JOHN COLTRANE AND BENNY GOLSON
AS TWO YOUNG KIDS, NARRATED BY BENNY GOLSON
We both were two young kids, growing up in Philadelphia - aspiring to be musicians. On one occasion, we were both in the same band, as budding saxophonists - and thinking we were doing quite well. But things did not work out too well for us. We were both members of a local band called "Jimmy Johnson and His Ambassadors". Our gigs usually took place on weekends, Friday and/or Saturday. I was still a student in High School. Even though we were paid eight dollars for each engagement, we felt we were moving in the right direction.
One Friday afternoon, Jimmy Johnson sent his son to our home to tell us that our gig for that weekend had been canceled. Since John Coltrane and I were together almost everyday, he came over to my house as usual. We were so downhearted because the job had been canceled. My mother saw us with long, sad faces, listening to our 78 RPM records in the living room. She asked us what was wrong. When we told her what had happened, she said "That's a little strange .. nobody usually cancels an engagement that late. Tickets have been sold and all arrangements made for the dance. I bet they're playing without you!" John and I just couldn't believe that. We protested. John said "Oh, no Miss Golson, they wouldn't do that!" With a look on her face, as if she knew more than us, she said "H-u-h! If it were me, I'd go there and see for myself". John and I looked at each other. We were out of the door in a flash.
This place was just a few blocks away. When we got to within half a block of the place, sure enough, we heard a big band playing. John said "They're playing our music". I quickly told him that every local band in Philly played the same stock music. However, we had to be sure. We went to the door where tickets were being sold. Next time the door opened, we peeked inside .. and lo and behold, there was Jimmy Johnson and His Ambassadors - PLAYING WITHOUT US.
We went back home crushed and broken hearted. As we entered the house, John raised his head a bit and said to my mother "You were right Miss Golson". We both stood in the middle of the living room. I think we both wanted to cry. Seeing this and feeling sorry for us, my mother put an arm around each of us and said, "Don't worry, baby, one day both of you will be so good, that they won't be able to afford you." Of course, we didn't believe her .. we'd just been quietly put out of the band. Years later.... John Coltrane and I were playing at the Newport Jazz Festival... he with his quartet and Art Farmer and I with The Jazztet. Somehow, we both wound up in the same tent, warming up on our instruments ... he on his soprano and I on my tenor. Suddenly, he stopped playing and started laughing heartily. I looked up and said "What!" "Remember what your mother told us," he said, "that day we were told the gig had been canceled?". I told him yes, I remembered! While still laughing, he said "Well, we're here, and they're still there." We started laughing raucously together.