Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tore Up Anecdote

Earl Hines with Charlie Carpenter, WWII.
This is brief anecdote, one I have discussed with Sam B. There was a fellow who used to visit Slim. I’d be staying there and, about mid-morning he’d come by. We remember him as “Pumpkin” or “Punky,” didn’t know his proper name. Not too tall, had an eye that looked the other way, was relaxed and mellow. He’d been involved in Vaudeville, perhaps, Came over most mornings for coffee. I have come to wonder what his full name might have been.

Sam remembers him as a decent piano player – boogie woogie style, but slow and harmonic , maybe a bit of time breaker.
For my part, I have always remembered something  Punky told me. We may have been just chatting, and he or Slim mentioned perhaps that he’d known Louis Armstrong. Punky (as I recall his name, memory is hazy) then told me he’d been in vaudeville and met Bing Crosby.

He told be a story about meeting Bing in the 1920s, and then again later on. The story stayed with me. He meets Bing Crosby in vaudeville days and the Bingster is pretty blotto.

Punky sees him years later, and he tells him he recalled him from the old days, saying “You were tore up.” 

And Bing responds, “Why yes, in those days I probably was…”

That’s it.  But it stayed with me.

As it happens, staying at my mothers’ a few weekends recently, I begun to read a Bing Crosby bio by Gary Giddens that was laying around. Quite a good book, and good for me at the moment, as history, my usual genre for reading, seems to be pulling a nutty. Bing, it seems, was a poster boy for the Roaring 20s and prohibition, and getting sauced. He roomed for a time with Bix Beiderbecke (his major influence along with Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong). Bing and Bix would spend between shows in speakeasies, but found time to lunch with Ravel. I remembered what Punky said.

Anyway…  I am reading Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940. Getting to the part where Bing is in Chicago, on tour with his partners, The Rhythm Boys, and hanging out a lot with Louis Armstrong (who was a major influence on his singing style). I read you a passage…

One night Armstrong took Charlie Carpenter, his valet and subsequently a lyricist (“You Can Depend on Me”) and Earl Hines’s manager, to the Grand Terrace Ballroom, which stayed open until 4:30 a.m. The Rhythm Boys stopped by at 2:00, after finishing their own gig. Charlie was too young to drink but marveled at Bing’s thirst. When ran into Bing thirty years later on a television soundstage he told him, “I haven’t seen you since 1928, Bing, but I still remember you were tore up.” Bing launched and said, “I probably was, because in those days I was really putting it away….” From Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years, 1903-1940, P.181
The passage is footnoted. Attributed to The World of Earl Hines by Stanley Dance. [Ed Note: A darn good book.] The same exact story, phrasing and everything.  And it makes me wonder if Punky’s real name was Charlie Carpenter…. anybody out there know? - Jack Vaughan

No comments:

Featured Post

Backporch Poesy June 2016

Reading from three favorite poetry anthologies on the back porch on June 17 (anniversary of Watergate breakin!) The three tomes are 1-Th...