Pioneer Banque, Seattle 1976

I had occassion to work for Mingus (watching the door, not playing in his band) in Seattle a while before he died, shortly after he had written Cumbia & Jazz Fusion. I was able to talk with him a little and asked him how he arrived at the changes to Goodbye Porkpie Hat, which is an F blues, but does not have standard blues changes. He answered that that was what he heard, but added that he was now playing it in E, a half step lower.

There are millions of Mingus stories, but I got to hear him say "I've got a gun!" and cause a barmaid to burst into tears. The place was the Pioneer Banque, a club run by the Greek Mob. The owner had a reputation for not paying his bands, e.g., Bill Evans did not get paid. Mingus had made a deal to get paid $250 before the gig began and $250 at the end of the night. I was supposed to watch out for his interests and look mean. One night the bartender did not want to pay him out of the cash register, saying that he had to count the money, etc. Mingus said he was going to sit there and not leave the club until he got paid.

An argument ensued and Mingus insisted on being paid. "I'm a great artist and I deserve to be paid," I heard him say. The barmaid tried to reason with him, but he started calling her a white bitch and putting her down until she started crying. Then he told everybody that he had a gun and would use it. I really doubt that he had one, but it was effective rhetoric. He finally got paid.

I also got to see an example of his mean treatment of his sidemen, but the guys he had with him just chalked it up to Mingus being Mingus. I had loaned him some music stands. He had two for himself, and Jack Walrath had one. When they got out Cumbia & Jazz Fusion, Mingus spread his music out across two stands. Walrath couldn't find his music and complained that he couldn't play it without the music. Mingus snarled at him, "If you don't have it memorized by now, you ought to hang yourself."

Otherwise Charles was personable. As far as his run in with the bartender, he had every right to use whatever means of persuasion at hand. Otherwise, they would have treated him as they had other performers. The band had travel to the gig covered, but had pay their own food and lodging. That meant that they had to split $500 per night 5 ways, and Mingus probably got more than the other guys; so they were making enough to live on and that's about it.

The members of the band were Dannie Richmond, George Adams, Danny Mixon, Walrath, and Mingus.

Robert Gwynne (