The fourth of July weekend of 1980 found the NGJB in Juneau, Alaska, on the occasion of the city’s centennial celebration. The band’s initial impression was that the locals were a bit short on enthusiasm for our arrival. Flight delays put us on the ground at about 11:59 p.m. The airport custodian had instructions to close up at midnight so he proceeded to lock the door while the band on the outside peered through the glass door at the luggage and instruments on the inside. The custodian’s efforts to lock the door were frustrated by the drummer’s foot in the crack. A pushing and yelling match ensued and justice prevailed as the seven hefty and well-lubricated musicians were able to shove their way in and recover their belongings. The band’s suggestions as to where the door keeper could put his keys would have shocked Sarah Palin.
Petersburg had no available commercial housing. Hence, most of the band stayed with hospitable Norwegian fishermen. The drummer was lodged with the local newspaper editor who greeted him with the words: “Welcome, Son. You can now see first-hand how whiskey ruined Alaska,” and “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as you own personal savior?” The Petersburg gig was unique. Six of the band members were loose as a goose and full of pickled herring and aquavit, while the other member was stone cold sober and scented with herbal tea and ginger snaps.
Ketchikan was also short of housing but the local veterinarian opened up the animal clinic so the band could sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. Fortunately no one was allergic to dog hair. In every instance the band greatly enjoyed Alaska and its hardy fun-loving citizens. To this day Phil Crumley savors the moment he was groped by a comely Alaskan lass (about 78 years old) who grabbed his buns and yanked him off his barstool in the well-known Red Dog Saloon in Juneau.
It was the sixth annual Rain or Shine Jazz festival in Aberdeen, Washington, on February 17–19, 1989. NGJB was preparing to open its first set of the weekend when pianist, Pete Clute, noted that the chair provided for the piano player was too low. He therefore asked for a phone book to place on the chair to increase the height.
Much to his amusement—and amazement—he was handed the local phone book, which, in its entirety, was about ¼ inch thick!
A combination event celebrating the retirement of the Natural Gas Jazz Band and my 90th birthday was held in August of 2022. During that memorable afternoon, I was asked what would be the one birthday gift that I would appreciate the most. I gave the same answer that an ageing George Burns had used in a similar instance. His reply had been, “a paternity suit.”
Turk Murphy Sez …
It happened in the early 1980’s at Earthquake McGoons, home of the Turk Murphy Jazz Band in San Francisco. Turk had agreed to let a local group use his establishment to have a fund raising event for individuals afflicted with speech defects and I was in the audience. Turk, as the owner and having a slight speech defect himself, had consented to act as master of ceremonies. With his great sense of humor, he opened the afternoon with the remark, “I guess this event should be called The Downtown Stutterer’s Ball.”