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When the Salt City Five cofounder and trombonist, WIll Alger, died in
1992 at 66, his close friend, Charlie Mussen, commented in JazFax,
“The number one musical influence on Will’s life was Jack Teagarden. Jack could do no wrong as far as Will was concerned. He had no patience for someone who criticized his idol.”
At a tribute for Will, cosponsored by JASS in 1993, another cofounder, Bob Cousins, told how, when the band was looking for work in Syracuse in Feb. 1955, “Our piano player , Dave Remington from Chicago, took it upon himself to call the owner of the prestigious Blue Note jazz club in Chicago, and got the band booked for Feb. 28. We drove all night from Syracuse in two cars. When we got there, I called owner Frank Holtzfiend and said we were in town, ready for our opening on the 28th. Frank replied, ‘No, I booked you for March 28th’, I said, ‘Frank, I have the contract right here. It says February 28. He said for us to meet him in his office the next day.
“Next day, Frank, the finest gentleman to have ever run a jazz club, said, ‘You’re right. I screwed up. Since you’re here, I’m gonna put you with the band I’ve already booked. Matter of fact, I’ll call all the disc jockeys and make it a ‘battle of the bands.’
“Great’, we said. ‘Who is the other band ?’
‘Jack Teagarden’, ‘ Frank replied. Will started to sweat bullets and took me aside and said, “Wait a minute, I can’t do it !’
“Why not?’
“I can’t play on the same bandstand with THAT man !”
“I reminded Will that we had no choice. We were stuck in Chicago with hardly any money.”
“All’s well that ends well. We got through the night and had a wonderful two weeks hanging out with ‘T’, Ray Bauduc and the rest of their band. Jack was as kind and generous as he was talented, accommodating Will’s idolatry with modesty and compassion.”
Charlie Mussen ended his comments with this observation about Will: “Will had a thing going for him in these days of heavy metal , twenty feet high sound columns and a money-will-buy anything mentality. He
had musical integrity. He was professional in EVERY WAY.
“Someone once asked him what he thought was the most important things a musician could do to be successful. He replied, “Know your instrument, don’t drink on the stand, wear clean, neat clothes and shined shoes and get to the job an hour ahead of time.!”