Put that Dog on Ice

The New Gig

The young band of Gassers had only been together for four years when they were offered their first, regular paying job at the Alvarado Inn, a local restaurant, bar, roadhouse, motel complex. After their past few formative years with compensation of only free drinks and tips, this was a major step up the ladder. The venue had been offering live music and other entertainment on weekends, including Country & Western and even mud-wrestling, so it was a real unknown how a traditional jazz band would be accepted.

After the first few appearances, the NGJB was obviously a hit and the management was delighted. A large dancing crowd developed and the engagement lasted for 119 gigs over an 11 year period. I still remember a waitress remarking in amazement, “They really like having you here. In fact they don’t even hire a bouncer like they used to.”

Red Wood Coast

Funky Weekend

The National Hotel was built in 1862. This 33 room hotel is said to be the longest continuously operating hotel in California and it is located in the heart of northern California’s Gold Country town, Jackson. Natural Gas JB first played there in 1973 and continued annually for many years. The band and followers literally took over the hotel for this very funky weekend.

One of the memorable characters of the hotel was Edna who was the “pianist” for the cocktail hour which went from 4:30PM until 7:30PM. Edna was known for her ability to play many tunes over a three hour period and seldom change the chord played by her left hand. If you think that is easy, just try it sometime.

When the Gassers played on Saturday nights, it was the custom to have a “midnight march” following the performance in the bar area. This consisted of the band playing “Saints” and leading the audience, most of whom had been partaking heavily of adult beverages, up the flight of stairs and into the Presidential Suite. Hotel management always arranged for a man and woman to be in bed feigning shock and surprise when the band and following horde marched through their bedroom. This routine was part of the NGJB weekend in Jackson and was anticipated and enjoyed by all. However one year, the marching intruders were surprised by a new twist to the event. Instead of the usual male/female couple in bed together, there were three men!

Hot Jazz Jubile

Okay, What would you have done?

This truly bizarre event occurred at a late night gig at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee around 1980 or so. The small, smoky venue was packed—no seats or standing room available—people were even sitting on the floor in the aisle areas.

Shortly after we began the set I noticed a lady about 15 feet from the bandstand who was standing against the wall and surrounded by the crowd. She appeared to be quite uncomfortable and was anxiously looking in all directions for an escape route but found none. After a few moments of this agitated behavior, she reached down, opened her handbag, and threw up into it—yes, she puked in her purse—or, barfed in her bag.

I later pondered if she was hung-over the next morning and what her thoughts were while cleaning up her purse and contents.

Great Danes

During our 2007 tour of Scandinavian countries we had the delightful opportunity to visit Fredriksuund, Denmark which is about 200 kilometers from Copenhagen. We were featured at the monthly meeting of the Seaside Jazz Club, a very active, enthusiastic group of local musicians and jazz fans. The generosity of these folks was outstanding and included drinks (yes-aquavit) and a meal for not only the NGJB family but also the 20 groupies who were traveling with us. The Gassers shared the stage with a very good local band and the day turned into a wonderful social/jazz/international event which was one of the highlights of the entire tour.

When we had first arrived at the venue we were asked if we would like a beverage to get the day started. Pianist Rich Owens replied with a request for a cold beer and was disappointed to learn that they drink only warm beer in Denmark and therefore no cold ones were available so he settled with something else. At the end of the day, as we were boarding the bus for our hotel, a local fan met Rich and presented him with a bucket containing ice and several bottles of beer (Carlsberg). This fan had taken the time and effort to put together this gift so that Rich could have his cold beer before leaving Fredriksuund. What a very thoughtful, kind act it was.


Contact Phil Crumley at: [email protected] or visit website: www.ngjb.com.

visit the Natural Gas Jazz Band at www.ngjb.com

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