[Dixielandjazz] Rushton redux

Don Ingle dingle at baldwin-net.com
Fri May 9 01:40:26 PDT 2003

   The following is excerpted from a post I sent to a friend, and relates
some tales about the late Joe Rushton, bass saxist maxima. I left out all
the personal part of the post, and thought you might enjoy these memoranda.
Don Ingle

My dear friend, the late Joe Rushton who knew me from the time I was a babe
in arms, had two bass saxes, each with a pet name. Buster was one, the other
Beatrice. Johnny Dengler bought one from Joe's widow, Pricilla
  A few stories about Joe you might enjoy. One time he heard that my dad was
back from a road trip with the Spike Jones band and wanted to see Red. We
were having dinner in our apartment which was in a court in No. Hollywood.
We suddenly heard this growing sound of a roaring motor and loud tail pipe
that came right up to the door. There was a concrete veranda in front, and
Joe had pulled his Harley right up to the door and sound was amplified by
the court into a thundering roar. It sounded like World War Two had moved
inland to our porch. Dad went to the door, opened it, and there stood Joe,
saying, "Hey, you red-headed fart...you got any gin?"
    Joe  would drink straight shots of gin, usually two, on each break. But
I never ever saw him show any signs of being drunk or scheiss-faced --
rather scary when you think about it.
   His long time run with Red Nichols was a love/hate relationship. At times
they would not speak to each other directly, so they would pass messages
through poor little Rolly Culver, the drummer. Red would tell Rolly..."tell
the bass sax player that he is sharp." Joe would ask Rolly to tell
Red..."Inform the 'leader' he has wax in his ears."
   Another time he was playing a spiffy, tux gig with Red Nichols at the
Ambassador West. Joe arrived in his tux on his Harley, the bass sax and case
strapped on behind him. Pulling up by the entrance, Joe cut the engine,
stepped off and unloaded his bass sax, and then handed the keys to the
parking valet and said..."Park it. I'll be back for it at 12."
   I saw Joe for the last time when he was about to go to Frisco to see the
Condon guys off for their Far East tour...this was '65, and we made plans to
get together to go over some of his old dubs of the Deep River air show with
Willard Robson from the 1930's.
   While up there, he had a fatal heart attack -- died at the wheel of his
car along the Embarcadero after stopping to see Brad Gowan's widow...who was
not home. He had her name and address in his pocket, and police called her
to ask if she knew who they might call to break the news to the family. Pete
Bielmann and I got the word, and we spent the day calling all of Joe's
friends to let them know that the Great One had left us. A sad day for all.
Enough of that...Joe left some great sides to remember his playing by. One
of the jazz world's great characters -- may we remember him with fondness
and respect for his
mastery of one of the world's great "bastard" instruments.

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