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Was he being sarcastic? What was he being? I’ll never tell. All I can say is I learned a lesson. I can’t figure out what the lesson is—yet. I’m running it through the lab. I’m trying a little titration on it, maybe a little litmus paper.
All I’ve got to say is, when you see that band and those half-time ceremonies marching out and striking into the wind, you are seeing a machine that few people understand. Only those who have been in the middle of one know what it’s like.
I can still feel that little tingling around my lips once in a while when I hear a band playing “Semper Fidelis.” That little chapped feeling of a guy who’s rehearsed long and hard on the second coda chorus of every known march that was ever printed.
Pumpapapumpapapum! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Oh yeah! Come on, Pick up them knees, you guys! Come on, move out, move out!
Drump! Pump! Pump! Pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pum! Drump-pum-pump pump pump!
Pumpapapumpapapum! Here we go now! All together now! The torches light up, the crowd is going ape! Bababapooombapoooom!
[End of “Halftime Sousaphone” and Part 6]
CLOTH, BONE, FEATHERS
My interest in cloth as esthetic subject began when I started doing a bit of research for my trip to Peru in 1980. I’d be spending time mostly in Lima, and the Inca highland capital of Cuzco which is a center for traditional Peruvian weaving.
We got the name of a good retail shop in Cuzco where we could get quality woven cloth from highland Peru and Bolivia. These objects are traditional ponchos and other pieces made for local consumption in the early-to mid-twentieth century that had been used and then sold, so that Americano tourists could buy and transport them back to adorn walls and furniture. Eventually I’d also buy some minor pre-Columbian objects from there and from other sources. (The photo shows the kind of serious fabric store one can find in Cuzco.)
Beautiful craftsmanship again expands my idea of “art,” though weaving still doesn’t make it to the highest levels for me. Mostly I’d say, it’s “quality, attractive craft.” Yet I enjoy looking at my few pieces and contemplating them.
My wife and I have two major walls in our living room, one with
musical instruments, the other with cloth and artifacts.
A variety of pieces including a poncho, a very long piece
that might be a scarf, a highland campesino’s hat,
a cloth baby carrier from the Amazon,
an Inca feather-work piece, a small, pre-Columbian cloth doll,
End Part 1 of 3
And then we stop. They hit the last line of the coda and I scurry back in line. I see the crowd applauding wildly! Fantastic! The crowd is cheering!
I must have been forty feet out of the band and now I am back in line. And next to me is Ernie Dunker, who is a superb marching sousaphonist. And Dunker says, “You!” I can hear him under his breath. We are going down to the center of the field. Pump,pump,pump. Pump,pump,pump. We’re going to make the great big block H now. Dunker says, “Oh, you! Oh boy, wait until Davis busts you, dad!”
I can see Davis’ back. The back of his neck is beet red. Beet red. They have rehearsed an entirely new formation. And where was I? Knocking down cheeseburgers in the Red Rooster. Knocking down the cheeseburgers. Drinking Black Cows. Setting up the biggest public humiliation of my life. Have you ever marched down the middle of a football field to twenty-five-thousand screaming people while the band is playing “Semper Fidelis” and you are whistling “Dixie”? You can hardly hide when you’re in a sousaphone. And who loused up? And don’t think for a minute the crowd didn’t laugh it up. They roared.
The rest of the evening went by in some kind of terrible nightmare. I’m sitting up in the stands. I don’t even see the game. Stinky Davis doesn’t say a word. He’s sitting three rows down below me. His neck is red—all the way up! Doesn’t say anything! Nothing!
The weekend goes by. Monday morning is hard and cold. That is the day our school newspaper comes out. Here, covering the whole front page, is a picture of the marching band playing “Semper Fidelis.” Right there. It says, SOUSAPHONE ACE MAKES BOO-BOO, and you see one sousaphone player in the upper left-hand corner heading out somewhere toward Nome, Alaska. The rest of the band is doing this beautiful cloverleaf formation. It says, “SOUSAPHONE ACE MAKES BOO-BOO. Crowd laughs it up. Friday night, at the big game between George Rogers Clark, a sousaphone player, seen in picture above, made the hit of the season.” Oh god, no!
Well, I can hardly wait for the seventh period. Which is band period. Yeah, I can hardly wait. Seventh period arrives, Shepherd drags in, looking sheepish, feeling like last week’s mashed potatoes, and Mr. Wilson is up on the stand. The band sits down. Ready for indoor rehearsal. Mr. Wilson starts out by saying, “That was the best half-time show we ever did. Whoever thought up that great comedy routine….”
Henry Morgan was a very funny, iconoclastic, satirical radio humorist who preceded Jean Shepherd’s days on the radio, and was somewhat contemporaneous with him—they knew each other’s work. He irreverently spoofed his sponsors. Most notoriously, he accused Life Savors of fraud for having holes in all their candies. As he later put it, “I claimed that if the manufacturer would give me all those centers,” Morgan remembered, “I would market them as ‘Morgan’s Mint Middles’ and say no more about it.”
NYT obit 5/20/1994. (died 5/19) Mr. Morgan earned strong critical notices when he used no script and a few notes and ad libbed his way through his broadcasts. He greatly admired the work of Fred Allen and Robert Benchley; he was unpredictable, iconoclastic, derisive about the media in which he worked….downright insolent and pointedly disloyal to his sponsors. Mr. Morgan always bit the hand that fed him.
HOW I MADE MORGAN LAUGH ON LIVE TELEVISION
Henry Morgan had his own live program in the early days of television. I was a young teenager, and would watch the show with my parents at the dinner table. His program was frequently preceded by an announcer’s voice:
“The ideas and comments on the following program
are not necessarily those of this station
or of any of its sponsors.”
On the program, Morgan would frequently complain about this–obviously, he’d say, the station was too timid to stand behind any but the most bland and inoffensive material. I sent him a letter about it. A week or so later, in mid-program, just before commercial time, he read on the air, word for word, my suggested response :
“The ideas and comments on all the other programs
on this station are not necessarily those of myself
or of any of my friends.”
Morgan laughed. The scene cut to commercials.
I’m moving to the left, to the right, my mind is following the lefts and rights, I’m playing the horn, left counter-march, one, two, one, two, back and forth, we’re moving like some beautiful, well-oiled machine.
And now we are moving on out toward the thirty-yard line. Stinky motions for number twelve in the big book. This is the big one, the hardest number we have and it’s always one of the highpoints of our total show—“Semper Fidelis.”
Then he goes Pow! and we start playing it. Shepherd rips into the first chorus. Boy, moving like a shot! Everything’s cool and copasetic. Up to this point. Shepherd’s moving. Look at him! Up ahead you see Singleton, two days before his last day in the band, which we didn’t know at the time. And there goes Stunker moving on out making that beautiful right turn. I can see those knees moving all around.
Rump-pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump We have a beautiful pinwheel that we do at this point and we spin around. Sousaphones moving on out in that great big pinwheel! Each sousaphone is at the end of a line! Shepherd is spinning out there at the end! Right in the middle of it all is Stinky Davis—he’s at the hub of this thing! And he’s watching us. Then he blows two quick, short blasts Waa Waa like that and pum! We come back together again. Now we’re coming back. Shepherd’s moving sharp.
Pumpapapumpapapum! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Right in the middle of this third cadenza Pumpapapumpapa Stinky raises his baton and does something he had never done before! He gives two quick blasts of the whistle and then a long one. Wa Wa Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
What the hell is this?! What the hell’s goin’on? Then all of a sudden, all around me, I see marching figures going in all different directions! Crash! A trombone smashes right into me! I spin around! Where the hell am I going? I see three clarinets going this way. I see a sousaphone player going up and down and I follow him for a moment! He disappears! I see another clarinet going. I don’t know what they’re doing! And all of a sudden Shepherd is marching down the center of the field! All by himself! Aaaaaaaaaaaaa!
I see the band forming. I try to catch up to them again. There go three French horns around me again! I hear another quick whistle! And once again Shepherd is all by himself! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! And I see Stinky Davis. His eyes are two glowing coals. Is he bugged!
Teresa Brewer, Bob Dylan, Suzanne Farrell,
Norman Mailer, Marilyn Monroe, Lois Nettleton, Jerry Seinfeld, Vampire Lady.
(Listed alphabetically, so no one feels slighted.)
Relating a few brief encounters I’ve had with major celebrities of our day, the following short anecdotes describe how I happened to sort of engage with a couple of people whose names are familiar to most of us. These encounters include sharing the same physical space or sharing the same telephone connection. Oh, my goodness, how thrilling! (Some of this material you may find familiar, some not.)
A number of other people I interviewed for my book about Jean Shepherd also have rather august positions in our world, but as for those luminaries, I couldn’t manage to wedge them into this group—sorry, folk, you just did not make da cut. (I trust that, among others, U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Hugh Hefner will find their omissions amusing.)
MEETINGS WITH MAILER
What I mostly admire about Norman Mailer is his mind. No matter the subject he chooses (whether an “important one,” or another that seems crafted to help pay alimony debts), as a fundamental part, he incorporates his serious philosophical themes and agile writing style that pervade his work and make reading him an intellectual pleasure. Thus, no matter the subject, he continues to capture my interest through his mental and literary guile. He entertains my mind and inspires.
(I wanted to continue in the present tense, but he died—
before being awarded the Nobel Prize he deserved.)
His earlier public performance persona (as one might refer to what got him into front-page stories rather than in the book section) was part of his bravado and manipulation of modern media for the financial solvency that came with notoriety, as well as for promoting his serious work. But with age, he was no longer the sometimes provocative and crude barbarian. The many times I attended his readings/signings of new publications at bookstores, he always dressed in a dark pinstripe suit and walked slowly with a bit of a limp. Like a conservative banker. During the question-and-answer session after his readings, no matter the shallow questions others asked, he looked the questioner straight in the eye and gave a serious, well-considered and extensive reply. He was an elder prominence and a gentleman.
Before attending each of his talks I would work hard composing a meaningful literary question regarding his work. I very much appreciated that he responded to me on an intellectual level, as though I were somehow, at least at that moment, his equal. I can only find one note I made–for the circumstance in February, 1991, in which I asked how he chose the subjects for what he would then write. In my partial note regarding his reply, he said that one should:
“…treat almost impossible themes with a modicum of decorum—
and that is my ambition.”
When I managed to locate an intermediary to present my snail-mail query regarding his acquaintanceship with the subject of my book on Jean Shepherd, his failing memory in written response was still sufficient for me to be able to use it in my book. When I had the temerity to send him part of one of my unpublished novels for comment, he had the courtesy and thoughtfulness to reply in a way that, for me, was not a “boiler-plate” response, but indicated that he had seriously contemplated my request and he had used a bit of the better part of his mind to respond:
And they’re out there doing “On the Mall.”
I remember looking across at Pete. I say, “Pete, it’s too hot to rehearse, right?” And Pete says, “Yeah.” He’s chewin’ away at his cheeseburger and I’m chewin’ away at mine. And Big John, who runs this place, is back there mopping up the counter and dishin’ out the cheeseburgers to the guys who are goofing off from algebra class.
We can hear the band out there working. It’s great! There’s nothing more exciting than the illicit. And they’re out there in that hot sunlight whistling. I hate the whistling bit. Ever tried to play a sousaphone for three hours in a hot sun, a spanking wind, and then try to whistle? And we’re here knocking down the cheeseburgers. I say, “I think I’ll have another one.” So I have another one. Just enjoyin’ it. It’s kind of cool in here, the air conditioning is going.
Five minutes before the end of rehearsal, I get up and sorta saunter out. I know that I will join the crowd in the band as they come trickling back to the rehearsal hall. And that is what I do. The band comes wandering back all covered with sweat and I just sorta walk in among ‘em. Along with Pete. On top of it all—ol’ Shep. And then came that moment.
That night I’m kind of takin’ it easy. Remember this—I’m also a State Champion sousaphone player. The year before I won a gold medal playing the sousaphone at the state contest. I am a member of the crack marching band. We have more medals that we could put in a hat—each one of us.
Now comes the big night. We are standing out in the end zone. Ready for the big show. We move on out through “El Capitan.” Everything’s cool and copasetic. We go through the “NC-4 March.” Beautiful! We then knick off “On the Mall.” Right down the line!
Shepherd is moving his knees, Shepherd is blowin’ that sousaphone like he’s seldom blown it before!
There’s twenty-five-thousand people watching every move of this great marching band and out ahead we have these two big banners. One is the U. S. flag and the other is the big purple school flag, and behind it the big seal of the State of Indiana with gold fringe. And on it we have all these little medals and patches sewn—various great awards that we had won. Gold, silver, bronze—all over the world we’d won these great medals and our band is marching out.
And that drum section—boy, they are sharp this night. It is a beautiful, crisp night. One of those great nights. We get down to the far end zone.
We countermarch. We countermarch again. Stinky Davis is moving us like some vast machine. You get that great feeling of being on top of it, man!
When I was a young teenager (before rock and roll took over), my heartthrob was Teresa Brewer. In 1954 she released her most memorable song, “Till I Waltz Again With You.” I played my 45 RPM of it constantly, and saved it, so that on April 5, 1978, I still had it when I saw her perform at Carnegie Hall.
(Yes, Carnegie Hall. Teresa, referred to as the little girl with the big voice, began on an “Amateur Hour,” radio show–when I saw her she was headlining at Carnegie Hall–with guests Stephane Grappelli and Dizzy Gillespie. She had become, in her later performing years, recognized for her jazz singing.)
Minor ARTSY FARTSY Note
Performances over, as the audience filed out, I noted people heading for a door at the side of the stage so I followed. I found myself in Teresa Brewer’s dressing room. The woman in front of me on line to see her said. “After all these years, I’ve dreamed of meeting you. My friends say that you and I look alike.” I handed her my 45 of “Till I Waltz Again With You” to sign, saying nervously, “For twenty-five years I’ve dreamed of meeting you.”
She looked up at my recently acquired beard.
“I hope your friends don’t say that you and I look alike.”
I treasure it still.
I am walking towards the practice field, I’ve got my jacket over my neck, sweatin’. I’m carrying my sousaphone at rest—you carry it on your other shoulder when it’s at rest. I’m draggin’ off towards the field and I see the band sort of half-assembled about three or four minutes before rehearsal time. It’s Thursday. We’ve got a big show we’re going to do Friday night. I know everything! It’s ridiculous. I know the whole thing—we’ve been rehearsing this stuff every night for a week, I know every last step. I’m tired. I had a bum day. I half-sprained my ankle in swimming class. I was kind of bugged. You know how you have those days. What the heck.
I see Schwartz ahead of me lugging his sousaphone, and behind me is Snuffy Smith, who isn’t much of a marcher, but one of the best sousaphone players I ever heard. The three of us are truckin’ out to that field. What makes me do it, I don’t know, but I turn around and go back to the band room. That feeling of goofing off—what the hell! I slide my sousaphone into the big wooden rack in the band room. I cut across the hall, out the side door, and five minutes later I’m sitting in the Red Rooster knockin’ down a cheeseburger and a Black Cow.
Sitting with me is Pete, who plays in the baritone section, who is also knockin’ down a Black Cow and a cheeseburger. And off in the distance we can hear faintly, oh so faintly—we can hear the band, faintly, so faintly, just drifting in as they’re playing away. Here are two top-flight aces from the band knockin’ down a cheeseburger with a little piccalilli and a little chili sauce, french fries, and a Black Cow, and the rest of the guys are knocking themselves out in the hot sun.
I’m cool, on top of it, see. Little realizing I am laying the groundwork for one of the most embarrassing moments I ever lived through. And I don’t know whether I ever did live through it. There are people who say that terrible things that have happened to us in our lives never truly leave us. Quite possibly, had this not happened to me, I could have gone on to become god-knows-what? Johnny Carson, Soupy Sales, who knows what great man in this world.
I went to the Joan Baez concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium on August 17, 1963. Half-way through it she introduced a slouchy, unkempt kid I never heard of (though at least one of his songs I’d heard, sung by popular entertainers). He sang a song that sounded like an extended one-note melody with, at the end of each long phrase, a little one-note musical up-tick. Every line sounded like that. I can’t say I liked it. It was weird. But it caught my attention. His name was Bob Dylan.
The next day I rushed to a record store and bought the only two albums of his so far released. The song he had sung that night that captured my attention was “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I became a Dylan fan.
One day about a year or so later he had already made it big and I was one of a couple of people in a small theater lobby waiting for an avant garde film to start. About ten feet away, by himself, was Dylan. We looked each other in the eye, I wanting to go up to him, he probably hoping I wouldn’t. I didn’t. Now knowing that he probably would have bruskly shrugged me off, I still wish I’d been bold enough to try, but I was not yet artsy fartsy.
Over the years I’ve seen him in concert several times. He does not have a “good” voice. But, in a strange, aggressively modernist style, never the same, he artistically expresses meaning or gives the song a new, jazzy feeling. He uses his voice perfectly attuned to the genius of his music. Doing his own songs, few people but Joan Baez, who, with her gentle elegance, so unlike his unpredictable, rough and ragged, shaggy, magic voice, achieves some parity.
For me: “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, is very good; “Mr. Tambourine Man” (a great Dylan song) as done by The Byrds, has not even a touch of feeling–it is a soulless travesty; “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary is an equally saccharine void.
Well, our band rehearsals were something else. We had this teacher who was the top marching band director in that area. He had been an ace band director at three universities and a top trumpet player. His name was Wilson and he would say, “I want you to work on number four in the book, ‘On the Mall,’ and I want to hear crisp section work. I don’t want to hear anyone faking it. If you come to a section you don’t know, don’t fake it, ‘cause I can hear it.” All of us knew that if you don’t know the notes you fake it—if you’re a good musician you can get by with it, but not with Wilson. He knew every note of every march that was ever published—and he could hear them all.
Old Shep, you know—I knew everything we did by heart. I knew every move, I knew every note, every fingering, and one day we were out at rehearsal—that terrible day. We’d finished musical rehearsal, which was great. I always enjoyed the musical side of it. But then Stinky Davis took over and he would line us all up way down at the south end of the field and he would start lecturing us. “I want to see a lot of knee movement. Pull in your guts, Schwartz. I don’t want to see any guts hang out!”
He was one of the few drum majors I ever heard of, who had the power to drop people from the band—if they weren’t doin’ it. He really was an officer, and that’s why we hated him. We got high school credit for being in the band and he could flunk you. I remember the time he dropped Billy Singleton and they had a fantastic fistfight right out on the field. Billy was a trumpet player and one day he came out to the field about fifteen minutes late. Stinky stopped the band and here comes Singleton walking over with his trumpet. Stinky just stood and waited. Singleton moved into his position on the line. Stinky didn’t say a word, he just moved his thumb like an umpire—out! Singleton lowered his trumpet. Stinky went—out! Billy walked up to the front and said, “Make me!” Stinky did. After Stinky got through with him, I don’t think Singleton could even play the trumpet for a couple of months. That was the end of Singleton in the band.
So there was a tension all the time when Stinky was out in front. He had an ego that started at about twenty feet above the ground and worked up. Unbelievable ego. And that’s what it took! And he was fantastically self-disciplined. Outside of school he used to rehearse twirling maybe ten hours a day. That’s all he did. Had no friends. He would just sort of materialize, like one time he showed up wearing a monocle. Can you imagine the kind of guts it took for a guy in an Indiana school to wear a monocle! That’s what Stinky did. Fantastic!
And then comes that terrible day. It is a Thursday like any other Thursday. Except that it is hotter than blazes.
ARTSY ETCETERAS INTRO
Many collectors have, hung on walls, tiny stuff displayed in an authentic type case–the kind in which typesetters stored individual lead letters made for plucking and arranging into words and paragraphs to be printed. Mine has varied nick nacks and other artsys, including spiral encounters (especially, see the unusually small chambered nautilus shell, upper left corner). Guitar rosette element with “eb” initials. Tiny caliper and level for who-knows-what. Pre-Columbian heads and a whole little standing figure.
And, nearly centered, a beautiful, pre-Columbian Mexican, reddish-brown, elegantly stylized, bird-shaped whistle with four sound holes, its well-rounded stomach with its tail feathers sticking up. It features a multi-note twitter. Only 1-3/8″ from mouth hole to tail, it has two holes (underneath, not shown) for threading a string that can be put around the neck for carrying as a necklace–which I do on occasion, making me feel a bit as though I’m at-one with the original pre-Columbian owner.
Let them stand as a simile for all of the foregoing artsys
and for the following end-of-the-line miscellany descriptions.
And Stinky Davis was about six-feet-one and he was just ramrod. And he had this gray, steely eye. He was the only drum major I ever knew who bought his own uniform. He did not use anything to do with the school. He had all his stuff tailored for him—he was a professional drum major. And he wore this big black shako hat, which is a stiff, cylindrical, military-type cap with a visor. Somebody got him a strange badge with a silver skull for the front of his shako and when he turned around you could see his totally expressionless, steely eyes and that silver skull.
And he was a fanatical twirler. This guy always worked with two batons and he would keep them moving all the time. Weaving constantly, but he didn’t do all the kind of stuff the chicks do, like the business of throwing them between their legs. When not twirling, one baton he would carry in a sheath on his side, and the other baton, of course, was his directing baton. The baton was going straight ahead.
On the field, he stood out on the five-yard line with the brass all lined up in a flat line on either side and behind is the body of the band in what we call loose fanfare formation, and at the very end of the end zone would be sousaphones. He would start giving a beat you could barely hear —ticktickticktick ticktickticktick and you couldn’t see from the stands ticktickticktick ticktickticktick. At the precise psychological moment he’d go ticktick, two quick toots on the whistle toot toot and we’d move into this close formation! Like a blot of ink—instead of spreading out—suddenly coming together. Zap! We’d march close together through the goal posts playing “El Capitan” moving straight out to the forty-yard line and then move out in two long, thin lines toward each sideline, the band splitting into a giant Y and the eight sousaphones marching down the middle of the field playing “El Capitan.”
By that time the crowd was flipping out because this band was one of the absolutely best military marching bands in the entire Midwest. We used to get invitations to play at important college games. Tuba and Sousaphone below:
TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTINUED
(This part of Artsy Fartsy‘s table contents includes the Shep portion
of what I plan for the book.)
ACCOLADES What—You never heard of Jean Parker Shepherd? Well look who has and thinks he’s great!
FOREWORDS MARCH Twain, Fields, Kafka: guys who could have, would have, should have provided accolades for Jean Parker Shepherd.
WHAT HOAX? I, Libertine–what was it and why? Bogus and real.
CROSSWORD PUZZLE & OTHER TRIBUTES ol’ Shep up & down and across! (It’s a word-accolade by the New York Times!) Postage Stamp, Brass Figlagee, Shepherd’s Cube (Rubik, put this on your cube and twirl it): all for the love of Shep.
DEE SNIDER & TWISTED SISTER Pulled up in his black Hummer and talked in my Shep-Shrine for three hours.
BOBBLEHEAD Not really a celebrity until one has one’s personal bobblehead. Queen Elizabeth has her own. Shepherd has one too.
LEIGH BROWN ? encounter only through her letters decades ago to her closest friend.
MARILYN MONROE SEPT 1, 2016
LOIS NETTLETON (Gifting—Grab Bag
So we started to rehearse in June. Every couple of days we’d rehearse out in the hot sun for the big fall season, and once in a while the band would get an invitation from someplace to go play. Since this was a band that had won a lot of national awards you had to play well and we used to audition every year for the same job in the band. Guys would get cut from the band because someone would come up and could blow better. Every afternoon me and Schwartz and Snuffy Smith and a guy named Ernie Dunker —we were the ace guys in the sousaphone section—we would practice in the band room.
You don’t just sit down and blow a sousaphone. Oh no. You gatta warm the sousaphone up and furthermore you gotta warm your lip up because, man, if you don’t do that—ohhhhh! It’s like going out and throwing a fast ball in a ballgame without warming up. You could kill your lip for life! We’d run over the scales. We’d sit there whooooo tooooo tooooo whooooo whoooo whooo whooo doodooodooodooooooo. And you’d open the spit valve and blow the thing out.
I used to carry my own German silver mouthpiece around in my pocket all the time so I would always have it warm, because if you ever blow in a cold mouthpiece, that’s bad news. Once in a while, while I was sitting in a regular class like geometry, I’d hold the mouthpiece in my fist, and in my mind I’d run over different numbers we played. You can actually blow a horn without the horn present. You blow it in your mind. I’m thinking of the fingering and I’m playing the “NC-4 March,” I’m playing “On the Mall,” I’m playing “Semper Fidelis,” I’m playing “El Capitan,” I’m playing all of them.
“El Capitan” was a very important for my band because it was always the march that we used to make our entrance. Every band has a regular program. They work out this whole thing and they rehearse it, they work on this thing all year long and each part in a good marching band’s repertory is carefully programmed so it has something to do with the beat and the tempo and it makes a statement about the one before it and it makes a statement about the one after it.
So “El Capitan” is our opening, “fanfare,” number. We come out with all the brass marching forward. We’re marching in place. The drummers are using muffled sticks so it’s not heard all over the stadium. Then the trumpets and trombones go into a big fan out on the goal line and there is a moment of silence.
Then we have, of course, Stinky Davis. A lot of people don’t know the function of a drum major—which is different from a drum majorette. A majorette, in most cases, is merely a twirler. She also represents a kind of sexual symbol. But in a crack military marching band, there is no such thing as a majorette. There is a drum major. He is the officer in charge of this marching band. He sets the beat, the tempo, and even the attitude. So the drum major is dynamic. Only one part of his job is twirling. Another part is discipline with his steely eyes. Another part is fanaticism. So we had one of the great drum majors. In fact, he was a three-time national twirling and drum-major champion. He was a great director of the band. Fanatic! Insane nut! And totally hated by everybody. Everybody hated this guy’s guts!
(More of Artsy Fartsy Table of Contents, this part still in progress)
14. BRIEF ENCOUNTERS
LEIGH BROWN ? encounter only through her letters decades ago to her closest friend=grail—not know a grail existed!
MARILYN MONROE SEPT 1, 2016
(58) LOIS NETTLETON (Gifting—Grab Bag 1 of
THE VAMPIRE LADY SEPT 30, 2014
15. ARTSY ETCETERAS
INTRO TYPE BOX PHOTO type tray –Many people have such—encapsulates some ARTSY obsessions, kind of a section intro
Many collectors have, hung on walls, tiny stuff displayed in an authentic type case, of the kind in which typesetters stored individual lead letters made for plucking and arranging into words and paragraphs to be printed. Mine has nick nacks and other artsys. Spiral encounters. Guitar rosette with “eb” initials. Tiny caliper and level for who-knows-what. Pre-Columbian heads, and a pre-Columbian, Mexican bird-shaped whistle with a multi-toned twitter. Many etceteras.
IDEAS A tribute to a delightful TV commercial celebrating ideas that may seem at first to be a bit peculiar, General Electric’s “Imagination at Work,” featuring the strange, lovable, furry creature I’ve named “GEe Whiz!”
INTESTINAL DISTRESS TV ad: An annoying, obnoxious commercial, or a superb Surrealist piece of art?
SPIRALS AMMONITES, NAUTILUS. Synthesis of circle and a straight line, which has no sense of history. Spirals—the great, near-universal organization principle of the universe!
ELEGANT FUNCTIONALITTY Skeleton watches and astrolabes as instruments artistically contrived.
TORN BILLBOARDS Wind, rain, and deliberate human intervention contrive to create “artsy” compositions for the curious eye. (3/11/2017)
EASELS ARE FACES Faces—I see faces everywhere. My Bergdorf Goodman installation and such. (4/10/2017)
WATERCOLORS & CRAYOLAS What I did and why I did it.
WACKY AIR DANCERS We see these street buskers all the time. What inspiring, experimental dancers! (JS Invective etc. part 1 of 2 7/12/2016)
MOM’S VIOLIN, PARAKEET, and EGGS Marjorie Crosby Bergmann, our family’s original artsy fartsy artist supreme.
Bands have probably more fantastic rivalries than the football teams that are between the band shows. Having played on both—I played football and was in a band at one time and another, I can appreciate both sides. Of course the football players think that the band is a bunch of nothings out there that fill up the time while they’re in there getting rubbed down and getting yelled at by the coach. But actually the band, on the other hand, thinks that the football team really is the wrapping around the band.
I watched a band a couple of weeks ago out there rehearsing, one of the greatest bands I ever saw in my life. Once in a great while you’ll see a genuine, crack, absolutely top-flight marching band. And that’s a specialized art. And a really good sousaphone player is the backbone, generally, of a good marching band. That’s what makes it sound good. If you get a couple of good guys in the front, you get a good drum section, and a good sousaphone section, man, you’ve got yourself a marching band.
Actually, you work so hard to be in a top marching band. It’s really long, hard, dragging work. In the hot sun. Maybe you don’t know about this whole problem of rehearsing in a marching band. But one of the worst things that ever happened in my whole academic life happened as a result of a rehearsal of a marching band.
Ours was an elite unit that was taken out of the school’s concert band that used to play all these selected medleys from Broadway shows. Out of that band, which had about a hundred-and-twenty-five pieces, they had selected the sixty-six-member, crack, ace, military marching band.
When you made the marching band after having been in the concert band and the orchestra, it was suddenly like getting tapped on the shoulder—you’re really the big time. Because you had to be able to play and march. There are those two elements to the marching band. One part is playing—what good is a band if it could march like Billy-be-damned, but plays poorly? On the other hand there are a lot of bands that can play great but can’t march well. What you want is that total, rhythmic, fast, concrete, maniacal, military-clip, crisp-precision-beat for tremendously intricate and involved drill formations—all the while playing at maybe a hundred-and-twenty beats to the minute.
More Table of Contents
ACCOLADES What—You never heard of Jean Parker Shepherd? Well look who has and thinks he’s great!
TRAVELS OF SHEP–A really, really abridged report on Jean Shepherd’s delight in travel: a bit of 1. March on Wash; 2. Being a Beatle on the Road; 3. 500 Pounds of Luden’s to Headhunter Country. (Blog-readers will remember that my entire book-manuscript of Shepherd’s travel adventures was published eons ago.)
CROSSWORD PUZZLE ol’ Shep up and down and across! It’s a word-filled “accolade” by the New York Times!)
A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHRISTMAS What better way to contemplate getting a BB gun? The movie created by Jean Shepherd, narrated by him also (with a cameo role, too)!
EXCELSIOR –with parodies of the Longfellow poem written and illustrated by people we all know. 9/217/2016
DEE SNIDER post and DEE & TWISTED blog 5/17/16 He pulled up in his black Hummer and talked in my Shep-Shrine for three hours.
RADIO MENTOR essay=bad artists=Picasso/Mailer/Hem/Shep-reconcile?
SHEP CREATIVITY from 2/4/2016 blog post
WORDS TO LIVE BY 1 (CD artists’ book in 4 parts) Sept 4, 2016
WORDS TO LIVE BY 2 used Sept 10, 2016
WORDS TO LIVE BY 3 used Sept 16, 2016
WORDS TO LIVE BY 4 Sept 22, 2016
BUGATTI Shepherd’s tribute and experience, plus my explorations and experiences regarding one of the greatest cars ever.
SHEP WORKS Button, Brass Figlagee Bookmark. SHEP CUBE Rubik, put this on your cube and twirl it. SHEP SHRINE.
EXCELSIOR! A 3-part graphic novel about Harvey Pekar &Joyce Brabner in our search for the “holy grail.”
PROMOTING A SHEP BOOK Twain, Fields, Kafka: guys who could have, would have, should have provided accolades for Jean Parker Shepherd. it’s posted 4/7/16partofblog-NOTartsy
BOBBLEHEAD Not really a celebrity until one has one’s personal bobblehead. Queen Elizabeth has her own. Shepherd has one too. (It’s posted in regular shepquest part of blog (not ARTSY)
The double B flat sousaphone is one of the most difficult instruments to master. Many, many are called, but few, friends, are chosen. It’s one of the most difficult instruments to master for a number of reasons. First of all, you have to learn cross-wind landings at an early age. Try to play “Semper Fidelis” in a spanking, forty-five degree cross-wind that’s making maybe fifteen or twenty or twenty-five knots, gusting to forty knots.
I remember Schwartz was also a tuba player and he made the switch to sousaphone. He was a bit too little. The point is, to play a good sousaphone, ya gotta be big, because, when you’re wrestling with a sousaphone, man, when that wind is blowing hard out of the north and you’re trying to play “Semper Fidelis” and the wind is blowing at you—you know, the sousaphone is the only instrument that plays back. It’ll actually play you. If you’re not careful, that horn will start blowing you, and the next thing you know, high, thin notes are coming out of your ears.
And with all that, try to go into the coda and keep up that steady hundred-and-sixty-beat march! We used to have about three different tempos, and our band would switch from one tempo to the other to gas ‘em all in the stands! We’d come out, we’d do our slow step, Drump! Pump! Pump! Pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pum! Drump-pum-pump pump pump!
You see, all bands go for the fast step. You ought to try the slow one. That’s the tough one. Drump-pum-pump! Drump-pum-pump! We’d come on and all of a sudden Stinky Davis, our ace, fanatical, maniacal, Nazi-like, top drum major, would go Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Waa waa with his whistle. We’d go Rump-pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump,pump—we’d shift tempo in mid-step. The crowd would roar! And then he would give two short blasts on the whistles Weeeee! Waa! We’d crack into that “Semper Fidelis”!
And there’s Shepherd. On the end. Eight marching double B-flat sousaphones! Hitting into a spanking wind! And these were not plastic sousaphones. These were magnificent—gold-plated—deluxe Khan—B-flat sousaphones catching the light, moving against that sharp, spanking wind and cracking “Semper Fidelis”! Pumpapapumpapapum! Here we go now! All together now! The torches light up, the crowd is going ape! Bababapooombapoooom!
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INTRO—THE MUSIC WALL I’ve a tin ear, but I love music all the same.
GUITAR What is the form that produces the function? Student luthier takes on the challenge.
FLUTES—Flutes galore! Breath of life on the fingertips.Shakuhachi and a hose clamp.
SUZANNE FARRELL Farrell, Balanchine, and signed ballet slippers.
SUBWAY VIOLIN BUSKER Classical violin amid the subway roar.
EMOTION OUTRANKS TECHNIQUE—DYLAN & DIEGO Why would anyone prefer Bob Dylan to Andy Williams and Josh Grogan? I’ll tell you why! How could a self-effacing, solemn, gypsy guitarist supplant Sabicas, Paco de Lucio, and Manitas de Plata?
JEAN SHEPHERD AND BOB DYLAN Not music to his ears, even if the guy’s now a Nobel Prize winner.
PRINCE Honey, I think you and I were wrong! What was it about Prince that, for all these years, we missed?
PLASTIC HARMONICAS Variations on a theme. Surely the world’s greatest museum-worthy collection. And one of the artifacts is a real mouth organ.
SPAIN & PERU
GRANADA I’m falling under you spell. “Pomegranate,” “hand grenade,” and the city of Federico Garcia Lorca–all important parts of an obsession “…no hay en la vida nada…”
BULLS I’ve gone to the bulls on three continents. How deal with the line between barbaric and civilized? How can a gentle, passive soul be such a passionate aficionado de los toros? Ole!
PERU The intihuatana, flight over the Nazca Lines with no altimeter, no gas gauge. And especially, the truth/fiction of Rio Amazonas.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
SPECIAL DELIVERY!—Whitman, Bosch, Louis Kahn—three of my favorite creative people all have articles devoted to them in the same issue of the NYT. Oh, the ecstasy!
MEMORABILIA— Dickinson & Hemingway—tidbits from creative forces!
FULL COLOR NEWSPAPER WARS Has anyone else ever noted—and collected—artistic depictions of human disasters?
COMPOSED HERMAPHRODITE –Sometimes the NYT likes to tease us before eventually satisfying our curiosity.
BOOK ILLUSTRATION and ELEPHANT ART —It’s so easy to glance at and dismiss illustrations in a newspaper, though I try not to do so. A masterpiece of a kid scrawl and a herd of elephants.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Astro Turf & “Muriel”—what momentous artsy matters! Yet, both are matters of great concern—at least to some of us.