[Dixielandjazz] Re: [Dixielandjazz]Stranger even....
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 10:52:09 EDT
Here's a memorable one... Playing at one of the numerous parties for the
Masters each year in Augusta. This particular year we were playing for the
Japanese equivalent of ESPN which was covering the tournament (can't remember
the name). It was supposed to be a cookout but the weather wasn't cooperating.
Although new to us Georgia boys, the social and organizational structure
within a Japanese company is etched in stone and the president of a large
company like that literally has the power of God at his command (and the
equivalent respect and unwaivering loyalty of his employees). Even before he
arrived at the party, the president decided he wanted to eat indoors. As we
began to set up a small sound system the room of workers broke into a loud
cry in Japanese and they all began to RUN in different directions, scurrying
to move the party inside. The hotel staff, normally in charge of banquets,
seemed to have a Japanese television counterpart assigned to each of them
that promptly began to "assist" the staff in moving the party indoors.
Once indoors, we began to play and things settled in for a few moments...
then the president arrived at the door. Upon his entrance the entire staff of
Japanese workers snapped to attention and shouted some Japanese term as one.
(Something like "Hie!") All of the Japanese folks turned rigid and unblinking
with chins up and arms straight by their sides. The American hotel staff were
too shocked to do anything but just stop and stare. Of course, we broke out
in a couple of snickers which drew some very evil looks from the Japanese. As
soon as the president was seated everyone went back to work and we began to
play. About halfway through Sweet Georgia Brown a harried little fellow came
up and asked us to stop.
"Prease pray "My Old Kentuckry Home", he asked politely, in a thick Japanese
accent. I looked at the president, surrounded by some very nervous assistants
who were biting their lips... I also noticed that everyone had stopped again
and the whole room was quiet. We went right into 'My Old Kentucky Home' and
immediately, as if someone had taken a VCR off of pause, the room cranked up
again and everything was cool.
We finished 'Old Kentucky Home' and launched into something like a rousing
version of Bill Bailey. Immediately, another nervous assistant approached and
asked us to stop... the music just died away. "Prease pray 'My Old Kentuckry
Home' for president." We all looked at each other, shrugged and launched into
"Old Kentucky Home'. The room exploded with activity again. The tuba player
motioned to me to stretch it out so we took maybe 10 or 12 choruses with
vocals and patter and all.
While the long version was being played we really started paying attention to
the room. The president would whisper in a lackey's ear and he would take
off, literally RUNNING, to accomplish his assignment. Then the next one in
line would bend down for some instructions in his ear, take a jack rabbit
launch into his assignment and at full sprint... it was amazing to see!
Outside, the thunder and lightning was getting worse. Finally, the bottom
dropped out of the sky and a torrential rain began. The ballroom had an exit
to the outside with windows so we could see all of this drama enfolding. Each
hotel worker had a Japanese TV worker glued to his side and it was obvious
neither could understand the other. They had a massive open charcoal grill
about as wide and twice as long as a pool table and they had moved it under
the eaves of the hotel to keep it out of the rain... but the rain was getting
worse. Soon, the president called one of his assistants and whispered.
Immediately, the assistant stood at attention and yelled something like
"Hie!". The entire room of Japanese assistants bounced to attention and
answered the "Hie!" with a louder "Hie! Hie!" and then it looked like a bomb
went off in an anthill. That room literally exploded with activity as
EVERYONE began running in opposite directions, shouting and motioning. We
were clueless and so we stopped.
One of the assistants, while running past us, turned our way and, in the most
unlikely but polite voice said, "Prease pray 'My Old Kentuckry Home'". So we
cranked it back up and just watched the mayhem around us.
Apparently, the president, facing the imminent possibility of a rain out for
his reception, had ordered that the big charcoal grill be brought inside the
ballroom so the cookout could continue. As if some kind of 'end-of-the-world
disaster plan' had been drawn up and practiced, each Japanese worker began to
follow his emergency preparedness plan. Although none of them could
communicate their wishes to their American partner they all began to talk and
argue with them. Very quickly, about 10 of the Japanese gave up trying to
communicate and, en masse, grabbed tablecloths and boards and lifted the
charcoal grille and began moving it indoors. As the implications of an
open-pit charcoal grille INSIDE a hotel began to dawn on the Americans...
they began arguing and finally grabbed one end of the grille and tried to
push it back out the door. The Japanese stood their ground and even more
joined their ranks on the other end of the grille as they began to play a tug
of war with the flaming device.
Several times we became so engrossed in the battle that we would stop playing
(while laughing our butts off)... but immediately one of the little
assistants, while engaged in the battle, would turn his head our way, and
from across the ballroom, shout very politely, "Prease pray 'My Old Kentuckry
Home'!" Other assistants, thinking that the music would mask the battle to
their American guests... would begin singing loudly as we played "Oh the sun
shine bright on my Old Kentuckry Home..." Sometimes the tug of war would send
the grille outside only to be met by a combined effort by the Japanese and
the entire party would be pushed back into the ballroom. The lightning was
flashing and huge thunderclaps filled the place. The steaks were already on
the grille and the constant shoving in and out would cause the brickets to
flame up. The juices from the steaks would drip onto the flames, causing the
flames to rise very high from the grille... the flameups were always met with
an unconscious "Oooooh" and "Aaahhhh" by everybody there but nothing deterred
the Japanese or the Americans from the contest.
As the flames rose higher and the steaks really began to sizzle, the room
started to fill with smoke and the smell of charcoal, good beef and lighter
fluid. Many of the Japanese assistants, unfamiliar with American music, would
panic when we got to the bridge... and thinking that we had begun a different
tune, would simultaneously yell, "Prease pray 'My Old Kentuckry Home'!" to
which we would reply "We ARE praying My Old Kentuckry Home!" This really
began to piss us off a little, now in our 30th or 40th chorus of the Stephen
Foster classic. I heard the trombone player cheering the Americans on with
"Remember Pearl Harbor!" and "I guess we kicked your little yellow butts on
The banquet manager from the hotel would come in and begin screaming for the
grille to be taken outside. The president would see this and dispatch 3 or 4
lackeys to counter that operation. These little guys would RUN over to the
banquet manager and begin arguing FOR the grille. The banquet manager would
retreat back to the kichen and return with 3 or 4 of his assistants. The
president would counter by dispatching 4 more of his reserves. As the verbal
argument continued the smoke was getting thicker and everyone's eyes were
watering and most everyone was coughing. The smoke began piling up in the
ceiling and working it's way down like a San Francisco fog. The trumpet
player layed down on the floor and played toward the ceiling... the tuba
player was laughing too hard to play and Peanuts Fitch would try to sing the
words but he began a coughing jag that wouldn't stop... but each time we
would stop there would be a shout "My Old Kentuckry Home, prease!"
Finally, the banquet manager returned with the cavalry and the Manager of the
Hotel came in and demanded that everyone get quiet and listen. We stopped and
listened. He explained the fire codes and asked the president to have his
people move the grille back outside. The president grunted and, in unison,
his minyons snapped to attention, grunted twice in reply and began moving the
grille back outside at double time.
They brought in some fans, opened the doors and blew the smoke out. We
launched into "Cakewalkin' Babies." Half-way through the 1st chorus the
president came forward and motioned us to stop. "Prease pray 'My Old
It was going to be that kind of night. Somewhere in the middle the president
brought his 8 year old daugthter up to the mic to sing a song. "what would
you like to sing?" we asked. Before she she could reply her father said, "She
sing 'My Old Kentuckry Home."
And she did. And did. And did. Finally, the president came up to thank us. He
grabbed the mic and sang "My Old Mentucky Home" to mixed response, whereupon
he grunted once and all of the Japanese workers snapped to attention, grunted
twice and sang with him.
A couple of times we just ignored the constant request... whereby the
president would send one of his lackeys up with a $20.00 bill and ask for 'My
Old Kentuckry Home'. Now they had the idea!
As we were leaving, after 4 hours and about $800.00 just in tips, he shook
our hands and asked us to come to Japan where he assured us that "My Old
Kentuckry Home" would be a big hit. No thanks.
Rocky Ball - banjo