My friend Phil, a fellow jazz fan I've met over the web, was buying a set of bongos at the Guitar Center in Chicago for a friend's birthday. The man in front of him in line at the register was buying five sets of drum sticks. The young man behind the counter asked him for his name to enter it into the computer. "Willie Smith," replied the customer, "My name's in your files." The young man behind the counter asked, "How long have you been playing drums?" Willie replied, "Forty years," to which the cashier asked, "Wow. Forty years! Who have you played with?" Willie replied, "Oh, just about everybody. Muddy Waters, a lot of blues men around Chicago." The cashier didn't seem to catch on, and replied, "Hmmm." So Willie asked him if he ever heard of Muddy Waters. The cashier replied that he didn't and that he was into rock. That's the Guitar Center for you. Willie just kind of chuckled to himself, pulled out his Visa card, and said something like, "Well . . . we've all got our own thing . . . " So Phil took to opportunity to meet Willie and chat for a few minutes. Willie's still playing gigs, but he's trying to stay within 300 miles of Chicago so that he doesn't have to drive too far and stay too many nights on the road. Really nice guy, Willie Smith. Man, if that was me behind the counter, I would have given him the drumsticks and asked for a signed photograph to put on the wall in the drum room at the store. Oh well, I was that young once. Willie has just released his latest album, and you can check out his page on Blind Pig Record's website: http://www.blindpigrecords.com/artists/Smith,+Willie.html
Here I'll include some of the jucier stuff I hear about the band members. No guarantee of the accuracy of what you read in this column!