BOHP_2005-05-19_AVega Chapter 10
FB: Working with three singers at the 123, then you started working with Mae Arnette at The Businessmen's Club... So this is like you're getting into your... AV: When I got to the Hilton there was one girl Karen Cameron for six nights then she said she wanted a night off, so I did the talent show the night with her there. In '75 I started the talent shows. Then the next year she wanted more time off so I just gave her one night and I found Rebecca Parris and gave her Mondays. Tuesdays I would have different people, whoever was in town. And then weekends maybe Semenya McCord, Donna Byrne, or whoever else was available. And once in awhile a male, but mostly females were singing then. FB: Yeah, I do remember they were mostly women singers. AV: That one guy. well the females. the idea was if you had a girl singer, guys would come. But then when I had Lenny Martell I found that having a male singer, he would attract about 15-20 girls so that was better than having one girl sing, you had 15 girls out there and they would attract the guys. They kept the thing going. You have to be a little bit of a businessman. In those days they were more clever, even then. FB: And you have to learn how to break the news gently, going with woodshed kids, you know. AV: Yeah, well it’s like cutting a kid off my baseball team. If you got the minor leagues to go to it's OK, you know, get some other gigs for him. Like the numbers in baseball, there’s not enough to have a whole minor league system. Because now you got soccer and everything else going on. But anyway, get back to music...Yeah, so I certainly got experience, even Basie would say, “Al, play for a singer,” because I knew the tunes from the general business days. Because once my wife said even though I recorded for Prestige, my wife said, “If you're going to travel...” Nat Hentoff -- I'd actually gave him a few lessons, he was writing for Downbeat before you -- he said, “Why don't you go on the road?” My wife said, “You're going to go on the road, I'm from North Carolina.” She said, “You'll have to sell the house, I'll go back.” I said, “I'm working here, I'm happy, to heck with it. I'll coach little league and have my son there.” So I stayed here. The point was once they decided to stay here I said I better be able to play any kind of music if I'm going to survive. First at the High Hat, we were talking about before, when the boss said you got to take a few weeks off because I only have a trio, and I said to him, “OK, I got to hire a band because it's only three people.” He went by numbers, I say, “OK, well who's coming in?” He said, “Erroll Garner Trio and after that Oscar Peterson.” So in other words to him, there were only three people, he didn't realize that these three people would fill the room anyway. FB: He was looking at sheer number of players on the bandstand. AV: Yeah he figured if he got a six piece band, that's nine people if I have Al Vega, only three and one, that's four. But when I got the trio, finally because I kept saying let's have a trio so I'll keep the people here, now that I've got the trio, if I get a trio. They said no, they finally said, Al you get the trio, Charlie Parker's coming in and his manager called and said bird is only going to do half an hour, he's not going to do forty and twenties, he only wants to do thirty. I don't know what was going on with bird, but he got a notion for that. The boss, since I was going to have to do thirty, it made sense to him to have a trio. i could have done ten more minutes, most of the time those guys are sitting with me anyway. So he said you can have the trio and then once I get the trio, I said let me play opposite Oscar and so I talked him into that.