[78-L] Musicians and drug use (was) Charlie Shavers and Milt Kabak

JD jackson1932 at cfl.rr.com
Thu Apr 22 16:55:30 PDT 2010

> Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2010 11:02:57 -0400
> From: Geoffrey Wheeler <dialjazz at verizon.net>
> Subject: [78-L]  Charlie Shavers and Milt Kabak
> To: 78-l at klickitat.78online.com
> Message-ID: <5a206e932576cc29c8cc36e9e18bd5c2 at verizon.net>
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> Regarding musicians and drug use: As a high school student in 1953, I
> wrote a paper for some class on drugs. My teacher asked me how in the
> world I had picked that subject. At that time, little attention was
> given to the subject. I told her I was interested in jazz and too many
> musicians used drugs. I told her I could write the names of the
> musicians who didn?t use drugs on a 3x5 card. She was aghast!

As am I to put it mildly!!  As a (then) less than worldly high school teen 
ager I suppose you can be forgiven for your ignorance and believing what you 
might have read in the rags or Sunday supplements but that certainly didn't 
make you well-informed. Many of us at that age are cast from the same mold 
but if you still harbor the same fantasies then I have a problem with that.

Hopefully, without  sounding pompous or above it all I suspect that I have 
at least as much if not considerably more knowledge about working musicians 
from the inside than anyone on this list. I turned pro at age 16 (September 
1949) and worked with many well known bands and some of the finest (and also 
worst) musicians of the big band era nd have played for virtually every 
major act or entertainer from Sinatra on down many times over. I saw very 
little of hard drugs which are the only drugs I consider seriously harmful. 
A few notable examples of hard drug users I knew come to mind, most long 
gone by now and definitely in the minority of my experiences. What I did see 
a lot of was grass which I no longer (and for  long time now) don't consider 
serious or newsworthy. Many was the time when the band bus or  cars would 
pull into a HoJo's and a bunch of the guys would dash for the john to light 
up while one of them held the door shut. . As a youngster (often  the "baby" 
on the band) I was horrified initially; first because in those days getting 
busted for pot (as it later rightfully became) was not a day at the beach. 
But also because many of these guys (most excellent players and pretty sharp 
people) were acting like juvnile delinquents trying to be cool and taking 
unnecessary chances that could land them i prison. As time passed and I 
matured I came to realize that grass was completely misunderstood and 
misrepresented by the public and especially by the (usually right wing) 
zealots who kept screaming that it would lead to hard drugsor worse. Read my 
lips: This is one of the biggest BS stories ever perpetuated on the public 
by do-gooders who know or knew noting and coouldn't find their ass with both 
hands. Grass leads to NOTHING. True, many hard drug users started with pot 
but aside from that ther is NO connection. The absurd claims by the zealots 
is akin to  sayimg that drinking water or root beer leads to alcohol abuse. 
Total absolute misinformed nonsense.  If this is what you meant or the 
public equated with "drug use" it's a wasted exercise and meaningless.

My point?  I've always been offended by those who would link musicians 
(especially jazz musicians) with drug use. It's an old story now among those 
who "know" that compared to booze and tobacco (the REAL drugs), grass is 
Heaven-sent and essentially benign. Nevertheless I don't advocate drug use 
of any kind and I've never had any interest in  grass, pro or con and never 
had any desire, Other than my real addiction, cigarettes (until 1980) I 
never darank or took anything more serious than Tylenol but it really bugs 
me when I read or hear something like your 3x5 card above.  There have 
always been drugs (everywhere, certainly not just among musicians)  but 
among musicians in general it just wasn't as bad as you'd been led to 
believe. Of course, your friendly accountant or dry cleaner down the street 
getting busted for pot wasn't nearly as newsworthy as Gene Krupa getting 
nailed. What a crock!! If all the accountants and "straight"eople of the 
world had been as cool or as nice or as talented as Krupa we'd all have been 
better off.  Even tough in my early days I was vehemently opposed to the use 
of pot I came to realize (as I said) after I saw no ill-effects and its 
occasional use by some pretty together and intelligent people that it was 
harmless and unfair to equate it with real drug use Today, of course your 
3x5 card would be very handy for listing those in the general public who can 
claim to be truly clean.

As a musician for the last 61 years I can tell you with authority that you 
haven'tseen anything until you've observed  the "regular" folks and some of 
their excesses from the bandstand. Compared to them, most musicians I've 
known and been close with were/are Knights in shining armor.
Next vase,
Jack Daney

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