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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Intro, Chorus, and Sock

By George Gittelson, '37

The Magpie, June 1937, v. 21, n. 2., p. 51.

Of all the trades and occupations in which mankind indulges, the one of the boasting, swaggering musician is the queerest. These strange fellows work when they should sleep; play when they should work; and rest when they should play. I have had the pleasure (or displeasure), of working in a number of bands, and have become acquainted with quite a few of the more eccentric.

Each musician has some special pet or hobby, and in the band with which I had my most interesting experience, but which was, unluckily for us and luckily for our employers, forced to break up at the end of last summer, Roger, our pianist, was a self educated arranger. I recall the time he arranged "Auld Lang Syne" for half the band, and "Margie" for the other, and our unsuspecting rendition to an eager, but later vindictive audience. Manny, our "hot" trumpet player, was a tireless toe-tapper. From the first strain to the last refrain, Manny's feet kept the rhythm and beat of the music, and I know for a fact that besides his numerous blisters and pains, he was forced to have his shoes resoled after each job. Billy, our tenor sax, was a reformed "fiddle" player, and desired with all his heart to play a violin solo on each job. However, when we saw him suggestively fingering his violin on the second chorus, we would shift suddenly from a sweet "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie" to a very hot "Dinah," and leave Billy oh, so disappointed.

Musicians also have their own personalities and, after working hours, each finds his own recreation. This same Billy, for instance, was an inveterate joke-teller, and on an out of town job would never let us sleep, but evoked many hard words when he kept us awake until dawn with his anecdotes. He would then arise disgustingly refreshed while we could barely crawl into our clothes. Roger, besides creating his own arrangements, was a name seeker. That is, one week he would be Bob Adaire, and the next Larry Lane. It wasn't that he was ashamed of his own name, but when it was put on a card, it left no room for other professional information. Stanley, our drummer, was anything but a misogynist. He was haunted and taunted every minute by girls. Whenever we left the city on a job, he would set sail for a writing-desk, take out his little black book, and address cards to Marie, Ethel, Sylvia, ad infinitum, and inscribe the same soul-stirring, poetic message on each—Nice place! Wish you were here, . . . Love, Stanley—He would rush out to mail these epitomes of his devotion and return two hours later to breathlessly announce that he had met two beautiful "dames" and anyone who would lend him three dot tars could take out the blonde that evening. Musicians, being what they are, Stanley had plenty of "takers."

I was the smallest and youngest, and, as such, was assigned to all the menial tasks such as buying cigarettes, arranging transportation, and collecting wages. Perhaps my most important duty was to explain our extended periods of rest to the people who had hired us in the belief that we were really going to play from nine to twelve. However, any musician who plays the time for which his contract calls is classified as a sap by the rest of the fraternity. This explains the strange story of Manny's lip which stood up for five hours at a rehearsal, but grew tired after five minutes on a job.

Musicians are like their music . . queer and incomprehensible. They blend their personalities and idiosyncrasies in their work and the effect is naturally novel. All of which leads me to say that musicians who play "swing" ought to.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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