Wednesday, March 6, 2013


     Jazz radio hosts are remembering the great Wes Montgomery on this the 90th anniversary of his birth. Even though I'm a Caucasian with no musical talent I feel a kinship to the guitarist from Indianapolis.
     First,  there is the hometown connection. Then several years ago I worked with Wes's brother, Buddy, a great player in his own right in trying to develop a documentary on Wes.  We couldn't get a buyer, but the time working with Buddy and hearing tales was a thrill.
     I got hooked on jazz when I was a high school kid who'd listen to rhythm & blues and jazz radio.  I had to be in the minority of whites, especially young whites, who listened.
     I was working in the mid-town area at an FM station known for it's classical and semi classical play list, but I'd listen to a small station that played jazz.  My station was in the heart of the city, in an old hotel that at the time was known as a place for hookers, working out of the marbled bar and lobby. The jazz station was further east, in what had become an industrial neighborhood, near the giant RCA plant. I'd drive through that area on the way into my Saturday and Sunday shifts, from noon to 1:00 AM. One day I had filled in for a regular staff guy and on the way home decided to stop in at the jazz station.
      I knew the Dearborn Hotel, because I played in a basketball league that played in the famous little gym there. I punched the elevator button for the top floor and passed through levels of aroma.  There was stale smoke smell of the lobby, the gym smell, food and what I call old hotel aromas.  There was a buzzer on a door at the end of the hall that displayed the station's call letters. I was about to leave after a couple of punches when a black man with slicked backed hair, a goatee and wearing a white shirt and tie asked "What can I do for you sunny?"
      I explained my mission, told him of my love of jazz and he bid me entry into a small office, stacked full of records and a couple of desks cluttered with broadcast logs-records of the music and commercials played.  We sat in the studio over looking the neighborhood, toward the downtown and chatted.  He was a jazz player too. He'd played with Wes and the great JJ Johnson among others.  
      I think he was amazed to count among his listeners a white suburban high school boy, but he seemed thrilled just to know the music "crossed over."  
     I was struck by a comment about Wes.  
     "He is one fine negro gentleman, and man that cat can play."
     That was back in the early 60's.  From that era here are a couple of videos of the great Wes Montgomery.
     The first tune is an original-Jingles

Here he is with a couple of other legends.
    Man, that cat can play!

    See you down the trail.


  1. I love seeing sculpture outdoors. It's interesting to think that Michelangelo's David was outdoors for several hundred years even though someone through a bench at it during as civil war and broke off an arm.

  2. That cat can play . . .

    Indeed he can.

    I learned about jazz from my freshman roommate at Cal; he played jazz sax at Gunn high school in Palo Alto. He later left Cal and wound up at Cal Poly SLO - and was a founding father of our chapter there!

  3. I don't know if you ever heard Floyd Smith play in Indy, he was an ancient old dude, Floyd had played with the black big bands in the 30's and 40's. Had been a session player and even workd with Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett for a time. Old Floyd was one of young Wes Montgomery's mentors. When Floyd was in his 60's (in the 70's) he had a quartet. The drummer, bass player and keyboardist were all in their 20's. Here he is with an original when he played with Andy Kirk's big band.

  4. Great anecdote. What were the call letters of the jazz station

    1. WAIV. It had been a classical station and I think was owned by Lilly. It eventually became WTLC. In the transition and in the early days of TLC it played jazz.

  5. Quiet work with that right thumb doing most of the labor.

  6. Bro C1,
    The word "Negro" got my attention. I wrote an essay titled "A Negro named Gus." It was for a contest to win a trip to a Hollywood premier . I won the trip. It was anout a beer vender at Bush Stadium. Since I didn't have a visual, I used the word "negro." It was a stopper. So happens that Gus played in the Negro league in minor league baseball. Therefore, negro was appropriate.
    That is all...
    Bro C2

  7. Great story. I happened to see Muddy Waters once in an unexpected venue, where he simply walked on one night. Magical, to see these legends doing their thing.