Julius Wechter Visits A&M Corner (1998)

Posted By: Julius Wechter
Date: Thursday, 3 September 1998, at 3:59 a.m.

Dear Friends,

I was overwhelmed by the reaction to my note, and you’re right, there was an onslaught of correspondence. I am totally amazed by the loyalty and knowledge you all have about what was the highlight of my life. Before I begin, I have to tell you that I know nothing at all about computers, websites, dot coms (whatever they are) and so I’m counting on my trusted wife, Cissy, who most of you seem to know already, to transfer to whatever it is that will enable you to read this. We’ve been married 43 years, for your interest. There are so many questions and so many letters, that I couldn’t possibly write each of you, so I will write a general letter and try to answer the most important questions and mention some of you who are frighteningly specific. So here goes…

First of all, thanks for being there.

Mike Blakesley…yes I did play marimba on the TJB albums and wrote original songs for them, and did arranging for Herb. You’re giving away your age by talking about 8 track.

All of you seem to be interested in c.d’s. I am too. There is a movement afoot to print them and Herb’s too. Now that Polygram had purchased A & M and someone bought them, I agree that they certainly should be released. Let’s hope.

Dennis Daniels…everyone seems to be asking about a man turned around on the album covers, I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.

Hey, Harry Neyhart…I’m honored to hear from you. Thanks for all the kind words. Hope to hear from you again.

Bob Papp…yes the sound of the marimba and flute was carefully planned by myself and Herb. Sometimes, like on “Coming in the Back Door” we used the bass marimba, so tall that we had to stand on ladders to play it. Sometimes on ballads we used an alto flute for more depth and sensuality. New Deal is out of print now. It wasn’t the regular BMB–it was more jazz and consisted of 2 marimbas, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. It was a complete departure from the old bmb and was never distributed or sold well. As for me, I went back to school and earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and am at present, an mfcci intern, doing psychotherapy with private clients–a far cry from “Do you know the way to San Jose?”

Marteen Alfeen, in the cold North…It’s wild for me to think of musicians like yourself playing my songs way up in Norway. Congratulations on all your composing accomplishments. I’d like to hear them. And yes, I did play marimba and percussion on all the TJB records. You guessed it–I was too busy travelling with the BMB to travel with the TJB.

Cissy is going to add a note which will include her favorite song, Steve Majetta, I (I hope it’s one I wrote.)

Unfortunately there isn’t any video available that I know of–you might try writing the stations–we did over 8 Tonight shows on NBC. Or maybe the Museum of Radio and Television in Beverly Hills.

Jazzbill (love the name) …you’re right. Many of the same musicians were on both the same BMB and TJB. We used all the best studio musicians in town at the time, and changed personnel when we went out on the road. Herb did not play trumpet on the BMB albums except for his beautiful rendition of “Las Mananitas” which he loved so much he took for his own album as well.

Richard Derrick…My mother was raised in Torrance. Murray Roman was a friend of ours, and opened our shows many times. His album, of course, is a classic. I have it, but thanks anyway for the offer to dub it. It’s a very funny story.

Steve Sidoruk…Good to be in touch again. Hope to see you when you’re out here. Thanks for all you are doing for this project.

Bill Gowdy…you flatter me with all your kind words. I’ll try to answer your questions. I have no idea who the guy with his back to the camera is. You people keep asking and it is really puzzling to me. Sorry I can’t help. Bernie F. is a big insurance tycoon today, Dave Wells still playing trombone for a living, Curry Tjader is in Phoenix, Frank DeVito still plays drums and lives at the beach. He also has a very successful drum parts factory. My son David just appeared at the annual showing of “Gravity” in Ohio. It has become a cult film, like “Little Shop of Horrors.” There is a website so I believe you can find it, or you can reach him at WallyBile@aol.com.

Wendell Johnson…Answers to your questions. #1 Bernie Fleischer was a very talented flightest. #2 Bill Dana actually wrote the jokes for our first show. #3 No little man with his back turned away from the camera. (see above.)

James Brent…You weren’t strange for collecting BMB and TJB in school–you were our kind of guy. Thanks for the support. There seems to be a lot of interest in releasing c.d.’s of bmb and tjb, long overdue. You mention Steve Shaw’s article in “Cool and Strange Music” recently. I’ve known Steve for a long time, too, and his knowledge and interest just might be one of the kinds of things that will convince the record people that there is a whole generation out there who might go for our music. Let’s hope.

Mike White…I see lots of the guys from the old band, but have absolutely lost touch with many of them. Lou Pagani and Tani Kalish have disappeared. By now you know that, yes, I did play marimba on all the TJB albums. LP Jim thanks for all the kind words. I know you’ve got some great theatres, but it’s just not in the cards for the BMB to get back together. I agree with you that it sure would be fun. Say hi to Steve Shaw for me.

Well, that was a feat. Lots of fun though. To know you’re out there is very exciting, and to think it’s been 34 years……..more soon.

Julius Wechter

P.S. Just a few words, from me, Cissy, to thank you for your letters and answer a question or two. We have 2 sons, David and Jerry. We lived on the road, first with the Martin Denny Group while they were small, and when David reached school age we settled down in L.A. and I only travelled when they were out of school.

About my favorite song (and of course it will be one of my husband’s) it’s a little complicated. “Spanish Flea” made us kind of famous–I wrote the lyrics and of the over 60 recordings, from mantovani to Billy May, about 8 were with lyrics, including Theresa Brewer, Frankie Randall and the Modernaires. “Las Flores” made me cry, especially Tommy Tedesco’s guitar solo. Our dear friend, Tommy, died just this year. What a loss to the music world and to everyone who knew him. “Up Cherry Street” made me smile. Herb’s recording of “Warm” which became an album title, was actually first recorded by Julius. I’ve written lyrics to it, as yet, unpublished, but it is one of my favorite of our songs. More later.

Cissy Wechter

(And in a later post in October:)

Hi, it’s Julius again, answering a few of your questions.

Yes, Curry and Cal Tjader were brothers. I was a big fan of Cal’s and in fact he recorded my song “Fresh Air.”

It was me, not Lou Pagani, who played marimba on all the TJB albums. Lou played only piano.

Pete Jolly did play piano on most of the records, after Leon Russell did the first few. Pete played on lots of A & M records during the 60’s. He’s still working here in L.A..

Dear Martin, I started playing piano when I was 6, then on the drums and mallets, in Los Angeles. My first big break was with Martin Denny in 1957, and in 1962 I recorded “The Lonely Bull” with Herb and went on from there. (Note from Cissy– he also played as a studio musician on so many of the hits of the 60’s–from The Righteous Brothers to Sonny & Cher and The Beach Boys.)

Nice being in touch with you all. More later.

P.S. To Jeff Kauffman–my best friend, Dave Frischberg, also plays jazz piano up in Portland. I wonder if you know each other.