Letters to the Editor May 2021

Cheers for Terry Waldo! 

To the Editor:

I enjoyed the recent article about Terry Waldo by Larry Melton and Neal Siegal published in the April edition of The Syncopated Times. Terry is truly a marvelous musician and a wonderful raconteur. I have fond memories of the handful of gigs he played with the New Black Eagle Jazz Band many years ago.

St. Louis Ragtime Fest NBEJB & Terry Waldo ca 1972
St. Louis Ragtime Fest NBEJB & Terry Waldo ca 1972
Jacob's Pillow summer 1982
Terry Waldo and Odetta, Jacob’s Pillow summer 1982

My earliest recollection was his filling in on short notice for our pianist Bob Pilsbury the first time the band was invited to play at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival in 1972. He fitted in perfectly and we all had a great weekend of music. From then on, whenever the need arose and Terry was available, we were delighted to have him rejoin us. One such occasion stands out: A summer concert in 1982 at Jacob’s Pillow, a beautiful theatre in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, featuring special guest vocalist Odetta.

Terry also recorded with the Black Eagles. He along with Butch Thompson, Dickie Wetmore, Brian Ogilvie and Don Kenney were on stage in 1981 to help the Black Eagles celebrate our 10th anniversary at a sold out concert in Boston’s Symphony Hall. A recording of that concert is still available as a CD.

Thanks for the article and thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.
Stan Vincent
Teaticket, Massachusetts

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Giving Cliff Edwards his Due 

To the Editor:

Many thanks to Scott Yanow for his great article about Cliff Edwards in this April’s issue of The Syncopated Times.

It seems that Ukulele Ike doesn’t get the props that he deserves. I’ve given it my best over the past decade. About 12 years ago I started showing up at open mics playing my ukulele and singing Tin Pan Alley and Great American Songbook tunes, introduced as “Ukulele Rob.” Many of my tunes were Cliff Edwards hits. Even in noisy blues bar situations, “When You Wish Upon a Star” brought a hush to the audience, and remarks from folks about how much the song meant to them.

After a few years of open mic stuff, I put together an all-Ukulele Ike set, and performed it at various times, including house concerts, and the Reno Ukulele Festival. Two years ago I taught an eight-week weekly ukulele class at a local musical instrument store, using eight Ukulele Ike hits to teach jazz and pop chords and changes to intermediate and advanced players.

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And thanks especially for your mention of Cliff Edwards’ grave at the Valhalla/Pierce Brothers cemetery in Burbank. It’s right in the flight path of the Hollywood-Burbank Airport. Up until the pandemic I was doing twice-monthly family business flights from Sacramento to Burbank and back (and will be starting up again soon). About six years ago I had a flight that was delayed by hours, so I marked time by walking over to the cemetery, and finding Edwards’ headstone. Sadly, the area where he was buried was not well maintained, and weeds had grown over the headstone. But I’ve been back there three or four times since, and each time the area around his headstone is better maintained, grass mowed and cleared from the headstone, etc.

Coincidentally, at the same time as the arrival of the latest issue of The Syncopated Times I received a copy of a new work by German author Roland Prakken, A Flea or Not a Flea? (2019), well translated to English by his wife. It’s a wonderfully witty and well-researched historical, ethnomusicological, social, cultural, and economic history of the humble uke, and Prakken closes it out with a great chapter devoted to Cliff Edwards. Well worth the read.

I thoroughly enjoy all of Scott Yanow’s writing, but this time with Cliff Edwards as the star, it was tip-top. Thanks again.

Rob Sawyer
Sacramento CA

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Responses to ‘Problem Attic’ 

To the Editor:

As a fellow lifelong Utican, (who I see am just a few years older than you), I cannot remember your letters to the editor, but do recall I knew of you before I subscribed to TST. Maybe your “bad” reputation was erased from my memory or maybe my friend Mark Fuller talked of you or maybe it was your Radiola endeavors?

Your column was very entertaining to read, if not downright hilarious (since I know the territory) and I think I can relate to it. I have only written two letters to the editor in my life and for years I agonized over them as being uniformed and embarrassing, so I stopped completely.

I have mounted a backyard mini film “festival” (a stretch of the term, evidence of which can be found at www.mabelsbarn.com) for a number of years for friends of mine, and I have had to fight off those who somehow started to believe or at the least wanted to believe I was one of “them.” “Them” being those who want “the good old days” back again, unconditionally. (I might take some of it but certainly not the electric chair.)

I actually look at the early film industry as a free form of expression that censorship diminished greatly. I have also found myself in the position of agreeing with those I otherwise disagree with in defending Fred Astaire’s “Bojangles Of Harlem” in Swing Time (1936), as it must be looked at in the context of the era it was produced, while not agreeing at all with these friends’ (and former friends’ in a few instances) world view of things.

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You were somewhat cryptic in your writing so as not to offend too many people but after reading it twice I think I agree with you and will certainly be interested in the responses you get.

Rich VandeWater
Utica, New York

Thank you for your kind words. I’d say you interpreted my “eggshell dance” accurately! -Ed.

To the Editor:

Andy, your “Problem Attic” editorial highlights the challenge of “cancel culture” in which certain people take offense at everything.

Like you, I enjoyed Dr. Seuss as a child, and one of my favorites was Horton Hatches the Egg. After further review, that one will have to be cancelled. The birth father has flown the coop, the mother Mazzie bird has abandoned her child, goes off to find her own meaning and career in the world, and Horton becomes the first single male adoptive parent. The new hatchling rejects the returning birth mother, and loves Horton, a dominant white (gray?) male. Certainly this an anti-feminist diatribe. Worst of all, elephants are the symbol of the Republican party.

I note that Ken Burns has produced a new fim biography of Ernest Hemingway, showing on PBS soon. Once it is viewed, there will be calls to cancel Hemingway, too, and perhaps to ban and burn his books. It is obvious. He was the poster boy for toxic masculinity, a man’s man and a ladies man. Fishing, hunting, boxing, drinking, smoking, womanizing, and, gasp, enjoying bullfighting so much that he wrote an entire book justifying it, Death in the Afternoon. A thoughtful reading of The Sun Also Rises shows he was anti-semitic. The deck hand in To Have and Have Not is never referred to by name, but only by the N word. Racist. And he reveals in discussions with Gertrude Stein in A Moveable Feast that he was a homophobe.

As TST has noted in earlier articles on this subject, I suppose that means we must cancel most of early jazz: “Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jelly Roll” (racist and sexist), “China Boy” and “Nagasaki” (anti-Asian), “Minnie the Moocher” (glorifying opium use, and also sexist) among many others. Our only musical option is to move forward a few years to the Swing Era, when lyrics ranged from silly (“Fee Ido Fiddies,” “Mairsydoats”), to innocuous (“Opus One,” “Elmer’s Tune”), to cloyingly romantic (“Stardust,” “Moonlight Serenade”). Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Thank you for keeping us in touch with the world of jazz during the shutdown. We are all hoping to burst out with live music soon.

Rick Campbell
Tigard, Oregon

Thank you for your take on the situation. But I know there are legions who will take issue with your characterization of “Stardust.” When it first appeared in 1927 it was a hot dance tune, based a solo that Hoagy Carmichael heard Bix Beiderbecke play. As such, its lineage can’t be impugned. It’s never been an easy song to sing (lyrics were added by Mitchell Parish in 1929) but I consider that it’s a vocal number best left to the professionals. Sweetened 1940s versions aside, I’ll state here that it doesn’t make me reach for my insulin. No further objections need apply! -Ed.

To the Editor:

I read this month’s Static column with the funny ablominations (I like to make words up) and equally funny title. Absolutely true that we don’t need to argue with subjective realities. When you get down to it, they are just feelings—and you can’t debate those! In time, they pass like smoke (or gas). Regarding soul-wrestling, that to me comes along with artistry. Like you, I deal with it every day; as a writer, how can one avoid it? And as for the skin you’d rather not inhabit, I give you e.e. cummings: “(given the scalpel, they dissect a kiss/or, sold the reason, they undream a dream).”

Peter Gerler
Newton, Massachusetts

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Andy Senior is the Publisher of The Syncopated Times and on occasion he still gets out a Radiola! podcast for our listening pleasure.

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