Yet another excursion with Louis Armstrong — backwards to 1933 and 1966 or so and forwards to yesterday, July 7, 2012.

Step One: HONEY, DO! (lyrics by Andy Razaf, music by J.C. Johnson).  It’s customary to lament how poor Louis’ bands were, but this version is swinging away for the first part of the song.  And what Louis is doing, so joyously, is beyond description:

In 1966 — more or less — department stores in suburbia all had flourishing record departments.  I don’t know which store it was, but I remember as someone too young to drive a car going off with my mother to some store (more furniture than anything) for something she needed . . . and saying to her, “Ma, I’ll be right back,” running off to the record department, forsaking all others, heading to the Louis browser, snatching up this RCA Victor anthology with one side devoted to his recordings in the early Thirties, the other to his 1946-7 efforts, giving the cashier my $2.67 or an equivalent amount, and racing back to my mother (who had bought her pillows or bowls by that time) . . . I was guilty but exultant as she stood there — with that look of mild reproach and concern that I already knew too well: translation: “Did you have to spend your allowance on another record?”  Yes, Ma, I did.  I love you and you were right but now I have HONEY, DO! — nearly fifty years later, too.  A good return on $2.67.

Fast forward to yesterday, where the Beloved and I were digging Mal Sharpe and The Big Money in Jazz Band at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.  Circumstances prevented my video-recording, but I have a story for you all instead.  Superb music from Mal, Jim Gammon, trumpet; Rob Reich, accordion; Bill DeKuiper, guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Pete Magadini, drums.  A vigrously rocking band that also showed off deep subtlety — a version of I GOT IT BAD with its first chorus a duet for Jim (plunger-muted) and Ari.

Early in the final set, Mal (trusting the audience a bit) asked if anyone had a request.  STARDUST was suggested but politely turned aside for the moment, as was I DOUBLE DARE YOU.  But the latter suggestion turned Mal’s thoughts to Louis, and Pete suggested HONEY, DO! — which Jim took up with ease and pleasure.  The other members of the band weren’t entirely familiar with this obscure song, but they fell in gamely and the No Name Bar was rocking as the BMIJ turned the corner into the second chorus . . . and then Mal, bless him, put down his trombone and belted out the lyrics with skill and abandon.

I’m still grinning.  Maybe I can ask them to play it again when I have a video camera handy.  You should have been there!

May your happiness increase.

2 responses to “HONEY, DO!

  1. For some reason I feel moved to tell you my first purchase record story – or at least one of the first bought with my own funds. It must have been around 1969, at a wonderful, but sadly long-gone record store in Portland, Oregon – Longhair Music, located on SW 9th between Taylor and Salmon. The record was Don Ewell’s “Music to Listen to Don Ewell By.” It’s been one of my all-time “desert island” discs since.

    Fast forward to about 2005, at the San Diego Jazz Camp. After a teaching session, John Royen and I were playing a few tunes together, me scrambling around on the clarinet, when I suggested “South SIde Strut,” Ewell’s composition and the opening track from said Good Time Jazz lp. John, being a Ewell-o-phile, dutifully swung into it. Pure bliss for me after all those years to get to actually PLAY the tune on the clarinet. Sadly we never got to finish it, as a rather unpleasant janitorally-type came in and ending the proceedings. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted…

  2. Sonny McGown

    Michael, once again your reminiscing has triggered some fond memories for me. I am a few years your senior but I remember buying records in our Grand Union grocery store. Most vividly, I recall buying the RCA Encyclopedia of Jazz 10 inch LPs (12 volumes) which were produced by Bill Grauer Jr. and Orrin Keepnews. They cost a whopping $0.39 cents each! A few years later an E. J. Korvette’s department store opened in my suburban neighborhood. My mother was a regular shopper there and they had a large record department where I exhausted my earnings from mowing lawns, selling doughnuts door to door and delivering newspapers. It was in 1964 that RCA Victor initiated their Vintage reissue series and LPV 501 by Coleman Hawkins was my first purchase at $2.98. I recall reading advance notices in Downbeat of forthcoming Vintage releases and would check on a weekly basis for new arrivals. The anticipation level was high and I always made it a point to read the fine print in the liner notes to see what “previously unissued” material was included and usually there was a goody or two! A little later on I was doing the same for the Decca Jazz Heritage series that was supervised by Milt Gabler. Both of these series provided me with numerous opportunities to hear and learn about Classic Jazz in my formative years. Even though most of the music on those LPs has been reissued on CD I just can’t bring myself to part with them. They are treasures!!!

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