[Dixielandjazz] Re: Tbone 's and planes

Bill Haesler bhaesler@nsw.bigpond.net.au
Tue, 17 Sep 2002 17:25:26 +1000

Dear Dave and others on the DJML who asked,
Here is the Graeme Bell story I mentioned under the above thread heading a few
days back.
It has been taken from the book 'Graeme Bell. Australian Jazzman. His
Autobiography'. (Child & Associates. 1988)

"However, the week after our opening [Leister Square Jazz Club], we had to cross
the Channel for a French tour and the first of three record dates for Pacific
Records, arranged for us by Charles Delauney. The newly formed Humphrey
Lyttelton band deputised for as at Leister Square. We arrived in Paris via
Newhaven and Dieppe on the night of 6 February [1948] and, checking our
instruments into the luggage hall, we booked rooms in the nearest and cheapest
hotel in the Rue Budapest. We had to sleep two to a bed and the hotel turned out
to be a brothel with many nightly comings and goings up and down the stairs. We
were too tired to be either disturbed or concerned. In the morning, when we went
to get our instruments the customs officials refused to hand them over. There
had been much smuggling of musical instruments since the war and because some of
our passports gave our occupations as 'university student', 'aircraft
electrician' or engineering draftsman' they suspected that we were not the
rightful owners. Never did anyone have a keener eye for publicity than out Mel
[Langdon]. He immediately smelt good value in all this, rushed to the phone and
called France-Soir, one of the leading Paris afternoon newspapers. The fact that
he couldn't speak a word of French was no deterrent and a photographer and
reporter were down at the customs shed in a flash. Mel then produced the
recording contract and the reporter translated Mel's offer to the customs man
that if we could prove that we could play these instruments, we could all leave
for the recording studio where our arrival was impatiently awaited. There have
been some jam sessions in aeroplanes and submarines, but I'll bet even Django
Reinhardt or Sidney Bechet has never played under the dome of the Gare
Saint-Lazare to an audience of Parisian commutes with the blue-smocked porters
doing a jitterbug. The picture appeared large on the front page of that
afternoon's edition with a story worth heaps of more conventional publicity.
Huddled up in overcoats, scarves and wearing our omnipresent wide-brimmed hats,
we made our way with instruments through the snow to the studio."

Incidentally, Graeme (still a dear friend of ours from those early days)
celebrated his 88th birthday last week, and is as fit as a Mallee bull (an old
Australian expression).
Kind regards,