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Daniel A

Musicians as drivers

31 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I would be interested in hearing stories, first-hand or otherwise, about musicians as car drivers. 

When me and my friends started to get drivers' licences back in high school - I went to a music-oriented school - we used to say that if you had a musical ear, you always knew exactly when to change gear; stick shift was still the norm over here at that time. In our minds, knowing when to change gear automatically made you a great driver. 

However, through the years I've heard several stories about musicians who were terrible drivers, including lacking any ability to hear when to gear up or down. 

In a Glenn Gould biography, he was presented as a total maniac behind the wheel, seemingly out of control while still seemingly convinced of the opposite. I also read once that Charlie Parker was described by someone (Johnny Griffin?) as a "sad-ass driver". I have failed to find any mention of that online. 

So, keep your stories coming. 

Edited by Daniel A

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Well we know of one or two rocknroll car crashes, don’t we? And one or two jazzers killed in car crashes (driving or not).  Your point is to find amusing anecdotes, so I won’t pursue that line… 

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Via Bill Crow: "Al Cohn was driving Zoot Sims home from a record date. Zoot had fallen asleep in the back seat, and alongside Al in the front seat was A&R man Jack Lewis. Lewis had a cast in one eye, while Al has lost an eye to an infection some years before. Zoot suddenly comes awake and peers between Al and Lewis. "What's up?" says Al. "Nothing," says Zoot, "Just wanted to make sure that you guys were keeping both eyes on the road."

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I'm not sure to what extent Barney Wilen himself was involved in auto racing, but one of his  albums, "Auto Jazz: Tragic Destiny of Lorenzo Bandini", was directly related to the sport.  Here's how Da Bastids described the record:

"One of the wildest albums ever recorded by French tenorist Barney Wilen -- a mix of avant jazz and sound effects, set to wax in tribute to Lorenzo Bandini -- a famous Italian racer who died tragically during the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix! Wilen was an automobile enthusiast in the late 60s, and happened to be recording the race on a Nagra for himself -- but, after witnessing the death of Bandini, Wilen decided to incorporate his tape of the race into an extended performance dedicated to the late driver. The sound is quite unusual -- much farther out than any of Barney's other albums -- and the tapes of the race are joined with free-flowing tenor, and piano -- plus bits of organ and prepared piano as well -- all played by by Francois Tusques along with Wilen, with support from Beb Guerin on bass and Eddy Gaumont on drums. The real star, though, is Bandini's Ferrari, which races in and out of the jazz playing, coming to a mournful end with the termination of the piece. The album's a totally unique recording -- and stands as one of the most unusual moments in the history of Wilen's career, and the legendary MPS label." 

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Posted (edited)

Early British Jazz tenor star Buddy Featherstonhaugh was also an early Grand Prix winner !

There’s a really excellent recent essay on him by Richard Williams :

https://thebluemoment.com/

 

6 hours ago, Dave James said:

I'm not sure to what extent Barney Wilen himself was involved in auto racing, but one of his  albums, "Auto Jazz: Tragic Destiny of Lorenzo Bandini", was directly related to the sport.  Here's how Da Bastids described the record:

"One of the wildest albums ever recorded by French tenorist Barney Wilen -- a mix of avant jazz and sound effects, set to wax in tribute to Lorenzo Bandini -- a famous Italian racer who died tragically during the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix! Wilen was an automobile enthusiast in the late 60s, and happened to be recording the race on a Nagra for himself -- but, after witnessing the death of Bandini, Wilen decided to incorporate his tape of the race into an extended performance dedicated to the late driver. The sound is quite unusual -- much farther out than any of Barney's other albums -- and the tapes of the race are joined with free-flowing tenor, and piano -- plus bits of organ and prepared piano as well -- all played by by Francois Tusques along with Wilen, with support from Beb Guerin on bass and Eddy Gaumont on drums. The real star, though, is Bandini's Ferrari, which races in and out of the jazz playing, coming to a mournful end with the termination of the piece. The album's a totally unique recording -- and stands as one of the most unusual moments in the history of Wilen's career, and the legendary MPS label." 

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I’ve a Japanese CD of that one - one of the weirdest things ever committed to disk !

Edited by sidewinder

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Posted (edited)

21 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

Early British Jazz tenor star Buddy Featherstonhaugh was also an early Grand Prix winner !

There’s a really excellent recent essay on him by Richard Williams :

https://thebluemoment.com/

 

That brings to mind another jazzman of the same breed:

Johnny Claes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Claes

 

And he can be heard here, for example (and on a reissue of this and more on CS Records C5-544):

 

 

https://www.discogs.com/Johnny-Claes-And-His-Clae-Pigeons-Nat-Gonella-His-New-Georgians-The-Swinging-40s/release/9914297

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Posted (edited)

Ronnie Scott was in one of Claes’ bands and he was always a motor enthusiast with flash cars. His business partner Pete King even more so - a very competent racer.

Edited by sidewinder

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Posted (edited)

6 hours ago, sidewinder said:

I’ve a Japanese CD of that one [Wilen's Auto Jazz -- Bandini] - one of the weirdest things ever committed to disk !

I have heard this (I can't remember if I bought the CD or just had a download).  I wouldn't say it really stands up to repeated listening, but now that it has come up, I'm curious and will try to listen again.

There was a self-produced CD called something like the Zen of the Bicycle Courier, which was sort of assembled from field recordings of bike couriers from Chicago back in the late 90s.  Unfortunately, it didn't really live up to its promise, and I foisted it off on someone who was way more into cycling than I was.

Edited by ejp626

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Wasn't Richie Powell driving when he & Clifford Brown were killed in an automobile accident?

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I think Richie's wife was behind the wheel.

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13 hours ago, Dave James said:

I'm not sure to what extent Barney Wilen himself was involved in auto racing, but one of his  albums, "Auto Jazz: Tragic Destiny of Lorenzo Bandini", was directly related to the sport.  Here's how Da Bastids described the record:

"One of the wildest albums ever recorded by French tenorist Barney Wilen -- a mix of avant jazz and sound effects, set to wax in tribute to Lorenzo Bandini -- a famous Italian racer who died tragically during the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix! Wilen was an automobile enthusiast in the late 60s, and happened to be recording the race on a Nagra for himself -- but, after witnessing the death of Bandini, Wilen decided to incorporate his tape of the race into an extended performance dedicated to the late driver. The sound is quite unusual -- much farther out than any of Barney's other albums -- and the tapes of the race are joined with free-flowing tenor, and piano -- plus bits of organ and prepared piano as well -- all played by by Francois Tusques along with Wilen, with support from Beb Guerin on bass and Eddy Gaumont on drums. The real star, though, is Bandini's Ferrari, which races in and out of the jazz playing, coming to a mournful end with the termination of the piece. The album's a totally unique recording -- and stands as one of the most unusual moments in the history of Wilen's career, and the legendary MPS label." 

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He was definitely into cars and a fan of auto racing. That record is awesome. Apparently he toured the concept to museums, with a film and mobile sound extravaganza. Wild.

Of course Miles was into fancy cars and driving fast; Prince Lasha was, too, and I'm sure there are others. 

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I've heard a few stories about the hazards of riding with Indiana bandleader and saxophonist Al Cobine.  Trumpeter Dominic Spera told me that they were once en route to a gig somewhere in a blinding snowstorm, and that the road began to seem strangely bumpy.  Domininc or one of the other passengers was able to discern through the enveloping whiteness that Al had at some point left the road and was now traveling along a riverbed that ran beside it.  "Al, we're driving in a riverbed!" they informed him.  Al said, "Oh, whoops--no problem!" and swerved his vehicle back up onto the roadway.  

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20 minutes ago, Larry Kart said:

I think Richie's wife was behind the wheel.

Yes, it was his wife.

Severely nearsighted, as the story goes.

That accident was what first came to my mind when the topic came up, but since accidents and deaths at the steering wheel were not what the thrad starter wanted ...

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31 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

Yes, it was his wife.

Severely nearsighted, as the story goes.

That accident was what first came to my mind when the topic came up, but since accidents and deaths at the steering wheel were not what the thrad starter wanted ...

O.K. - sorry to bring it up then.

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51 minutes ago, ghost of miles said:

I've heard a few stories about the hazards of riding with Indiana bandleader and saxophonist Al Cobine.  Trumpeter Dominic Spera told me that they were once en route to a gig somewhere in a blinding snowstorm, and that the road began to seem strangely bumpy.  Domininc or one of the other passengers was able to discern through the enveloping whiteness that Al had at some point left the road and was now traveling along a riverbed that ran beside it.  "Al, we're driving in a riverbed!" they informed him.  Al said, "Oh, whoops--no problem!" and swerved his vehicle back up onto the roadway.  

Hey, it's not the mistake that matters, it's how you fix it! :g

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Well, sadly we all know the story of Frank Teschemacher's death. He was killed in an automobile accident on the morning of March 1, 1932, being a passenger in the car driven by "Wild" Bill Davison.

And Harry Carney was Ellington's personal driver. Duke felt comfortable sleeping or composing on long trips between jobs if Carney was the driver. 

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9 hours ago, sidewinder said:

Ronnie Scott was in one of Claes’ bands and he was always a motor enthusiast with flash cars. His business partner Pete King even more so - a very competent racer.

Saw Ronnie driving a flash sports car in Shaftesbury Avenue in the 1960s with a woman young enough to be his daughter.

Never heard he had any daughters though!;) 

2 hours ago, ghost of miles said:

I've heard a few stories about the hazards of riding with Indiana bandleader and saxophonist Al Cobine.  Trumpeter Dominic Spera told me that they were once en route to a gig somewhere in a blinding snowstorm, and that the road began to seem strangely bumpy.  Domininc or one of the other passengers was able to discern through the enveloping whiteness that Al had at some point left the road and was now traveling along a riverbed that ran beside it.  "Al, we're driving in a riverbed!" they informed him.  Al said, "Oh, whoops--no problem!" and swerved his vehicle back up onto the roadway.  

Nice one, David!

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Just now, BillF said:

Saw Ronnie driving a flash sports car in Shaftesbury Avenue in the 1960s with a woman young enough to be his daughter.

Never heard he had any daughters though!;) 

Yes, his daughter wrote quite an interesting book about him. That young woman you mention might have been one of his wives or partners - young French lady I think. Must check the aforementioned book.

That old footage of Archer St with Ronnie and Pete King shows at least one of them in a flash car.

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3 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

 one of his wives or partners 

Ah, that's the lifestyle!:P

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Off the top of my head, some other notable jazz-related driving deaths include:

- Wild Bill Davidson (he survived, but Frank Teschemacher didn't); mentioned above in the interim;

-Eddie Costa;

- Cecil Irwin died in an automobile crash, but I don't know if he was driving/

- Don Murray died in an auto crash, but he wasn't the driver.

 

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4 hours ago, EKE BBB said:

 

And Harry Carney was Ellington's personal driver. Duke felt comfortable sleeping or composing on long trips between jobs if Carney was the driver. 

Didn't know that! Wonder if the driving style or the personality was the primary reason. 

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Posted (edited)

11 hours ago, jazztrain said:

Off the top of my head, some other notable jazz-related driving deaths include:

- Wild Bill Davidson (he survived, but Frank Teschemacher didn't); mentioned above in the interim;

-Eddie Costa;

- Cecil Irwin died in an automobile crash, but I don't know if he was driving/

- Don Murray died in an auto crash, but he wasn't the driver.

 

There were many more. Without even thinking hard, these come to mind:

Chu Berry

Stan Hasselgard

Scott La Faro.

But I doubt this is what this topic is supposed to be all about.

 

BTW, do motorcyclists count?

There is a great story about bass saxophonist Joe Rushton in Eddie Condon's We Called It Music - retold through BIll Crow's Anecdotes:

38684702zr.jpg

Riding your bike from Chicago to N.Y: and back again on the spur of a moment - that sounds like it took some real stamina, even in those pre-55 mph pottering-along rule days with far less traffic but with the road network likely being far from what it is today.

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Posted (edited)

OK, let's now officially make this thread about car crashes. 

Just kidding, all stories are welcome! But I guess I am still curious whether musicians in general are worse or better than average drivers. A certain type of musicians are probably more likely to drive a/the car, and others are not. If you just ride the bus with a larger band, you don't get to drive much. 

As a sidenote, I know of several Swedish jazz musicians with a solid interest in motors and vintage cars. Most of these are of the "intellectual" type, sometimes with degrees in areas other than music. Swedish trumpeter Jan Allan for instance, has a PhD in particle physics, a flying certificate and is has a solid interest in vintage motorbikes and cars. 

Edited by Daniel A

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Posted (edited)

I guess that at least there were (maybe still are) some musicians who were/are just too much "out of it" to be reasonable drivers at all. Not necessarily because of drugs or other substances/liquids but because they were/are so much immersed in their "art" or "creative" or whatever thing removed from mundane everday life that they would have been fairly unable to function well in normal duties and tasks of everyday life - such as driving, in fact.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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