[Dixielandjazz] Hank D'Amico + Metropole

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 10 08:11:43 PDT 2009

> <richard.flecknell at ntlworld.com> asked:
> Good Morning Steve,
> As you mention Hank D'Amico I thought I'd check him up. Can't think  
> where I have him on disc but what can you tell us about him. I see  
> he died only aged 50 in 1965.
> And talking of clubs, boredom, working musicians what about Red  
> Allen at the Metropole. Is this the club where the musicians lined  
> up in a single row?

Dear Richard & List mates:

Hank D'Amico is one of the "forgotten" jazz musicians.

You might have him on record with Louis Armstrong (Louis and The Good  
Book - 1958), or on some Red Norvo/Mildred Bailey records circa 1938.  
Or on some "Bethlehem" releases featuring the Hank D'Amico quartet  
(D'Amico, Milt Hinton bs; Bill Trigglia p; Charlie Smith d. circa 1954)

He was a neighbor in Queens County and early mentor of mine. Took me  
to jazz clubs in NYC when I was under age (younger than the then  
drinking age of 18) and introduced me to many jazz musicians,  
especially reed men like Omer Simeon, Sidney Bechet, Sol Yaged, Edmond  
Hall, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Tony Scott, Buddy DeFranco et al.  
He had a beautiful liquid tone and his own voice in an era when many  
of us wannabe jazz clarinetists were trying to copy Goodman. He was an  
excellent reader, and all around jazz musician. Beautiful man, low  
key, gentle, and fun to be around.

I dated one of his daughters, Betty Lou. She was then a dancer. She  
later passed away at the same age Hank did, also from Cancer. He was  
married to a wonderful lady who kept him straight. They had several  
daughters and one son. I went to High School with his son, Hank Jr.  
Since Hank Sr., had a family to support, his main income producing  
work was, by necessity, as a studio musician. Here is a short bio for  
other listmates:.

Hank D'Amico: -  b 1915 -  d 1965. Born in Rochester NY, Lived most of  
his years in Flushing, Queens County, New York City.  Cause of death  
cancer. First notable professional gig with Paul Specht band in 1936.  
Then joined Red Norvo & Mildred Bailey. Did radio broadcasts with his  
own octet in 1938, then back to Norvo in 1939. Backed Mildred Bailey  
on some recordings after she and Norvo split. With Bob Crosby  
orchestra in 1940-41. Had his own big band for about a year 41-42.  
Then short times with Benny Goodman and Les Brown bands. CBS studio  
musician. He then started a 10 year gig as a studio musician for ABC,  
playing gigs also on and off with Miff Mole, Tommy Dorsey and casuals  
with his own small jazz groups. Played with Teagarden and Louis  
Armstrong in 1950s. Also played at the 1964 World's Fair in Queens  
County with the Morey Feld trio.

Regarding the Metropole, yes, the barroom had a ledge behind the bar  
on which the bands played. It was just wide enough to get an upright  
piano and stool, or a drum set, etc. The band members would line up  
next to each other in a row, and play over the bar towards the  
customers. I once saw Woody Herman play there with a 14 piece band  
lined up in a row. Tough to keep time when you are spread out like  
that. Especially since the sound also bounces back at you, further  
muddying the time.

Wilder still was the narrowness of the room. It couldn't have been  
more than 20 feet wide, from bar stools to the back wall. So when the  
bands played facing that back wall, the sound was deafening.  
(Ortlieb's Jazz Haus, still open today in Philadelphia, has a similar  
configuration, though the narrow bandstand is next to the bar rather  
than behind it) There was also another music room in the upstairs back  
at the Metropole, past the bar. Things were calmer there.

Steve Barbone

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