The Eureka was recorded and filmed for the title sequence of the MGM film:
“The Cincinnati Kid”
The band recorded at a concert in Bridgeport, Connecticut February 25 (Jazzology JCE 35)
Percy Humphrey (tp), Earl Humphrey (tb), Oscar “Chicken” Henry (tb), William Brown (bs), Willie Humphrey (cl), Emanuel Paul (ts), Chester Jones (sndm), Henry “Booker T” Glass (bsdm), Peter Bocage (tp), Milton Batiste (tp), William “Grant” Brown (sous) Grand Marshal Fats Houston.
The recordings were made by Big Bill Bissonnette. He made a deal with Percy Humphrey he could record 4 numbers or 20 minutes of the concert. Four tunes were recorded, St. Louis blues, Nearer My God to thee, Jambalaya and Oh, didn’t he ramble.
1966: spring (according to Lee Friedlander in his book “the Jazz people of New Orleans”
Danny Barker (Grand-Marshall), Willie Humphrey (cl), Peter Bocage (tp), Earl Humphrey (tb), Papa Glass, Milton Batiste (tp)
RECORDING THE EUREKA BRASS BAND i5
By Bill Bissonnette
They came by bus from Boston. All eleven of them. Percy Humphrey, trumpet, his brother Willie, clarinet; his other brother, Earl, trombone; Milton Battiste, trumpet; Peter Bocage, trumpet; Oscar “Chicken” Henry, trombone, Emanuel Paul, tenor sax; William Brown, sousaphone; Chester Jones, snare drum; Henry “Booker T” Glass, bass drum and Grand Marshal Fats Houston. The Eureka Brass Band of New Orleans had arrived in Connecticut… in the middle of one of the worst blizzards of the decade.
Percy had called me to let me know that the Eureka would be doing a concert in Boston. They would be traveling by bus from Boston to New York on February 25,1966. If I wanted, they could stop off in Bridgeport for one concert on that day. It would be the most expensive single concert we ever put on but I wanted them to come. And I wanted to record them.
Percy and I discussed terms. Percy always drove a hard bargain and we finally agreed on a price which would allow me to record four songs or twenty minutes whichever was longer. I brought it to the governing board of the jazz club and they approved it in minutes even though it was a budget buster. We would need a minimum of four hundred people in the audience at a higher than normal ticket just to break even. This even after the money I was willing to personally put up for my recording. It was risky business. It would have been risky even in a month when the weath er was reliable. February is winter in extemis in Connecticut. We decided to gamble on the weather. We lost.
By the time we picked up the band at the bus terminal in Bridgeport early in the day, there was already several inches of fresh snow on the ground and it was coming down at a rate of over an inch an hour. Several of us took our cars down to meet them. We made arrangements with various club members to put them up overnight and feed them.
The concert was scheduled for 8PM. About 6PM the snow stopped with over a foot of it on the ground. There was no backing out now. The concert would have to go on. The band would have to be paid in any event so we could have to try to make it to the Glorieta Manor site and hope that at least a few fans would show up. Some of the main roads were being plowed as we prepared to leave. The phone rang. It was the manager of the Manor asking if we intended to cancel He didn’t want to go to the expense of having his parking lot plowed. I told him we were on the way and to make sure the plow got there before we did.
When we arrived, a plow was at work clearing the driveways to the hail. By 8:30, the Easy Riders were ready to go with our opening set. And to our surprise and delight, the hail was already more than half full with a line of cars outside waiting for the plow to clear additional parking areas. We played until 9:30 when the hail was filled to capacity: over 600 fans had braved the storm. What a magnificent tribute to this band that so many people would go out in such bad weather to see and hear them. They would not be disappointed.
I approached the mike and made the announcement all were waiting for. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I raised my finger and pointed over their heads to the back of the hall, “the EUREKA BASS BAND OF NEW ORLEANS!”
The bass drum boomed. The trumpet sounded its call to arms and the Eureka marched into the hail behind the gyrating hulk of Fats Houston, his hat held high in his outstretched arm,
his chest ablaze with the Eureka ban- net The crowd went wild. People were standing on chairs to get a better look as the Eureka snaked through the aisles. The strains of “Just a Little While to Stay Here” filled the hall.
Percy greeted the audience. I went down to where Mike Fast was getting ready and sat beside hint to make the critical decision of when to turn on the machine for those four precious songs. Jack Guckin was there also trying to help me decide. Mike glanced at me and said, “you know I could flick that switch right now and get a whole set. “No Mike. A deal’s a deal. Beyond the very fact of recording the Eureka, another thought went through my mind. This was the opportunity to record the three Humphrey brothers together for the first time. There they were” Percy, Willie and Earl together on the same stage.
Percy and I agreed that I would signal him when the recording would begin and I would then take the next four numbers, no matter what they were or how they came out. I had discussed some numbers with him that I wanted. He would try to do them during my twenty minutes. I was dying to turn the recorder on but I was determined to hold off until I thought the band had hit its stride. It was killing me to wait but I did. We did not record the first set at all.
During the break we were talking to Chicken Henry. He took me aside and turned to me. “Bill,” he said looking very serious, “I’se gonna tell you somethin’ nobody else knows. I knows the secret of good trombonin’ and good health and I’m gonna tell you it. And you never forget it. Clean your horn and your bowels everyday and you’ll always play good and never be sick.” And now you know it too. Don’t forget it.
Percy was in good form that night. Before the job pianist Bill Sinclair noticed him taking swigs out of a bottle. Thinking it was booze, Bill cozied up to him and asked him what he was drinking.
“Olive oil,” Percy replied.
“Olive oil? You’re kidding.”
“No man, it’s olive oil. I always drink olive oil when I’m gonna be drinking alcohol because it cancels out the alcohol and you don’t feel it.
Percy asked me why! hadn’t taped the first set. “You better get that machine going if you gonna get that tape you want?’ I told him I would take the first four numbers of the next set. “Just don’t forget to turn it off after those four numbers,” he said.
The recorder went on. Mike felt confident all his levels were set and he assured me we would get a good recording. The band opened with the “Saint Louis Blues?’
And now I am going to tell you a little story which is the most bizarre story I will tell you in this book. You may not believe it but it is the absolute truth. As the Eureka played through “Saint Louis Blues,” it came time for Earl and Chicken to blow a chorus. Earl stepped up to the mike, raised his trombone to his mouth and, just as he got ready to blow his false teeth dropped out of his mouth onto the stage! He glanced out at the audience, reached down and picked them up, put them back in his mouth and began to blow his horn as if nothing had happened.
I had requested a dirge of Percy and he obliged with a beautiful rendition of “Nearer My God To Thee?’ I also taped “Jambalaya” and “Oh! Didn’t He Ramble.” This completed my four numbers. We switched the recorder off. The concert was over. It was a great success in every way. It was my intention to put out the session as a concert recording with the Eureka on one side and the Easy Riders on the other. It didn’t work out that way. A few months later my wife and I were divorced. I needed money for my legal fees. I had only one way to raise it quickly. I sold the Eureka Brass Band session to George Buck. It was released two decades later coupled on an album with the great Barry Martyn recording of the Olympia Brass Band.
The morning after the concert broke clear and cold. We delivered the Eureka to Kennedy Airport. Fats Houston pranced through the main terminal as if he was leading a parade. ..to the annoyance of the band and the delight of passers-by An hour later the Eureka was on the way home to New Orleans.