[Dixielandjazz] a funny... NOT a political comment...
charliehooks at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 8 22:03:56 PST 2003
on 2/8/03 12:01 AM, GWW174 at aol.com at GWW174 at aol.com wrote:
When I went to college we shared all kinds of ideas... explored each other's
thinkiing... allowed others to disagree with us... always respected their
right to speak even when it disagreed with our thoughts.... Not so today for
Boy, howdy, Gordon: you must be damn near as old as I am! I entered
Baylor University in the fall of 1946 with all the WWII vets. Baylor is a
Southern Baptist institution, and you can imagine what those WWII vets made
of the preachers-to-be. There was in that school every conceivable opinion
on every subject, all ages from wet nosed 17 year olds like me to old
cigar-chewing majors who had been everywhere and done everything, What a
Musicians were also all over the place: jazz of any kind was verboten on
campus: it was the Devil's music, for sure! So we immediately formed a 17
piece dance band using stocks, and also a 6 piece Dixie band with a few
specials and mostly head arrangements. Talent varied: from the likes of me,
just out of high school (I'd been playing professionally since I was 14 in
clubs that never checked your age-- hell, this was pre-war Texas, and you
could do any damn thing you wanted if you were white and most other things
if you were black--up to Preston Miles on trombone, formerly with Jack
Teagarden's big band and later with the New York Philharmanic.
We had Jimmy ("Ounce") Hearne on bass, formerly with Jack's big band, a 375
pound six foot six whose huge black German bass looked like a cello in his
hands. They told the story on him:
In the thirties there were no amplifiers for basses and damn few for
guitars, the electric guitar not having been invented and the world still
sane. ( Sort of. We'd had Hitler and got rid of him; but electric guitars
were going to prove impossible--to listen to OR to get rid of!). Ounce
liked to play with his eyes shut, and one night when the brass were all
screaming triple f and the saxes over-blowing in consequence, the drummer
tapped Ounce on the shoulder with a stick: "Hey, Ounce! Jack wants ya!"
Ounce opened his eyes, looked at Jack and could barely hear him yelling over
the din: "GODDAMMIT, OUNCE! Yer PLAYIN' TOO LOUD!"
Now, I believe this story because I've played in front of Jimmy Hearne
many times. I also believe the one about his having hit a guy once in a
pool hall and knocked him clean over a table without moving a ball.
We had "diversity of opinion" without worrying about it for one minute:
that's how life is. Normal. Argumentative. We even had one Protest,
though we didn't call it that: the Vets all hated compulsory Chapel
attendance, and one morning they all brought alarm clocks in with them, set
to go off all together. And it did pause the service, but only for a
moment. They hadn't counted on the likes of Pat Neff--president of the
University, ex-governor of Texas back in the "old days" when you needed a
Bible in one hand and a forty-four in the other. "The Governor," as we all
still called him, was at that time over seventy years old, dressed in
striped morning trousers and frock coat, wing collar and Col. Sanders tie,
silver hair down to just above his shoulders. He had by those years
shrunken down to just over six feet, but he hadn't lost one decibel of a
voice nurtured on natural outdoor oratory under a Texas sun. He walked out
onto that stage, in front of the pulpit, and drowned out all the alarm
clocks--no amp at all.
"You all know where my office is. Y'all can all go over there, with or
without your clocks, and I will kick you out of this University--one at a
time--or all together, whichever you prefer. But out you will go!" They
looked at the old man and decided well, maybe they ought to take him
seriously. They looked again and knew damn well they better take him
seriously. They shut up. Chapel proceeded. End of that.
One of my amusements, years later in the sixties, was imagining that,
instead of Clark Kerr as president at Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement had
run up against Governor Pat Neff. They wouldn't have stood a chance. They
called their movement FUCK, and claimed it meant "Freedom Under Clark Kerr."
I like imagining KAUPN: "Kick Ass Under Pat Neff." The Old Governor would
have had a great time!
Later on the University did some suppression of its own: when our 17
piece dance band in 1947 opened the Waco Hall stage curtain to Ellington's
chart on "Things Ain't What They Used To Be," that curtain almost
immediately got closed back again, and we were chased off the stage,
suggesting that, no, Things Were Just the Same. NO JAZZ AT BAYLOR
UNIVERSITY! (It might lead to--gasp--dancing!)
But opinions never got suppressed. You got yelled at, but you could yell
back without being silenced. I published in the Baylor newspaper a stinging
satire on the lack of religious freedom that got printed and much discussed
(thus demonstrating that I was basically full of it: we had plenty of
freedom.) Professorial politics varied widely--more conservative then but
with plenty of radicals who read Pogo and drank beer and smoked
cigarettes--though NOT ON CAMPUS! It was a time of lovely hypocrisy! Some
great bands, though, as I'll bet lots a y'all recall....
time to shut up,
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