More Than You Know: Dec 2000

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Don’t You Leave Me Here
A couple of years ago, Norman Emberson arranged a few trio dates in Germany for bassist Micky Ashman and myself, with Norman on drums. Norman was already in Germany and the plan was that Micky & myself fly to Stuttgart to be met by Norman who was coming from Frankfurt. We arrived at 3pm. but there was no sign of Norman. An hour went by, two hours went by, still no appearance. As we had a gig that night, panic set in. Norman had told us not to bring any German money as we would be getting paid that night and we were getting thirsty (and hungry). Another hour went by, still no sign of Norman. Neither of us had Norman’s telephone number and as I had a couple of pounds Sterling, I changed it into German Marks, telephoned my wife in England and told her the situation.

She called Norman on his mobile phone in Frankfurt and he informed her that he hadn’t left his house yet! He had packed his drums and the double bass in the car and shut the boot. Unfortunately, it was in the locking position and the keys were inside. All the doors were now locked. He got the German equivalent of the AA out who were unable to do anything. He then got a local garage mechanic – he couldn’t release the locks either. By now it was snowing heavily. The only option left was to smash the car window but Norman didn’t relish the thought of driving from Frankfurt to Stuttgart in a snow storm with no window. He finally borrowed a friend’s car and drove to Stuttgart – arriving at 8pm.

The gig was about 50 miles away so there was no alternative but to call the Promoter and give him the bad news – we wouldn’t be making it. On hearing the news, he was quite relieved. They’d also had snow blizzards and he said the roads were so bad it was unlikely anyone would show up anyway. It was time for something to eat and Norman knew a good restaurant. It was a costly night for him – not only had we lost the gig money, he insisted on paying for the dinner The next morning a local locksmith was contacted and within ten minutes he had got the window down and fished out the keys – with a coat hanger.

There’s a scene from a Benny Hill Show in which a road sweeper brushes all the leaves into a corner and when no one is looking he picks up the pavement and sweeps them underneath. A German TV executive was shown the clip and commented “Very funny but it would not work in Germany because you cannot pick up the pavements here”.

You Turned Turntable On Me
A letter from Mal Webb in the June issue of “Just Jazz” stated that when he started collecting records, you only got the chance to hear one record per month, but you knew it backwards by the time the next one was issued. Thomas Edison – who invented the phonograph in 1878 – ran the Edison Company record label and is quoted as saying “I dislike jazz and dance music so much, I always play the records backwards – they sound better that way”. An amazing admission from a man who issued dozens of jazz and dance bands on his label. By the time Edison was hiring bands, the word “jazz” had not been in existence that long, in fact its derivation has always been in doubt and it wasn’t applied to music until at least 1916. Prior to that the word appeared in the sports pages of San Francisco newspapers implying vitality or enthusiasm and in the Chicago area it was a vulgar expression – used in common with other four-letter words.

Mean To Me
An article in my local newspaper recently, told the story of a piece of pop memorabilia that was being auctioned by Christie’s. The item in question was a contract that had been made in 1962 between the Rolling Stones and the Woodstock Hotel in North Cheam, Surrey. Their fee was £15 – obviously before they had any hit records (their first came 8 months later).

Alongside the story was a copy of the contract, and on closer scrutiny I noticed the promoter was Steve Duman. Steve was a shrewd man who also ran Morden Jazz Club, held each week at the Crown Hotel, Morden, Surrey. When he changed the venue to the George Hotel, he asked me if I would play the interval spot during the bands’ break. He booked two other pianists – Alan Rogers and Colin Bannigan and we each played there every third week. We were paid £1 for a 30 minute spot – on reflection, not THAT bad when compared with the Stones’ fee for two hours.

Steve decided to open another Jazz Club, this time in Tonbridge, Kent. He asked me to play the interval spot on the opening night and I agreed – provided he put the money up as it was a 100 mile round trip. He begrudgingly offered me 27/6d. and said he was taking a chance as he didn’t know what the turn-out would be. On arrival, I was confronted by “House Full” notices – there were 500 customers packed in to the hall. At Morden Jazz Club, bands were paid a fee or alternatively offered a percentage of the door takings. For obvious reasons, the “bigger name” bands went for the percentage and on many occasions Steve was challenged on the number of paying customers. His answer was always “It’s the way I’ve arranged the tables and chairs – it just looks more”.

Neville Dickie – December 2000.