Brad Goode: Stories From Chicago

Part 4) Lin Halliday, Rosemary Clooney, Ron Blake

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Lin Halliday

BG: Lin Halliday. Okay. He was a guy who … He was a very sweet-natured person, a very gentle person. Also kind of a timid person. Got messed up in drugs during the 1950s, 1960s. Had tremendous talent and just screwed up every opportunity. He’s kind of famous or infamous in the annals of jazz history for being THAT guy, but to the people who knew him in Chicago he was a very dear friend. He’s even like a musical idol to a lot of artists.

He had … There was this period in his life where he had gotten himself together enough that he became a first call saxophone player in the studios of Nashville, and became the musical director for a really big country artist named Lynn Anderson. You don’t remember her, but she had a big pop hit when I was a kid. It was called “I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.”

DM: So, he became a musical director …

BG: He was the musical director. He was on the TV show. He was a conductor. He was very successful in Nashville. Things fell apart. Something happened; he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself and he didn’t kill himself. Instead, he ended up with a bullet lodged in his brain messing him up, messing with his personality and his functioning for the rest of his life. (he lived quite a long time after that…)

DM: Same, sweet guy?

BG: Yeah, yeah, but he was in and out of rehab facilities. He was in and out of hospitals. He was such a great guy. He was such a sweet man. He had so many people that wanted to take care of him. This is how he got through and I guess I was that guy (taking care of him)for a while.

I met him through Ira Sullivan. He really looked up to Ira. Ira introduced the two of us and we started playing together in jam sessions. When I got to the point where I was being asked to have my own band in some clubs, I put a band together with the best experienced musicians in Chicago that played the style of music I was trying to play. I wanted Lin to be in that band, and he WAS the best tenor player for that band, but his ability to function…

DM: As a person.

BG: …as a person was often really in the way of the gig. Everybody just made allowances for it until after a few years I just couldn’t (make allowances) anymore. It was too hard. Now remember, that I had this very immature and, I almost want to say …  delusional idea that I was somehow on my way to becoming an internationally successful bandleader. I don’t know if delusional is the right word, but I kind of thought for there, for a minute, “I can’t get there in this way.” When I think about it now, I’m disappointed in myself for making that decision to let Lin go out of the band. It was a full-time job to deal with … dealing with Lin.

It wasn’t only getting him to the gig and getting him from the gig or getting him back onto the stage. It was while he was on stage:

He would go through all of these things. He was really tall and very thin with really long arms. He was always messing with his reeds. He was completely neurotic about his reeds. Instead of taking the neck off his saxophone, or taking his mouthpiece off to look at the reed like you might do, he would go to where the light was above the stage and hold his horn up (above his head, against the light fixture) and look at it. People would be looking at him like…(?)

DM: While everybody is playing?

BG: Yeah, while I’m playing my solo. He would knock his music stand over nightly. This was a nightly event. He had copied all his parts out ten times each, because he was learning them, he would copy all this stuff. I could show you his handwriting.

BG: He would hit his folder. He would fold it like this… and then every night he would knock it over and all the pages would be flying all over the front (section of the audience) every night and…

DM: Every night?

BG: Yes and everybody was like, (leaping to their feet) “Oh, I’ll help you, I’ll help you”, and people would be running around, and he’d get down,(on the floor) saying “Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” while Jodie Christian is trying to play solo.

DM: (Laughs) Oh that’s great.

BG: The bass player wanted to hit him and the drummer wanted to…

DM: And you’re in the middle of all that?

BG: It was my band and I’m thinking; well, maybe we’re going to get on the Montreux Festival and maybe I’m just (being too critical of Lin)… but I can’t play, because somebody’s freaking out the entire time.

DM: Right.

BG: Part of this was the bullet, part of this was just who he was. Part of it was the way … he was on the methadone program, but he wasn’t using that properly. You’re supposed to go on methadone to wean yourself off of heroine. You’re not supposed to stay on methadone for the rest of your life, because it’s actually worse for you (than heroine). It decalcifies your bones. If you see a picture of Chet Baker, in the end, that’s what you’re seeing. It’s his face... (looks like) his skull is caving in. Lin had that same look. Instead of taking his daily dose of methadone once in the morning and once at night to maintain his withdrawal, he would go to the methadone clinic every week, save it all until he got a gig, and then take as much of it as he could to try to get high. So he would be really high when he would play his gig and he’d be hyper and he’d be freaking out.

BG: For a while I lived with him.

DM: Oh my God!

BG: I was living with him and an older bass player named Carroll Crouch in a little coach house – a little house behind the house, and that was too much. I wasn’t … I don’t know what it was there, but like I said, I do think … I did kind of sign on to look out for him, which I did for a while, and then I kind of pulled away. I just got overwhelmed by how much it was (to take on). When I think about it now, I feel bad because I feel like what I did was selfish.

DM: But it was a very challenging situation.

BG: Hanging with him? Yes.

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Ron Blake, at the Green Mill

BG: Ron Blake is a guy who was a … he’s from the Virgin Islands, and he was a classical saxophone major at Northwestern University. He’s a classical saxophonist.  Is it Hemke?

Is that the teacher, the famous teacher?  Also Chico Freeman went there – another student of Hemke.

I was running the late night jam session at the Green Mill, Friday nights to early Saturday mornings – midnight to four. I had some good players in band; excellent piano player named Kenny Prince. Ron … this was his first experience playing jazz; coming to the Green Mill and sitting in with me.

He didn’t know any tunes. He learned a few tunes, “Scrapple From The Apple” or whatever, so he learned a few tunes. I’m not that much older than him. I’m maybe three or four years older than Ron, but I’d been playing jazz a long time and I was out doing it. He started that way and pretty soon he had learned the same way I learned, by going to jam sessions; going to play with people, going to hear the people who could play. It just happens that the first place he went was to my jam session.

He was there every night, every Friday night for years until he moved to New York. I remember one time, (we used to do live broadcasts from there sometimes; this guy named Larry Smith had a truck. I guess now you could do it with a laptop. Remote broadcast truck but it was a truck - a broadcasting truck was parked outside on Lawrence Avenue. We’d set up all these microphones and Larry would do his after hours jazz broadcast from the Green Mill - during my session.) I remember one time … playing a solo ,having my eyes closed, finishing my solo and opening my eyes. During the time I’d been playing the solo, Art Farmer was … had seated himself in the seat right below me, like, two feet from me. Right under my bell, he was looking up at me and staring at me. That freaked me out. Apparently what happened was; he was playing at the Jazz Showcase, he hadfinished his gig. He turned on the radio, heard Ron and I playing on the radio. He got in a cab, he came over there. Then, it wasn’t too much longer after that, that Ron left Chicago as a member of Art Farmer’s band.

[Continue on to part 5) Mentors}