A Drum Under The Bed
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, December 1967; by Monk Watson: ”So I’m a cornball … and I hope I stay that way as long as I live when it comes to loving music, as I have been doing since I learned to talk and walk. My mother was so anxious to have me play the piano that she gave up her lessons as soon as I could lift my little finger. She lifted me up on the piano stool and taught me the scale of C. Since those early days I’ve looked forward to the new songs as they came out and we first heard them on the cylinder records of the Edison, and later on the flat records. I learned to play a tin whistle and from there to the clarinet and drum. Not drums, but just one snare drum.
My first drum was one that I found under a bed in a hotel in Jackson, Michigan: The American House. My father had taken my mother and me to see Teddy Roosevelt as he passed through the city. He even lifted me up so I could shake his hand. It seems there was a parade going on down the main street enroute to the MCRR depot. I had discovered this big old snare drum under the bed in our room and hauled it out and started to beat a march step … runp-rump-rump-rump-rump. I walked up and down the halls until the manager told me to put that damn drum away. I yelled my head off and asked my father to buy it for me. “Nothing doing,” I was told, because that drum had been played in the army. … well, I yelled so much that they finally told me to take it home with me … that was to Colon, and the year was 1898. I took lessons on that old drum, (after I had cut it in half, like a darn fool). Today the half still lays in my basement … no heads, no sticks and no snares … but it’s my drum and I love it. So what’s all this got to do with my being a Cornball? As I said, I love music, and I’ve had the great pleasure of having one of the best bands in the country and that gave me the chance to pick out the type of music I liked and also the type of audience I liked. How happy I am that I lived in an era of good music that one could hum along with or whistle along with and not this FAR OUT JUNK we have today.
Recently we had two great Specials on TV … Tin Pan Alley 1967 with George Burns as MC. How this old man got in on that show I’ll never know, but he’s good in anything, for my money. They also featured Nancy Ames, who is a good-looking dish and I guess she can sing. When she was on “That Was The Week That Was” I thought she was great, but she was new and hadn’t learned those FAR OUT songs. On this Special she did nothing that one could ever remember for two days, or could hum or even find the tune. I listened because there was another show coming up that I felt would be good. IT WAS GREAT … “The Belle of 14th Street” with Barbara Streisand. Well, no matter how this show went over with the millions watching it, I’m sure of one thing, she made a hit with one Monk Watson when she opened up with “Alice Blue Gown” … How corny can you get? I’ll bet that this song will outlast any of the new songs on the market today. The new children growing up heard it for the first time that tuneful night perhaps, but when they hear it again they’ll be able to hum along with it and as it repeats, they’ll say, “Gee, I heard the craziest song about a gown that was blue … crazy, man, crazy … what’s a gown?”
Why all of this about a song of the old days? It also goes for Magic and some of the tricks of the old days. Before I get off the subject of music I’d like to tell you about an experience I had with my bank in 1928. The new tune was, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” One of my arrangers made an arrangement of this tune with all of the OUT passages he could write. The members of the band were so thrilled, knowing it was the latest thing in arrangements I listened and remembered what one of my old dancing instructors had said, “If they can’t beat their feet to the music, take it out.” So in the back of the books I had them put in a waltz, “The Same Silvery Moon,” just in case we needed it. I could have bet what would happen and it did. The big new arrangements went over like a lead balloon … not a hand … so I then introduced the waltz, telling the audience I had a request to play it. I put all the showmanship I could muster up into the directing and the number stopped the show. Why? Because the people could hum the tune and could remember it as a great song of the day.
Now, back to magic. Dig out some of your old tricks that have gone over in the hands of the masters … Rings, Rice Bowls, Egg Bag, etc., and work on them. You’ll be surprised how they’ll go over with the new audience of kids and even grown ups. I dug out my Rice Bowls and they’re the hit of my act again. As write this I’m also listening to Bill and Sally Tadlock on their tape that they sent, telling me how much Bill enjoyed “The Senator” at the
Baltimore show. Sally was busy with their new son, Bill, Jr,, so she didn’t go. Crandall was never better in his life, says Bill. He has seen Crandall many times so he knows what he’s talking about. After the show Crandall and Bill got together for hours and this made Bill very happy as he is sure a fan of this great artist. As for me, well, I can take him or leave him, as when I have him I’m left in a daze brought on by being happy with laughs like I never have anymore it seems. Crandall is the one and only of his kind and I hope he outlives me by a hundred years.”