Clark! The Autobiography of Clark Terry

Authors: Clark Terry with Gwen Terry
Copyright: 2011
Publisher: University of California Press
ISBN: 9780-520-26846-3

Page 113: Basie's band had their act together. Not only was everyone extraordinarily gifted, but we all worked together synchronously. It was like reading each other's minds. The cats made me feel at home, and I forgave their hostility a few weeks before during my audition in New York. I knew that their attitude was simply the standard, and it garnered the creme de la creme. They could all sight-read anybody's chart. On trumpets there were Harry "Sweets" Edison, Emmett Berry, Ed Lewis, and me. Sizzling! Then on trombones were Dicky Wells, Ted "Muttonleg" Donnelly, Bill Johnson, and Big George Matthews. Powerhouses! Our reeds were Earle Warren, Jack Washington, and Buddy Tate. Awesome! Then we had Gus Johnson on drums, Freddie Green on guitar, and Basie on piano. I can't remember who was on bass.

Page 116: Freddie Green was purely on top of the guitar scene. A master who put the right chords down with a soft one and three - "ching CHANG ching CHANG." He drove those strings like a Cadillac.

Page 118: It was 1949 when we met up with the cats at the Southway Hotel on South Park at 60th in Chicago. Gus Johnson, Freddie Green, Jimmy Lewis, and Basie. It was almost like old times. We were glad to see each other. We opened at the Brass Rail, which was downtown in the Loop in Chicago. It was a unique place. Shaped like an "L" behind a corner building. It had entrances for the two intersecting streets. A nice cozy feel. The group was very tight and Basie was remarkable as usual. Bob Graf, Buddy DeFranco, and I were the three horns. Gus pumped the drums, Freddie Green strummed that mean guitar, and I think Jimmy Lewis was on bass. And to my pleasant surprise, Buddy played some awesome clarinet.

Pages 123 - 124: The next afternoon when the phone rang in my room at the Southway Hotel, I recognized Duke's (Ellington) voice. He said, "Hey, I'd like to talk with you. Sure would like to have you aboard." I said, "Okay." He said, "Can we talk?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, I don't want to come up to your room, because someone might come in there. So why don't we just happen to meet in the hall and have a quick discussion. I'll come up there tomorrow. But, uh, I don't want to, naturally, hang around in the lobby. So when I come, I'll just call you, and, uh, we'll go from there." I said, "Okay."

So he did. The next afternoon he called and I answered the phone. He said, "I'm in the lobby. So just let me know what floor you're on and meet me at the elevator and we'll have our conversation. I said, "All right. I'll meet you at the elevator on the sixth floor." When the elevator door opened, there was Duke. But when I turned around, I saw Freddie Green's door open. It was right in front of the elevator. He saw me and he saw Duke getting off. Freddie had a shocked look on his face. He said, "Oh shit!" Then he went back into his room and slammed the door.

Duke smiled and smoothed his silk suit. Without one word about Freddie, he said, "Now, I can't just take a player out of a buddy's band. That doesn't work nicely. What I think is that you'll need to fake illness. You just say you're sick and you just go home to St. Louis. Tell Basie you're going to cool it for a while until you recover. We'll be coming through there on Armistice Day, November 11th. And when we do, you'll just happen to join us. It's only a few months away, and meanwhile, I'll put you on salary at $250 a week, which will be your starting pay with us." My head was spinning. I looked at the floor and thought, Wow! What a fantastic deal! Leave Basie and go with Duke and be on salary with Duke before I even join the band. I'd get a chance to go home and see Pauline and everybody and get paid. I said to Duke, "Just give me a little time to tell Basie." He smiled and said, "But of course."

That night at the gig, Freddie did his usual looking off with no eye contact routine when he talked to me. He said, "Shit, you're a fool if you don't." I didn't respond. Nobody else said anything, so I didn't either. In the back of my mind was a ball of guilt, but I was also excited.

Page 126: After the show one night at the Strand, I got up the nerve to tell Basie that I was leaving. I said, "Holy, I've got something to lay on you. I'm really tired and I need to go home and rest. So I'm gonna put in my two weeks' notice and go back to St. Louis and cool it till I get myself together." He didn't seem surprised and I wondered if Freddie Green had said something to him. Basie was real cool. He said, "Okay, well, just want you to know that when you're better, the door is open and the chair is always yours."

Page 173: I was making a truckload of money, working with a truckload of stellar musicians at these commercial dates. Britt Woodman, Jimmy Cleveland, Earle Warren, Seldon Powell, Wynton Kelly, Freddie Green, Sam Herman..."

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