass
sections, effectively amplifying the richness of the mellophoniums. It
didn't take long to realize Stan wasn't buying into Richards'
happening here' explosive chart.
And yes, the track
got laid down. And yes it went into the vault (Capitol, like all record
companies, never culled the good from the bad. And yes, it showed-up
later cobbled onto the 'Cuban Fire' newly re-released CD. And yes, Stan
would have thrown a major fit -- big time -- if he knew that rejected
had a life of its own.
up was a long -- very long -- Holman original, which also went nowhere.
Over-laid across a very tepid theme were a series of improvised solos:
mellophonium (Roland), trumpet (Marvin Stamm), alto (Gabe Baltazar),
(Allen Beutler) and trombone (Bob Fitzpatrick). Talk about a lack of
No one had a clue as to what Willis wanted the chart to sound like and the track just wandered
for some 12 boring minutes. It, too, got laid down and ended-up in
vault. God help us and Michael Cuscuna if this one ever shows up on a Capitol
Renowned for being
a glutton for punishment, Stan called-up two more back-to-back sessions
the following night. Again several Holman & Richards' originals
brought forth only to go down in flames casting a bit of a pall over
that ran deep into the morning hours.
It quickly became
apparent to Stan that the only way the mellophonium sound was going to
make it was for him to clearly demonstrate how to write for the
Although a bit discouraged with what had transpired so far he scheduled
a meeting of the arrangers (Richards, Roland & Niehaus), for later in the week. The
unhappy trio gathered at Stan's house and after laying out the direction he
the album should take Stan brought forth several of the charts he had
writing for 'The Romantic Approach' album.
There in black
& white were numerous Kenton mellophonium constructions which dramatically set the section apart from the trombones & trumpets. Although they
were clearly put off by Stan's dictatorial approach to writing for the
section they admitted he had solved a good portion of the
problems they had been experiencing. This working session also
the fact the mellophonium players were using trumpet mouth pieces,
of the ones supplied by Conn. This little digression effectively
the pitch and intonation of the instrument and was quickly taken care
by Stan announcing at the next scheduled recording session that any
of the section caught using a trumpet mouth piece would run the risk of
being fined $25.00.
He ended the meeting
by stating he was thoroughly disgusted with what had been submitted
far and they had better come-up with some dazzling material that
his socks off. Or else some very drastic changes would be made with
to the arranging staff!
don't think I have to remind anyone that there were some mighty huge
involved with the conception of this album. Like no one, except Stan,
faced-off with Willis and told him what he had written was 'pure,
crap.' He also had some pretty choice words for Richards', who had gone
into one of his long sulks after Stan pulled the plug on the initial
a man, they knew he was right and they had better set creative pen to
damn fast. Or else!
First up at the
next recording session was Bill Holman's spirited manuscript for
Blues.' Without one wasted motion Stan dropped into that famous crouch
position of his and clicked the time off at Mach One. Jerry (Lestock)
& Pat Senatore dove into it and worked Willis' driving time
like they were attached at the hip. McKenzie's thundering rim shots
sailed in and out of Senatore's cannon-like bass lines. Not to be left
in the lurch, Fitzpatrick's stalwart group moved to the forefront and
charge. As was his custom, Fitz leaned a shoulder blade forward from
rest of the section so they could stretch out like football lineman and
support his big, round lead notes as they sizzled atop an array of
complex time sequences.
Later Stan learned
that Fitzpatrick had been conducting early morning technical rehearsals
whenever the band landed in a hotel in an effort to smooth out their
so it arced ahead in a triangular formation rather than being spread
in a horizontal line. Bob Fitzpatrick determined that if kept his lead
a schoosh in front and let the rest of the section ride just slightly
against him the
power they unleashed would be something to be reckoned with.
He figured right.
Even now, 25 years later, the configurations Fitzpatrick had worked out
for his section
during his long tenure with the Orchestra have been used time and again
by most of the high school and university stage bands.
this blazing Holman mini-masterpiece Dalton Smith was heard to yell out:
Stan, this god damn band is on fire.' With that the trumpets rose like
Samurai Warriors and lifted the entire
Orchestra up and out onto Hollywood
& Vine Streets.
To say that Willis
had redeemed himself was putting it mildly. For those of you who like
keep your hip cards punched in all the right places 'Limehouse' was
down in two takes. The only reason two takes were required was because
Gabe Baltazar, ever the perfectionist,
thought his second solo was better than his first and asked Stan if it
could be inserted into the final take. Stan agreed.
What was even
more thrilling was watching a very young trumpet player walk
over to one of the solo mikes with his bell lowered toward the floor
on cue, lift that glowing horn upwards as he began flailing the
heavens with one of the most superb trumpet solos ever captured on
What was even more amazing was that young trumpet player, Marvin Stamm,
was only 21.
The best memory
I have of that session were the big smiles everyone was wearing as the
great Kenton Orchestra left no doubt as to who was in charge. Once the
cast the remainder of the sessions, thanks to some pretty spectacular
went off with precision.
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The following is in response to
the number of E-mail messages
which flowed back and forth on
the Kenton Forum regarding the
re-mastering of Gene Roland's
exciting charts for 'Adventures In Blues.'
I find it difficult to
understand the engineering controversy that has suddenly begun swirling
around the re-mastering of the newly released 'Adventures in Blues' CD.
My CD takes me
right back to the sessions, which were a joy.
The opening track,
'Reuben's Blues' sets the stage for things to come with a crackling
opening. Under Bob Fitzpatrick's ever vigilant stewardship his section,
thanks to several days of technical rehearsals, (they didn't see
charts until the first session night) powered their way through some of
the most haunting music every written for a 14-man brass section.
Roland wanted, and what Roland got, was for Fitzpatrick's section to keep
down a very distinctive, very dark, bass line between the trumpets and
mellophoniums. Fitzpatrick was well aware that the intonation had to be
dead-on in order to separate the brass sounds. Everyone in that section
also knew how important it was to stay focused and keep the chord
rolling like thunder and lightning a few degrees west of Roland's
My CD faithfully
does that. In my mind Michael Cuscuna has more than maintained the
of the original Capitol recording sessions.
Let me digress.
The sessions were taped & mastered by John Palladino, Capitol's
man in the booth. In addition to having an electrical engineering
from MIT, Palladino was noted for his ability to mike a large -
large - big band. I'm assuming that everyone is aware that the
sections are isolated from one another and spread across the room. It
said Palladino was so good at what he did that if one of the trumpet
snapped his shorts hitting high 'C' above 'C' John would have dutifully
captured it on tape.
done on specially designed Altec speakers which had the wherewithal to
turn your ear drums inside out. After every take Palladino, Lee
(Stan's Capitol executive producer) & Stan would crowd around the
listen intently to the tape. Nothing escaped their demanding ears.
production dub we received after the sessions were completed was an
Remember this was just a raw approximation of how the tape would
before it was mastered and it was top of the line. One of John
Palladino's finest efforts.
I can only assume those of you
are complaining about the mix and balance have a flawed
CD. Mine roars. It thunders. It pirouettes. It curtsies & bows when
told. It is the Kenton Orchestra at its finest.
From the moment
Stan kicked the time off and all the while he flailed his long arms
in signals to the individual sections his face was ablaze with a huge
Don't forget this was the first time anyone, including Stan, had heard
Band play Roland's charts. It was one thing for Stan to read the
score over at his house; it was quite another experience for him to
hear how the Band handled
very important to know is that 'Adventures in Blues' was the 3rd album
recorded by the Band before the 'Mellophonium Orchestra' went on the
Thanks to a lot of press anyone who was 'anyone' requested an
to the sessions to see and hear Kenton's latest deux machina in
several nights of recording a gaggle of Hollywood luminaries, DJs, and
Capitol executives crowded into Studio 'A.' So many, in fact,
had the air conditioning turned up to the freezing point in order to
for the massive amount of unappreciated body heat that was being
had a tendency to deaden the room.
Anxious to cement
in time the amount of power and creativity this Orchestra could unleash
the guys were in top form. Most of the tracks were done in two or three
takes, which was most unusual for anything Stan recorded.
Roland was in
rare form throughout the recording sessions. At one point everyone
when he said he had refrained from eating from noon on just so he
have a load of lead in my belly messing around with my chops. ' I
I am correct that all his solos were done in one take. The only time
takes were done was when he switched instruments (soprano saxophone to
mellophonium and back to soprano saxophone) to hear what those
versions sounded like.
It should also
be noted that prior to the sessions Gene was in the doghouse with the
Man due to his very irresponsible (and dangerous) lifestyle. That all
once the track for 'Reuben's Blues' was laid down. It was, in the
words of Dalton Smith, the beginning of 'Wild Willy' things to come! It
also included an invitation for Gene to join the Band at our Las Vegas
opening a month later.
All the sessions
ended sometime around 11:30 pm. Everyone was so up and so thrilled at
was being laid down several frosty friends at a close by bar on Vine
were necessary before the delegates began slowly winding their way home
to prepare for another evening of unbridled fun & creativity.
It is my opinion
something got royally screwed-up with the tape that was sent to Europe
for pressing. I can't imagine either, in this day and age of gorgeous,
radiant sound, Europe was ever sent a mono version.
It is also my
opinion that this was one of the most important albums ever recorded by
the Kenton Band and more than compensated for the 'Tropicana' CD which
turned out to be a flawed project from beginning to end. Rightly, or
Kent Larsen bore the brunt of Stan's wrath for the album being poorly
Blues' conclusively proved that an extremely gifted arranger/composer
cleave sound with the best of them and over several nights had left a
legacy to be reckoned with and enjoyed for years to come.
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A Gathering of Eagles At 47th
Street & Lexington Avenue
'Now, the Vanguard
is a rather small club, and one might consider it to be a
'cupboard,' and the Mellophonium Orchestra would probably not fit
in with its usual stage setup,
but Mel carried 9 brass and the recordings are just fine.'
I'm pretty positive the
'Village Vanguard' & 'Basin Street East' were approximately the
same size. 'Basin Street,' much like the 'Vanguard' resembled a long,
narrow closet. Rumor has it that when they first opened several of the
waiters keeled over from a bad case of claustrophobia and had to be
rushed to Bellevue Medical Center for a dollop or two of oxygen.
East's bandstand was minuscule. So small, in fact, the saxophone
ended-up sharing space with a revolving roster of high-stepping
who constantly bought them drinks. It took a Herculean effort on their
part to remain halfway sober until the final set of the evening.
Due to the narrowness
of the club, one of the owners, a giant of a man who never smiled, told
me in a voice honed to a knife's edge in the back alleys & byways
Hell's Kitchen: 'To tell your Boss to keep the trumpets down. We don't
want to scare the customers with a bunch of noise!'
I passed this
chiseled-in-granite request along to the Old Man who was not terribly
Nor was the section overly thrilled when word was passed to them 'to
in the club remained rather muted for the next 15 minutes or so until a
tall, elegantly dressed gentleman, surrounded by a bevy of drop-dead
models, dramatically rose, tipped his glass toward the trumpet section
and yelled out to Stan:
'Hey, Stan, how
about letting the trumpets roar. Hell man, that's the big reason why
His request was
followed by a thunderous round of applause from everyone, including
maitre 'd's, waiters & bartenders, many of whom had worked in front
of the Band during previous engagements at the Commodore Hotel and
Birdland and were well aware the Club would be jammed once word got around that
the Band was in town.
With that, Stan
kicked-off Bill Holman's 'Limehouse Blues' somewhere around Mach Two.
ever so slightly to the audience with a big Cheshire grin on his face
shot his arm out, signaling his five Samurai Warrior trumpets to stand up,
their bells skyward and grab a piece of the stratosphere.
One megaton blast
from the 'Boys-in-the Back- Row' as they began their dazzling climb up
a series of Holman-inspired, diminished 11th & 13th chords and
Street' took a spin toward another world.
I looked over
at 'Mister Tiny' who was now smiling ever so slightly as he looked out
over the standing-room audience and began mentally clicking off the
amount of business 'Basin Street' would be doing over our three-week
morning, the renowned jazz critic, Stanley Wilson wrote in the New York
Times 'That last night the power & majesty of the great Stan Kenton
Orchestra moved the west wall of 'Basin Street East's kitchen 15-feet
onto 47th Street and Lexington Avenue. I urge you to get over there
the rest of the walls are still standing.'
of our memorable stay at that celebrated little hole-in-the-wall, as
are wont to say, was history.
|Top of the page
Somewhere West of
'More than a few Kenton
were quick to say how wonderful the band sounded in 1960 with the
Mellophoniums. Would you agree that most of the time the mellophoniums
There were certain
ensemble passages within a half dozen or more charts the horns never
right. Someone was always late coming in. Or their intonation was
on the other side of the city. Or, like Dwight Carver, on several
found themselves wildly out-of-focus.
One night Stan
sarcastically inferred he had fallen asleep on stage. Bear in mind
was an excellent French horn player. A true master of his instrument.
he just didn't belong on the Kenton Band.
More than once
I would see Stan suck in his breath as a particular passage came on
then wince as the horns scattered to the four corners of the room.
the charts they couldn't cut were moved to the bottom of the 'let's not
play this one again' trunk kept underneath the bus.
|Top of the page
Shattering Some of the
John Mannheim wrote:
'I have never
been able to understand 'City of Glass' and I considered this to be a
failure on my part.'
You're not alone!
some of the
arrangers had a hard time deciphering just exactly what Graettinger had
in mind. More so than any of the other composers who passed through the
ranks Bob continually had his mind's eye in the stars. It was terribly
important to him -- remember he was only 34 when he died -- to leave
mark. If that meant reaching far beyond the applied & acceptable
of composition then that was the way it must be.
was undoubtedly being charitable when he described his opinion of
work. Others were a bit more blunt.
However . . .
No one dared cast
a derogatory remark about 'City of Glass' or 'This Modern World, which
was only recorded because Stan had made a death bed commitment to
to record it Stan's way. To criticize this decision was was to
invite professional suicide, accompanied by an
icy glare from the Old Man, followed by: 'You don't know jack shit!'
It was generally
agreed among the members of the Band that 'City of Glass' was not only
complex piece to execute, it was so atonal it was beyond the scope of
mortals. Stan claimed to understand what Bob had done. But we knew he
he was deluding himself. Truth was even Stan didn't know what in god's
name Graettinger was striving for.
. . . and this is a very critical 'however' . . .
was a classically trained composer possessed with a finite grasp of
counterpoint & harmony. He was no slouch when it came to fully
all the composition rules (and then some) so he could break them with
More to the point,
he was a crackerjack writer who tried just a wee bit too hard to escape
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'The story I heard
was that Stan never liked playing 'the old stuff' when he was fronting
the band -- he always wanted to move forward.'
Stan had little
or no problem playing a number of the signature Kenton charts. 'Peanut
Vendor,' an elongated version of 'Artistry in Rhythm (the Band's
'Minor Riff,' 'Eager Beaver,' 'Intermission Riff,' a few others.
He just didn't
like having anyone request them. In fact, playing requests was anathema
to him. Don't ask me why.
I remember one
night in Omaha when, near the close of the last set, he did 20
minutes on the 'Theme.' All piano with some very tasty accompaniment by
John Worster and some light brush work by Jerry Mckenzie. He wandered
& about some chord work I had never heard him do before. 'Dazzling'
is about the only adjective I can think of to describe it. For the 100
or so diehards who had gathered around the bandstand it was a historic
moment in time. A rare opportunity to watch a master craftsman open a
door into his soul and travel with him as he instantaneously re-strung
a series of musical beads, featuring one of his own compositions. For those Kenton aficionados
who kept moving ever closer to the piano in an effort to travel with
across time & space it was more than magic. It was an undeniable
On the beat, and
after he once again had returned to this planet, Stan nodded his head
ever so slightly sending in the signal to Bob Fitzpatrick to begin that haunting
trombone choral sequence we all know and admire so much. It sounded that
night as though a quintet of angels had slipped into the horns of the section.
Not to be outdone,
Dalton Smith's section rose and began working somewhere around
Galaxy Nine. Clean. Crisp. Powerful. So powerful smoke was coming out of their
Once the brass
work began working in tandem people began whistling. Clapping. Bopping.
Clapping. Smacking each other on the shoulder. More to release
from the extraordinary grip the Band held on them than anything else.
Jerry, it was
a night to remember. Never to be repeated again. Might you understand
thrilled I was to be there. And what pleasure it gives me to share that
experience with others?
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The Australian Tour - 1957
Stan & Five
Musicians Were Hardly Representative Of The Kenton Orchestra
Excerpted from an article
submitted by Bill Barlow, who later added several of his own personal
comments when he submitted his article for publication on the Kenton
Stan & the
Orchestra were engaged to tour Australia by Lee Gordon, an American
born in Coral Gables, Florida and who, some years before, managed a
in Canada where he gave Frank Sinatra his chance at a come-back and who
previously (1951) had also toured Australia.
in Australia with several American lead players including Sam Noto
Lennie Niehaus (alto saxophone), Bill Perkins (tenor saxophone), Chuck
Flores (drums) and Kent Larsen (trombone). The remainder of the
Orchestra' was made-up of Australian musicians.
Although he was
billed as lead & jazz trombonist Kent Larsen, with the exception of
'Peanut Vendor,' turned most of the trombone solo parts over to his
counterpart, John Bamford. 'Occa,' as he was affectionately known
to his friends and colleagues, was so much admired by Kenton that he
was asked to join the Band, once they returned to the States. But in
days you had to have permission from your spouse to leave the country
as with so many musicians, John was in trouble at home and missed the
of a lifetime.
The 'Kenton Band'
performed at Newcastle in the historic Civic Theatre, off Hunter
and a double-decker bus was hired for the trip from Sydney. One can
imagine the journey along the old Pacific Highway with the bus swaying
& swinging around corners and laboring up the then, very steep
from the Hawkesbury River. Stan preferred to travel with the musicians
on the return trip, rather than use the hire car the promoter had
provided for him.
As one might suspect the bus
held a considerable
amount of booze which was rapidly consumed. Sadist that he was,
bus driver adamantly refused to stop at any of the tiny gasoline
which occasionally popped-up along the long, winding highway. Those,
need was pressing, would hang-out from the rear platform of the bus to
relieve themselves, while holding onto the stairwell bar with one hand,
their 'willy' in the other and their coat held by the tall Mr. Kenton.
Trombonist, Arch Hubbard, at one stage, rushed down the stairs from the
top deck and spun around the pole at the back of the bus with such
he gave his fellow musicians, and the traffic following behind them,
The American musicians
who accompanied Kenton were not paid a lot of money which ultimately
them to move to the hotel where the Australian musicians were staying.
This change in plans hardly fazed the Kenton group since they were more
than used to 'roughing it' on long, tiresome road trips back in the
The Band also
played at the St. Kilda Palais in Melbourne, a year after the 1956
were held in that city. Chuck Flores, who was not noted for being a
sight reader, had to spend hours privately rehearsing all the
prior to the main rehearsals. He also lost his virginity in Melbourne,
thanks to the Australian musicians, who were more than delighted to
a girl for his 'night of nights.'
a well-known member of the Melbourne underworld, was also a great jazz
fan. He later owned 'The Embers,' where Frank Smith, one of that city's
legendary alto players, had worked for years. During a party for the
group at Knowles' home on Good Friday, Chuck Flores made a near fatal
by spending a wee bit more attention to Jimmy's girl friend than
necessary. In no time at all he was taken outside the house by drummer
Johnny Blevens and shown a row of machine gun bullet holes that had
a deep tattoo across the garden wall and a nearby gate. Suffice to say
Chuck's ardor was quickly quelled.
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Musicians Born With Natural
From the Almighty!
Bob Crispen wrote:
"Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys
did have formal training of a sort --
and I doubt he'd have passed without being able to read notation.
So it is an inference."
And I agree Brian Wilson
most definitely has left his mark.
My thesis is,
however, that he is more than likely a musical savant and never had to
spend four or five years, like most composers, working his way through
University courses, including Harmony 201, Theory 425, Counterpoint
That, thanks to the miracle of genetic encoding, everything was in
as soon as he popped out of his Mother's womb.
"During rehearsals he sort of
strolled over to the piano when the chart got to one of his solos, sat
down, and started swinging. It was like turning on a fire hose --
like the music was constantly going in his head, and when he sat down
to play it was like, 'Oh, by the way, this is what I'm listening to
I once naively
asked Stan while he was writing the 'Romantic Approach' charts if he
the Band in his head as he sketched out different passages.
'I not only hear
it now, I hear it all the time,' he replied. 'Sometimes it's like a
and won't stop until I get everything straight in my head so it falls
place when I began the arduous task of writing. (Note: Stan despised
Mainly because getting all the notes down and in their proper places
a mechanical thing. It interfered with all the wonderful things that
swirling around in his head. He had little or no patience with stopping
down the creative process to 'print' his ideas out). He told me, "Some
call it a gift.
I call it a pain in the ass." That said he then
I looked him straight in the
eye and (much too seriously) said: 'I'd give my right testicle if if I
was able to do what you can do."
That made him laugh even more
as he suddenly realized the magnitude of the gift the Muses had handed
"Only one?" he smiled at his
own little joke.
"I gather Frank Rossolino was
like that too. Allegedly he could be talking and somebody could
nudge him and say, 'Your solo' and he'd pick up his horn and knock you
over with his melodic invention. Does anybody else on the band
stand out as a plug-in-and-swing kind of improviser?"
God, yes! Perkins.
Mariano. Baltazar. Stamm. Roland (Gene never played his solos quite the
way on the 'Blues' sessions). Pepper. Ray Starling. The list goes on
on. Unlike writers who edit on paper, they edit in their head a bar or
two before the notes come rolling out.
No one yet has
been able to completely explain how this happens. It can't be taught,
no one tries. 'You just gotta feel it,' said Bob Fitzpatrick.
One night on the
bus several of us were talking about the various drummers who had
through the ranks. Mel Lewis's name came up and Stan said: "Mel was
with a god damn metronome in his brain. He 'feels' the time, then
nudging it, smoothing it, molding it to his liking. He never alters
the composer has indicated, but once Mel gets through punctuating it
a fusillade of rim shots, cymbal swishes here & there, and begins
the hi-hat like a priest on a mission to save a sinner the entire time
sequence has taken on a life of its own. A Mel Lewis life".
Stan then took
a long drag on his cigarette and looked out the window. "'The one guy,
however, who continually knocked me out was Jimmy (Campbell). He did
things that made the hairs on my neck stand-up. He had a way, don't ask
me how he did it, of picking the whole god damn Band up and floating
it. What was even more amazing is that Jimmy is self-taught."
The Kenton Band,
as you might suspect, was a very complex machine. Both in temperament
talent. There were those who joined the Band only because it looked
on their resume or thought it an easy way to attract women. They left
or nothing behind and over the years have become mere faces in the
Others left an
indelible mark due to the fact they had an extraordinary sixth sense in
seeing beyond mere notes on a page and with the speed of light could
their participation with a bit of personal punctuation &
that elevated the Band into another dimension. A dimension that
challenged them never to look back. To go beyond what they had done the
night before. To explore. To reach for the stars. This ability, this
was what kept Stan going and brought a big glorious smile that crowned
his face from ear to ear as he sat quietly on the piano bench and
himself to marvel in what this Band, his Band, was capable of doing.
I reveled in watching
the reactions of the various soloists as they ended their flight to
far off place that existed only in their minds. Some stood quietly for
a moment or two, modestly bathing themselves in applause. Others became
slightly dumbfounded their creativity had taken them to another level.
Still others got a vicarious thrill out of lowering their instrument to
their side, letting a slight smile cross their face and slowly walking
back to their seat enamored with the realization they were one of the
I vividly remember
one of the saxophone players walking briskly back to his seat after a
that left the audience so thunderstruck they hesitated for one brief
before collecting their wits and burning their hands with applause. As
he dropped back into his seat he turned and said something to one of
tenor players. Later I asked Bob Fitzpatrick, who was sitting directly
behind him, what he had said.
Fitz grinned and
replied: "Well, that's enough bullshit for one night, now we can go
of his solo had momentarily even surprised him and his off-hand remark
was his way of settling back to earth and again taking his place as a
Note, too, that most of the
players rarely went on ego trips. The one thing that constantly kept
their heads screwed-on tightly was the constant fear (albeit
groundless) that there would come a day when the ideas stopped flowing.
That they would be called upon to do their thing and the well would be
dry. That all that would come out was a cascade of notes which went
absolutely nowhere. I have yet to see that happen with any of the
geniuses I worked with, most of whom are now in the 60s & 70s. None
have lost their touch and continue to effortlessly carve out dazzling
new pathways to the stars and beyond on recordings, on television and
Top of the page
'Willis' To All
Who Love Him
Lisa Lockhead wrote:
'Can you tell us something about Bill
Bill Holman is with a doubt
my favorite Kenton Orchestra composer/arranger.
His inner line
writing has a crystal clean, linear quality to it, not unlike Stan's.
fact that he often uses some of Stan's voicings is not so unusual when
you consider Willis was always known as the 'prodigal son.' He was the
man-child Stan never had. The 'creative son' he so desperately wanted
son, Lance to become.
is writing huge, all-encompassing blocks of sound and then cleaving
into quarters (trumpets/trombones/saxophones/rhythm) and then hurling
massive, glowing block of sound at the audience somewhere around at
He is a past master
at altering the time sequences several times within the chart. He,
more so than any of the other arrangers understands how to manipulate
triad structures, which ultimately led he & Stan to unraveling the
mystery behind the 'hidden note' concept, which, in large part, has
revolutionized writing for a big band. To do as they did, one has to be
thoroughly grounded in theory, harmony & counterpoint. It also
to be part innovator, part visionary, part genius.
I love his 'Spanish
Period,' which includes 'Malaguena,' 'Tico Tico,' 'Granada,' &
The latter being an excellent example of power-house writing
atop a myriad of very intricate time sequences. It is an absolute bitch
(and joy) to play.
The story goes
that Willis presented a fragment of the 'Malaga' idea to Stan during
over at Hollywood's Gower Street studios. Unfortunately, due to a big
road tour, Stan was a million miles away and wasn't terribly interested
in discussing anything creative. Willis persisted. Stan resisted. The
held its breath. Finally, Willis said 'later for this,' reached for his
manuscript and left the rehearsal studio fuming. Over the next week he
huffed & puffed, vowing he would never again write another note for
the Band. Meanwhile Stan disappeared into a huge sulk, angry at himself
for not taking more time with Willis and extending him the professional
courtesy he richly deserved.
later a high school music director asked Willis
to write an original for his high school stage band. In a flash, Willis
dusted off his partially completed manuscript for 'Malaga' and
a 'Stan Kenton Big Band' arrangement in less than 24-hours. As fate
have it Stan conducted a jazz band clinic at that very same
later in the summer and after class one morning heard a group of young
musicians struggling to bring life to Willis' brilliant
It didn't take
more than a minute or two for him to tell Dick Shearer (road
manager/lead trombone player
at the time) who was standing inside the classroom, along with six or
other Kenton band members, to find a Xerox machine and start making
of Willis' starlit ride across Spain's dapple-washed countryside. As
hurried off in search of a Xerox, Stan began rounding up the Band for
unscheduled rehearsal to begin right after dinner.
Would you care
to guess what new Holman arrangement was played night after night and
responsible for stopping the concert down for four or five minutes as
audience kept applauding and yelling for more!
Might you also
imagine Willis' lack of wonderment when he heard that the Band was
a storm with his latest addition to the library?
me in the least,' the laconic one said. 'I knew the little sucker would
get to him sooner or later!'
And so it went
with one of the most brilliant arranger/composers to ever grace a Stan
Kenton concert stage.
Top of the page
'We Hardly Knew
wrote to Mike Blair:
'Thanks for saying
something positive about the Beatles. Most current posts on the Kenton
Forum lately have been quite negative.'
I certainly hope
you are not including my 'how they came to be' post about the Beatles
being negative. If you are, sobeit.
You had to have
been there to appreciate the debilitating effect the Beatles had upon
of the premiere artists who had been an integral part of the Capitol
organization for a decade or more.
As soon as it
became apparent that the Beatles might become the cash cow Capitol
to move them out of their financial doldrums (in the late 50s record
were stagnant & the red ink was flowing with increased rapidity),
greed factor took hold.
management, particularly those involved with the financial end of the
began robbing 'Peter to pay Paul.' Overnight, a vast amount of
monies were diverted away from Capitol's major artists and shunted
expanding Beatle mania. The PR department, in particular, overworked
underpaid even before the Beatles arrived in this country, were told in
no uncertain terms to concentrate their energies on Paul, John, Ringo
George. Consequently, everyone else was left hanging in the wind.
You have no idea
what an impact this had with regard to relying on Capitol to stand tall
behind us and move smartly out across the United States & Canada to
help launch the Mellophonium Orchestra. Visualize a listless void.
that was generated was done by us. Keenly aware of what advance
could do to shore up the attendance at a score of dates that had been
booked for the Mellophonium Tour Stan came into the office
afternoon for a week and called DJs and music editors (in those days
were few and far between) all over the country and asked for their
Unfortunately, they too, were swept-up in Beatle mania and gave us short
shrift during our city stay. Believe me, it was god damn discouraging
take that huge machine out & play to 300 or 400 people in a venue
held 1500. The thing that kept us going, however, was to constantly
ourselves everything would change once word got out this Orchestra had
the power & creativity to make an audience's hair stand on end.'
It took 19-months
of Herculean effort on everyone's part before the screw began turning.
Can you imagine what it did to Stan's ego (and income) to give-away
for $850.00 at dingy road houses that should have been shuttered a long time ago when he knew those dates should
never have been booked. Understand that once on the Road, Associated Booking Corporation was
to fill-in as quickly as possible all open date's that remained to be
for before we left Los Angeles. Otherwise the transportation jumps were
horrendous. Try traveling from Phoenix to Cincinnati with no stops
the way and no place to sleep except in a cramped seat on the 'Bus To
Long jumps also took their toll
psychologically on the men. We drank too much. Ate too much. Worried
too much about our wives & girl friends. We also let our short
fuses explode needlessly. And generally felt like the wrath of god. So
much so that it took a supreme effort to 'get-up' for the date.
Compounding all of this was the fact Capitol's area promotional guys
were never around to lend their support. They also hadn't done one damn
thing to generate any prior interest in our arrival. On more than one
occasion the guys wanted to hunt them down and tie their balls to the
rear of the bus.
I pose this question
If you were a
premiere artist with a major record label and you were keenly aware how
you had been left in the lurch by another Capitol artist group how
would you feel toward them? Hell, we didn't even know the Beatles let
have heard any of their music up to that time. All we knew was they
stealing our promotional thunder. Consequently, it was damn easy
if you will) to cast brickbats their way. However, it was all done on
bus. Never in public.
didn't take long for Stan to fall back on the old bromide: 'if you
beat 'em, join 'em.' Hence, the decision to record several of their
in an effort to demonstrate how contemporary the Orchestra was. In
that decision to compromise was probably a huge mistake
It must be noted
that Lee Gillette, our executive producer at Capitol, went out of his
to try and move Capitol to see the error of their ways. But, he could
do so much. It also was quite unfair to expect him to realize how
the tour was due to little or no advance promotion upon the part of
from his office in Los Angeles as we struggled to make a go of it in
to large part to Gillette's efforts, Capitol finally freed-up a
amount of promotional monies and helped us launch the Creative World of
Stan Kenton fan appreciation organization. It was Gillette who went to
Stan Gortikov, president of Capitol Records Distributing Corporation,
made the convincing argument that Gortikov permit Stan to have his own
personalized dust sleeve. No mean feat, since it meant stopping down
production line at CRDC and re-configurating it to accept the Creative
World of Stan Kenton sleeve. Nor did this part of the operation run
It was not unusual for thousands of Kenton newly released albums to get
packaged before someone midway through the production run remembered to exchange
generic sleeve for Stan's.
From what I read,
all the tours Mike Vax took part in had dates that were whiz-bangers.
were filled with some of the most god awful, out-of-the-way places
I remember one road house we played in Montana where 40 people
Then there was the night we traveled all the way to Quebec, Canada when
we should have been in Toronto. Associated Booking Corporation had sent
us the wrong information. Through it all Stan maintained a dignity
calmness that was admirable. I think he knew that if he 'lost it' the
wouldn't have been worth a fiddler's damn. To this day I don't know how
he did it. Lesser men would have caved and said the hell with it all.
With regard to
the 'Four Freshmen,' Stan never quite got over the fact they were a
imitation of all the work he had done with his own vocal group, 'The
(assembled in the mid-forties). And if you don't believe that go back
listen to Stan's arrangement of 'After You,' with Dave Lambert
Hendricks & Ross) setting the pace for Bob Flanigan's version a
later. No comparison.
It also annoyed
the hell out of him that early on in the Freshmen's career people would
say: 'Gee, you guys sound just like the Kenton Band.' Then a few years
later a number of people told him: 'Gee, the Band sounds just like the
Imitation, according to the Old
Man was not the sincerest form of flattery. It was, pure and simple,
But, that's another
It amuses me that
some of you have such strong opinions about the Band, yet weren't
Nor do you have a clue as to what we went through on many of our
pilgrimages through America's hamlets and byways.
Was it fun? You
betcha. Was it worth it? You betcha. Could it have been better?
Would I do it again? You betcha. In a heartbeat!
I trust this clears-up
any misconceptions regarding what those of us who were there felt about
the Beatles. Or to paraphrase a famous JFK book title: 'We hardly knew
of the page
Lesson Not Easily Learned
All Hell, and Then Some, Breaks Loose On the Bus One
By the time the date ended
and Stan had a chance to relax on the bus with his bottle of J&B he
was in no mood for the usual helling around that ensued once the bus
got under way. He made it clear he wanted to be left alone and that it
would be prudent upon everyone’s part not to engage him in
conversation, nor ask him any questions.
Everyone respected his
wishes except two of the trumpet players who began a pillow fight,
which quickly involved several other members of the Band. It didn’t
take long before good-natured roughhousing escalated into a fist
fight between one of the trombonists and a trumpet player he
hadn’t been getting along since we left Los Angeles.
The two had been sharing an
apartment with the trombonist’s girl friend, who turned out to be less
than faithful. Apparently she had slept with the trumpet player while
her boy friend was working a weekend engagement in San Francisco. He
was none the wiser until she suggested upon his return that they engage
in a ménage a trois the night before the guys were leaving on
Having led somewhat of a
protective life the trombonist was aghast to think about sharing his
bed with another man and the woman he loved. His girl friend, who took
a perverse pleasure in shocking him by walking around their apartment
in only her bra and panties, leaving the bathroom door open when she
relieved herself and screaming like a banshee during sex, told
him it was high time all of them shared a bed since they shared
everything else. The trombonist was mortified. He was certainly no
prude, having had his fair share of sexual encounters, but they were
always one-on-one; not two-on-one. His girl friend told him they were
going to bind together in a sexual romp before the guys left, or else.
“Or else what?” the angry
“Or else Roger and I,” she
replied, grabbing the delighted trumpet player, “are going to take up
where we left off last night.”
The trombonist couldn’t
believe she had cheated on him and with a close friend, to boot.
Seething he packed-up everything he was taking on the Road, left the
apartment and went to stay with his sister out in the Valley. The next
morning he confronted his friend and asked him for an explanation. None
was forthcoming. And no one had a clue as to what had happened to cause
two great friends to be at odds with each other.
they battered their way up the aisle toward the front of the bus, the
trombonist, who was a head taller and 30 pounds heavier, lifted
the struggling trumpet player off his feet, turned him sideways and
threw him into the empty compartment beside Stan. Half asleep and
slightly tipsy from having finished a half bottle of Scotch Stan leaped
up and cracked his head on the overhead luggage rack. As he fell back
into his seat the remainder of the Scotch flowed out and soaked his
As quickly as it had begun,
the fight ended. Those who had been standing in the aisle hurried back
to their private areas, slipped quietly into their seats and turned off
their reading lamps. The silence was deafening as everyone waited
to see what Stan would do.
We didn't have long to wait
as he rose majestically and brushed past the two terror stricken men
without saying a word. He went directly to Eric and told him to stop
the bus. As Eric carefully maneuvered our mammoth machine into an
emergency parking area Stan turned and in a voice that left no doubt
who was in command ordered both men to get their things and disembark.
They hurriedly gathered up
their personal gear, stumbled down the stairwell and waited like two
condemned prisoners as they anxiously waited for Eric to open-up the
underneath luggage rack so they could retrieve their bags.
As Stan stood glowering in
the door well one of the guys began apologizing for their actions.
“I don’t want to hear it,”
“You two have been causing
trouble since the day we left. I should have sent you packing long
before this. Do either of you have any loot?”
No, they both answered in unison.
“Good!” he smiled
fiendishly, “The next town is about a mile and a half dead ahead,” he
said, pointing down the darkened road, “the date is some 225 miles
beyond that. Get there an hour before we begin tonight or consider
The look of desperation on
their faces as the bus pulled away and left them in the middle of
nowhere at 3 in the morning became a lesson for all that Stan would not
tolerate anyone acting like a thug while we were on tour.
Violence was not to be condoned, no matter what the provocation.
For the rest of the trip
everyone was lost in thought trying to ascertain how in hell those two
guys were going to get to the date. Although no one had the courage to
speak up we also felt Stan had been a bit too harsh leaving them
stranded in the middle of nowhere. It was, however, a lesson well
learned and remembered as one by one everyone scrunched down in their
seats and tried to get a few hours of much needed rest.
About an hour later,
Eric, who had been driving the Band for over 20 years and was capable
of nodding off with his eyes open while driving, suddenly became fully
alert as he struggled to keep the bus on the Road just as a gigantic
tractor trailer rolled alongside and the driver began blowing his air
horn and blinking his lights as he roared ahead then disappeared into
the blackened night doing at least 80 miles an hour.
“Jesus Christ, are you all
right Eric?” yelled Stan, visibly shaken. “I wonder where that
sonafabitch was going in such a hurry?”
From the back of the bus
came a lone voice, “He’s on his way to tonight’s concert and didn’t
want to be late.” No one dared laugh.
“Everyone all right?” Stan
asked standing up in the aisle looking around to make sure no one was
hurt. “I think we’d better take a rest stop and give Eric a breather.”
For the next 30-minutes the
main topic of conversation was how the tractor trailer had come from
nowhere, passed us, then disappeared into the foggy night like some
apparition from a Stephen King horror novel. Although we had not been
in any real danger, since Eric had plenty of room to pull over, the
thought of the rig passing us at breakneck speed still gave everyone
Adding more mystery to the
unexpected turn of events that occurred during the night was pulling up
to the motel and seeing our musician friends standing by the front door
awaiting our arrival. They greeted everyone quietly as they left the
bus, then climbed aboard and sheepishly asked Stan if they had been
forgiven since they had made the date in time.
“I’d say you made it in
plenty of time,” a surprised Stan said. “How’d you get here so damn
“Let’s just say it was a
divine stroke of luck,” the trombonist said grinning.
“Yeah,” his friend chimed
in, “God was watching over us.”
“God doesn’t even know you
guys exist,” Stan laughed. “I’ll bet that crazy truck driver who passed
us last night picked you up, didn’t he?”
“She!” The trumpet player
grinned. “A gorgeous, wonderful gal from San Antonio. Man, you should
have seen her handle that rig. Pure poetry.”
Just then, the huge,
gleaming black rig that had passed us earlier came around the corner
and pulled up alongside our bus and stopped, its huge diesel thundering
in the early afternoon crisp air. We couldn’t see the driver because
our view was blocked by both vehicles being parked nose-to-nose.
The look of surprise on all our faces when an extremely attractive young girl, 20 or so,
dressed in jeans, plaid shirt and high-top boots came strolling over
with a tall man who appeared to be in his late 50s.
“Hi, Mr. Kenton,” she
purred in a soft Texas drawl, “I guess Daddy and I got your boys here
in time for your concert. Good thing we came along, otherwise they
might still be a-sittin’ back there among the prairie dogs and weeds.”
Did they tell you they had been fighting on the
bus and thats why they got left behind?, Stan said very seriously.
“I can’t believe these two
little angels,” she replied coquettishly, "could have caused anyone any
trouble. Daddy and me had a wonderful time talking with them last night. They
also think you’re a real neat guy even if you did cause them a bit of
grief by leaving them stranded in the middle of Nowhere.”
“Do we owe you any money
for your trouble?” Stan said reaching into his pocket.
“No sir, but Daddy and me
would like to hear you boys play tonight. We’ve got a load to drop off,
then we’ll be back around 6.”
Stan assured them they were
welcome to attend the concert as his guests and that he would look
forward to seeing them at the hotel later in the day. He also told them
to ring his room when they arrived and they’d have dinner together.
“Thank you, Mr. Kenton,”
the pretty young driver replied. “I know Daddy would enjoy that, but
I’ll take a rain check. “I’m having dinner with Bobby,” she said,
sending a dazzling smile to the trombonist. Then she and her Father
climbed back up into the rig and roared off down the Road.
As with most things that
happened on the Kenton Band this was not the end of the story. Seems
the young girl’s father owned a fleet of trucks, along with an oil well
or two, that ran between the east and west coasts. The day before one
of their drivers came down with appendicitis and there was no one else
available to take the run except them.
Ashley Sue, who was a
senior majoring in marketing at the University of Texas was home for
the summer helping her Daddy run his sprawling ranch and various
corporations. How fortuitous that they came along in time to rescue the
two stranded musicians. How fortuitous, indeed, since Ashley and Bobby
continued seeing each other after he left the Band to teach English Literature at
Two years later they were
married and invited the Band to their social-event-of-the-year wedding
in Austin, where Bobby still teaches and Ashley Sue is in charge of her
Father’s many diversified, very profitable businesses.
Top of the page
'Thou Shall Not Use Bad Language
On The Kenton Band'
One early morning, midway through a sleep
depriving series of 'hit & run' dates in the Midwest, Stan brightly
bounced aboard the bus, looking as though he had just stepped out of
Saville Row, while the rest of us looked like death warmed-over from a
night of revelry spent at one of the area’s infamous bars.
A night off was considered play
time on the Kenton Band and was never given over to rest &
recuperation. Consequently the guys were not in the best of spirits,
especially if one of Stan's little pep talks was about to commence.
Picking-up the pint-sized,
klaxon air horn someone had purchased in a novelty shop he let go with
a few blasts, motioning to everyone he wanted their attention.
“There's no easy to say
this, other than to jump right in,” he said, draping himself across one
of the front seats. "The language you guys have been using, on
and off the bus is atrocious. One nasty, filthy word after another. I
can't believe that a group as well educated and as articulate as you
guys resort to using 'fuck,' 'shit,' 'crap' . . . I don't think I have
to go through the entire laundry list . . . without regard to caring
who might be within earshot. I'm especially concerned about the kids
hearing some of the words you use and thinking that's they way they
should talk. Ok, enough said. Let's try to watch what we say and talk
like the sophisticated gentlemen everyone thinks we are.”
With that he dismounted
from the bus and slipped into a waiting car that would take him to a
radio interview several cities away and on to that evening's concert
The silence, more like a
pall, that swept over the bus following his little announcement and
hasty departure was so thick it was scary. Chastisement, however,
quickly turned to anger at being treated like wayward juveniles and it
didn't take long before that anger turned itself around to create a
memorable display of Kenton Orchestra one-upmanship.
Bob Fitzpatrick was the
first to come up with a solution. “What if,” he grinned like the cat
who had just swallowed the canary, ”we take every god damn foul word we
can think of and give it a number?”
“For example,” he began
writing on a piece of score paper, “let’s list 'crap' as Number One.
'Piss' as Number Two. ‘Cunt’ as 13. 'Shit' as 2. And just
to throw the Old Man and everyone else off , we list ‘Fuck’ as Number
14 and ‘Mother fucker’ as Number 23.”
In less than a half-hour we
had a fulsome list of 50 or 60 of the most commonly used and
nastiest gutter words our fertile minds could think of.
Later that night, after the
date, Dalton Smith brushed by the Old Man as he sat waiting on the bus
for everyone to assemble and muttered to no one in particular:
“Boy, that was a 23 date.
And did you see that 13, staring at John Worster? (the Band's bass
player). I thought for sure that 33 was going to 27 him before the 14
night was over.”
Stan looked at Dalton as
though he had lost his mind. He became even more perplexed as one band
member after another entered the bus talking in 'numbers,' as they
acknowledged Stan with a big grin.
Early the next morning Fitz
and I noticed him standing up in the well of the bus talking softly to
Eric, our driver. It was difficult to hear what he saying because he
kept his voice just above a whisper and his back was turned toward the
rear of he bus.
We knew immediately what
the conversation was about when Eric blurted out, “Stan, I don’t have a
52 about what you’re talking about. It’s a 28 to me!” Now that Stan was
aware that Eric, whom we involved in all our hi-jinks, was in on our
latest act of madness, he felt even more left out. And frustrated.
After four long days
of listening to everyone talking in 'numbers' and trying to give the
impression he knew what was going on, the Old Man finally pulled
Fitzpatrick aside and asked him what “What the fuck is this Number
“No, no, Stan,” Fitz
grinned, “You mean “What the 14 is this 2?
At first Stan's face was a
total blank, then he began laughing as it dawned on him what the
numbers stood for. Fitz then handed him a copy of the 'Numbers List,'
which one of the guys had run off on a hotel Xerox machine. Being the
good sport he was, Stan began laughing so loudly he woke-up the rest of
“I'll be damned.” You
sonafabitches are certainly full of surprises.”
“Hey, Stan,” one of the
trumpet players yelled out, 'sonafabitches’ is out. Thirty-nine is in!”
Stan lost no time in
telling a select group of friends: “You'll never believe what those
geniuses have come-up with now!” handing them a copy of the 'Numbers.'
For the remainder of the
tour the guys took an inordinate delight in talking in 'Numbers'
anytime they wanted to throw a curve to some annoying, obnoxious fan.
Even Stan joined in the fun. No doubt there is a legion of Kenton fans
who became convinced ”the boys on the bus” had stayed on the Road far
of the page