[Dixielandjazz] Re: Eddie Condon - was visceral jazz

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 22 19:05:30 PST 2003

Dear Bill & List mates:

Yes, I agree that ownership of "Condon's" would have been murky. Eddie Condon did
not seem to have the head or the discipline it takes to run a "joint" and keep, it
profitable. It takes a very tough business person. Those that I know today who make
it work, Sydney's in Rehoboth DE and Zanzibar Blue in Philadelphia and Wilmington
DE which I frequent are both run by tough business oriented people.

And of course, Pete Pesci? Wasn't he an Italian? Hmmm. ;-)

My jazz musician friends in NYC at the time, late 40s through early 60s all
believed that Eddie Condon was the front man for ?????????  But like Bud Freeman,
the rest of us didn't talk about it too much either. Better we didn't know.

There were many jazz clubs in NYC in that era that seemed to be controlled by
someone other than Mr. nice guy, the lover of jazz. For sure, the mob controlled
the liquor connections, a holdover from prohibition perhaps. And, we musicians,
were all fingerprinted and had identity cards with thumb print and photo, again a
holdover from prohibition and the firm belief that all jazz musicians were either
crooks, dope addicts, libertines or otherwise persons of flawed character. Couldn't
gig in NYC without this "cabaret card." I still have the last one issued to me
before I stopped playing, and a handsome devil I was in 1962. ;-) VBG

As an aside, Sidney Bechet and Condon were great friends. In fact, Bechet often
said that Condon in 1940 was the primary influence in getting him on the comeback
trail. They played together often and in 1946 when Condon had booked the band at
Washington DC's Constitution Hall, management (it was owned by the Daughters of the
American Revolution) canceled it when they found out that Bechet was black. They
had previously canceled an appearance by Opera singer Marion Anderson and weren't
about to let Bechet play there. Condon got plenty of publicity out about it, photo
in the paper with his head in his hands, etc., and moved the concert to a hotel
ballroom. Of course it was almost immediately sold out.

You just never know about mob influence in jazz. Remember that Bechet and Armstrong
were booked to appear together at a concert in Town Hall in 1947. Bechet never
appeared, claiming he got ill on the subway while on the way. Max Kaminski claims
that he called Ryan's that night and the Sidney was there all night, for his
regular gig. He said that Louis and Sidney did not get along etc., and Sidney just
decided not to go.

Reportedly, Armstrong never forgave Bechet for not showing. More importantly,
however, Joe Glazer is rumored to have "advised" Bechet not to spoil his health by
working too often in smoky clubs in the city. Supposedly Bechet got the message and
took things easy around NYC for a while.

Now that's visceral.

Steve Barbone

Bill Haesler wrote:

> Dear Steve,
> Regarding: >he would have to have been at least 21. Since he is now 61, that
> would place the year no sooner than 1963.<
> Sorry. The maths error was mine.
> We always said as students that a prerequisite for Architecture was a failure in
> maths and physics.
> 8>)
> Eddie Condon's (1945-1957), (1958-1967) and (1975-1985).
> In the comprehensive book 'No Cover Charge - a backward look at the night clubs
> by Robert Sylvester' (Peter Davies. 1957) it says that Condon left Nick's "and
> opened his own jazz saloon in West 3rd St. As his own owner, Eddie has seen no
> reason to change his personality nor his deportment. For a manager, he has a
> firm and stubborn young man named  Pete Pesci." Then follows an amusing story
> about Pesci throwing (individually) Joe Sullivan, Wild Bill, George Brunies, and
> finally Condon, off stage and out the back door of the club for drunken
> behaviour.
> Which is not to say that Condon (or Pesci) did not have an underworld backer(s).
> In 1964  and again in 1975, when Bud Freeman was in Australia, he regaled us
> with stories about everyone, including 'mobsters', but cautioned us not to
> publish them until after his death as they (the mob) had long arms.
> We didn't write them down, and (in my case) the stories have been lost with
> time.
> A pity.
> Therefore, I would not expect underworld 'ownership' of Condon's to be common
> knowledge.
> However, someone out there, with close connections to the 1940s NYC scene must
> know.
> Kind regards,
> Bill.

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