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Chubby Jackson's Bassist

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by jtlownds, Jun 6, 2005.


  1. jtlownds

    jtlownds

    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    I have seen a lot of name dropping around here lately, so I figured it was my turn. I was Chubby Jackson's bass player for the last 3 or 4 years of his life. Correction, I was one of Chubby's bass players. I played with a group known as the Bo Downey Ensemble a.k.a. The Guadalajara Philharmonic. We played every Sunday from 5 to 8 PM at a Mexican restaurant in Escondido, CA called La Tapatia. The group consisted of Bo Downey on guitar & vocals, Sandy De Vito, who was probably the finest jazz guitarist I have ever heard (he played a $50,000 Benedetto Cremona that Bob Benedetto made for him and gave him for free), Wells Goodhew on drums, and either myself or Ron Black on bass. One of the neat things about this gig was that a bunch of the retired sidemen from the old Lawrence Welk band would show up and sit in with us every week. Man, those guys had some monster chops. We would sometimes end up with a 10 or 12 piece band. To top that off, at least once a month Chubby Jackson would show up. We allways gave him at least one set of his own. Chubby had rotator cuff problems with both shoulders, and had not played bass in years. In fact he had placed his old Kay 5er in a museum in CA (I don't remember where). He would sing and scat with the group. The man was a consumate showman. I tried to get him to play my bass, but he never did. He claimed his shoulder problems were the result of carrying that old Kay around for years, and playing it like he was driving it through a brick wall (his words). I think his favorite song was Route 66. He did it every time he showed up (in the key of G). He liked to start it with a 16 - 32 bar bass and drum intro behind his monologue (sometimes more). He would sing 2 or 3 choruses and scat 2 or 3 more, and every musician in the house would take a solo. That tune would go on for over 20 minutes. By the time it was over, I was ready for a session in a hot tub. He would blatantly ask the audience for a standing ovation at the end of each set. And he would get it. His wife said that he had an uncontrollable obsession to be the center of attention at all times. I think she was right. One of the high points of these gigs was the bull sessions during break. He had all kinds of interesting stories. My favorite was about the time in New York that some US marshalls showed up back stage looking for Trummy Young, who apparently had gotten behind on his alimony payments. Trummy hid in the folds of the curtains at the back of the stage for the rest of the gig. He then hid in Chubby's hard case, and it was carried out to the truck. Their next gig was the following night in Boston, and the Feds were there to greet them when they showed up. Trummy worked out an arrangement with them and was able to play.

    In July of 2003, I retired and moved to the Florida swamps. About a month later I read Chubby's obituary in the local paper. I sure miss Chubby and that whole bunch. Those sessions will allways have a special place in my heart.
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm really sorry to hear about Chubby's death. I got to know him briefly in 1984 when I lived in Miami. I worked at a photo/video shop and Chubby was a regular customer. I wasn't playing upright at the time, but we had many nice discussions about music. Never saw him play but loved his stuff, and had a great self-effacing sense of humor. I once asked him which of his stuff with Woody Herman best represents his playing, and he says, "None of it. These guys who play now are so good that they make my stuff sound like beginner's work." Hardly, pal!

    I sure didn't miss the job because the boss was a hotheaded jerk who busted 2 phones and had constant tantrums while I was there, but I sure missed seeing Chubby every day! I'm sorry he's gone now, but I'm glad he lived a very full life.
     
  3. jtlownds

    jtlownds

    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Yeah, Chubby was a real character. My wife sat at the table with his wife and daughters while we were "on stage". His whole family was very personable.
     
  4. Jim, thanks for your Chubby stuff! Also, I was delighted to see in your profile that you're five years older than me.
    I may be one of those guilty of dropping names, although, in my case and i'm sure in yours, dropping names on TBDB sure ain't an ego thing. I feel, with so many younger players in all musical genres, telling these stories of the old days is a way for young players to get a sense of what it was like in the days before amps, steel strings, bridge adjusters and many of the things we had to deal with in those days.
    As far as Chubby goes, I didn't get the chance to get to know him, but heard many Chubby stories from other bassists like Red Kelly and Red Mitchell. I worked many jazz parties with his son Duffy, the drummer. (dropping names again) and, of course, he had many stories about his Old Man.
    Thanks, and keep the stories coming!
     
  5. jtlownds

    jtlownds

    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    I have only seen Duffy once. He was allways out of town with his band during these sessions. We did a birthday session for Chubby - his 84th or 85th I think. Duffy showed up for that one, the whole family was there. His son-in-law was also a drummer, and sat in with us on occassion. By the way, does anybody know what Chubby used for the 5th string. Low B, high C? I can't imagine putting a gut B string on an old Kay, but maybe he did. I should have asked him when I had the chance, but I didn't - my mistake. As far as name dropping goes, I think that we earned it, we deserve it and we should do it.
     
  6. Chubby used the high C. Those C J fivers with real purfling and carved scrolls are going for the big $$$ today.
     
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Regarding name-dropping; here at TBDB, it always seems to be in the spirit of admiration of the "name" being dropped. I have a debt of gratitude and a wealth of great memories of a lot of great musicians, both well-known and virtually unknown. When I hear Paul, or anyone else here, speak firsthand about the greats, it really serves to bring the whole music scene to life. I really enjoy that aspect of these forums.
     
  8. jtlownds

    jtlownds

    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Thanks for the info Paul. I figured it was a C, but really didn't know.

    Marcus, I really enjoy the name dropping too. I thought that maybe it was because I'm old. Geezers tend to remenisce a lot, just ask Paul.
     
  9. Like they say...the older I get, the better I was! :bawl:
     
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Most of the names I can drop won't do me any good, so I don't usually bother, unless it's an act I've never worked with before and I'm excited about...like when I went to Germany in March and got to meet Dave Edmunds. Dave isn't what I'd call a social butterfly but I got to spend some quality time with him and his terrific band in the hotel bar.

    Are you guys impressed yet? :bassist: