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Tales From the Land of Slideology
During the course of setting up almost 4000 slides, we have heard some pretty nice comments and some funny ones too. To protect the innocent, I’ve included only a hint of the player’s identity.
One year, at the ITW in Nashville, I had the privilege of serving as host for a group of trombonists from Japan. Thinking that they would enjoy a little of the local lore, I took them to a replica of a speakeasy, where the drinks were served in Mason Jars. (Many of you will remember the place.) As usual, toasts were in order. I ordered a round of Jack Daniels Black Label, (double on the rocks) for everyone. To my amazement, they all chugged the entire drink and one said, “Velly good! Tastes like soda pop.”
Later, I set up a slide for one of the bass trombonists. When I handed the slide back, he was obviously pleased with the action. His comment: “Ah so. You have the hands of a god.”
One of the best-known jazz players in the country was an early patron in Nashville. After I finished setting up his slide, he went into the next room to play. We hear “foobie-doobie-doobie, shoe-duh wah,” a short silence and clank-clank clank on the floor. This was immediately followed by a very loud, “Oh expletive deleted!” A very sheepish grin on his face and he brought it back to be realigned the second time.
The more mature players will remember a wonderful person, who made a career out of “General Speech,” (the text of McArthur’s discourse to Congress when he was forced to step down as Commanding General.) It seems that he had the habit of playing the last note on a page, holding the slide very level, and releasing the slide to turn the page with his right hand. After the slide setup, he was performing the piece and the air pressure alone was enough to move the slide. He was horrified to hear the pitch getting flatter and flatter as he turned the page.
The last Nashville story was the first clinic I had ever given for the ITW. Zeke placed the clinic at 8AM on Thursday. I knew that it would take something dramatic to get everyone’s attention. The trombone teacher from a SEC school (who was a former Kenton Band member) agreed to be the straight man. I asked if anyone had a slide that they would like to have me set up as a demonstration. His story sent something like this: “My dad played this horn in the Goldman Band when he was very young. I have always wanted to have it playable, but was afraid to have anyone work on it.” I examined the slide carefully, handed it to my trusty assistant who nodded in agreement. I then took the slide and hit it as hard as I could across the edge of a table, bending it into a letter “L.” The gasp was like thunder! Then there was great laughter. When everything calmed down, I asked, “Does anyone else have a slide that they would like to have fixed?”
A number of years ago, a student from a big 10 school called and told me that he had “a few dents” in his new 100H slide. When the slide arrived, I opened the box and on each set of tubes, there was a completely flat area about one inch wide. When I say flat, I mean that all four tubes were mashed completely flat! Thinking that I might have misunderstood, I phoned the student and asked, “What happened to this slide?” His response, “One of my friends ran over it on a bicycle.”
One player sent me what appeared to be a new slide, except that all of the specs were out. Nothing seemed to fit together. The only choice was to take the pieces apart and reassemble them. When the slide was returned, the player called to tell me that the slide had been assembled from pieces in the parts bin. He decided that if we could make it work, he would send me a “real slide.”
One of the best slide stories I have heard came from the west coast. So the story went: Location: Hollywood Bowl, Concert by a big name male singer (A.W.) It seems that a trombone slide escaped during a fast passage, deftly dancing right through the singer’s ankles and coming to rest in front of him. When the tune ended, the singer picked up the errant slide and turned to the band and was rumored to ask, “Does anyone know who this belongs to?” Our quick witted and never-to-be-phased colleague replied, “Yeah, some guy in the trumpet section dropped it. I’ll hand it to him for you.”
One of my customers sent this one in: “I was a POW in Stalag Luft III in Germany for 20 months during WWII. I had been a co-pilot on a B-17 and was shot down on my second mission (over Stuttgart, Germany).
After arriving in the camp, we had a visit from a YMCA representative by the name of Henry Soderberg (from Sweden). We lined up to request ‘Recreation Equipment’. In less than a month I received an old Polish trombone (Beware of foreign instruments). The slide was horrible. When I would practice in the barracks I heard loud protests. Shortly after that, my horn disappeared. On Christmas Eve 1943, I was told that my horn had been found. I went over to the barracks where they found it and it was at the top of a still that was distilling some home brew. Some very tasty alcohol was coming out of the mouthpiece. (We had all contributed raisins and sugar that came in red cross parcels as well as all of all of the potato peelings that came from the cookhouse).
If you ever see the movie THE GREAT ESCAPE on TV, watch for the still. In the movie the scene is on the 4th of July and Steve McQueen takes the first sip. You will see a very distorted (but active) trombone and slide.”