The Two Tenors

What a difference a couple decades makes. Nowadays if I hear a song on the radio, I simply open up my Shazam app on my iPhone point it in the direction of the noise and in a few seconds … well, SHAZAM I have the artist, the track title, and various links to listen and/or buy an MP3 of it.

Fast-backward with me tto one afternoon  in 1986. I was coming home from work driving north on Fulton Avenue listening to KKGO, then L.A.’s jazz station and the song being played was this rousing tune from some unknown big band that hooked me right from the toe-tapping start and featured an amazing dialogue of two tenor saxophones talking back and forth throughout. I was so entranced by the tight and hard-swinging number that when it was still going strong after I go to my apartment building I sat in my parked car listening to its end — and I’m so glad I did because it finished with a sax solo so effing JAZZ it gave me chills and I wanted it to keep going forever. But it didn’t, and when the DJ didn’t give me any info on it and instead went right into the next song, I sat in my car listening to that in its entirety with my fingers crossed that he would come back and give me some sort of clue.

My prayers were partially answered in that he did come back on air and quickly list the last several artists and what I heard for the second to last one sounded like “The Catearse Orchestra.”

You kids in the audience need to understand that in those dark days there was no running to a computer and extracting data from a search engine. Sure I could’ve dialed up a BBS at the blazing speeds my 400-baud modem was capable of and posted a question on one of the forums then waited around for an anwer, but the odds of anyone knowing were slimity slim.

So what I did in those analog days was start my car, back out of my parking space and roll a few miles to the nearest record store — in this case it was  The Wherehouse on Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Inside I went and asked the nearest clerk if he knew anything about the “The Catearse Orchestra.” Shaking his head he pointed me to a massive phonebook-sized reference, which apparently listed all albums currently in print and available on earth.

I dove in and dug through it, but found nothing. Bummed but not beaten I came back home and gave the station a call.  When someone finally picked up I told them my plight about hearing a great song but not being able to find any record of the band at the record store.

“What’s the name?”

“Something like ‘The Catearse Orchestra?'”

And the person on the other end laughed. “No wonder you couldn’t find them. It’s ‘Capp/Pierce!’ as in Frank Capp and Nat Pierce. And the song you’re looking for is called “Little Pony” off their “Juggernaut Strikes Again!” album.”

“How do you know?” I asked, writing all that down.

“Because I’m the one who played it!”

Now it was my turn to laugh and thank the DJ. Then I raced down to my car armed with those facts, drove back to The Wherehouse,  went straight to the jazz section and when I didn’t find it in stock I dove back into the book, found Capp/Pierce, found the album and  went through the motions of special ordering the platter.

A week or so later it arrived. I brought it home, through it on my Marantz turntable, reveled in  it, and my musical landscape was never the same.

And now through the magic of my wonderful USB turntable, I can share the song with you — and in case you’re interested the two tenors are Bob Cooper and Pete Christlieb:

Now, while searching for that Capp/Pierce album in my LP collection I’m amazed to have found another that is a huge aural touchstone of my childhood. So if you’ll excuse me I’m off to digitize the heavily-scratched tracks from Whitehall Records’ “The Sound Of The Confederacy,” by Col. Beauregard Johnson and the Volunteers, an album I absolutely cherish and have not listened to in perhaps 35 years and thought long lost.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."