Stories of a Woodwind Repairman:
More about Wilt & the tenor. Feb. 17, 2016
After Wilt got the tenor from me he started studying with my friend Lou Molaro and jazz tenor player and teacher. Wilt practiced everyday and took a lesson every week with Lou. In a few months he could make it through some tunes and sounded OK and was also studying theory with Lou. Now one thing about Wilt was you could call him anytime during the week but not on the weekends, not if he wanted to call you that was a different story. One Saturday night I am in bed sound asleep around 3am and the phone rang.. it was Wilt and he asked me if I thought Jazz was dead.. I told him no but I thought it was terminal… he laughed hung up and I went back to sleep.. The next day when I went over to his place he played me Funny Valentine.. wasn’t bad.
Sometimes it’s fun. Feb. 13, 2016
Not all of being a repairman is work there are a lot of great funny moments. I had one of my friends doing a live TV show call me up and say his baritone did not play the lower notes. He asked if I could come to the studio because they were going on in an hour. I gave him a price for the location repair put some tools in my car and headed to one of the Disney stages in Burbank. I get there and everything is cool they let me in and give me a parking spot right near the stage. I go inside and he brings the baritone over to me and tried to pay the bottom notes and of course nothing is coming out. So I take the baritone and tell him I can fix it…. He says OK… so I reach down into the bell and pull out his extra shoulder strap. Him and the sax section started laughing and he could now play all the low notes. I packed up my bag and left and he played the show.
P.S. They sent me the check.. easiest money I ever made.
How I met Eddie Harris Feb. 12, 2016
I was setting in my shop on Chauenga one afternoon minding my won business as much as I could, in walks a man with a saxophone case. He comes over to my bench and says “I am having trouble playing my high notes and I need your help” well I did recognize Eddie and thought to myself I am not going to get into trying to tell Eddie Harris how to play high notes. He turned his back to me and got out his saxophone and started to play… it was just bad.. I began to panic in my mind.. then he turned around and his neck went at a right angle.. he had closed in in his car door and it was bent in half, flat with a hole in it.. he smiled and said “ I just don’t know what is wrong” and started laughing… Eddie had great sense of humor and was pulling my leg without even knowing me.. he played a Mark VII and I was lucky to have a Mark VII neck to give him. That is how I first met Eddie. More Eddie stories to follow.
How I met Wilt Chamberlain Feb. 11, 2016
Well we never know when something good is going to happen to us.. I was setting in my shop on Havenhurst and the phone rang. Of course I answered it and the person on the other end said “This is Wilt Chamberlain and I want to buy a saxophone” I said OK and gave him my address. Now I did not think it would be the Wilt Chamberlain the whole world knew by this time there could be a lot of Wilts out there in the world. Sure enough when he came in it was the big Wilt in the flesh…. He had a friend that played piano and sang and she asked Gerald Albright where he should go to get a sax and Gerald recommended me.. I was a YAMAHA dealer at the time and I showed Wilt the YAMAHA 875 tenor. He liked it and I showed him how to hold it and make a noise. His hands were so large I almost told him I could raise the palm keys to fit his hand better but by the time they would be out far enough they would not fit in any case. So I told him top move his hands in a bit. He played and made some noise and then left. I had already produced a low budget movie called “Run for the Border” and had the poster on the wall. Wilt saw it and called me later and said “He wanted to make some movies and would l like to have dinner and talk about it” like I would say no.. well we went to dinner that night and started our long friendship. There will be more Wilt stories to follow!
How I met Jack Nimitz. Feb. 10, 2016
I had just moved my shop from Los Angeles to North Hollywood on Cahuenga Blvd. I lived next door to Bob Sheppard before he became a Modern Jazz Giant.
Well I was setting in my new shop basically with my thumb you know where when the phone rang I picked it up and the guy on the other end said “Who is this” well I say red… I just hate when someone ask who is this without telling their name. So I said “Who the blank do you want to talk to in a not so nice voice and the guy said “this is Jack Nimitz and I want to talk to Rheuben Allen”. Well I just about filled my drawers as this was the first giant of the saxophone that had called. So I said let me see if he is here.. came back and tried to change my voice, be polite and said “This is Rheuben” Jack said “Bob Sheppard told him to come and see me and could he come over”… of course I said yes… Jack became one of my best friends after that… he was the first one to take me to Sushi and make me eat it… I watched his house and his dog Romeo when he went out of town to play… I was living in China when he passed and I was extremely lucky when I can back and his wife gave me Jack’s Buffet Low A Baritone & the mouthpiece he used (an original Meyer metal)… they are among my most prized possessions.