A Minstrel in Spain
Chapter Fifteen

High Jinks in Japan

In one place called Noboribetsu everyone in the town walked around in a kimono. The place was famous for its sulphur springs, and there were baths where you could get packed in the stuff. It was supposed to cure all kinds of illness. I walked up the mountain nearby and took a look at the springs.

You had to stand close to the brink of what looked like an active volcano. Far below the thick grayish-black liquid sulphur boiled and steamed. Large, unhealthy looking bubbles formed continuously, expanding and swelling up obscenely; finally bursting with a faint plop. A veritable witches’ cauldron. The smell was unbelievable. It was like looking straight down into the jaws of hell.

There was a sudden violent push in my back, and I felt myself falling over the edge into the boiling mass below. At the same moment a pair of strong arms seized me from behind and held me fast.

I threw myself back from the edge and struggled free. Behind me stood Helmut, our baritone saxophone player, grinning from ear to ear.

‘You stupid, ignorant bastard,’ I shouted. ‘You might have killed me.’

‘Ach,’ said Helmut,’You weren’t in any danger. Can’t take a joke, eh?’ It was a very good joke, and I sat down on a nearby rock, laughing at it, and waiting for my heart to stop pounding, for the next hour or so.

The night we stayed in Noboribetsu Åke didn’t come to bed at all. Instead he hired a cubicle in the bath house for the night, together with one of the pretty Japanese attendants.

There he lay, naked on a table the whole night long, being alternately dipped into a bath of boiling hot sulphur, and kneaded and slapped by this girl. He quickly discovered that the girl had some sort of tight bandage wound around her body, from her neck to her upper thighs, thereby thwarting all attempts at access to any part of her delightful body, as effectively as if she had been encased in a suit of armour.

Åke pleaded and fought with her for the whole night. He offered her money, a job in his film company, fame and fortune, marriage, the lot. At five in the morning he skipped the formalities and threw himself upon her, trying to rip the bandage off.

At once, as if he had been waiting in the wings all night for such an eventuality, an enormously fat, heavy, bald-headed samurai appeared from nowhere and bounced him against the wall several times.

‘You good boy now?’ THUMP! ‘You say when you good boy again, plis.’ THUMP! THUMP!

I really loved the town of Kyoto, wandering from early morning until evening with my camera. Everything there was photogenic.

I found most peace in a cemetery there. The Japanese bring food and drink instead of flowers to their dear departed, to nourish them on their long journey. The gravestones are exotic, wholly Japanese. One sees nothing like this in Europe.

Everywhere, the Japanese characters lend an air of romance to the scene. Even though the ones displayed over shops can only be the Japanese equivalent of butcher, baker, or greengrocer, to the foreigner they add mystery to the streets. At night, the profusion of neon-lit characters reminds one of Las Vegas.

In Nagoya, the town where Åke had kept me awake all night, I visited the television tower, travelling up its Eiffel Tower-like structure for a view over the entire city.

In Nagasaki we bought cameras. For a foreigner, there was an immediate 30% discount, with a further 30% off because the camera was to be exported. I bought the latest model single-lens reflex for a third of the price I would have paid in Germany.

With my new toy I photographed everything I clapped eyes on. Clicking away busily, I noticed after some time that the counter stood on sixty. I opened the camera. The film lay curled up in its cassette, unused. The film transport of this camera turned in the opposite direction to that of which I was accustomed, and I hadn’t taken a single shot.

Everywhere there were children. If I passed a school playground they would line the walls, waving and tittering behind their hands at the big white foreigner. I saw heavily painted Geisha call-girls, tottering along in their tight, ankle-length kimonos, small cushions perched on their backsides. They ignored me. Rich Japanese industrials were what they were after.

The traffic in the streets was organised chaos. There seemed to be no traffic rules, but there was seldom a confrontation between drivers. When a Japanese driver blows his horn to tell another that he is about to pass, the other toots his back to say, ‘I see you.’ Thus, the air is filled with an unbroken stream of horn tooting, all day long.

I saw two cars collide slightly. The drivers left their cars calmly, bowed several times to one another, exchanged cards, bowed again and departed.

The traffic in inner Tokyo is so thick and tangled, that the only way to travel there is on one of the elevated motorways. As we arrived in Tokyo at the beginning of the tour, they were just starting to erect a new one on to already existing high concrete pillars. When we returned, three weeks later, the motorway was already in service.

Japanese television showed, almost to the exclusion of everything else, baseball games, baseball practice, with electronic pitchers, and baseball interviews. The programmes were interspersed with Japanese big band shows, where every band sounded like Count Basie. It was like stepping on to another planet.

Some members of the orchestra didn’t notice all the wonderful sights. They were concentrating on eating and drinking. In the first few towns we visited we were invariably fed with hamburgers. Someone from the office had told our hosts that hamburgers were our favourite food. We protested that this was untrue.

In Osaka we were finally treated to our first taste of Japanese food. The restaurant was on an open roof. We were served by waitresses in traditional costume. Even the old ones looked good enough to eat in those dresses.

In the centre of each table there was a small grill, shaped like the upper half of a large ball. We were served with strips of meat which we had to cook on this grill ourselves, a sort of Jap fondue. Once we had begun this task the wind blew thick clouds of heavy, greasy black smoke over everyone. The fat on the meat caught fire; people were coughing and spluttering, trying to wave the smoke away.

Through the confusion I heard voices raised. ‘Give us back the hamburgers,’ they shouted.

In Tokyo I ate the best Chinese meal I have ever tasted. For the meal we sat at a huge round table, the central disc of which was a large turntable. While our bowls, with chopsticks, were placed on the fixed portion before us, all dishes were served up on to the movable part. To sample a dish one only had to push the central disc around until the desired bowl came within reach. In this way each of us was able to dig away at no less than fifty different delicacies. While all this was going on the whole restaurant revolved slowly, allowing us a long fine glimpse of the Tokyo skyline, and a short one of the resident Jap Dixieland band, which we sailed by every quarter of an hour or so.

In the hotel hairdresser’s I was handed a Time magazine, shaved, powdered, pedicured, manicured and massaged, all free of charge with the haircut.

Most of our hotels were built especially for Western tourism. They were very luxurious. In all rooms was a large sign that forbade smoking. Underneath was another sign which said that if you, nevertheless, had to smoke, then please note the emergency exits.

Some of the toilets were French style, with a hole in the floor, and hand grips to prevent you from sliding into the hole. Others, marked “Western Style” were of the kind used in more civilised European countries. There were large notices on the walls with directions for use. Pictographs of gentleman lift seat, lady sit here, so! Man sit only if really essential. Don’t pee on wall or out window. Domo arigato. And everything scrupulously cleaned and polished.

Downstairs, in the bath hall, I swam in a small delightful pool of near-boiling water. On one side of the pool was a waterfall. Underwater loudspeakers provided soft music, the bass notes gently massaging me as I wallowed like a walrus, my skin a bright red from the scalding heat.

Waiting at the side was an incredibly ugly, elderly Geisha, with what looked like a fire hose in her hand. The moment I stepped out she turned it on me, full blast. Screaming, I twisted and turned to escape the ice cold jet. She advanced on me, spraying remorselessly. I was driven back into the pool.

This happened three times, until I finally fell on my knees before her, begging for mercy. She turned off the hose, packed me in a towel, and threw me contemptuously on to a bench. I slept at once, awaking a completely new man, with a new body, but, alas, all the same old rotten lascivious thoughts. I could see why they had an old lady doing this job.

Some of the hotels were Japanese style. This meant that you had to leave your shoes outside, and walk around in slippers. This caused consternation amongst the German violinists, who had been brought up to trust no one. They carried their shoes in their hands everywhere. I left mine outside, where they were repaired and polished like new. German eyebrows were raised.

At the next hotel they all left their shoes outside, while I kept mine, for some reason. That night all shoes were stolen. Of course they all received new ones, but searching for big shoes in a land of midgets is an unrewarding task. We were having trouble enough in the planes and buses, where seats were more suited to children than big heavy foreigners.

In such hotels one slept and sat Japanese style, on the floor. I recommend this way of life only to enemies. This is a new kind of back-ache. No wonder there are so many massage parlours here.

In Japan, when we were to board a train, or get on a plane, the German members of the thirty strong string section of our orchestra used to rush and push as if the vehicle was liable to depart before everyone was on board. Åke would hold me back at such times, saying ‘Look at those rat pricks. No manners, no sense of decorum. Absolute morons.’

He held me back so long getting off the train in Nagasaki that the band had completely disappeared by the time we got out of the station. It was only then that we realised that neither of us knew where we were supposed to go.

We asked the station police, who spoke only Japanese.

For fun, I had learned to make the symbol for “musician”, and I drew it for them, saying ‘Werner Müller, Werner Müller.’ We mimed trumpet and trombone to make absolutely sure they knew what we were talking about.

They took a look in the local paper for us. No Werner Müller, but there was a concert that evening from a guy called Ricardo Sanchez. The name rang a bell. I’d heard that band on the BBC when I was a kid; all Latin American stuff.

‘That’s him,’ said Åke.

We found the band tucking into a buffet in a nearby hotel. The string players had already scoffed double portions and everything was gone.

I tackled Werner about the name.

‘They don’t want German names here,’ he said. ‘They’ve never heard of Werner Müller. Everyone loves Ricardo Sanchez.’ Now I knew what the “RS” on the music stands meant. I’d always thought it was meant as a compliment to me.

We commuted between dates by air most of the time, but on one of the trips we had to use a bus.

At midday our bus stopped for lunch at a restaurant beside a beautiful lake. There was a small wooden boat pulled up nearby. During the meal we looked out to see that Åke was rowing the boat out to the middle of the lake. Once there he waved to us, lazily stripped off and lay down in the boat to sunbathe. As we watched the boat slowly began to sink. Finally it vanished from view. After a moment or two Åke’s head emerged. He kept bobbing under, obviously searching for something. Then he waded back to shore, clutching his sodden clothing. We gave him a slow handclap.

He had lost his valuable gold watch. Divers would have to be called; the lake drained, perhaps. But we had to move on, couldn’t wait. ‘All right, then, I’m leaving, right now,’ he said, angrily. ‘Here’s your plane ticket,’ said Werner, handing it to him. We were miles from anywhere.

I had my thirty-ninth birthday on the Osaka Express. Like a fool I’d already casually mentioned it to Åke. Now it was midnight and we were just about to board the train.

‘You’ve got to buy everyone a drink,’ he said firmly.

The guys in the band pricked up their ears. When Åke explained they gathered around me to a man, even the ones who couldn’t stand me, and clapped me on the back. Now I had to buy them all a drink.

All I could find in the Tokyo station bar was Japanese whisky. I bought two bottles and a carton of paper cups. Everyone complained about the whisky, the cups, and the fact that they would only receive one drink each.

While we were standing around, waiting to board our train, I noticed that Åke was standing over on the other side of the platform, close to the train standing there. I wandered over and saw that he was leaning into the large carriage window, talking to a very beautiful Japanese woman inside the train who had a baby in her arms. As I drew near the woman lifted up her baby and gave it to Åke. He drew it right out of the train and started cuddling and cooing to it on the platform.

I was petrified. Those sleek, modern Japanese trains usually took off at high speed.

'You can't do that,' I hissed at him. But he wasn't listening, because he was smiling and saying little things to the baby girl, who was laughing happily right into his face, while her mother looked on, contentedly. Åke had that effect upon people. Everyone seemed to love and trust him at sight. He really loved children, and I remember another occasion when he insisted upon carrying a woman's baby for her on the long walk from the plane to the terminal in Berlin, Tempelhof, while I carried her bags. He was, deep down, a very lovable character, always doing things for people. The flamboyant side to his nature, that was usually uppermost, covered the real man with a heart of gold.

The blast of a whistle sounded close by and the train gave a little jerk.

'For God's Sake,' I said desperately.

He calmly handed the baby back in through the window. The woman thanked him, bowing and smiling as she did so. Seconds later the train was gone.

The next time I had a birthday on tour it was on a Russian Aeroflot, en route to Moscow. I never told a soul about it. Åke's girl friend Maggie was with him, and it turned out to be her birthday as well, so we celebrated it secretly during the flight.

The last few days of the tour were free, so I was finally able to take a look around Tokyo. I particularly wanted to see the Emperor’s Palace, but when I arrived there it was closed.

Everywhere you went in Japan there were hundreds of schoolchildren to be seen. All the schoolgirls wore a uniform dress of white blouse and black gymslip. Some of the older ones were stunningly beautiful. Åke used to eye them up hungrily. I could see that he was dying to make a pass at one of them, but even he drew the line at trying it on with teenagers.

As I stood in front of the Palace, wondering what to do next, I noticed two schoolgirls standing a little way away. They were looking at me and giggling, covering their mouths as they did so, in the approved Japanese fashion. I smiled at them.

One of them came over. She was absolutely gorgeous. A small perfectly shaped face, with little pouting lips, those wonderful almond eyes, her high cheeks framed by luxurious shiny black hair, carefully brushed back. I guess she was about fifteen.

'Excuse me,' she said. 'May we speak with you?' They were studying English at school, and wanted to try it out on someone. She called her friend over. They introduced themselves as Harika and Machito. We shook hands. How did they know that I was English? I looked English. This was news to me. Åke always reckoned that I looked like an arrogant German, even from the back.

They offered me a short guided tour of Tokyo. I accepted. We set off in a taxi, the girls talking non-stop all the time. I was absolutely enchanted.

They took me to see Mikimoto, the pearl dealer, where I finally bought my girl friend the string of white pearls she’d always wanted. As we left the shop, with the girls giggling away to one another, we passed Åke going in. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him stop dead and do a regular Hollywood B-picture double-take, jaw-drop, the lot. This was too good to be true. I hugged the two girls to me briefly, and hailed a taxi, quick.

We had a couple of Cokes in a small cafe, exchanged addresses and swore to write to one another. I saw them off in another taxi.

On my way back to the hotel I showed my taxi driver the address they’d given me. He waved the card in the air as if it had suddenly caught fire.

‘This very expensive district Tokyo. This girl Harika, have father, very important man Tokyo. You careful, OK?’ It was a good job it was me that the girls ran into.

Back at the hotel Åke sought me out. On his face was a mixture of disbelief, envy, anger and intense curiosity.

‘How did you manage that? I mean—how did you manage that?’

‘How did I manage what?’

‘What happened? Go on—what happened?’

‘Nothing happened. We’re not all like you, you know. Our friendship is purely platonic.’

He looked at me with loathing.

‘I don’t believe it! You had the best, most gorgeous crumpet in the whole of Japan, and you blew it? Well that’s . . . . that’s. . .’ He threw himself about the room, lost for words.

‘For Christ’s Sake, they were schoolgirls, man.’

‘What? Are you kidding?’ He seized me by the throat. ‘They were hookers, dressed like schoolgirls, and you know it!’ He couldn’t accept my version of what had happened. The affair upset him for days. He took to prowling around town in the hopes of something like that happening to him. Of course it didn’t. Leering at Japanese girls the way he did seemed to have the opposite effect.

In the hotel a phone call for me had been registered. Someone had called from Munich, Germany, and would repeat the call at six o’clock. It was Max Greger. He’d got the hotel number from the RIAS office.

Over the seven thousand odd miles of telephone cable Max pleaded with me to come back into his band. It had never been the same since I left, he said. Not being able to replace Rick locally when he left, Max had hired a young Belgian trumpet player who was reputed to be able to play extremely high notes.

German bandleaders were always hot after anyone who played high, even though such people generally couldn’t do much else. They usually practised their high register to the exclusion of all the other, more important assets of trumpet playing, such as style, phrasing, tone and technique.

Such was the case with the Belgian guy.

Max was almost in tears.

‘He stands around in the studio blasting away at his screamers all the time. When we get to do a recording he’s exhausted—he can’t play normally any more.’ I knew the circumstances well.

Max said that if I came back on his band, then Ack van Rooyen and Benny Bailey would come as well. It would be a great trumpet section—the greatest. But one and a half years with Max had been more than enough for me. He would never change. I said I’d think about it, but not to count on me.

He rang off. By then he must have clocked up a couple of thousand dollars worth of telephone charges. He must have been really desperate.

We flew back to Germany with Pan American, refuelling in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi, Tehran and Rome. In Delhi farmers got on the plane with goats and chickens, apparently to sell in Tehran. I wanted to get off and spend some days in each town, but we had a combined ticket for the whole orchestra, so I had to content myself with wandering around the airports. In Bangkok I met an elderly American who told me that the town was fabulous to look at, and great for tourists, but that the poverty appalled him. I was to meet this man once again in later years, in another, distant part of the world.

Not long after we arrived back in Berlin I left my apartment early one morning to go to the radio station. Standing in the sunshine by my car out on the pavement of the Reichstrasse was a young girl.

It was nine a.m. There were plenty of people around, but she seemed to be waiting only for me. When I reached the car I saw that she was Japanese. My heart did a quick tango. My God, which one of them was it?

It was neither of them. She asked me, in English, if I could tell her the way to the Kurfürstendamm, West Berlin’s main shopping area.

I couldn’t speak for a moment.

‘Look,’ I said, finally. ‘You could have asked anyone around for that information. How come you’re standing right here, by my car, which looks like every other car around here, and you only ask me?’

She couldn’t explain it.

‘Get in the car. I’ll take you there.’ On the way I told her about the episode with the girls in Tokyo. She didn’t seem the least surprised. Maybe one of them had given her my address. At any rate, I dropped her off at the Gedächniskirche in the centre of town, and never saw her again. That’s just one of many things that happened in my life that couldn’t be explained. How the girl, who was staying in a central hotel, had wound up in my street, miles away from the West End, I never found out.

In Berlin, after he had been drinking half the night, Åke would often phone me from some bar or jazz club. ‘You know, man, I love you,’ he would say, and hang up before I could reply.

He ran into a lamp standard just outside his house at six o’clock one morning. He rushed into the house to try and sober up before the cops arrived. Unfortunately for him, a bus nearby was loading with German workers. When the police arrived he was arrested for leaving the scene of the accident. There were fifty witnesses to prove it, too, all eager police informers.

He was sentenced to jail for one month, and had to pay for the lamp. He asked for a postponement, and finally went into the prison during the summer holiday to serve his sentence.

This was the prison where the two leaders of the Baader-Meinhof gang eventually killed themselves, with guns smuggled in by the warders. The place was falling down, infested with rats and murderers. He nearly went crazy in there.

To cheer him up I got permission to write to him once a week. I had to do so in German, so that it could be censored. I wrote him five or six pages every week until he came out. He told the prison visitor that these letters had saved his reason.

When he came out he never said a word to me about them.

He had a British type humour, refreshing after the heavy German variety. In some German magazines they actually underline the punch-lines of jokes. Åke used to poke fun at the way Germans pronounce the letter “J”.

‘I’m going down the club to play some yazz, and then I’m going yogging,’ he would say, adding that, of course, he was only yoking.

I suspect that Åke stoked up on this humour when he did his Francy Boland band gigs. Most of his jokes sounded to me like the kind of things Ronnie Scott used to come out with, and Ronnie was also in the Boland band.

After Carmel Jones had played a jazz solo, Åke would say to him, ‘Hey Carmel. You were playing on those white notes again. You know you’re only supposed to play black ones.’

Another bit of dialogue took place in the studio, which they’d obviously rehearsed beforehand.

Åke: ‘Carmel, how can you be so stupid?’

Carmel: ‘Well—er—‘tain’t easy.’

Åke: ‘It must be easy, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to do it.’

Åke hated posturing of any kind. He would see through a chancer almost before he opened his mouth. One of his pet hates was the airs some of the girl singers would put on. There was one group called the Rosy Singers, who always made themselves up like hookers and dressed to kill, both on and off stage. They really thought the world of themselves. When they pranced into the studio, or into a rehearsal he would turn around and hiss out of the side of his mouth, ‘Don’t look! Don’t look! It’s what they want you to do.’

Åkes’s wife was a little African-American woman who had previously been married, first with Wardell Gray, and later with Frank Rehak.. She seemed to know most black musicians who hit town—the Ellington band in particular. She used to invite them all to her home. She even invited Peter Lawford, the Ratpack movie star. How she knew him I can’t imagine.

Jerry was a pretty dangerous woman. She always carried a long sharp hatpin concealed in her hair. When I got into an argument with her once she pulled it out and threatened to put my eyes out with it. That dangerous.

It was well known that she had caught Åke with another girl in Doug’s Night Club and had thrown her down a flight of stairs. After she had done that she boxed his ears so hard that she perforated both his eardrums. Apart from the terrifying pain at the time he always had some trouble with his hearing after that.

I pointed her out to Woody Herman one night, while we were sitting in the club. She had taken good care to keep out of his way, for some reason, although, up to then, it had always been ‘Woody and I did this,’ and ‘Woody and I did that’.

‘Who is she?’ he said. I told him.

‘I have never seen her before in my life,’ he said.

Werner Müller arrived back from the Japan tour to discover that he’d been fired. Before we left he had installed a man he trusted to run the RIAS orchestra office in his absence. This guy had begged and pleaded for the job, which virtually put him in charge of the whole music department. He fired Werner in his absence.

In Germany, when your employer has no further use for you, all your personal possessions get dumped in the street, and you are banned from entering the building. This is what happened to Werner.

As I wasn’t officially on the books I stayed on part-time. I played in that band for two years. Apart from Åke, and the brilliant Romanian pianist Eugen Cicero, the whole band consisted of Berliners. This was the band I hated the most during my whole career. The people, surroundings and performance were fine, the music we had to play was unbelievable.

These were Beatle days. Every single pop record to hit the charts was later recorded by our band as an instrumental. Very few tunes, with the exception of some of those written by Lennon and McCartney, lent themselves to this procedure.

The results were excruciating. Everybody played these horrifying arrangements in unison all of the time. The final chorus was the same as the first, one half-tone higher. It was bonanza time for the arrangers. They only had to write one chorus, and leave a note for the copyist to transpose the whole of the last chorus up the semitone himself.

One pop arranger I know wrote ten three-minute arrangements in one single day in this fashion, while writers of jazz like Francy Boland were taking one to two weeks to write just one arrangement of the same length. The pot-boilers were cleaning up.

It was with mixed emotions that we heard that Dave Hildinger was to join us as bandleader. Dave had played percussion with the Sauter-Finnegan band, and came over to Baden-Baden when Eddie Sauter took the job there for one year, until the deadheads running the place drove Eddie away again. Before that Eddie had been Benny Goodman’s arranger.

Nothing changed when Dave took over. The music remained the same, because the same people were running the music department. Dave wrote some very good arrangements, but he didn't stay too long, and the job was taken over a tenorplayer from Munich called Kookie Brandenburg.

My attempts at writing big band arrangements had always failed through my lack of technique. Playing an instrument is one thing—writing scores for a whole band is something else. I didn’t grasp the intricacies of chord relationship until I sat down one day and spent several weary hours copying out all the seven modes of modal music in every single one of the twelve different keys. I cut out the results and pushed them together like scales on a slide rule. Gradually, the whole thing began to make sense.

I was greatly helped in my learning by the trombonist Slide Hampton, who was already an established arranger back in the States. It was Slide who later re-arranged some of the Gil Evans’s arrangements from Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess for the Quincy Jones band, which played at the Miles Davis homecoming celebration in Radio City Music Hall in 1983. He has also written great charts for Maynard Ferguson’s band. Now he was writing for our band, and I was borrowing and analysing his voicings and chord progressions right from the start.

There is much to be said for copying phrases from good existing arrangements when you’re learning. If you get them down correctly and they sound bad, then the band is at fault, but every chord, modulation, phrase and sound that turns out successfully gets entered into a mental databank, to be drawn on in the future. In the beginning there is a whole lot of uncertainty about what you have written. More often than not, the arranger is to blame if a good band sounds terrible, yet he is rarely complimented on his good scores.

The general public, even some bandleaders, still use Glenn Miller’s In The Mood, and Moonlight Serenade as their musical criteria, yet modern dance music has progressed immensely since the Miller period, both harmonically and structurally. In any case, the Miller band was by no means the best band of its kind in those days—that distinction went, without a doubt, to the great Tommy Dorsey band. Miller just managed to catch the correct happy mood for wartime entertainment

Soon I was writing over a hundred scores a year, for all the bands in Germany. I found time to do that, plus playing in the studios, writing for the Deutsche Welle, plus song-writing, plays, books and articles, by sleeping only four hours every night.

Slide is, of course, a great jazz trombone player, one of the best. He had his own band in Berlin for a while, and was asked to teach in the Hochschule. When that didn’t come off he left town. Next time I saw him was years later in one of the jazz galas we did with the Herbolzheimer band.

Some of the guys had gathered in the lounge of the hotel in Hamburg. There were Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Nat Adderley, Grady Tate, Niels Henning Ørsted Pederson, and a guy called Pee Wee Ellis, the conductor for Esther Phillips, who was also in the show.

‘So who else is here?’ said Nat.

When I told him that Slide was upstairs in his room he grabbed the phone.

‘I would like to speak with Mr. Locksley Wellington Hampton,’ he said, in a prissy-assed voice.

‘F— you,’ shouted Slide, loud enough to carry right across the room.

‘That’s him,’ said Nat.

I put my foot in it with Nat right away. I had been telling him about a great new Australian coloured girl singer in Munich called Wilma Reading.

‘Oh yeah? What colour was she, Ronnie?’

I’d just finished reading Peter Ustinov’s book Dear Me. Upon entering the United States he was asked to write down his colour on an US Immigration form, and put down pink. When I tried to ease the tension by mentioning that, Nat failed to see the joke.


Chapter Sixteen >>

Copyright © 2001, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved