Woody Herman's Drummer

The Palais Royale in Toronto is a famous Ball Room with an impressive history. During the war years, Dance Bands of every description entertained troops there. These service men were eventually shipped overseas and a dance was a great way to unwind. Name bands from the United States also appeared there and for years it was a popular entertainment hangout.

Before it was renovated  (recently in 2007) the facilities were quite old and not very well designed. The stage for the bands was quite small and a big band such as Woody Herman's would have to be judicious when using every inch of the space available.

The bandstand was tiered but you could still squeeze everyone on it, but snugly. Jake Hanna was the drummer for the band at the time. He was right at the side of the stage and at the bottom level.   If you were crowded around the stand to just listen, you could be just inches from his performance. You could actually touch his drums.

One night two local musicians went to see this awesome juggernaut of swinging sound. Len was one of the musicians.  His friend Jack (not his real name) (according to Len) was, well, let's just say he was light-fingered. 

He took (stole) things for no apparent reason or useful purpose.   He just liked taking things. Where ever he went he would take something and walk out with it.  If he had his sax case with him, he would be sure to hide something in it and walk out the door with this "precious" booty.  I think they have a name for this mental disorder.

Well, Len and Jack were at the side of the stage and really "diggin'" the Herman band.   It so happens they were at the side of the stage where Jake Hanna was set up. In other words they were very close to the "action."

Jake was doing his swingin' best as he always did. He was considered one of the best big band drummers in the world. He was in a middle of a robust swing chart and was catching all the "fills" and really pushing the brass.  In the middle of this chart he put down his sticks on the big tom-tom and went to brushes.   He made this switch with lightening speed. After about 16 or so bars into the chart, he went back to sticks. Or so he thought.

They were gone! "What?" Len's buddy Jack had put them in his back pocket and was walking out with them.

I can't imagine what Jake must have thought.   "Where’s my sticks? I just had them!" Fortunately he had spares in the side of his bass drum. These extra sticks were there in case the ones he was using splintered or broke. I doubt he ever thought these spares were going to be used in case some of them walked out the door.

 

 


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