Photo of Hal Galper in 1982

Hal Galper in 1982

A number of readers commented by email regarding my Dick Johnson “Ragged Edge” article, and I’m happy to see that level of enduring interest in Dick and his music. One of those emailers, pianist Hal Galper, worked with Dick in the early 1960s in his Boston days. I believe they served together in Herb Pomeroy’s big band then. Wrote Hal, “I worked many a gig with Dick—always a sweetheart.” He included one of his favorite memories of Dick Johnson on the job, entailing the venerable standard “Moonlight in Vermont”:

One gig was in a Boston club we all thought was run by the mob, don’t remember which one. We’re playing a tune and this expensively dressed gal comes up to the bandstand. “Guido wants to hear Moonlight In Vermont,” she says in a Chelsea accent, and walks away. Dick ignores her completely, continues to solo uninterrupted. About ten minutes later she returns. “Guido wants to hear Moonlight In Vermont,” she says, adding a little more emphasis to the request, and walks away again. Dick ignores her and keeps on playing. About ten minutes later, we’re playing another tune and this big, ugly, pock-marked, cauliflower-eared guy in a $500 silk suit lumbers up to the bandstand. In a rough, mean-toned, gravely voice he says, “Guido wants to hear Moonlight In Vermont,” and stands there staring at us. Dick takes an instantaneous segue: Moonlight in Vermont!

By the way, that guy was not Guido. We never did see him.

When I hear a story like that, I try to guess the club in question. Maybe it was a short-lived place in the Back Bay where Dick worked in bassist Tony Eira’s group. Dick didn’t remember its name, but he certainly remembered he didn’t like it. It was where a couple of those guys in sharp suits roughed up trumpeter Lennie Johnson because he was spending too much break time talking to white women.

Couldn’t find a version of Moonlight featuring either Dick or Hal, but I found this mellow version by the Nat Cole Trio. You can’t go wrong with King Cole! Guido, this one’s for you, wherever you are.