Wacky and Weird Sidelights from 50 Years with the Natural Gas Jazz Band

Woof Woof

It was July, 1990 at the Bix Fest that NGJB first heard the very popular Uncle Yoke’s Black Dog Jazz Band. The Gassers were impressed with the music and amazed to learn that the audience responded to the Dogs’ act by yelling “WOOF, WOOF” instead of applauding.

One day, while waiting to follow the Dogs at the main venue, a stage hand suggested to Phil that it would fun and interesting to have the audience respond to NGJB in some wild and unique way also.

Hot Jazz Jubile

Phil responded, “Those guys are called the Black Dogs and the crowd goes ‘Woof, Woof.’ We are called the Natural Gas Jazz Band—C’mon now, what do you expect?”

At this point, tubaist Dave Lewis started pleading, “Please, just have them keep barking!”

Small Town Jazz

The Gassers had the opportunity to perform for a small but wonderfully enthusiastic jazz club in the tiny town of Illiapolis, IL. This little settlement consisted of a grocery store, a gas pump, and a bar – you have one guess as to where the band played.


During the afternoon’s performance, there was considerable repartee between the band and the friendly, Midwestern audience. At one point the bartender handed Phil a license plate number of a car blocking a nearby driveway. He dutifully read off the plate number and announced that if the car were not moved immediately, the town’s car compacting unit would be called in—then added the thought that maybe the town was too small to have a car compacting unit. It was then that someone from the 3rd row exclaimed loudly, “Oh yeah, we have a car compacting unit- it is called a teenager.”

Hello, Dolly

Dolly Baker, a former New York profession singer who moved to Tokyo, was assigned to the NGJB for some tunes at the Kobe Evergreen Festival in 1992. During a wind-down after the show, Dolly informed us that she was concerned about her future as a vocalist. “Last year I made a recording with a Tokyo big band named THE WINDBREAKERS,” she exclaimed. “Now, this year, I get assigned to a band called NATURAL GAS—I am afraid to ask what is next.”

Soviet Deja-Vu?

While in Siberia in 1989, the band played at a memorial service honoring the Soviet soldiers killed in the Afghanistan war (1979–1989). Following the service the NGJB group heard a mother tearfully tell of how she originally thought that her son died for a good cause but then later learned that he “died for nothing.” Most of the band members and their wives also had tears in their eyes.

I wonder how many mothers in Russia today are feeling that same emotion.


While playing a festival in Phoenix, AZ, Phil was attempting to tell the audience that “if you don’t like the blues, you have a hole in your soul.” Instead, he blurted out, “If you don’t like the blues, you have a sole in your hole.”—most embarrassing, especially when someone in the audience later sent Phil a recording he had made during the occasion.


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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