BOHP_2005-05-19_AVega Chapter 3
FB: We should back up a little bit. You know what? Why don't we back way up. AV: To high school? FB: People think you're Italian. They see the last name they say “Vega?” They think you must be Italian, but you're Armenian. AV: My father would use that name. He was an artist, a sign painter and he went by Vega Signs. So you couldn't put Vegramian on a marquee, especially in the 50's; they didn't use ethnic names. I said, “I'll be Al Vega.” So that's why I did the recent jazz festival with Maggie Scott and John Baboian. Maggie Scott Venasian I think it is. We're all in the IAN class. Everything but Indians! FB: So when you were just a wee tot your parents had you practicing, working? AV: Yeah I was playing classical piano at five until in high school I said, “Enough of this playing Beethoven and Bach!” In those days it was real cut and dried. There were no songs you knew, it was all the masses, so I said, “That's it! I'm going to be a baseball player!” But I heard Phil Sontman [?] on the radio and the piano club of the year, and I said that sounds interesting, I'll take a few lessons. I saddled in in the harmony, popular harmony where you read the chords, and popular styles. Next thing you know, my friend Roddy, the two of us, we were playing with bands all around town. Finally we had our own band that we let whoever wanted to get a gig front. Finally I said well we can get on there and call it the esquires and different guys would lead it. We ended up working with McMennimy twins from Northeastern which was near the Roseland Ballroom and Taunton and we ended up doing music with Jimmy Lunceford, one of the great all-time bands. It was just a bunch of kids you know, but we were playing Basie in those days. I think Varty [Haroutunian] used to like Glenn Miller and Tex Beneke. I said, Wait! you can't listen to that, Varty! Come with me, I'll let you hear a real player. Listen to Lester Young with Basie. So we turned him on to that.