[Dixielandjazz] My debt to Kenny Ball

Bob Romans cellblk7 at comcast.net
Sat Oct 29 14:50:02 PDT 2005

What a great story, Dick!
Thank  you VERY much! Please come to Lodi and sing "Midnight In Moscow" with 
Cell Block 7, or, give Bill Gunter Russian lessons so HE can sing it! 
Doesn't it start with a tuba playing a vamp ala "Song Of The Volga Boatman", 
"Yoho HEAVE ho, YOHO Heave Ho", etc!
Warm regards,
Bob Romans,
Cell Block 7 Jazz Band
1617 Lakeshore Dr.
Lodi, Ca. 95242
Cell 209-747-1148
Because I play trumpet, I envy no one.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dick Baker" <box2 at twotonbaker.com>
To: <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2005 2:27 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] My debt to Kenny Ball

> Sorry for injecting a purely personal note, but the recent mentions of 
> Kenny Ball struck a sympathetic chord in me.  At the start of the 1960s, I 
> was a callow high-schooler, steeped in the rock & roll music of the 1950s. 
> But then Kenny Ball's recording of "Midnight in Moscow" crossed over the 
> the pop charts and was played on the Top 40 AM stations of the day.  I 
> heard it and was intrigued.  I bought the "Midnight in Moscow" LP and 
> liked it so much that I went back to the store for another stunning Ball 
> LP of 1962, called "It's Trad."  I was hooked; have been ever since.
> But wait, there's more.  The first live trad jazz band I ever heard was 
> the Leningrad Dixieland Jazz Band, in Leningrad, in 1970, while I was 
> studying Russian at LSU (Leningrad State University).  I was stunned to 
> discover that they played just like Kenny Ball.  Later I learned why: 
> Ball was the first trad jazz band ever to visit the Soviet Union, in the 
> late 1950s.  His visits sparked the formation of a number of bands, most 
> of which stayed amateur and unknown in the West (those of Grachev and 
> Melkonov were especially notable), but the Leningraders copied the Kenny 
> Ball sound perfectly and played it with great skill.  They were the only 
> professional jazz band in the USSR for decades -- but were never allowed 
> to travel to the West to strut their stuff, at least not until the 
> relaxations of the Glasnost Era.
> You want more?  I'll give you more.  At some point (in the 1980s?), one of 
> our local Washington-area bands discovered that I knew all four verses of 
> "Midnight in Moscow" in Russian and invited me up to sing it.  As a 
> profoundly unmusical nonmusician, I'd never ventured on stage before, but 
> I gave it my best.  Over the next few months, as friends in that 
> first-night audience put bugs in the ears of other local bandleaders, I 
> performed my act several more times.  Was this a career in the making? 
> Finally, though, as I left the stage after one of my command performances, 
> Charlie and Doris Bitterli stuck a tape in my hand, explaining that they'd 
> had their machine running and figured I'd like a souvenir of my triumph.
> My God, it was awful.  I knew I couldn't sing, but I had *no idea* it was 
> that bad.  Mortified, I retired the act.  But I still run through those 
> lyrics every once in a while, just in case:
>         Ne slyshny v sadu dazhe shorokhi,
>         Vse zdes' zamerlo do utra.
>         Esli b zali vy, kak mne dorogi,
>         Podmoskovnye vechera . . .
> --
> --------------------------------------------
>   Dick Baker - Falls Church, Virginia, USA
>             box2 at twotonbaker.com
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