“THAT CAT STOPPED MY SHOW COLD”
An Interview with “Nick” Rodriguez
by Laurie and Peggy Wright



 “THAT CAT STOPPED MY SHOW COLD”
An Interview with “Nick” Rodriguez

by Laurie and Peggy Wright

It was Franc Williams who first introduced us to Nick Rodriguez one night in the West End Cafe in New York where they were playing a gig together. Nick agreed to be interviewed and a few days later we travelled out on the subway to his home where he made us very welcome. It proved to be not so much an interview as a monologue for once we got Nick started he needed only the occasional question to keep the memories flowing and although we didn’t get to ask all the questions perhaps we should have done, it seemed better to let him roam through his past as he thought best. We have removed our questions and re-arranged parts of what he said to provide a continuous, mostly chronological sequence. What no words could capture is his sheer joie de vivre, the animation and the shrieks of laughter as he relived moments of pleasure and his gift of mimicry when reporting long-past conversations. We are most grateful to him and honoured to be able to present something of the life and times of a musician who is held in high esteem by his contemporaries but, who for some mysterious reason, has had very little written about him.


I was born in Bohio — that’s in the Canal Zone of the Republic of Panama on the 10th September 1906, and that’s where I was registered. I had two sisters and one brother and I started school at the age of seven.

There wasn’t too much music in our family, but I studied with my sister, but she wasn’t keen because you had to work hard at music. I was about twelve at this time and my first instrument was the flute which I started in Public School. I went to Public School for three years and the teacher was teaching us music. I seemed to catch on to that — all that stuff. He played the flute and I told him I liked it and he noticed that I was catching on to it, so he loaned me his flute. Now, this was on a Saturday, and we went to school until 12:30 on Saturday, Sunday was a day off, and on Monday morning we went back. Now when I took that flute home you couldn’t get me to do nothing else all week-end. I tried to play the National Anthem on it, and I managed to do it. On the Monday morning in the school auditorium instead of the lady who played the piano every week — that was her business — she played the piano and I played the flute for the National Anthem. All the guys — everybody — was amazed to see that, especially my teacher. I kept on and told my father I wanted a flute. It used to be a big long black instrument like a clarinet — a black stick. So I got a flute. One day, coming home from school I wanted to play marbles, and I played very well, so I put the flute down and all the time my sister is telling me, “Come on, let’s go home.” “You go on home!” and she started crying “Wah, wah, wah”. I got mad and walked away with her and left the flute behind . . . and that was the end of the flute.

So I finished those three years in Public School and entered St. Joseph’s College . . . that was a training college like High School here, and since I could play the flute I entered the school band playing it, and the next year I took the clarinet. Then, the next year there was a big fellow named Rollins who played in the Municipal Band, and he had a trombone, and I like that (making trombone noises). So I wanted a trombone and I told my dad, “I can play one of those.” So when I went back to school next year, I’m going to take the trombone in the band and in the next three weeks I was playing trombone in the band — solos, Lassus Trombonus — all that sort of thing. Then, the next year came and I wanted to try another instrument, so I took the saxophone. In the meantime, there was a good banjo player from the Capital City whose name I can’t remember, but his last name was Philip, and he had this banjo and I used to watch him — my poor father, it was a good job he could afford it! Well, I went to him and said, “I can play the banjo.” “How do you know you can play the banjo. Ha?” “Well, I was playing Philip’s banjo.” But that died, it didn’t seem to take any root, but when school closed I got a banjo — the house was all crowded with instruments. Course, I didn’t get another flute!

Now the piano, let me tell you about how the piano came in. My father had a first cousin, a girl . . . a very beautiful girl, and she played very well, but her step-mother and her couldn’t get along. So my father thought he would bring her to live with us. So then she had no piano to play on, so he thought, “I’ll get her one.” and he called Story and Clarke and then another one called Cornish and eventually he bought a Cornish. Now, whatever he said, I had to do now — you just get that straight! So, I’m looking at this piano, thinking, “I can’t play this thing.” And my cousin sat down and played something very flowery to impress me, and it was very nice. Then it seemed I had some sort of photographic memory, because I could learn anything she played just by watching. Some of the guys would play at the piano and by watching I learned to play Zez Confrey solos — all that sort of thing. In fact one of the guys is still living right here in New York; Ray Cox, his brother Victor died just a few weeks ago. I would say, “Play this for me Vic.” and he’d play a bit, and it was always funny for me to see how people played, and I learned things . . . like a Zez Confrey solo, four measures at a time. Sometimes I think that I had a bit of a talent for that . . . not a great talent, because I worked very hard to get what I have, I know that, but I think you have to have a little something that makes you keep at it.

Now, about this time, there was a band that used to come and play at week-ends and special occasions and they played jazz, and I liked the sound of that. But what really made up my mind on music was an OKeh record by Mr. Louis Armstrong that had Cornet Chop Suey on it. I went with a friend to visit someone and he happened to have this record, and when I heard Cornet Chop Suey my mind was made up and I knew what I was going to do with my life . . . I was going to be a musician. I didn’t know what instrument, but I was going to be a musician! So, I organised a little band and called it The Broadway Syncopators . . . I didn’t even know what that meant! I did all the arrangements myself and eventually I decided I was coming over here.

When I told my father, he said, “Oh, you running out of the country?” I said, “No.” But I had the money. Now I’d better explain. My father had a little fishing business — anything you wanted, he would get . . . nets, baskets and so on, and he also had five fishermen and a captain. But around this time he also went into government service as a policeman and stayed in that until lie died. So, he didn’t have enough time to run the other business properly and it got so I was running it for him, and I used to save my money. Now you were supposed to give 30 days notice if you were taking it out — I don’t know if it’s still the same, but I knew a Mr. Lawson who also worked as a pianist in a theatre, and I used to go and watch him play and lie liked me, and lie made arrangements for me to get my money out. And that money came to ten hundred and thirty five dollars.

So I got a visa to come here, I was supposed to stay here two years and six months, and I left Panama on 1st of August and landed here in New York on 7th August 1928. I had a godbrother (sic) here, and I was living in the Spanish District, that was 110 to 118th Street or something like that. Now, that very first night I was in New York I went to visit a friend up on St. Nicholas Avenue with some girls — they were part of our circle and had been here about ten months already. I left them about one o’clock in the morning and I wasn’t too sure where I was living. I knew Lenox Avenue was this way, and I came down 141st Street and figured I was heading the right way. Then I came across a little Italian man who was selling hot dogs and soda and so forth, and I heard music. I followed in the direction I thought it was coming from and then when I was sure where it was, I came back and bought a big bottle of orange soda . . . it was a half-gallon bottle, and I’d never seen one that big before and the man gave me a straw. I went off and followed to where the music was coming from and I found a big rock at the back of this place and I climbed the rock and sat there drinking my soda and listening to the music. And I stayed them until the band stopped playing — I couldn’t hear any more music, and that must have been around four o’clock in the morning and I guess they’d all gone home to bed. So I left and took my soda bottle back, but the man was gone too and I dropped the bottle in the garbage pail and started walking home. And I walked and walked and eventually got to 118th Street . . . this is my street, and I looked for 74 and went to bed. I didn’t know who I’d been listening to, but I found out later it was Duke Ellington. I’d heard many bands on my radio, that was a popular thing at that time, but the first band I heard in person was Duke Ellington, and on my very first night in New York! My Godbrother was a very good dancer and he said, “We’ll go down to the Savoy one day.” So we went there, and I began to hear some more bands — some of the names I knew from the radio but, of course, from that I didn’t know whether they were white or black. I liked Fletcher Henderson, I remembered that name . . . at the Roseland Ballroom. Then there was Paul Whiteman . . . I knew they were white, ’cause I’d seen pictures of him. It got that every night I’d get dressed and go to one of these different night clubs and places, that was in those speakeasy days, but I was alright because I knew where I was going and what I was doing. I’d go in and sit down and the waitress would come over and I’d ask for some black coffee and toast ’cause I didn’t drink much and all I was doing was spending money to hear those guys play for me again. It was a dollar a shot at that time in late ’28 for a drink — any drink — and that’s plenty money, but I had plenty money, and I got to know the different guys, got to know their names — buy ’em a drink, and got to hear their music, but they didn’t know that I knew anything about a piano. Then one night there was a youngster named Harold Green, he played piano and I used to buy him drinks — we were young together, used to hang out together and talk, and I walked in this place one night and saw this music on top of the piano. “Symphonic Raps” it said, yeah, “Raps”, that was it, and I looked at it and after playing those Zez Confrey pieces it looked easy for me to play and I stood there and started to play it. Then footsteps came rushing behind me and it was Harold. “It’s you” he said, “you can play the piano?” I said, “No, no, I can’t play.” “What you doing then, if I could read like that I’d join the union!” Now I didn’t know anything about the union and he started telling me what the union is. I said, “Yeah, I can play a little, but not like you.” Then he said, “I’m going to hear ‘The Lion’ play, and we’re gonna take you.” That was Averil Brown, who ‘Ram’ (Ramirez) knows very well, Len Ballus, who was a great xylophone player, Herbert Levy, who lives on 42nd Street and somebody else, whose name I can’t remember, and we all went to hear this ‘Lion’. We went in this place and he was working upstairs — Levy was the one who took me up to hear ‘The Lion’, and this ‘Lion’ was all dressed up — immaculate — it makes me sick to see how people go to play now. So he came over and sat down — a very proud guy, you know. So they asked Averil to play and he said, “No, you play.” So I sat down at the piano — you’d die laughing to hear what I was playing, it was a tune called Sunday, and ‘The Lion’ held his stomach and laughed, and laughed, “What’s he playing?”, but I kept on playing and I finished the chorus and I didn’t feel funny or anything and then I said, “You play.” And that was the first time I heard Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith play, but after that I started frequenting this place where he was playing instead of where Harold Green was, and I started buying him drinks and listening to him every night.

Now the time was coming when I was supposed to be matriculating, and I wondered how I was going to explain to my father. Harold had said I ought to join the union, but he hadn’t been able to tell me where it was or how I joined. But one day I was walking by the Empress Theatre at 181st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue and I heard the sound of an organ. The door was open, so I went in and went down to the rail by the organ. It was a white lady playing and, without thinking. I reached over to turn the music when she got to the end of the page. “You play the organ?” “Oh. no, I play piano a little.” She stopped playing, walked over and unlocked the piano and asked me to play a little. Well, I still couldn’t play too much, but I played something. Then she brought over The Man I Love by George Gershwin and I started to play that for her. “Have you ever seen this before?” she asked and then when I told her I hadn’t, she asked if I was in the union. I told her I didn’t know where it was and she said, “It’s at 210 East 86th Street. I shouldn’t say this, as it’s not my organ, but if you like to come down here every day at 11 o’clock, I’ll teach you to play the organ.” Just like that. I never did go back, but I did go to 210 East 86th Street. The man there put some music up in front of me — an F minor scale — and I played that OK, then he put up an orchestration, and I played the piano part and then the melody. He said, “OK, you come back Friday with $50 and you get your card.” So, that’s what I did. I showed Harold my card and told him now I was eligible to take a union job and eleven days later I got my first job with Jelly Roll Morton.

He was upstairs at the Rose Danceland and downstairs was a club called ‘The Newport Club’. And this club had a band too and the guy who was in charge of it was ‘Foots’ Thomas . . . that’s Walter Thomas. Now I’d met ‘Foots’ at Barney Bigard’s place one day when I’d gone there to see some girl, and he was talking to Barney and saying he had to have a piano. So Barney turned round and said, “That’s your man.” ‘Foots’ said, “Can you come round tonight?” Barney urged me to go and I said, “OK”, and I went down and I made out alright. Now I was learning, so I didn’t leave the piano all night, even when intermission came up, I still stayed there and played. One night I was up there on my own playing Rube Bloom’s Soliloquy and this gentleman stood behind me and said, “Would you like to join my band?” “Oh, no, I’ve just got this job.” He had a theatre just around the corner from the night club . . . the Drake and Walker Theatre I think it was called, and he said, “I just want you to work in the theatre with me and I can arrange it so you can start here on time.” “OK, that’s alright then.” So that’s how I came to play in the theatre for Bessie Smith and lots of the big names who came to work there. And I thought, “This is great, now I can write my father and tell him why I didn’t go to school.”

Anyway, one night in the club, Jelly Roll comes down and says, “You play very well.” “Oh, thank you.” “You want to join my band?” “Oh, no, I’ve just got this job.” “Never mind that, this is my job too, I want you to go away with me with my big band, the big band that’s upstairs.” Now that was Procope, Garland, Ward Pinkett . . . nothing but the tops, William H. Moore, the tuba player, some fantastic players, and he wants me to join this band. So I had to meet them at Pennsylvania Station at 11 o’clock and we went to York, Pennsylvania. That was on 8th December 1928 and we played in York that very first day. We travelled in Jelly’s own railroad car, a Pullman, and all the guys were gambling and laughing and talking and I was supposed to be asleep. And one of the guys said to Jelly, “Who’s that guy over there?” and Jelly said, “His name is Rocker Rocker.” and they all laughed. Well we got to York, and I played what I had to play. I remember some of those things, there was Red Nichols’s Five Pennies and some Duke Ellington things. Now Jelly had three sets of books and, after we’d been going a while, Procope said, “Get the S Book.” Now I’ll tell you what the ‘S Book’ is, it means the ‘Shit Book’ and it’s all the hardest things, the things you’re not supposed to be able to play, and the first thing they called was Chicago Breakdown and it started with a piano solo so I didn’t have no time to look it over but, as God is my judge, I just walked through that and everything else they called. After the first time I was improvising and the guys accepted me. I didn’t hold nothing against them, they were just testing me out and when you’re in a strange country and trying to make friends and so on, you have to accept things the way they are. Now the guys in that band when we left New York were Ward Pinkett, 1st trumpet and there was another guy, I can’t remember his name, but Jelly usually worked with two trumpets. Billy Kato was on trombone, and the saxes were Joe Garland, Russell Procope and Walter Thomas. Lee Blair was on banjo, William H. Moore on bass tuba and Gus Robinson on drums, that was the combination we had. The next day after York, we moved to Harrisburg, where we made our headquarters and we’d travel out from there every day . . . a couple of hundred miles sometimes. Then we moved to Washington and did the same from there and after that we went south. Before we left Harrisburg we had some changes in the band . . . oh, there were several, Boyd Rosser, Briscoe, and Charlie Irvis who used to play with Duke Ellington came to play with us, and that was the brass section. Then we got Paul Barnes and Walter’s brother Joe . . . there were a lot of changes at different times. We had a drummer came from Baltimore . . . can’t remember his name, but I knew his brother too.

Now the band was so successful that there was an agent, I think his name was Gordon Kibbler, who had a band, but he figured he’d be better dropping his band and booking Jelly instead. So, this particular day we were supposed to be playing for the black people at a town called Hagerstown in Maryland and some guy called up to say if we were going to play for the blacks, we’d have to play for the whites first. Well let me tell you something about Mr. Jelly Roll. Mr. Jelly Roll didn’t care where he was and when they told him he’d better come down to this hotel he said, “What do they mean by I have to play . . . they must be crazy. I am half crazy you know, I come from the other side and I don’t care ‘bout nothin’.” Jelly wasn’t going to play for free, so he’s going down to this hotel to see what’s happening and I went with him. Jelly carried a 45 and a 38 pistol . . . he always had two of them, and at that time we were wearing those bear coats, big pile coats, they don’t make them like that any more. And Jelly had his big gun in his pocket, and I had my little Spanish automatic, and when we got to the hotel this guy comes down and says, “If you intend to play for the blacks tonight, you have to play for us first.” “How can I play for both of you the same night?” “You play this hotel from seven to eight.” Jelly looked at him hard and say, “For how much?” “Listen, you better play if you want to play that dance you talking about.” Jelly said, “I said for how much?” Now by this time I have my hand on my gun and I would have fired it, and Jelly’s hand is in his pocket. The man said to him, “Don’t you realise you’re six miles below the Mason-Dixon line?” “Well, my home is in New Orleans, and I guess that’s more than six miles below the Mason-Dixon line.” By then Gordon had come in and said to Jelly, “Jelly come here a minute” and they went to one side and talked and talked. I don’t know what was said, but I just stood there with my hand on my gun. I didn’t know then what this ‘Mason-Dixon’ line was and I’d never been scared of anything in my life. I began to realise what was going on and I was prepared to stand my ground. I’d seen copies of a magazine called The Crisis with pictures of the Klu (Ku) Klux Klan, but I hadn’t realised quite what they were and thought they were something like the Carnival we had back home, so this was quite a new experience for me, but I’ve seen a lot more since, and realised that it was the norm. Something similar happened when I was with Don Redman in 1939 and it almost happened down in Miami, but we won’t go into that. Anyway, the outcome was that we played for them at the hotel and got paid for it, and then we went and played for the blacks.

Near the end of this trip with Jelly we were going to make some records and we stayed in Philadelphia and rode over to Camden — that’s an RCA plant. It was while these sessions were on that I remembered that I really ought to write my father and explain to him that I hadn’t gone to school but had become a musician, so I took advantage of being at Victor and used some of their stationary to write him and told him he could see I was doing all right and that I’d send him the records when they came out. I told him too that the guys were funny and called me all sorts of names; ‘Ring-tail’, ‘Coconut hustler’, ‘Monkey chaser’ and ‘West Indian’. He wrote back and told me to forget about the names and just get that diploma. Each time I wrote he said the same, so eventually I didn’t write and tell him anything else. After the records, the band came back into New York and disbanded and Jelly took off . . . for Chicago, I think, and I didn’t see him for about five or six years.

Then I started with Louis and the first date was a breakfast dance that started around 2 o’clock at the Renaissance Casino in Harlem and that was easy. After that we went to Boston . . . took the train, took us five or six hours and we arrived in the afternoon and Louis took me to see Joe Steele, a very great pianist who’d lost his mind . . . just Louis and me. We were to play at the Paul Revere Hall in Boston that night . . . it was Christmas night. And that night we got visitors from Fats’s show. ‘Hot Chocolate’ I think it was and Louis was featuring all of these things of Fats . . . Ain’t Misbehavin’, Black And Blue . . . and let nip tell you this was the great Louis, not the commercial Louis that we heard afterwards. And it was there at the Paul Revere Hall in Boston that I first met Fats himself for the first time. After that we went to play some other dates and we would alternate with Luis Russell’s band. He would go out with Russell’s band and the next time with his own band, and I was in his band, OK? And this went on for some time until about the late summer of 1930, then he went back to New York and we disbanded.

Then I didn’t have a regular job for some time and I just gigged around, and I was doing alright. One day I met Benny Carter and he told me he was putting together an all-star band, and he told me who he was using, and the pianist was going to be Theodore Wilson. I told him that it sounded very good and he asked me if I’d like to drop by. “Of course I’ll drop by.” He only had to tell me who the pianist was for me to want to drop by. So I called in on the rehearsal, and Mr. Teddy Wilson didn’t show. Benny said, “Rod, would you like to sit in?” “I don’t mind.” So they put the music in front of me and at the end of the rehearsal he said, “What do you think about it?” It was Benny Carter’s own music, and it was just fantastic. “This music is fantastic.” “Would you like to stay?” “Me?, Well, yeah, OK.” So that’s how I came to join Benny Carter’s hand in 1932, and that band was all stars, every man a star on his instrument except me, and I didn’t really ought to be there, but I made out and Benny seemed satisfied with what I was doing. Then up came this business with Spike Hughes, who wants to come out here and get some Americans to do his jazz because the English boys don’t please him playing his jazz. And I’m the pianist in this band and I made those sessions except for one when I think Luis Russell filled in for me, and part of them was a jam session with Spike. After that we played some theatres, and then we did a tour with the Mills Bros. who were still poor little fellows then, and we went tip to Canada, everywhere. Of course there were some changes; Chu went to Cab, Jeff went to Fletcher, and we had Procope come in for a bit, but he didn’t fit with what we were doing. We ended up with a reed section of Howard Johnson, Benny Williams and Alberto Socarras. When we played a theatre, Benny would always conduct the first show, but after that he only came out to do his speciality, and I took care of the direction — he’d leave me in charge. And I was with Benny until he disbanded in 1933, that was in March at the Harlem Opera House. I’m still being called these nick-names but everyone in that band had a nick-name, there was great rapport. I was ‘Indian’, Chu Berry was ‘Walrus’, Benny Carter was ‘King’ . . . everybody had a name, I can’t remember them all now, but we were so proud of that band and what we were doing. After that, Socarras who had been one of the changes in personnel, and I were playing with Benny at the Savoy, and we lived down in ‘Spanish Town’ and walking home together one day we were saying that if we could get a band that could play Latin music and good American music we’d have it made, because we’d have no competition. And we worked on that, and I was writing these good American arrangements. I was working in a theatre during the day and at night in this night club. There wasn’t no band at this time, but we were working on it and Benny wanted Teddy Wilson to come in on piano, because I had these jobs. So one day he sent his cousin we called him ‘Fats’, to pick me up in his car from the theatre to meet Teddy Wilson. We went up to 48th Street and Benny had this job organised at Connie’s Inn. And Benny wanted to know if I could sub for Teddy until 12 o’clock as I finished earlier than lie did, and we all had a nice talk and fixed it up. Then that Apollo business came up. That band didn’t have the success it should have had, and Teddy left to go to Willie Bryant and I stayed because I had two jobs, you see, and this is still the depression.

I have two jobs, and most people are out of work. I’m lucky, I don’t know nothing about the depression . . . I was buying cars, anything I wanted. But I would go down there and see these people lining up on 115th, 116th Streets to get a coupon to get some food — it was really terrible. I was very, very lucky, I never had a bad day in my life. I had to study when I was young, but since then, I’ve always done what I wanted, and I’ve enjoyed it, and I envy no-one. Even in 1937 and later when I was with Don Redman, and we would make as much as $18 a stint, there were people working in the Post Office and places like that who were making only $15 a week and had to keep a family on it. We could make that much and more in an hour. The way it worked with the big bands, you’d come in some place and play an hour, that’s $18. Then you’d go on to some other place and play another hour, then the same again, so you’d make $54 in one night, that was some money! And that was three weeks pay for many people. Yes, I sure led a charmed life.

I was with Don from 1937 until early 1941. We were in Cleveland, January 3rd, and it was snowing like the devil, and I told him, “Red, when I go back, I’m through with the band.” “What!” I told him I was going to study, and he said that was good, he was always telling the guys they ought to study. He’d studied at Detroit Conservatory himself and was credited with putting classical techniques in the dance band. He was a terrific arranger, and at rehearsal he’d ask for the three trumpet parts and go back upstairs. Then he’d come down a little later and say, “That’s what we’re going to play.” He was a real schooled musician, a very schooled cat. So, no wonder I wanted to study, I’d come up with all these guys and I wanted to measure up to them.

I worked with some of the other big bands, but when Latin music became popular I spent 24 years working at that until I went out with Louis in 1961 and that was the biggest thrill of my career.

Here was I, in The Louis Armstrong All-Stars, working with the man who was my idol and who was the cause of me becoming a musician — I told Satch that one night over dinner, that after hearing Cornet Chop Suey I had to be a musician. We played all over, Universities, Concert Halls, Schools . . . all sorts of big auditoriums and we played either for an hour or an hour and twenty minutes — two different types of show. And all the guys in the band would get a solo spot . . . Barney would play, Trummy would play and so on. When it came to my turn, I would be alone on the stage, which perhaps is why I drew so match attention because wherever we played, particularly at schools and Universities there would always be a guy who would come around after the show to congratulate me, and he’d be the head of the music department, or the piano teacher, and this happened not once, but all the time. The routine I had was that the band would leave the stage, spotlight on me and I’d start a concertised version of something like George Gershwin’s Liza. I’d play a couple of choruses and then I’d make a jazz introduction for the guys to come back on stage. Then we’d play 16 bars together, then they’d cut out and I’d go back and concertise before we made a big ending. It was really quite spectacular, I suppose and, invariably, I would have to play an encore, maybe Summertime. I didn’t really think too much about that at the time, but it made the show run over time and it didn’t really get home to me until after I’d left Louis, which I did in Peoria, Illinois on 16th April.

On May 1st the band is back in New York playing Madison Square Gardens. I didn’t go to see them there, but the next week they were at Basin Street East and Luis Russell and myself went to hear Satch play. We enjoyed ourselves and after the show Satch comes out to go up to some hotel to take his rest. As he comes out he says to Russell, “Hi, Fess, you know this cat stopped my show cold. I had to let him play again.” Now this was the man who was the cause of me becoming a musician in the first place and he was saying this about me! It was the biggest thrill of my career to hear him say that about me.

Since leaving Louis I’ve spent most of my time teaching and I didn’t get back to playing jazz dates until just last year.

These days the guys call me ‘Chief’, so when I’m walking out on the street and somebody calls ‘Chief’ I have to look around. It was actually Benny Carter who gave me that name — I was always called ‘Indian’ in that band, but one morning Benny says, “Indian, you know I’ve been thinking about you. I think I have to make you a chief, because you’re too smart to be just a plain ‘Indian’.” — so I’ve been ‘Chief’ ever since, and I’m still enjoying life.

(And when we heard ‘Nick’ at the West End, he was still stopping the show with his brilliant piano — L. & P.W.)

The above article was published in the Storyville magazine, No. 135, dated September 1988, pages 86—94.

Special thanks to Laurie and Peggy Wright.

September 1988 Laurie Wright

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