billcrowbass.com

                    

 

    I was born on December 27, 1927 in Othello, Washington, in the living quarters behind my grandparents' store, Knepper's Novelty Shop.

 

 

 

 

  I spent my childhood in Kirkland, Washington, in the house my dad built at 240 5th Avenue West. 

 

            

 
 

 

Bob Crow      Bill Crow

Harry Crow

 

 

    I started my musical life with my mother, who taught me to sing and to find my way around the keyboard of her piano. 

 

Lucile Crow

     

In the fourth grade at school I learned to play the trumpet.  

 

 
My folks bought it from the Sears Roebuck catalog: $9.95 with case.

             

I was also an amateur photographer.
    I switched from trumpet to baritone horn in the sixth grade, and got to be pretty good on that instrument. I started out on the school horn, and in high school I bought one of my own with wages from after-school jobs. I won honors twice in high school band conferences in Seattle, where I played Herbert Clarke's "Stars In A Velvety Sky" and "Sounds From The Hudson."

 

    My school music teacher, Al Bennest, introduced me to jazz by playing Louis Armstrong's record of "West End Blues" for me.  I found more jazz on the radio, and began looking for records.  My paper route money, and later, money I earned working after school in a print shop and a butcher shop went toward buying jazz records.  I taught myself the alto saxophone and the drums in order to play in my high school dance band.

 

           

              Me                         Bennest

 

 

    After high school, I played sousaphone for a short time at the University of Washington in Seattle, and when I joined the Army in 1946, I played baritone horn, valve trombone and trap drums in the 51st Army Band, Fort Lewis, Washington and the Second Army Band, Fort Meade, MD until 1949.

 

                                           

    When I got out of the Army, I returned to the U of W in Seattle, where I met drummer Buzzy Bridgeford.  He had a quartet at the VFW Club (after hours), with Freddy Greenwell on tenor, Betty Christopher on piano, and Doug Goss on bass.  I went there every night after my gig playing drums at the Cirque Club, and sat in on bongos.

     Freddy                     Betty                                          Buzzy                     Doug               Bill

        

 

    In January 1950, Buzzy and Betty and I moved to New York City.  I studied valve trombone for a short time with, Lennie Tristano, who Betty had studied with when they both lived in Chicago.   I hung around Birdland and other jazz clubs, and was befriended by Dave and Horty Lambert, who introduced me to many New York musicians and artists.

 

 

Dave Lambert, 1957

   

 

  Al Cohn, Brew Moore, Dave Lambert, Gus Grant, Ray Turner, Chuck Wayne

shaking hands on a recording deal with Progressive Records around 1949

 

 
 

    In the summer of 1950, Buzzy Bridgeford found a summer job in the Adirondacks, in Tupper Lake, New York.  He got me on it as a trombonist and then talked me into learning to play the string bass.  He found a kid in town who had a plywood Kay bass, and rented it for the summer.  We had John Benson Brooks on  piano, Marty Bell on trumpet, and Freddy Greenwell on tenor.  They all encouraged me to stay with the bass. By the time the summer was over, I could play the bass well enough to take gigs in New York City, and every gig was another lesson.

 

Buzzy at Tupper Lake, NY

 

 

 

    I met other musicians by hanging around Charlie's Tavern, a favorite New York watering hole on Seventh Avenue in the Roseland building. 

 

Charlie's daugher, Fifi, sent me these photos of the Tavern     in its heyday.

 
Charlie and Bert, his bartender.

 

A snapshot I took of Charlie Jacobs, 1950           

 

     Marian & Jimmy McPartland, Charlie
 
 

Charlie's walls were covered with framed photos of all kinds.  Publicity photos, snapshots, family groups.  On this wall, to the left of Kay Kyser, was a photo that someone took on the day Dave Lambert and I contracted the painting of the front of Charlie's Tavern.  Charlie gave us two buckets of red paint and some brushes, and after a day's work applying the paint, he paid us and poured us a glass of beer apiece.  Dave immediately did a handstand on the bar and picked up his beer glass in his teeth, then drank its contents while upside down.  That's me in the cap and jacket, admiring Davey's amazing feat.

 
   

    When they tore down the Roseland Building, at 51st Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue, Charlie's was no more. Roseland moved to its present location on 52nd Street and 8th Avenue, and several new bars sprang up nearby to cater to Charlie's old customers.

All of them are gone now.

              photo by Merv Gold  

 

    I found a guy in the Bronx who had an old plywood Kay bass that he wanted $75 for.  He held it for me, and I gave him a few dollars every time I could scrape some extra money together.  Meanwhile I borrowed or rented basses for jam sessions and paying jobs. It was a great thrill when I finally took possession of my Kay.
 

 

 

Bass by Kay, pants by Fox Bros., Chicago

    I worked in and out of New York with Glen Moore and his Mooremen (playing drums, valve trombone, bass, and singing), The Dave Lambert Singers (singing), Mike Riley and his Musical Maniacs (drums, vocals and comedy), and the Teddy Charles Trio (bass, bongo drums and vocals) while becoming a self-taught bass player. (Later I studied the bass formally with Fred Zimmerman of the New York Philharmonic. )

 

 Carl Janelli       Glen Moore     Bill Crow

 Crow       Teddy Charles     Don Roberts

 

    I met Jimmy Raney through Teddy Charles. He worked with Teddy's trio for a while when Don Roberts left.  Then Jimmy went back with Stan Getz's quintet when Stan returned to New York from a trip to the West Coast in 1952.

 

(See articles on Stan and Jimmy Raney in my WRITING section.)

   

 

    Stan had a gig in Boston, and told Jimmy to find a bass player.  Jimmy asked me to do the week, with Roy Haynes on drums and Jerry Kaminsky on piano.  The week turned into about six months of steady work with Stan, including several record dates.  Roy only worked the Boston gig, and then Frank Isola joined us.  Then Jerry left, and Duke Jordan joined us.  Then Jimmy left, and we worked as a quartet for a while with Kenny Clarke on drums.  Then Duke and Klook left, and Stan started a new group with me, John Williams, Alan Levitt and Bob Brookmeyer.  Bob couldn't make the first two weeks, so Johnny Mandel subbed for him on trombone. 

 

Stan Getz and Frank Isola

 

 

    In 1953, Stan replaced me with Teddy Kotick, and I moved over to Teddy's old gig, on the road with Claude Thornhill's Orchestra.

 

 

Claude Thornhill

Dick Sherman     Thornhill          

 

 

Claude Thornhill Band at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, July 1953

Claude, Bill Crow, Winston Welch, Dick Zuback, Dick Sherman, Marty Harris, Dale Pearce, Gene Quill, Sonny Rich, Ralph Aldridge, Billy Ver Planck, Kurt Bloom, Al Antonucci

                           

     I had been reading music all my life, but Claude's band gave me my first opportunity to read parts written for the string bass.  I was especially interested in what Gil Evans had written in the arrangements he had done for Claude.   

     When Claude's work fell off, I moved to the Terry Gibbs Quartet in 1954.

 

Terry Pollard, Frank DiVito, Crow, Terry Gibbs at Birdland

 Terry Gibbs,  Frank Di Vito

 

 

 

    I also played occasionally during those years with George Wallington, Don Joseph, Brew Moore, Billy Bauer and Jerry Wald.

 

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