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

Steven C. Barr stevenc at interlinks.net
Thu Apr 22 22:07:37 PDT 2010

From: "JD" <jackson1932 at cfl.rr.com>
>> 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>
>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=WINDOWS-1252; format=flowed
>> 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
Of course, back in the fifties (and into the sixties)...marijuana was still 
a dangerous, probably addictive drug! Most "ordinary" folks had little or no
contact with it (and then all hell broke loose later in the sixties)!

Trouble is...the folks who grow and sell "pot" have been constantly 
its strength. I was in the USAF in Germany (Garmisch) 1967-1970; my wife
didn't join me there for about a year or so. By that time, I was smoking pot
and hash with a few other folks who were mostly "hitching around Europe"
(sometimes because such drugs were easier to acquire there than in the 
What we used then just produced a nice "buzz!"  These days, on the rare
occasions that I have "partaken," the result was much more like a "trip on
acid"...not very pleasant at all, especially if not expected...?!

Steven C. Barr 

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