Friday Harbor, WA is a lovely village on the waterfront in the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. NGJB was playing a festival afternoon concert at an outdoor venue overlooking the harbor which was busy with sailboats and other craft. It was a perfect day—warm and sunny weather, cloudless blue skies, no wind, and an outstanding picturesque view. Following our first number of the set someone in the audience yelled out the question, “Have you ever played in a more beautiful setting?” Dave Lewis, the Gas’s tuba player, yelled back, “What key is it in?”
It Pays to Advertise
In 1989, our interpreter in Yaroslavl, U.S.S.R. repeatedly told us of the “sacred beer” which was so vary famous in that city. What a disappointment it was to find that his Russian accent made the word bear sound like beer to our thirsty band.
We played two concerts in Yaroslavl with a local jazz band that was led by the loudest drummer I had ever heard (remember that this was before the day of rock & roll). As was our custom, we gave the local musicians various souvenirs of California and of the NGJB. What a surprise it was to hear ten years later from an American tourist who had been on a cruise of the Volga river that a bumper sticker proclaiming “NATURAL GAS JAZZ BAND” was spotted on the trombone case of a musician playing at the Volga River dockside in Yaroslavl—one of our souvenirs still getting some use.
Most large festivals provide a hospitality room for the musicians to have a place to relax, have some food and drinks, and enjoy chatting with the fans and other musicians during their free time between sets. The band voted the one at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Festival in Davenport, IA as the best of all such rooms that they had experienced at the many festivals visited around the world. Delicious food and a huge variety of drinks served in a comfortable setting by the most friendly and generous volunteers imaginable – all of these made for a really memorable experience.
In 1979, the first year of our nine appearances at the Bix Fest, I was relaxing between sets and enjoying the offerings of the hospitality tent when a reporter sat down beside me and said he would like to ask me a few questions. He first inquired about my thoughts on the festival, the different bands, and jazz topics in general. Realizing that I was a dentist, he then asked me what I found to be the difference in playing jazz versus practicing dentistry. I told him, “When I am playing jazz, folks often applaud and want me to continue. While doing dentistry, most folks—well, need I go on?”
The Gassers were fortunate to have played 34 consecutive Sacramento Jubilees which provided a great opportunity to hear other bands. On one such occasion, I was listening to one of my favorite bands, Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band, when Bill displayed his great sense of humor by telling the audience, “Behind every great band is a great rhythm section; behind every great musician is a working wife with benefits.”