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May 03, 1941 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-05-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'P E R SP E C T I V E S

Page Nim

. By Don Folkman

F YOU'RE ALLERGIC to honest-to-
god, every-day, gut-bucket swing,
don't read any farther. That's what
this is about - swing; musicians;
dance band.
Before I start, I'd better tell you that
I play the bass fiddle (in a dance man's
lingo it's called "dog-house) and perhaps
it would be better to say that I "play
at it." Anyway, I'm the guy that stands
back there holding up one end of an
over-grown violin. I play in a nice band,
too - sixteen pieces, including a lus-
cious vocalist. It's a peach of an out-
fit. The fellows can play "sweet" and
then, in the next breath, jam as "hot"
as you care to hear. It's my band and
I'm awfully proud of it.
When swing first came into being,
the oldsters said that it wouldn't last -
it was just a fad. The youngsters dis-
agreed. The youngsters were right.
Swing has been here for a long time
and it looks as though it will roll 'em
in the aisles for a long time to come.
Why? - it's hard to tell. It's fun to
play it. It's fun to listen to it. It's
fun to dance to it. When a band is
playing a nice catchy tune, it's almost
impossible to sit still. It is for me, even
when I'm not playing. I keep time with
my feet - I play imaginary "traps" -
sometimes I even get up and dance with
myself. Crazy? Maybe so, but that's
what swing does to me.
There are a lot 'of things that go into
the making of a good band. The first
and most essential factor is, of course,
musicians. Not the common, everyday
type of musician, but the kind of fellow
that would rather play than eat - and
the fellows in the band must like each
other. Once you have gathered together
a group of musicians who are good
friends and who live for the fun of play-
ing swing, you've got a good start toward
making up a band.
The "library" comes next. You don't
buy every popular number that comes
out; you buy the ones you think will
last; the good catchy, swingy ones; the
ones that are the most danceable. Four
types of arrangements are found in most

libraries: popular numbers, "standards,"
novelties, and "rides." My band has them
all - with a couple of waltzes thrown
in, just in case. The popular numbers
are up-to-the-minute, the latest thing.
The "standards" are those that are al-
ways good -- "Blue Skies," "Stardust,"
or "Margie." Then there are novelty
numbers such as "Hector, the Garbage
Collector" and "I Like To Stay After
School." "My Blue Heaven," "Dinah,"
and "Honeysuckle Rose are some of the
best known "ride" numbers. These are
the ones the guys enjoy most - then
they really have a chance to take off.
When the band rides, the whole out-
fit fakes a background for a solo im-
provization on the main theme of the
number. The man taking the ride is
"out of the world"; he gets a dizzy grin
on his face, he closes his eyes, sticks
his tongue out - he's in the dance man's
seventh heaven.
Mine is a big outfit, as dance bands
go: five saxes, three trumpets, three
trombones, a vocalist, and a four piece
rhythm section -- bass, drums, guitar
and piano. The entire rhythm section,
two of the sax men, one of the trumpets,
ane one of the trombones are outstand-
ing as far as "riding" goes. For ex-
ample, we'll start to ride "Honeysuckle
Rose" in the key of F with the whole
band jiving - Mush Svenson, the trum-
pet man, will have a brainstorm and call
out a change into A (a particular se-
quence of chords); the piano takes a
modulation and we start faking in A-7.
Then the clarinet ride, Willy Loucks,
wants to take a chorus in B-3 - a
modulation takes us into that key and
we're off again. We've often ridden as
long as twenty minutes on the same
number - every chorus in a different
key. It takes a good band to play that
way, without looking at a note of music
from the beginning to the end.
We play for the "jitterbugs." It's
more fun to play for them. We don't
have to hold back. They want the best
and the hottest that we've got - so
we cut loose and give it to them. But
sometimes we get a little bit too wild
even for them so they just stand around

and watch us. In a way, that's a compli-
ment, but- we don't like it. Talk about
Daniel in the lions' den - sixteen kids
on the bandstand and down below a
hundred I and fifty or two hundred
couples watching like hungry wolves!
But that isn't the only thing. The
expressions on many of their faces are
slightly nauseating. In most cases the
girls are worse than the fellows - but
the fellows are bad enough. They seem
to have a maniacal passion for hot
music. They look like morons; they beat
time with their feet, snap their fingers,
"conduct" the band, and, in 'general,
make damn fools out of themselves.
Many of them act like victims of epi-
lepsy. They jerk and twitch and jump
around -- we really pity them. I'll grant
you that when the reeds are wailing in
the upper register with the brasses
moaning in the background and the
rhythm section pounding out a nice
solid jive, it sends a thrill right through
your ribs. But though the music may
be definitely "in the groove" and may fit
your mood and taste, it isn't so sublime
or heavenly that you must go iito a
frenzy about it.
Some of the requests that we get from
the crowd are ridiculous. We were play-
ing in St. Marys, Pa., for a bunch of
kids - high school kids; jitterbugs -
and were really swinging out. We were
giving them everything that we had -
and then on~e of the chaperons came
up. He was a nice, jolly, slightly bald,
paunchy old duck, but conspicuously
out of place in the crowd of dancers.
He asked us to play a "rye waltz" (a
corny piece in which you alternate
twelve measures of 3 4 time with eight
measures of 4/4.) When Billy Loucks
heard the request he shouted, "Hey fel-
las, intermission - the drinks are on
the house." That took care of that re-
quest. It was a high school dance and
the chaperon thought that someone had
brought a 'bottle: he hurried away in
search of the culprit and we heard
nothing more from him. We also get re-
quests for old numbers - things that
we discarded long ago - some that we
never even had. When we get a request

of this sort, we hunt around in toe
band till we find a fellow who knows
the melody. He gives us the key and
we all fill in around him, faking as we
go. Requests - bah! - there should
be a law against them.
The life of a dance man isn't as
sweet or as much fun as many people
seem to believe. Let us say, for exampe,
that your are playing with a good band
and your agent has booked you for an
engagement at a summer resort. You
play five nights a week for five hours
(10 - 3) each night. As you'll be mak-
ing two dollars an hour, this doesn't
sound half bad. There's a catch to it
though - you'll probably have to ri-
hearse for four or five hours each day,
besides the time actually spent on the
job. The average daily schedule rues
something like this: 10 p.m. - 3 a.m.,
time spent on the job; 4:30, everyone
sobered up and in bed; 10:30, rise, dress,
loaf till noon; 12, noon, lunch; 1 --5,
rehearsal; 6:30, dinner; 7:15, free time;
9:30, get band set up, music distributed,
and everything ready. At 10, you start
all over again on the same old grind.
On days that you don't play the sarne
evening, you rehearse eight hours but
your evenings are free. This may be
fun for a week or two but to ppend
a whole summer at it is awfully monot-
onous. Of course the crowd of beautiful
females usually found at summer resorts
helps to while away your time and to
relieve the monotony - but, even so,
after the novelty wears off it isn't any
picnic.
You can see that this life is no b:d
of roses, but I like it. I like everything
about it - the long hours, the hard
work, the 'kick" of playing, the in-
spired "rides," the beautiful babes, the
moments of indecision, the short tem-
pers at the end of the season, even the
discouragement of what seems to be
periodic bad luck - all these and many
more that are in store for the dance
man. The band has a lot to do with
whether you can take it and the one
I play with is tops. I wouldn't switch
to another for anything in the world.
Why? It's my band.

THE NOVEL ..Continued from Page One

said. And he left, stepping firmly across
the porch and down the sidewalk.
Mrs. Burroughs watched him go and
then threw herself crying down on the
sofa. She was still weeping when her
husband came in.
"What's going on here?" he said,
prodding her in the shoulder. "Why are
you crying?"
"Oh, it's Will and that book," she
sobbed. "He's telling everything about
everybody and he won't stop and they're
all getting angry at us." She told him
about the minister and Mrs. Olmstead.
"Well, by God," her husband decided,
"let him go ahead. So long as he sticks
to the truth it's all right. Now get me
some supper." Then he sat down in his
chair, and before he went to eat he said
to his wife as lovingly as he could, "Now
don't worry about it. It's all right."
And so the novel went on. The type-
writer clattered, and occasionally the
author would walk to the sationery shop
for more paper or an eraser. On such
trips he was severely ignored by the
entire neigheborhood, but he bore his
cross with the conviction and fervor of
a martyr. He wrote and revised and
shouted and smoked cigarettes in his
room until he was sick. Then, after long
weeks of work, by which time the neigh-
borhood was seething with suspicious n-

dignation and his mother trembling with
fear of what might be coming, he an-
nounced that he had finished. He had
finished and in the pages ofhis book
were locked the terrible secrets of Mr.
Humphreys and of the Olmsteads and
probably of the minister and maybe even
his own mother, who did not dare to
insist on his showing her the work.
Will Burroughs made his last trip to
the stationers to buy the crisp, bonded
paper on which the final draft was to be
typed. Mr. Southey wrapped up the
paper for him and said pleasantly, "So
she's done."
"Yes," Will said in a tired voice, run-
ning his fingers through his strong,
black hair, "it's done."
"What are you going to do with it?"
Mr. Southey asked him.
"It doesn't matter much," Will told
him; "The important thing is that it's
done. I suppose I'll try to sell it."
"That will be nice," Mr. Southey ob-
served kindly. "What is it about?"
"It's about people, About the smug,
unimaginative clods who live from day
to day without any purpose in existing,"
he said passionately. "It's about ignor-
ance and intolerance."
"You have a lot to write about," Mr.
Southey said. Then he began to open
,boxes of pencils, and Will left the store.

News that the novel was completed
seeped through the neighborhood and
washed a thrill of horror over its spine.
Comunication over back fences stopped
'because of the commonly felt fear of
what would be revealed in the book.
Little children, who understood nothing
of what was happening, were warned
by their parents to be close mouthed
about domestic affairs, and even the
husbands, who were inclined to take
the whole affair with less seriousness
than it deserved, became paragons of
all that could be expected in men of
their position, Mr. Olmstead brought
home flowers which his wife nervously
accepted and for which she tried to re-
ward him by sitting in his lap as he
read the evening paper. He did not com-
plain. Mr. Humphreys remained away
from the bottle for the better part of an
entire Friday evening.
In Sam Burroughs' house there was,
except for the feverish nervousness of
Mrs. Burroughs, comparative calm. Mr.
Burroughs sat solidly in his chair and
read his paper. When his wife suggested
that at least he should demand to
read the book he only snorted and
rubbed one tired foot over the other.
And upstairs she could hear the faint,
steady thumping of the typewriter's
keys, working like an engine of destrue-

tion, tearing down, she thought, all hor
happiness and security.
No one, indeed, except himself had
read the manuscript when Will Buz-
roughs tied it up and sent it away to
the publishing house; but those who
learned later what he had done felt that
they themselves were tied in the bundle.
The clergyman who had visited Mrs.
Burroughs sat in his study and wondered
fearfully if he had ever done anything
that might be the object of Will's scorn.
He read through some of his past ser-
mons and was shocked that he had
dared to declare the creation of Adan
an allegory. Horrible visions of his being
thrown out of the parish by his angry
flock floated through his mind; he saw
himself ridiculed and spat upon as the
Son of God had been. He determined
to paraphrase Donne's sermon on mercy
for the following Sunday.
The terrible thing was that now noth-
ing could be done about the matter. In
a few weeks the nation would be laugh-
ing at Clay Street and all its most inti-
mate affairs. Mr. Humphreys would be
pictured as an evil, drunken old man,
taking the bread from his children's
mouths to buy drink. Mr. Olmstead
would be a raging, vicious beast who
(Continued on Page Ten)

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