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Big Band Story - 500 Bamboo Reeds
(From a series called "Big Band Stories")
By Angelo Tallarico
Copyright 2000 Angelo Tallarico
A story about the writer's early adventure in music, involving precious bamboo reeds during World War II.

Back in 1943, when I was fourteen years old, I worked, after school, in a musical instrument repair shop, on the corner of Broadway and 48th Street. At around that time (World War II) my boss's partner, Julie Zefferblatt, joined the Glen Miller Army Band, as Glen Miller's Secretary. When the band got to Paris, France, Julie made contact with the Van Dorn Family, who manufactured reeds for clarinets and saxophones. When he visited the family, Julie brought them several dozens of fresh eggs, a very rare treat in wartime Europe. He had gotten them from the army mess hall. In return, he was given 500 bamboo reeds. During the war, bamboo reeds were not available here; plastic reeds were being being submitted. Julie sent the 500 reeds to my boss, Irving Kirshner, and the word soon got around among the top musicians. Benny Goodman and Sammy Kaye, amongst others, came to the shop, to buy their reeds from Irving. I met them all! Artie Shaw, at that time, had just gotten out of the Navy, and his first booking was at the New York Strand Theatre, on Broadway and 47th Street. He heard about the reeds, and ordered 50 clarinet reeds. I was assigned to deliver them to his dressing room. I'll never forget how excited I was! Just imagine a 14-year-old kid delivering something of importance to his idol!