Band Uniforms

During the 1940s, Count Basie broke up his big band and instead worked as the leader of a septet, members of which he dressed in band uniforms that were considerably worn. The band members objected to the uniforms, but Count Basie said, “Never mind about the uniforms. Just get out there and play good.” Band member Clark Terry took drastic action. He slashed his uniform and the uniforms of two other band members into ribbons, and then he hung them on Count Basie’s hotel door, set them on fire, knocked on the door, and ran. The band members wore their own sharp clothing as they played the next performance, and Count Basie said, “You mothers weren’t kidding, were you?” Then he bought them new uniforms. Miles Davis was someone who did not believe in uniforms. While Mr. Davis and his band were playing at Birdland, Oscar Goodstein requested that the sextet wear uniforms. At the next performance, Mr. Davis pulled a rack of uniforms on stage and said to the audience, “Oscar Goodstein wanted to see uniforms onstage, so here they are. If that’s what you came for, to look at uniforms instead of music, that’s what you got. Now we’re going to leave so you can enjoy these uniforms.” Mr. Goodstein decided that Mr. Davis and his band did not need to wear uniforms.

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