[Dixielandjazz] Benny Carter - Approaching 95

Chuck Kercher ekercher@tampabay.rr.com
Sun, 4 Aug 2002 19:43:05 -0400

Hey Charlie,

    Very nice things to say about my doubling, old pal, but Ira always makes
me want to throw the noisemakers away. I envy your working with him.
    I haven't read any "Lister" comments about a great cornet player by the
name of John (Punch) Thomas. He makes his home in Jax Fl now. He was telling
me one time about walking down a street in Fort Lauderdale and starting up a
conversation with a guy that was swearing at a parking meter. John's wife, a
beautiful doll by the name of Florrie, stood off to the side a ways and
waited for John to get done with the conversation. When that finally
happened she, rather irritably said, "Who in the hell is that guy?" John
said, "When we get home I'll show you who he is." At home he played a series
of Butterfield things and Florrie fell in love."  Whilwhe was telling me the
story Florrie was smiling like a "Fox eating a banana" I don't know what
that means but it came from a very likable "Cracker" and creates and image
that has stuck with me..

----- Original Message -----
From: "Charlie Hooks" <charliehooks@earthlink.net>
To: "DJML Dixieland Jazz" <dixielandjazz@ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2002 1:08 AM
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Benny Carter - Approaching 95

on 8/3/02 8:06 PM, Chuck Kercher at ekercher@tampabay.rr.com wrote:

> Wonderfully written article about an enormous talent by a guy who
> understands and loves talent like Carter's. Thanks for pointing it out,
> Stan, Chuck Kercher

Yes, it is a good article, Chuck; and I'm sure you appreciate it well, since
you, also, are one of those rare birds who double brass and reeds.  But one
great player the writer missed when he said:

> Speaking of doubling on more than one instrument, he asks, "Have you heard
>James Morrison?" mentioning the remarkable Australian musician who moves
>from saxophone to trumpet to trombone. "Now there's a guy who can really
>double. And you know, Doc Cheatham could play saxophone too. A lot of
>don't know about that.

    He missed one of the superbs of modern doubling: Ira Sullivan!

    I've worked with Ira only twice and neither time did I deserve to.  But
neither do most players, and he's been known to explain this to a couple of
them now and again.  He's always kind to me; maybe I'm beneath his notice or
maybe he intuits how much I respect him.  But I've seen Stan Getz fold up
his horn and hide when Ira decides to play tenor.  And his flugelhorn and
trumpet are equally magical.  Ira is and will be The Man.

    I worked with Doc Cheatham only once toward the end of his life when the
crazy rug he insisted on wearing got more attention than his playing.  He
sounded good and you better believe I enjoyed him!  But by that time, so
many other lesser players were playing better than he was, that the
comparison simply was not fair.  Doc was one of the greats and didn't
deserve any lessening, not in any way.

    Same with Yank Lawson, one session at the Big Horn in Mundelein, IL,
back in (I think) '75.  Yank was very drunk--hell, he was drunker than I
was, which in those days was saying something!

    But not drunker than Billy Butterfield.

    I was Billy's roommate for a time, and for my money Billy could outdrink
any column of drunks and still outplay any column of trumpet players!  One
night up at Lake Geneva (in Wisconsin, not in Switzerland) Billy started
drinking in the afternoon about 2 PM when he woke up, finished a fifth of
Vodka by showtime, went on the boat (a kind of tourist boat with a canvass
tent over the deck) with another fifth of Vodka and begin to play--not too
well, really.  But then, as the evening progressed, Billy finished the
second fifth and began to play.  He played his ass off!  I mean, he began to
sound...like Billy Butterfield!  We had Barrett Deems on drums, and even
Barrett was yelling: "Yeah, Billy! Show 'em how we did it back when!"

    So, Billy's gone and Hodes (the other Great Drunk) went on the wagon
years back.  (I said, "Art, why'd you quit drinkin'?" and he said, "Hell, I
had to!")  And so did I.  Well, almost.

    I've been known to imbibe a dram of Bushmills and a pint of Guinness.
Of was it a dram of Guinness and a pint of Bushmills?  Anyway I'm still at
the mercy of the Creat're, as we Irish speak of it.  But only once a week or
every twice a week.  Whatever sounds best.


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