Big Bill Bissonnette is a trombone player, record producer, and jazz archivist, from Bridgeport Connecticut who now resides in North Carolina. Bill started out as a drummer but switched to trombone when he joined the Army. While he was stationed in San Antonio Texas, Bill quickly learned the instrument and formed a jazz band there. In the 1960's, Bill tracked down his idol trombone player Jim Robinson in New Orleans and asked him for lessons. This was no easy task because segregation in the south was still very prevalent and Jim lived in a black neighborhood. Eventually they became great friends and Bill would become a major part of the 1960's jazz revival. Back home in Connecticut, Big Bill had a successful New Orleans style jazz band and would launch a record label "Jazz Crusade Records". He was sure on a crusade because Bill would perform, promote, and preserve some major historic New Orleans Jazz. Bill would eventually share his work in his book called "The Jazz Crusade." He also showcases his music on his YouTube channel and on his Face Book group, The Big Bill Bissonnette Society. I recently caught up with Big Bill.
R.V.B. - Hello Bill, this is Rob von Bernewitz from Long Island, New York... how are you?
B.B. - Hey Rob... how are you doing man?
R.V.B. - Pretty good, how's things down there in the Carolina's?
B.B. - Hot. For about the last month, we've had very little rain and it's averaged in the high 90's for about 20 or 30 days now.
R.V.B. - So I gather you're staying indoors a lot.
B.B. - Well I try to get in my garden at least a couple of hours every day, but I've been spending more time in movie theaters than in my garden in the last couple of weeks.
R.V.B. - What do you have going on in the garden?
B.B. - I'm on an acre of land, and about 1/6th of it is quite a steep hill with a 40 degree grade that was just covered in weeds... that I've ignored in the 9 years since I've been down here. Last fall, I started digging it up and by the spring I had the 6th of an acre dug and planted in wildflower seeds. It's the 1'st time I've ever tried that.
B.B. - It's coming out pretty good but not quite as good as I expected. I think that's because of the drought. I put in over a million seeds of various wildflowers.
R.V.B. - It's nice to have a wild flower garden.
B.B. - Where do you live on Long Island?
R.V.B. - I live right across from where you were born. I'm in the Port Jeff area.
B.B. - Oh, I know Port Jeff. During and after World War 2, my father was one of the highest guys at Sikorsky Aircraft. He was the superintendent of the machine shops of both of their plants. He was like the 5th in command of all of Sikorsky. When he hit 60, he went back and got his high school diploma... believe it or not. I worked for a brief time at Sikorsky in the 1950s. In the late ‘40s... right after World War 2, one of the fellows who worked for him as a foreman in the machine shop was a guy who looked exactly like Al Jolson.
R.V.B. - The guy from Vaudeville.
B.B. - Jolson starred in the very first sound film, “The Jazz Singer.” He used to sing in blackface. In my opinion, he was probably the world's greatest entertainer of all time.
R.V.B. - I actually have a few of his 78's
B.B. - Listen sometime to his "Old Man River." He goes through 4 octaves on that song. He was an amazing man. He and Bing Crosby were best friends. Jolson made a tremendous comeback in the late 40's. There was a movie about his life called "The Jolson Story." It's probable the best musical biography film of all time. See it if you get a chance... by all means.
R.V.B. - I think I may have that on VHS.
B.B. - I have over 8,000 movies in my collection here. I have movies from all periods... from 1897 up to today. My favorite period is the silent period... up until 1927 when Jolson made the first talkie movie and that changed everything including throwing over 16,000 musicians out of work. All those musicians who played background music for the silent films
B.B. - He looked exactly like him and he even copied his talk. People would actually stop him on the street and ask him for his autograph. He had a boat, harbored in Bridgeport... where we lived, and a couple of times each summer we would go on his cabin cruiser across Long Island sound and dock at Port Jefferson. In those days docking at Port Jeff meant docking on a sand Island. There were no businesses on the shore at that time, so you were on a desolated private beach. There's a nice cove in there where people anchor their boats still. We did that a couple of times a year and I'll never forget that from my youth. I was just thinking about that period because today is the anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. I was 8 years old in 45.
R.V.B. - My father worked in the defense industry also. He worked at Grumman. How did a Connecticut guy get so interested in Jazz?
B.B. Well, that's a good question. I wish I had an answer for it.
B.B. - I loved music from the minute I was born. In fact, when I ended up being a jazz musician, my mother once said to me "When you were in my womb before you were born, sometimes you would start kicking and going nuts. The only way I could calm you down was to turn on the radio and put on some popular music." Popular music in those days was Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, and people like that. It was the Big Band era. When I was about 9 or 10, I had a disease that nearly crippled me... rheumatic fever. In those days it was a very serious disease. The doctor told my mother that I might never walk again. So I started exercising my legs and when my mother realized I had an interest in drumming, she bought me a drum set. She thought that kicking the bass drum and the hi-hats might help me strengthen my legs... which they did. I did start walking again and I started playing the drums. I started collecting records at 12 years old. First it was popular music with people like Joni James and Frankie Laine. That was the period when Perry Como was king. I took to them and I particularly liked the music of Louis Armstrong. As soon as I was old enough to start taking part-time work at 15, I took a job in the record department at a music store. At that time I decided I really wanted to be a drummer. My idol was Gene Krupa. He was a white drummer who could play black.
R.V.B. - I think he was in Tommy Dorsey's band right?
B.B. - He had his own band but he got very famous while in the Benny Goodman band. He was on that famous 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert recording which featured the recording of “Sing, Sing, Sing”.
R.V.B. - I have the LP box set of that concert.
B.B. - That drove me nuts listening to “Sing, Sing, Sing”. I spent all my time playing those 2 records. Did you know that set that you are talking about, was the first 12" LP's ever made? There were 10" Columbia LPs before but it was the first 12" LP. In the ’50s there were both 10" and 12" records. 12" were usually reserved for concert recordings and classical recordings. 10" were for popular artists like Frankie Laine. Do you remember Johnny Ray?
R.V.B. - Oh yeah, he had a real crooner voice.
B.B. - Yes. He made a record called "Cry". It actually started rock and roll. It was the first pre-rock and roll record. So anyway, I got into drumming and I got into the high school jazz band playing drums. After I got out of high school, I lost interest in music for a while and I got into hot rods. I continued with hot rods until I was 22 when Uncle Sam called and said "Boy, you're going into the Army."
R.V.B. - What kind of hot rod did you have?
B.B. - I had a 1956 Oldsmobile.
B.B. - A Super 88. In fact, I still had one, but not the same one, right up until about 3 weeks ago, when I sold it to a neighbor of mine. I had four cars until recently. A 1986 Mercedes 560SL - 2 seater hard top convertible, a 1989 Cadillac Fleetwood, a 1978 Lincoln Continental & the ’56 Olds. I totaled the Mercedes and I sold the Oldsmobile and the Lincoln. And, talk about getting to be an old man, I bought a 2001 Ford van. (ha-ha-ha) Now I have the Ford van and I still have the 89 Cadillac.
R.V.B. - Now that you have a van, why don't you get a second wind and go back out on tour?
B.B. - I retired 9 years ago. I have the van so I can go buy plants and pile them in the back. I have 2 grandkids now. The reason I moved to North Carolina is because my son, who is now 45, moved down here and married a Carolina girl 10 years ago, so I came down here to be close to them.
R.V.B. - What part of North Carolina are you in?
B.B. - I'm in Concord, which is a suburb of Charlotte. Believe me, if you want to be a retired jazz musician, this is the place to be because there is not one bit of traditional jazz that I can find in North Carolina... of any sort. As far as jazz goes, North Carolina is a baron wasteland... it's totally empty. Actually that’s sort of strange considering that Charlie Parker was born just up the road from here & North Carolina is the home of the Ludwig Drum Company. I started my Facebook page... actually it's pretty funny, I hadn't been on Facebook and I pretty much ignored it. When I moved down here, a friend of mine in Connecticut said "I'm going to start a Facebook page, why don't you start one too. You can be my first friend on Facebook." I said "John, I don't have a lot of friends that would do that kind of thing. Musicians don't do that kind of stuff. If I go on there, you'll probably be the only friend that I'll have there." He said go ahead and try it." So I did & now, 7 years later, he has a total of 5 Facebook friends and I have over 1,100.
R.V.B. - I see you're pretty active.
B.B. - What I hadn't expected, was that music fans all over the world started Facebook friending me. They asked me to start putting some of my recordings on Facebook. Then I started putting everything on YouTube that I could find. Now I've got over 1,000 recordings on YouTube. I didn't realize I had made so many. Many fans who were at concerts sent me recordings which I didn't know about. So now I put 2 or 3 of my songs up on my Facebook page every day and the Big Bill Bissonnette Society Facebook page has over 1,100 members.
R.V.B. - That's very good.
B.B. - It is the biggest traditional jazz page on all of Facebook.
B.B. - When I got drafted into the army... I can say this now but in the day it was classified... I ended up scoring high on their initial tests, and while in basic training, I was invited by the Army to be a member of the Counterintelligence Corp. I said "That sounds like pretty interesting work." It sounded very James “Bond-ish” to me. Well it wasn't James “Bond-ish” at all and I ended up in San Antonio, Texas for two years. By the way, it's a beautiful town, maybe the most beautiful city in the U. S. A. Are you familiar with Jim Cullum's jazz band?
R.V.B. - I am, he plays on the River Walk.
B.B. – Right. He and I started our first jazz band together in San Antonio back in 1960. He was a 17 year old kid and I was 22 years old and in the U. S. Army. When I found out that I was going to be posted in San Antonio and not overseas, I phoned up a trumpet player who was in my band at the time and said "Bob, can I borrow your trombone?" He said "I thought you were going to Texas?" I replied that I couldn't take my drum set down there in the little ‘51 Chevy I bought to drive to Texas. I thought I would take a trombone and teach myself trombone while I was down there. He knew that I had always been a fan of Big Jim Robinson... the trombone player in the great George Lewis Jazz Band. So he loaned me his trombone and within 6 months, Jim Cullum and I had started a band together. I was in the band part-time, while I was in the Army. So, when I got out of the Army, being in Texas, I thought instead of going home to Connecticut, I'd go to New Orleans and try to meet this fellow Big Jim Robinson who I admired so much. So, off I went to New Orleans... which was still in the days of segregation. And Jim Robinson was a black man. I was from Connecticut and white as snow, so what did I know about segregation? The first thing I did in New Orleans was walk into a Woolworth department store and take a drink out of a colored water fountain. That ended up with a white woman screaming at me "What was I doing drinking out of a nigger’s water fountain?"
R.V.B. - I thought that New Orleans was a little bit more lenient with that, then with most of the southern states.
B.B. - No, they definitely were not. The blacks lived in the colored section which was across Rampart Street from the old Vieux Carre, French Quarter section. I had taken an apartment in the Quarter for a few weeks. I was determined to meet Jim Robinson. Here I am a white kid... 24 years old... walking around segregated New Orleans. I looked at a street map to see where Robinson’s address was. Not knowing it but his address was in the dead center of the black section of New Orleans... where white people didn't go. I walked to the address. It was one of those row houses. The building was a block long and had separate residences. I found his and there were 3 steps up to his door. I walked up and banged on the door and I stepped back down on the street and who came to the door, but Jim Robinson... my idol that I've been trying to play like for the last 2 years. This guy was an idol to me like Louis Armstrong was to untold thousands of trumpet players. I had met Armstrong once at a concert in Connecticut. I had no greater respect and love than I did for Big Jim Robinson. And here I am facing this giant of a man. He was like 6'3" and he had hands the size of baseball gloves. He looked down and see's this white kid standing in front of him and says, "What you want?" I replied, "I want to learn to play trombone like you, and I'd like you to teach me." He stood there staring at me for a long minute and I thought, "What is gonna happen next?" He finally says, "Well I guess you better come in." I went in and for the next two months... every day, I went to Jim Robinson’s house. A few times when I was crossing Rampart Street, a police car would pull up next to me and stop and say "What are you doing going in the black section?" I said, "I have a friend in there that I'm going to see." The cop said, "Get back on your own side of the street right now." I had to cross back over Rampart Street and walk down a block or two until the cops left and then I would run back across Rampart Street and down into the black section.
R.V.B. - That's unbelievable. When you did get into his house, what was it like inside and how long was a lesson there?
B.B. - I'd spend the whole afternoon with him and then I would have dinner with him. Jim Robinson's wife Pearl was a wonderful woman. She was an old fat, colored lady, but beautiful inside. In those days I would go to dinner or lunch at Jim Robinsons house and he would have a few of his friends over... either other young white jazz musicians like me or he would introduce me to older jazz musicians like himself. He would have George Lewis over the house. He would have Polo Barnes, who actually played with Jelly Roll Morton, over his house. I would later have the privilege of recording with Polo. After my lesson, we would go into his kitchen and the men would sit around the table. There would be a mountain of fried chicken piled about 2 feet high in front of you. There would be 3 or 4 men sitting around the table... Pearl was not at the table. Pearl sat on a chair off to the side. The minute that pile of chicken started going down a little bit, she would be out with another platter of chicken. The minute you started to reach for the mashed potatoes, she'd be jumping up and putting mashed potatoes on your plate. After the men were all finished and we went into the living room for more lesson or to talk jazz, Pearl would sit down at the table by herself and have her dinner. That's the way black wives treated their husbands in the old days. Paul Barnes "Polo" played with Jelly Roll Morton. Many people credit Morton with inventing jazz.
R.V.B. - He credited himself with inventing Jazz.
B.B. – And he damn near did... he invented a more sophisticated type of jazz than I was playing. Everything I played in my career was the oldest type of jazz. I played the jazz of the 1890's. Jelly Roll Morton started sophisticated jazz and became a pop hit recording artist for RCA Victor in the 1920s. Polo Barnes was his clarinet player on many of his recordings. I met Polo Barnes as an elderly gentleman in the 1960's. He made those recordings in the late 1920's. He was still playing clarinet but no longer played sax... which he did in those old days. Polo Barnes was probably the most sophisticated of the black men I met down there. Jim could barely write his name. He couldn't write anything else. Many of the black musicians I knew down there couldn't write or read. By the 1990's most of those people had passed on. In 1990 I wrote my book The Jazz Crusade. I gave copies to the few early jazzmen who were left in New Orleans but. . . I had to read the sections that were about them to them. Jim Robinson was not an educated man. He also stuttered and he was hard to understand but he had an optimistic out-going personality & he was beloved by fans around the world. One of the reasons why a few of these black musicians seemed unapproachable by some white people who thought they were kind of stuck-up was that they knew that they were uneducated and they were embarrassed to be with white people and also they were scared as hell of white people with good reason after spending a lifetime being treated as inferior to them. Jim Robinson once told me as I was sitting in his living room . . . and I'll quote it without the stuttering "You know something Bill, I am well-known all around the world. When I travel to Japan, and I travel to Europe, they treat me like I'm famous. But when I walk down the street here in New Orleans and some 20 year old young white fellow is coming in the other direction, and we meet on the sidewalk, and here I am 75 years old, I have to step into the street and let him pass." That was the only time I ever saw Big Jim Robinson angry but that’s the way it was in the segregated South of the early 1960s.
R.V.B. - That's a story that I’ve heard over and over again from black musicians in all genres.
B.B. - Right. Polo Barnes was extremely well educated and totally up to date with everything going on in the world. He was always well read and dressed magnificently. I went over for dinner once at his house from Preservation Hall, which is a hall in New Orleans where they played the old jazz in the 1960's. We had to take a bus from the Quarter over to his house. While we were waiting for the bus we were talking about the civil rights movement. He said "Bill, Things have changed so much... in the old days we couldn't even sit in the front of the bus. Now, in the last couple of years, all of that has changed." This was right after the civil rights act was passed into law. They could no longer enforce those old Jim Crow laws. Polo Barnes was saying to me "Remember, it's only been recently, since we could sit in front of the bus." He made a point of this and how great it was and how much things changed. The bus pulled up... he got on the bus and walked immediately to the back of the bus and sat down. This very guy who had just been telling me about how things have changed and he didn't have to sit in the back of the bus anymore! After the musicians got through playing a gig, in the very bar in which these guys were playing . . . they could not stand at the bar and have a drink. They would go outside and we white fans would buy beers and drinks. We would bring them outside to the musicians, sit on the sidewalk and drink the beer while white folk would pass us by. Some of those passersby would greet us with a cordial, “Nigger-Lovers!” We didn’t pay them no mind. It was they who had the problem . . . not us. But think about that for a moment: These musicians could not even stand at the bar in the club that they had just played a gig in, and have a drink. NO COLOURED ALLOWED read the signs in the windows. That's the way it was in New Orleans in the 1960's.
R.V.B. - That's a real shame. Polo was probably programmed.
B.B. -Things hadn’t really changed for those guys. They still would step into the street if they met a white guy. It was the young blacks that it meant something to. And yet, If I had to name you the 100 best friends that I had in my life, 85 would be black. If I had to rate for you my top 20 girlfriends, at least 3 would be black. If I had to rate the 100 people that I admired most in the world. 90% of them would be black. I guess I'm a black man in white skin. Now I'm living in North Carolina on the very top of a hill and my name is Bill. So I guess now I’m literally a hillbilly.
R.V.B. - (Ha-ha-ha)
B.B. - My neighbor's on both sides of me... I'm talking about the guys and they're super nice guys, who I would call my friends, but both of them occasionally still used the N-word. I let it go by, because if they ever knew about my background, they'd probably chase me off the damn hill. So I'm a North Carolina Hillbilly. (ha-ha-ha)
R.V.B. - Of that 10% that you named that were white... can you name a few of them?
B.B. - Ronald Reagan
R.V.B. - How about one more?
B.B. - I'm gonna tell you one that's going to blow your mind. When I make my list of the 5 best modern presidents in history and when I make my list of the 5 worst modern presidents in history the same man appears at number 5 on both lists.
R.V.B. - That's interesting.
B.B. - That is Richard Nixon. I am the last of the Nixon Republicans. (Ha-ha) The very last. I don't think there's another one on the planet. Richard Nixon's 1st term was one of the greatest presidential terms of the modern era. He opened the door to China and changed the entire cold war and Ronald Reagan went on to win it. Those 2 guys changed our history more than any other modern presidents. And Nixon, in his first term, started both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education. He ended the draft and took us off the gold standard so the dollar could float against other currencies. I probably shouldn't have picked 2 political people. When I said 90% of people I admire are black, I didn't mean throughout history. There are white people that I admire throughout history: Churchill, Roosevelt [both of them], Thatcher, Jesus [although not in a God sense; I’m an Agnostic]. As far as non-political people... I have to tell you something... for the last 9 or 10 years since I retired, all I have really been interested in is politics and movies. I don't even pay a lot of attention to music these days. I play music all the time in my car. When people send me CD's and want to get my opinion, I play them in the car. At home, I'm either on the internet or I'm watching one on my 8,000 movies, or I'm listening to politics. Of movie people I admire... I like Tom Cruise a lot. I like Clint Eastwood a lot. But mainly I like actors and directors from the earlier classic period: Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, John Barrymore, Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, D. W. Griffith, Fritz Lang G. W. Murnau and many others.
R.V.B. - Doesn't Tom Cruise have a new movie out now?
B.B. - Tom Cruise has made a series out of the “Mission Impossible” movies. He does have one out right now. I always considered him a lightweight in the past . . . acting-wise. In 2004, he made a movie called "Collateral". He played a professional killer and he spent the whole evening in a taxi cab with a black driver who is scared out of his wits, because he realized his fare was a professional killer. He was driving around spot to spot killing people. He was so stunningly good in that movie that I changed my mind forever about him. So now he's in these Mission Impossible type movies with the digital graphics. To me digital graphics are the biggest change since talkies came in, in 1927, or Technicolor was in the late 1930s or wide screen in the 1950s. The 1st “Jurassic Park” movie changed everything. It made computer graphics, the whole movie. Up until Jurassic Park, the wonderful thing about movies was you would see Samson knock down a building in front of your very eyes... caving in on hundreds of people... and you would walk away from the movie saying "How the hell did they do that?" After “Jurassic Park” you knew how they did it. They did it with computer graphics and it didn't mean shit anymore. Can you imagine how different “Star Wars” or even “Jaws” would be if made today? Boring. The movies are totally different now.
R.V.B. - It kind of hurts my eyes because there is so much computer graphics and it moves so fast.
B.B. - I go looking for non-computer graphic movies. (Ha-ha)
R.V.B. - You must like the Japanese movies of the early 60's?
B.B. – Kurosawa. Some of them. To me, as the 60's went on, movies started fading. The 70's was one of the worst decades for movies in my opinion. Some of the worst movies ever made were from the ‘70s. Of course there were a few good ones. “Star Wars” jumps to mind. In the ‘80s, they started coming back. So anyway, movies changed dramatically in 1927 when they went from silent to sound. To me it was a shame. In silent movies, the actors had to tell you a story without ever saying a word. They had to do it by acting. Now, there were intertitles... granted, but they were always held to a minimum. One of the great things about silent films was they were an International language; no matter where they were made, they could be played anywhere in the world by simply splicing in new intertitles in whatever native language they were in. Silent films were a universal language like jazz is. That's why I like silent movies so much.
B.B. - Let me tell you something about that book that I wrote. I wrote that book in 1990 and it was only about my adventures in jazz in the 1960's. The decade of the 1960's was the worst decade America ever had other than the 1860s and the Civil War. Right in the middle of all of that upheaval, with racial marches, the civil rights movement and the “Black Power” radicals, here's this white guy trying to become part of this black music. And I go searching right into the heart of the war zone to find it. I tracked down some famous old black jazz musicians.
R.V.B. - In the late 50's, the folk and blues revival started and that kind of goes hand and hand with the jazz revival, because there was a minor jazz revival in the 60's.
B.B. - There was a huge New Orleans jazz revival in the ‘60's . . . and the folk and blues revival went hand in hand because basically New Orleans jazz is a folk music which, like blues, was played by the ordinary people. It is not a technical music like progressive jazz. The progressives spent decades trying to elevate jazz and put it on the concert stage. I spent decades trying to put it back in the whorehouses where it belongs. [Ha—ha-ha] The 1960s New Orleans jazz movement was particularly strong in Europe. In 1990 I wrote the book about the ‘60s jazz revival and my little part in it. I figured I might sell 200 copies of it to some friends and musicians. If I did I would get my printing costs back and that would be nice. You know what? I made $40,000 off of that book! (Ha-ha-ha) Not a hit by New York Times standards but by jazz standards that turned into a huge book. It sold more than Ronald Reagan's Autobiography, so I guess I should be proud. It also restarted my musical career big time because more than half of those sales came from Europe. All of a sudden I started getting letters from jazz musicians all over Europe saying "We'd like you to come over and play with us." So I spent the whole of the 1990's traveling and playing in Europe... and well into the 2000's until I did retire. England, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland and, of course, our neighbor to the north: Canada.
R.V.B. - When you were over in Europe, did you try to look up older classic jazz musicians there also?
B.B. - Yes I did. In the 1950's, when rock and roll started, I was in my late teens and early 20's... in the middle of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis & Elvis Presley... the guys who started Rock and roll. The really good guys during the Doo Wop period didn't do Doo Wop. Those were the guys I was listening to.
R.V.B. - They interested the English people also.
B.B. - Yes that's correct, but here's the thing that is so amazing; Rock and roll did not catch on in England during the 1950s. At that time they were in the middle of a thing called the "The Trad Boom." "The Trad Boom" was traditional jazz. Their big stars over there were not the American rock performers. They were people like Ken Colyer, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. These were British jazz musicians who were listening to the old style traditional jazz of New Orleans. The biggest music in England during the 1950's was traditional jazz. It wasn't until The Beatles broke out that the British teens switched from jazz to rock and roll.
R.V.B. - I've heard the term "skiffle" a lot.
B.B. - "Skiffle" was brought to prominence in England by a fellow named Ken Colyer. He had a jazz band and incorporated in that jazz band was a skiffle group. The first big skiffle hit was "The Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan. He was originally the banjo player in the Ken Colyer skiffle group. Then he broke out and started his own group and recorded “The Rock Island Line" and it became a top 10 hit in America.
R.V.B. - I think The Weavers covered that one also.
B.B. - Skiffle was old time folk music. No horns... all rhythm. Banjos, mandolins, string bass.
R.V.B. - I see around 1965, you won a competition in the “Jazzology Magazine” Jazz Poll.
B.B. - I came in as Best New Jazz Musician. My band, “The Easy Riders Jazz Band” came in second place in the Best New Band category. When the magazine did the poll again 20 years later I came in 4th or 5th for Best Jazz Trombone Player overall. I didn't even recognize any of the jazz trombone players I was competing against. They must have all come along after me.
R.V.B. - Did you live in New Orleans for a long time?
B.B. - I never lived in New Orleans. I would go down there for a week at a time. I'd go down there for a couple of months at a time. I'd go down there for a summer, but I never actually lived in New Orleans.
R.V.B. - So you would commute from Connecticut?
B.B. - Yes. I was born and raised in Bridgeport Connecticut. I lived in San Antonio, Texas while I was in the Army. In the late 1960's I moved to San Francisco. I lived there for a little over a year. Then I moved back to Connecticut. Connecticut was my home base until I retired. I started the Connecticut Traditional Jazz Club, which was one of the biggest jazz clubs up in your neck of the woods. We used to bring all of these black guys up from New Orleans and I used to record them or I would go down to New Orleans and do recording sessions down there.
B.B. - No. I used the Trod Nossel Studio. My recording engineer was a fellow named Richie Robinson. I also did on-sight recordings during gigs. For them I used Mike Fast and his carry-along Ampex reel-to-reel recorder, a wonderful young recording engineer. In the 1990's, through my book, I met a young girl tenor saxophone player from Great Britain who was 25... I was 55. I married her. So we had residences in both England and Connecticut. My recording engineer in England was a fellow named Dave Bennett. I have been blessed with good recording engineers. I've had a couple of bad ones and got rid of them quick. The first good one I had was Mike Fast... in the 1960's and again in the 1980's. The second one was Richie Robinson in the 1970's and there was Dave Bennett and John RT Davies in the 1990's in England. I did videotape all of my British sessions. The 4th recording engineer I used was Richard Bird at the Jazzology studio in New Orleans, another good guy. I'll tell you why I needed good recording engineers. I was recording differently than everybody else in recent years. I do not do post mixing. I insist that my recording engineers mic the band so that the recorded band would sound like the band would in public. I would approve the final mix and the engineers would adjust their dials during the recording session to make sure the balance was right, but there was no post mixing. When the recording session was over, the recording was done. All I did at that point was select the cuts I wanted to use and maybe edit out a clinker or two here and there. It takes good recording engineers to do whatever mixing that has to be done during the recording. I did them on DAT digital 2 track which could not be remixed. They were not multi-tracks. Post-mixing was for the progressive guys not for us whorehouse players!
R.V.B. - Did you concentrate on finding older musicians to document them for historic reasons?
B.B. - No I did not do it for historical reasons. My one super big failing was I did not sit down with these guys when I had them at my house and interview them on tape. The only tape interview I did was the trombonist Jack Teagarden. That is available on my You Tube channel. I was interested in their playing. I was interested in playing and recording with them... becoming a part of them... a part of their culture and being friends with them.
B.B. - Yes, The ones that I'm most proud of are not sessions that I played on. (Ha-ha) I'm not sure that they were really good because I wasn't on them or not. (Ha-ha-ha) I did a session with Tuba Fats’ Chosen few. There is a blues song called "Oh Lord! Let the Devil Have an Accident" on that album. With you being a blues man, that recording will absolutely blow your mind. The tenor player on that session was Fats Domino's old tenor player... Elliot "Stackman" Callier. This was an interesting session. It only had two white guys on it. The piano player from Toronto and the banjo player from my own jazz band. Everybody else in the band was black and from New Orleans. The only one of them I had previously recorded was Tuba Fats himself. He was a good friend of mine. I did not know the other guys except for "Stackman". It was a good size band – 8 piece. I decided each black man on the session would get a vocal and Tuba fats of course, would get several. I let them decide what numbers they wanted to do themselves. Several of them picked blues numbers. After one of the numbers that we did turned out really good, "Stackman" yelled out, right after the very last note, because he liked it so much, "Oh Lord! Let the Devil have an accident.” Everybody broke out laughing. When it came time for “Stackman” to sing his vocal, I said, “here's what I want you to do. I want you to make up . . . right here, right now . . . a blues number called "Oh Lord! Let the Devil have an accident." I want you to yell that again right at the beginning of the song and then improvise the rest of the lyrics as you go along." It turned out to be one of the most phenomenal blues recordings that has ever been recorded. That was in the 1990's and that is probably my favorite recording. Of all the sessions I recorded in England, there were only two that I was on. One was the "Watering the Roots" session. That was a great session. Another interesting set of recordings that I produced . . . In 2000, I decided to do in New Orleans. It was to feature the great black trumpet player Greg Stafford and the renowned clarinet player Dr. Michael White. They are probably the two best black musicians playing old time jazz in New Orleans today. We did three sessions that produced four albums. Two are called "Swaying and Praying." One album featured mainly blues and the other album featured mainly spirituals. The front line was going to consist of Greg Stafford on trumpet, Dr. Michael White on clarinet and myself on t-bone. I had a wonderful rhythm section lined up made up of two guys from Canada... a bass player and a piano player. The drummer I brought in from Germany... a white guy. My banjo player from Connecticut. The week before the recording session was to go ahead, the two guys from Canada and the guy from Germany had already arrived in New Orleans and I . . . had a heart attack! I ended up getting a triple-bypass in Connecticut on the very day of the New Orleans recording. So, obviously, I was not on the recording. This recording was to be the capstone of my playing career and I'm not even on the damn thing (haha). My good friend bass player Colin Bray from Canada took over supervision of the sessions. The sessions turned out magnificently under his direction. Among the tunes recorded was "Nobody's Fault but mine." It's an old spiritual. Greg’s singing and playing on this number are wonderful. I feel it’s the finest recording Greg has ever made. They also did a marvelous instrumental blues featuring Michael that was on Volume 2 called "29th and Dearborn." Of recordings that I have played on, the ones I like the best are "Mama's Gone Goodbye," that is one I'm particularly proud of. Then there's another one, "St. Philips Street Breakdown", which is an up-tempo blues, The great British clarinetist Sammy Rimington and I did it together in New Orleans. But most of all there is the recording I made together with soprano sax player Jacques Gauthe of “I’m With You Where You Are,” a tune that is virtually forgotten nowadays. I made this one almost exactly one year after my by-pass surgery and it was the first time I played since then. I had practiced of course but I was still wary of the session. It turned out to be my best recording.
B.B. - Well I did a lot of big concerts in San Francisco area. I guess I would have to say... this is not a single gig... this is a long running gig and lasted a full summer... It was at a place called "Earthquake McGoon’s", which was owned by the trombonist Turk Murphy." When his band went out on tour he hired me to bring in bands. I brought in a bunch of guys from New Orleans in the weeks that I was there. That was one of my favorites.
R.V.B. - Can you describe your relationship with Turk Murphy?
B.B. - I can in very few words. He was drunk out of his mind every time I met him. I was hired by his wife for the gig. I had heard a lot of his recordings and I never really thought much of his trombone playing. I never liked the way he missed and cracked notes . . . deliberately. I miss and crack notes too but I do it because I don't know what the hell I'm doing. [Ha-ha-ha] With him, he made it part of his style . . . like it was cute. It's never cute to miss a note. The first time I met the man, was the first night we opened at his club. That was a couple of days before he went out on tour. Clancy Hayes was his banjo player at that time. I never had much use for Clancy either. He was hired to play banjo and sing between our sets. On our first break at Earthquake McGoon’s, I walked back to the bar to get a diet coke. I was never a drinker and I never took drugs either. Mainly because I was usually a band leader. If the band leader is not sober, you can count on the fact that the whole damn band will be drunk. You either drink or be a band leader. You can’t do both. Anyway, I was on my way to the bar to get a soda and to see if there were any bar girls around whose asses I could hustle. Sitting at the end of the bar was Turk Murphy. Here I am, I'm pretty well known in the field, and I walk down to the end of the bar and I sit next to Turk and say "Hey Turk, I'm Bill Bissonnette." He says, "Uh huh," because that’s what out of their mind drunks say. That was the only words that Turk ever spoke to me. That's how well I knew Turk Murphy. He was there the next couple of nights and I didn't even bother to approach him. That's the way he sounded on the trombone also, “uh huh” mainly in Bb and Eb . . . which are not blues keys by the way. The interesting difference between old time jazz and blues is, generally speaking, we play in totally different keys. Jazz bands like flat keys, because they’re the simplest for horns. Blues bands, because they're mostly guitar players, like G and C and E. We play in keys like Gb and Bb. F is our common key. Blues people generally find our keys difficult. The few times I played with blues bands, I found some difficulty in keys like D Blues. The gig in Earthquake McGoon’s was one of the high points.
B.B. - I met Jack Teagarden when I was in the Army. As I mentioned I met Jim Cullum Jr. and we started a band together. Jim’s father was a very great reed man and had played with the big bands back in the 1930's. He joined our band. Jim Jr. played cornet, not trumpet. Jim Sr. played clarinet. The first time we played in public it was for a businessman’s lunch and Jim Sr. introduced us as follows: “We have cornet, clarinet & Bissonnette!” There was a doctor there in San Antonio who played trombone. He started a “live” jazz club who brought in guest bands of renown. Around the same time I went to a couple of radio stations and offered to DJ a traditional jazz program because I had a big traditional jazz record collection and I had them all with me down in San Antonio. FM radio stations had just started coming up in those days. They were generally all small channels. One of them took me on. So I got to be known as a local radio personality... all of this when I was in the Army. (Ha-ha) I had a classified position in the Army so, at that time, I couldn't have told you what I was doing. I still probably shouldn’t but now that the cold war is over it doesn't matter anymore. So anyway this trombone player started a jazz club in San Antonio. In the year it began, he hired Jack Teagarden's band, and he hired our little dixie group as an opening act. So here I am playing trombone for only six months and I'm on the same stage with Jack Teagarden. (Ha-ha-ha) I had a tape recorder there and I asked Jack if he would record an interview for my radio program. He did the interview. He died shortly thereafter. He was a Texas musician but he died in New Orleans. He had a heart attack in his hotel room. I didn't know him well but I did an interview with him and I played alongside of him. By the way, in that same band was Barrett Deems the drummer and Don Ewell on piano. I also met Barrett when he was playing with the Armstrong band. He went on to start his own big band in Chicago. He was billed as the world's fastest drummer. By today's standards, he wasn't a fast drummer at all. But he was a good one.
R.V.B. - I know you got involved with producing a lot of the classic jazz guys. Were you ever involved in helping them tour also?
B.B. - Sure. I brought them all to Connecticut to tour. I brought them all to San Francisco to tour. I never brought any of them with me to Europe, except Tuba Fats, but I met Greg Stafford for the first time when he was in England and we were both at the same jazz festival. There were two International Jazz Bands I produced. One was in the 1990's and one was in the 1960's. In the first one the trumpet player was Kid Thomas Valentine from New Orleans. We had Emanuel Paul, also from New Orleans, on tenor sax. The one in the 1990's had Tuba fats, and I did bring him to Europe. We toured Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
B.B. - Yes. I toured, and recorded, on drums with my trombone idol Big Jim Robinson, also with Kid Sheik, another fine New Orleans trumpet player and I did several tours featuring Kid Thomas. On one of Tom’s tours we recorded a song that jazz musicians hate being asked to play more than any other . . . "When the Saints Go Marching In."
R.V.B. - I'm a guitar player and I sometimes do solo shows and one of the songs that I do is "The Saints."
B.B. - What key do you do it in?
R.V.B. - I do it in G
B.B. - We do it in F. See that’s just what I was talking about before about different keys.
R.V.B. - It's probably easier to sing in F. Having a jazz band play "The Saints" is like a rock band being asked to play "Mustang Sally."
B.B. - You get asked for it, every damn show you play. You try to avoid it, but sooner or later somebody in the audience will start yelling for "The Saints." You play it just to shut them up.
R.V.B. - It's all of three chords right?
B.B. - That's right. It's only a blues with a couple of 7th's thrown in.
R.V.B. - It's a good sing-a-long song.
B.B. - Everybody knows it. It's the National Anthem of traditional jazz.
B.B. - There are recording sessions that I wish I had done. For example: On the session that I did "The Saints", there were three men in the rhythm section... me on drums, a banjo player and a bass player. We didn't have piano on that. We had the legendary trumpet player from New Orleans Kid Thomas. We had a friend of mine from Connecticut who was a really good clarinet player on the gig. Have you ever heard of Edmond Hall? He was the clarinet player in the movie "High Society" with Louis Armstrong. He played with Armstrong for a couple of years and then he quit in total disgust because, as he said to me, "I get so sick and tired of playing the same program, night after night after night. If you're Louis Armstrong, why do you have to do that? Why can't you just play anything you want?" He finally realized that Armstrong had become more of a singer/performer than a jazz trumpet player and he just followed a script. When Ed quit, he made part of his living by coming up on the weekends from Long Island and playing in my band. So I knew Edmond pretty well. He was also in the Eddie Condon band. Armstrong took Hall from Condon. I had come to find out many years later that Kid Thomas started his first band back in 1907 with Edmond Hall. Edmond was living in New York and I probably could have got him up to do the concert with Kid Thomas. What a concert that would have been with those two guys playing together again for the first time in 60 years. I didn't do it because the New York union was so strict. If you did a recording with a New York musician, you had to have union men in supervising the recording session. Now I told you I don't do post mixing. The second rule is: I don't do 2nd, 3rd, 6th or 7th takes. I would rather record 30 songs and take the 10 best for a CD. If you have multiple takes of one song, you might end up with one CD with alternate versions of songs. If you do it my way, you might end up with two CD's. That was my concept. If somebody is really unhappy with a song... maybe you do a second take. If I would have used Edmund hall I probably would have gotten two CD's. Poor Edmond died of a heart attack while shoveling snow off his driveway. Two feet of fucking global warming.
R.V.B. - Did anyone else come up to Connecticut to play?
B.B. - I worked with a lot of New York guys. Jimmy Archey came up to do a recording session. He was a trombone player in King Oliver's band in the 1920's. In New York he was one of the most sought after trombone players. A magnificent man and he taught me how to play with a plunger mute. He played the plunger mute like nobody on earth did. There's a recording, "I Believe I Can Make It by Myself," which the drummer from New Orleans Sammy Penn sings. It's about 12 minutes long. Jimmy Archey does every one of his mute tricks on it. He does an absolutely incredible solo on it. When I record myself with my own bands I like to try to keep songs in the 3 to 4 minute range. Many of the best songs I've recorded are under 3 minutes. There's a song "Short Dress Gal." and "Black Gal, You Better Watch Your Step." That's my favorite of my vocal recordings. Both of those are under three minutes. The trick with "Black Gal" is that it's an 8 bar blues. It's not even a 12 bar blues. The trouble with an 8 bar blues, when you play jazz, is that when you get to the end of the blues, you start to go into the last 4 and they're not there. (Ha-ha-ha) It completely fucks up your mind. (Ha-ha-ha) You’d like that one Rob. It’s in G.
R.V.B. - Can you explain to me what Kid Thomas was like?
B.B. - I'm an agnostic... spiritually. It doesn't mean you're an atheist. It means you don't know what the hell is going on. An agnostic has not made his mind up about God. But, if there is such a God... Kid Thomas is Him. Kid Thomas, to the guys in my band was God. We brought Kid Thomas up to Connecticut every time we could and that was at least once a month. It's one of the reasons that my trumpet player went into the Air Force. He said "I never get any good gigs. Kid Thomas is always here. Kid Thomas was an ornery, tough, New Orleans band leader. He was not a technical trumpet player but he was the most exciting trumpet player that had come along in years. He was only really discovered in the 1960's, even though he started his first band with Edmond Hall in 1907. He is the exciting trumpet player that you will hear on "When the Saints go Marching In." When he was friendly he was super friendly. He had a very high pitched voice... BUT WHEN HE WAS MAD... he was mad. He would walk off the bandstand in the middle of a set if he felt like it. I toured with him for a month in California and the biggest gig I ever had in my life was to play at an American Cancer Society gala dinner in Palm Springs. There were all kinds of famous Hollywood people there... Jack Benny, Dennis Day, and William Gargan were all there. It was the highest paying gig I ever had in my life. All the while when I was in Connecticut, Kid Thomas used to say to me "Bill, You know the one thing I always wanted to see in my life. The one place I always wanted to go to was Hollywood." We would just laugh about it. Then I moved to San Francisco and I brought him out there and I got this amazing high priced gig for the American Cancer Society... $1,000 a guy. This was back in the late 1960's... that's half a year's pay. We drove down in one car. We fit the whole band in. I had a big station wagon at the time. We drove from San Francisco down to Los Angeles and we did a few other gigs along the way. One was a TV show with the comedian Imogene Coca. We also did an interesting concert at Santa Barbara College. The only reason we were brought in was because it was a radicalized college and they hired any black entertainment they could get. Three of us were white and four of us were black. That was at the time of the Santa Barbara oil spill. That was a huge story at the time. At the end of the Santa Barbara gig I noticed Sammy Penn, our black drummer, in a heated discussion with some of the students. So I walked over to help Sammy load up his drums and the students scattered. I asked Sammy what the big pow-wow was about and he says, “Bill you know what they be telling me? They saying I shouldn’t be playing in your band because you are just exploiting me and your other black men.” I then asked, “And what did you tell them.” Sammy broke out laughing and replied, “Why Bill, I told them you the blackest of all of them!” Driving from there to the Palm Desert gig went through Hollywood. There up on the hill is the Hollywood sign.
Kid Thomas is sitting in the front seat of the car and I said "Well Kid, there it is. You wanted to go to Hollywood... I brought you to Hollywood." He was in his glory and there was a big smile on his face. So we got to our hotel the day before the concert. We go out in the town and drive around and I'm getting the feeling that Kid Thomas is getting into one of his ornery moods. We got back to the hotel room and I laid down on the bed and Kid Thomas went out by the pool. When he got ornery, his lower chin stuck out further than his nose. HE LOOKED MEAN! He's sitting out there and I'm saying to myself "It doesn't look good for this concert." This was the day before. He walked back into the room and said, "Bill, I'm going home." I said "Tom, what are you talking about. You can't go home. We have the biggest concert of the tour in front of us." He said "Shoot! I don't care. I'm going home. I don't like it here." I said "Tom, you kept saying you wanted to go to Hollywood. I brought you to Hollywood. Now you're telling me that you're going to walk out on the biggest concert in my career?" He said "I just don't like the attitudes around here." I said "Are you talking about me?" He said "No". He thought some of the guys in the band were giving him a hard time. I didn't think the guys in the band were giving him a hard time but he took it that way for some reason... kidding with him when he was in a bad mood never was a good idea. I said "Tom, you just can't do this." He said "Well I'm gonna do it." I said "No you're not. I am not going to let you quit. If I have to lock you in this fucking room, I'll lock you in this fucking room, and I'll drag you into that concert. You're gonna play my damn concert and I don't want to hear nothing more about it." Then I left and the next time I came in, he was calm. He said "I'll play the concert but then I want to go home." I said "We'll play the concert and go back up to San Francisco. We'll play the two dates we have left up there. Those are jazz clubs, and then you can go home." We did play those jazz clubs up there and fortunately Pops Foster, the great bass player, walked in to one of those and sat in with the band. It all ended up happily. The point I'm making to you is this... Every man in my band, including me, was in total awe of Kid Thomas Valentine. We all called him Tom. Most people called him "Kid." or Mr. Valentine. A lot of people thought Thomas was his last name and called him Mr. Thomas. We got along with him 90% of the time but when Tom got ornery, there was nobody like Kid in the world. I still don't know how I handled him. He was not a technically proficient trumpet player. He was not Louis Armstrong. He was never influenced in the slightest by Armstrong's playing. Maybe he was the only trumpet player in jazz history who wasn't. He said "I came up the same time as Armstrong. Why would I play like him?" Tom was a rhythmic, bizarre, trumpet player who you never knew what he was going to do next. He was the hottest damn trumpet player that there was in the world. He could turn you on like no other trumpet player in the middle of a gig. On the other hand, he would say, "You got a long way to go, man!" if he didn’t like the way you were playing. He never did it vehemently... he did it to tell you "You got a long way to go man." You went home and practiced your ass off because Kid Thomas said so. So that was Kid Thomas... he was hell when he was ornery and a wonderful guy when he wasn’t. But ornery or wonderful, he was God to us. There were times in Connecticut when I would call him and I would say "Tom, I don't have any damn money, but I can send you a plane ticket to come to Connecticut for the weekend, and we can do a couple of club dates and maybe a concert if you're willing to come and take your chances on getting paid." He was always on the plane. He never let me down.
R.V.B. - He sounds like a solid man.
B.B. - I'll tell you one more thing about Kid Thomas. It's the very last story in my book. At the end of the 60's, I basically got out of big time jazz until the early 1980's. I led a local band, but I stopped bringing New Orleans guys up. My interest was in other things and for a decade and a half I had absolutely no contact whatsoever with Kid Thomas Valentine. In the interim, my idol Jim Robinson died... my drum idol Sammy Penn died. Most of the guys I'd known from New Orleans had died. Kid Thomas was 88 years old in 1984. The New Orleans World's Fair was in 1984 so I said to my son "Let's go to the New Orleans World's Fair. Maybe I'll get a chance to say hello to a few of my old friends and you’ll get a chance to see a real space-shuttle." The first place we went was Preservation Hall. The man who owned Preservation Hall was named Alan Jaffe. He died in 1987. He and I never hit it off. One of the reasons he and I never got along was because we looked a lot alike. We looked so much alike, that when the President of Mexico visited Preservation Hall, [My drummer friend Joe Watkins introduced him this way, " Ladies and Gentleman, we have an important visitor tonight, the Mayor of Mexico." (Ha-ha-ha)] at the end of the night, when the President of Mexico was leaving, he walked up to me, thinking I was Alan, shook my hand and thanked me for a great evening and then walked right past Alan on the way out without a word! (Ha-ha-ha)
R.V.B. - That's funny.
B.B. - Alan Jaffe and I never really became friends. We got along to the extent that he never charged me to get into preservation hall. I was there many evenings during the ‘60's. I would go to other halls also because there were a lot of jazz halls in New Orleans back in that time. They usually had the best bands at preservation hall. So here we are back in 1984 and I’m back in New Orleans and I walk into Preservation Hall. I was surprised that they didn't charge me at the door, because the woman who was collecting the kitty at the door didn't know me from a hole in the wall. Sitting behind her was Jaffe's wife who nodded to me and they let me and my son in for nothing. Then Alan came over and greeted me, "Bill, we knew you were coming." I said "How did you know I was coming? I didn't tell anybody." I hadn’t told a soul that I was coming to New Orleans. He said "Kid Thomas told me." I said "What do you mean Kid Thomas told to you? I haven't talked to Kid Thomas since 1968." He says "Are you shitting me?" I said "No, I'm serious." As I said, Kid Thomas was 88 years old... He wasn't even playing but he'd still come to the hall and front his band. He would just come and put his trumpet on its stand and Gregg Stafford or Wynton Marsalis would be sitting next to him and doing the trumpet honors. During the course of the night he might play two or three notes here and there. The rest of the time he'd just keep time to the music slapping his slap stick. He made one of those slap sticks for me back in 1966. He made slap sticks for a few important friends of his. Back to my story: Tom hadn’t arrived yet that night... we were there before the music started. Alan said, “Every time Kid Thomas has been in the hall for the last 2 or 3 weeks he would come up to me and say "Where the hell is Bill Bissonnette? I expected him to be here." Is that off the wall or what?
R.V.B. - That is pretty wild.
B.B. - Then, when Tom finally got out of the cab, he walked right up to me and said "Bill, what took you so long getting here? I was expecting you weeks ago." How the hell could that guy have known I was coming? After 16 years of silence between us? That's like out of the "Twilight Zone." That's an absolutely true story. If you want a one word description of Kid Thomas, I repeat . . . "God."
R.V.B. - I know you studied a little bit with the drums... what was Sammy Penn like?
B.B. - Sammy Penn was Phenomenal. Sammy Penn taught me an awful lot about drums but not as much as Zutty Singleton . . . who was probably the most famous New Orleans drummer. Zutty was living and playing in New York in his old age. I used to bring him up to Connecticut to do concerts with my band. To describe Sammy Penn in two words "drummer, alcoholic." The Sammy Penn I knew was a drunk. However... Sammy Penn never got falling down drunk. He was a happy drunk, if you know what I mean. He would usually only drink enough to put himself into a happy place. When Sammy got very drunk he used to speed up the time like crazy.
B.B. - Not with Sammy. I think it was because he was over compensating because he knew he was drunk. But he was a sweet guy. I had two great friends in New Orleans . . . Jim Robinson and Sammy Penn. They were two of the nicest people you'll ever hope to meet. I dedicated my book to those two. A lot of people said "We thought you were gonna dedicate it to Kid Thomas." Even though Kid Thomas was my musical god, Big Jim Robinson and Sammy Penn were my dearest friends.
R.V.B. - Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories with me. I thoroughly enjoyed them.
B.B. - Hey Rob, it was really nice meeting you.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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