Harlem of the West

The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

Frank Fisher



BIO
Frank Fisher was born October 18, 1926 in Huntsville, Texas. He became a musician by accident at the age of 12 when his school offered free instruments for anyone who wanted them. When Fisher arrived at the room, all the instruments were taken, but then the boy sitting next to him had to leave, handing Fisher the trumpet. He quickly learned to play, joining both the marching band and jazz band. While at Prairie View A&M, an all Black college in Texas, Fisher did not have the money to continue his music course, so he enrolled in the free radio engineering program, which later got him his lifelong day job in Alameda, CA. Fisher moved with his wife to the Bay Area in the late 1940s, and quickly began playing in bands throughout the region. He currently resides in the East Bay and continues to play his trumpet with both friends and onstage.

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INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION

Harlem of the West SF Project
Interview: Eddie Alley, Dorothy Alley
Interviewer: Elizabeth Pepin Silva
Copyright 2017, Elizabeth Pepin Silva/ Harlem of the West SF Project

Please contact the Harlem of the West SF Project if you would like to use any part of the interview. Use is free, but the Harlem of the West SF Project must be credited. The entire interview may not be reproduced.

INTERVIEW BEGINS AT A RESTAURANT IN EMERYVILLE, CA

ELIZABETH PEPIN SILVA: How old are you and where were you born?

FRANK FISHER: My name is FRANK FISHER. Born in October 18, 1926 in Huntsville, Texas.

EPS: How did you become a musician?

FRANK FISHER: By accident. In my school, we had separated schools, there was a white high school, black high school, and a white college in my home town, Sam Houston State University was the college. And we never had a music teacher. And we got our first music teacher was a graduate of Alabama State. And we, our superintendent talked, our principal talked the district superintendent into getting us some instruments. So when they got really old instruments, they gave them to us. When they got new instruments, we got the old instruments. And it just so happened we had a music teacher and no instruments, 'til we got the instruments, and then they announced one day at school, say anybody wants to join the band be down in room 302 or whatever the room was at 3:15. So my class wasn’t out 'til 3:30. So when I got there, everybody in the room had a horn. And nobody could blow a damn thing. But they’re sitting up with the horns. When I got there, there was no horns. So there was a guy that was sitting in front of me, he still living, every time I go back home I always talk to him – 'cos I tell him he caused me to play trumpet. But he had a trumpet, so he had to leave to go home. He lived out on a farm. He had to catch the bus to go home at quarter to four. So when he left, I picked up the trumpet. That’s why I said by accident. And eventually he switched to baritone horn and I had the trumpet all the time. That’s how I got started.

EPS: Did you want to be a trumpet player?

FRANK FISHER: I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to play a horn. You know, at the time but it just worked out that way by being, letting me be a trumpet.

EPS: How old were you?

FRANK FISHER: I was about 12, this was like in the, 1938 when it happened, about I was about 10 or 12, 11 or 12, somewhere in there. But that’s how I picked, got the trumpet and they tried to make me take piano lessons. I wish I would have continued. Our piano teacher lived around the corner from he and I’d go play piano. I said, no I want to play that trumpet. I want to play the trumpet. I didn’t want to play the piano. So my mom said, well, if you want to play the trumpet, take to the trumpet, you know? So that’s what I did. So we played in my, our music teacher formed a little, after we learned how to play, we had a marching band. Then we had a little jazz band. We had three trumpets for alto saxophones. Nobody in my home town played tenor. And nobody played bass. So we were without a bass, we had three trumpets, four alto saxophone, a piano and a drum.

And luckily, my football coach was the saxophone player when he was in college. So he was in our band. We had, he played the fourth part, the low part. And no tenors, no baritones, just altos. He had a heck of a time playing that fourth part, you know, for the harmony part. And I ended up playing first trumpet in that particular group. Had no formal trumpet lessons, just from you know, going every day and practicing, doing that, so when I got to college, my first year in college, my piano player in high school, he was a year ahead of me, so he went to, when he was there when I got to college, it was his second year. And he was the leader of the jazz band at the college. So he put me on first trumpet, 'cos we were high school buddies, you know, so I played first trumpet in our college band.

EPS: What college did you go to?

FRANK FISHER: Prairie View A&M. That’s near, down near Houston, about 40 miles north of Houston. And they call it A&M because it was attached to Texas A&M, you know, this was the so-called separate but equal situation that they had. All black college. And what would have been our president, he was our principal. 'Cos our president was at Texas A&M. (laughs) Kind of silly but anyway, that’s the way it was.

And so when I got to college, I started playing lead trumpet in our college band. We had a full orchestra and we had a full marching band, too. And had people from all over the country. We had a girls’ band and a boys’ band. Our girls’ band was similar to the Sweethearts of Rhythm, I don’t know if you heard of them or not, but this was during it’s like 1943, ’42 and ’43. And the boys would get drafted every ten minutes, you know, so the girls band stayed stable, 'cos they stated no girls went to the service. And in the summer, the girls’ band would travel all over to New York, Chicago. Dallas, Ft. Worth, all those concerts. But the boys’ band, we were so split up by being in the service, and that’s what happened to us.

So I did two years there, then I got drafted. And they let me go for, I got drafted in, I’m 18 in 1944. So I had to sign up for, to be drafted. And they let me go because I was in ROTC at college, they let me go until ’45, end of ’45 session, May ’45. And I got drafted and I had to go. I went in July ’45, just after the war in Germany was over. In May. President Roosevelt died in April. He never got to see the end of the war. He died in May, and the Japanese were, they were still fighting the Japanese 'cos the Japanese didn’t surrender until September of ’45. That’s why we didn’t have to go, they sent us to Germany for Occupation, and so I spent 1946, I made my 20th birthday in Germany. I was in antiaircraft, all-black antiaircraft outfit in Germany. So I stayed there from April until December.

And we came back to the States, and I called my mom. Told her I was back in the States and I’d get my discharge, I’d be home as soon as possible. We got back, I got home, the night of New Year’s Eve of ’47. And I got to my house and it was cold, ice on the ground. Ice on my front steps, the steps, about five steps up to my front porch. And I got to the top of the steps and fell back. And luckily I had my duffle bag with me on my back, and I fell right on my duffle bag. I said, my mother came to the door, said Junior, what are you doing on the ground, son? (laughs) I could have broke my back if I hadn’t had the duffle bag. But all overseas and come back home and fall off your own porch. But then I was there for… my mother was ill so I stayed and that was January of 1947. And I stayed, I got a job at a flower shop. And uh, in my hometown of Huntsville. And my mother got better, so after that, me and my wife, I was married before I went in the service. And I got married.

EPS: So wait, let me stop you for a second. When you went to college, you were studying music? That was your major?

FRANK FISHER: Yes, music. Music major.

EPS: So was your goal at that time was be a musician?

FRANK FISHER: I did at that time, but let me go back a bit. My second year in college I took, I could, I didn’t have the money to get to apply for the music course. And it cost $12. And so my mother never, never sent anything. And we played all the gigs we played for in college with the college band, we’d get paid $3.50. So she never had to send me anything. And this particular time, I didn’t have the $12 to get back in the music department, so I took a radio engineering. And that saved my life because after I got out of service, that’s what I worked at, as a radio technician. You know, my everyday job. I worked, did that for over at Alameda for 35 years. I worked in flight tests. And played music on weekends, you know, around the Bay Area. That was a blessing, you know, that I did that, 'cos when I transferred from… when we were in college, we were in a local to Dallas musician’s union. When I got to California, I transferred from Dallas to San Francisco. And at the time, we had two unions, a black union and a white union, Local 6 was the white union and 669 was the black union. They all in the same building. But eventually, they merged, I think in 1970, I’m not sure, either ‘60 or ’70. The, there’s, it’s just one union now and they all get together. In fact, when we merged, we had more money in our union than they did. It was a benefit to the whole union when we merged, 'cos the money…

At one time, we couldn’t play, we couldn’t play above Market Street. It was all south of Market, and the circus, you remember the Circle Star Theater? No black musicians played at the Circle Star Theater. No, no black musicians played at the Fairmont. Or the Clairmont. Or St. Francis Hotel at that particular time. But after we merged, you know, we got a chance to play at most of the gigs. Any time we get a gig, come on…

That’s one of the reasons, well it cost me to, as a kid I always admired Duke Ellington. And since I was, I’ve been here, this was back in 1972. Allen Smith who was a very famous trumpet player in the Bay Area, one of the best, he called me and said, hey Frankie, you want to, I got a gig for you. I say what is it? He said, playing with Duke Ellington. I said, on, come on. Yeah, right. He said no, I’m not kidding. Duke had been here, he’d been to Seattle. And the trumpet player, one of the trumpet players got sick when he was in Seattle, so he came to San Francisco and somehow Allen Smith got the gig and was fortunate to fill in for one of the four trumpets. Allen Smith filled the gig, but he had a gig at the, up on Nob Hill it’s this famous (EPS: The Fairmont?) no, not the Fairmont. (EPS: Tonga Room?) It’s near the Fairmont Hotel. But anyway-

EPS: The Masonic Auditorium?

FRANK FISHER: I think so, I think that was it. Anyway, Allan played it, but he couldn’t make the next day, they were gonna be in Pittsburgh over here. California, right. And it was, at the time, Duke was doing those religious concerts. Lot of religious music. So that’s when Allan called me 'cos he couldn’t make it over here, and I’m on this side of the Bay. So he, after he convinced me that he was telling the truth, he said, just go out there, see Mercer Ellington, that’s Duke’s son, and tell him you’re my replacement. So I did. I found young Mercer and he said Ok, he showed me to Cat Anderson. And said, Cat Anderson, take him over there and show him where the music is and show him what his, where his uniform is, 'cos all I had to do wear a white shirt and a black tie. Dark pants. And they had jackets for everybody. And I didn’t get a chance to rehearse or anything. They had rehearsed earlier. But I wasn’t there. Allen was getting me to go. Allen was in the process of transiting to Pittsburgh. But I got there, they had finished, 'cos they’d hit a, the thing was designed for a choir and big band. When I got there, they’d finished.

So Cat Anderson and Mercer showed me the music, they said this is what we’re gonna be playing. And I’m looking for some nice, clean sheets of paper with music on it. And it was so dribbles and scratch out here, go over here, go over here. So we got, I was sitting with Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington and Cootie Williams. And myself and the trumpet player. I was so in awe, 'cos I grew up listening to these guys, you know. Johnny Hodges, Wild Bill Davidson was on organ, Duke was on piano, and I can’t think who the drummer was. But anyway, when I got on, in the bandstand and started playing, I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

But as we went along, Mercer said don’t worry about it, don’t worry about, when we get to here, just go over there and play here, get going down there, go over here, jumping all around. And by, by the end of the concert, I kind of settled out. And after it was over, they had coffee and cake for the faculty members back in one of the faculty rooms, you know. And I signed more autographs than Cat Anderson did. And I’m just the sub. So he asked me if I could make it, they were going to, from here to San Diego with their next gig. And I said no, I couldn’t because I had, I went the next day in the morning and told my boss at work that, and my boss was a bass player at the time. He said oh, go, I’ll take care of it, I’ll take care of it. So before the, that the following day, when I thought I was gonna have to leave and meet them in San Diego, Mercer called me and told me that the guy had got sick in Seattle was well enough to take, come back and take his spot in the band. So I missed going to play one night with Duke Ellington.

EPS: Goin back, you got married in college?

FRANK FISHER: I got married my second year of college. In 19… before I’m in the service. I was out of college, school was out, I got married in June 1945. And we were out of school, by the end of my second year was May, ’45. School’s out earlier down there, in May. A lot of people schools are June everywhere, but we were all out in May. And I got married on June 24th. And I went into the service July 9th. It was only about two weeks before I had to go.

EPS: When you came back from the service, when did you decide to go to California?

FRANK FISHER: Well, my brother was out here, in Los Angeles, and my wife’s mother was in Oakland. And so we decided to, I got work at a flower shop while I was at home to kind of keep – I never did draw unemployment. I got a job at a flower shop, delivering flowers to different funeral homes and people’s houses like that. I got a ticket and we came to California. And I think I had about $65 in my pocket when I got here. And we came to… I stopped in LA to visit my brother and found out he was in Oakland. And my wife came up, we got to Los Angeles, she said, well, I’m going on to Oakland to my mom’s, you know, and I said well, I’m gonna stay with my brother. And found out my brother wasn’t there. So I hooked up with one of my other home boys and spent the night and came up to Oakland the next day. And we found an apartment. It was difficult finding apartments at the time. From MacArthur Boulevard going to San Lorenzo, they wouldn’t rent to black people. In Oakland.

EPS: There was racial problems in San Francisco?

FRANK FISHER: Right, from MacArthur going, if you’re going, if you’re coming from San Francisco, after you pass MacArthur Boulevard, we were all out in San Leandro trying to get a room. They turned us down. They put in the paper room for rent, and we got there, they say it was filled, had been filled. It took us a while to find, we finally found one on 8th and West, in Oakland.

EPS: Were you surprised?

FRANK FISHER: I was. I was very surprised 'cos I thought it wasn’t that problem in California. I knew what it was in Texas, but I didn’t think it was that way in California. And I had been to California before when I was 14, I went to… I spent the summer in Los Angeles with my godmother. And they tried to get me to stay, go to high school in Los Angeles, and I wanted to graduate with my friends, you know, we’d come from the first grade on up and I wanted to graduate with them.

That was in the, the summer that I came to Los Angeles, that same year is when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, in December. That was in the summer of 1941. I came and spent the summer in Los Angeles. But after I got back, I didn’t have no problem when I was there back in when I was 14 years old. At least I didn’t identify a problem. But when I got to Oakland, it raised its big head. But anyway, I was here. After I got transferred, the union transferred to Local 6 from Dallas to San Francisco, Local 6. There’s a club, there’s a Recreation Center -- Ocean Center in West Oakland called DeFremery Park. And they would have jam sessions on Sundays. So I’d go down Sunday, and I’d get to meet, 'cos I didn’t know anybody. And they didn’t know me, either.

EPS: Did you know about the music scene at all?

FRANK FISHER: Somebody told me, said there’s a club on 7th Street, Slim Jenkins, and another Colony Club on Market Street. And I visited them several times just to see what the, what it was like, and I went to work over a guy, a saxophone player said, I said, can I sit in with you guys? He said, we don’t need no trumpet players. (laughs) We don’t need no trumpet players. And later on, we got to play to each other. We, we ended up in the same band. I always reminded him of it all the time, say it’s you don’t need no trumpet players. I’m leaving here.

But I would go to the DeFremery Park and they had jam sessions on Sundays, and I’d, if I got to meet a lot of the musicians and one guy, first band I played with was called Leroy Phelps. He was a local, they, he had all these guys – John Handy, 'cos John Handy just got out of high school when I got here. And he later on when I formed my own group, hired John Handy. And John Handy was only 17 years old.

EPS: You are older than John Handy?

FRANK FISHER: I’m older than John, yeah. He was, I was about 22 or 3, and John was only about 17-18 or 19, 'cos I’m about 6 years older than John now. When we played together quite a bit, I had a, we played an army base in Oakland. That was our regular weekend gig. And we played other gigs around for, you know, different social affairs. And John always got... I always had John with me. So John went in the service, and well, I had been in the service already 'cos I was over them guys. They called me Pops. And I was just 20-something years old.

EPS: When did you first hear about the Fillmore – the neighborhood?

FRANK FISHER: Well, you know, the news gets around about where to go in San Francisco. And my cousin who played drums, he was in the house band at… his name was Ray Fisher.

EPS: Where was he in the house band?

FRANK FISHER: At Bop City. Yeah, he was in the house band at Bop City. I think you’ve got him an interview in the other book. You interviewed him. And I hadn’t seen him for quite a while. And he said, well, Cuz, come on over, and I went over, and kind of eased my way in there, you know. That’s the night that John Handy and Coltrane and Pointy Poindexter.

EPS: That was the first night you went to San Francisco?!

FRANK FISHER: No, that wasn’t the first one. That we, I’d been going there for a while, but that, this just happened to be that particular night that they took that picture. And that picture was on the wall for years and years and years. And when you decided to make the book, somebody chose that particular picture.

EPS: Lew and I picked that particular picture. It’s a very famous picture of John Coltrane. One of the earliest know of him onstage.

FRANK FISHER: So the guys say, you were standing next to Coltrane? I said no, he was standing next to me. (LAUGHS) This picture stayed in the hallway when you go into Bop City, they had pictures on the wall, as you go in, it’s the big wall. And this picture was on there. I forgotten who took it or how it got there, but every time you go to Bop City, this picture was there. And when you started to write the book, I don’t know how you come across this picture, this is the one you chose to put on the cover of the book.

(00:20:57) EPS: Because I went to the photographer’s house right before he passed away. I had a chance to meet him through a taxi cab driver who I told I was doing this book. And he said, “Oh, I know this guy who used to shoot photos. I’ll try and find him for you. It took him a month and he finally tracked him down, and he was only alive another month. He had really bad kidney problems.

FRANK FISHER: I was wondering how you got the picture away from it.

EPS: And he…a lot of those photos (pointing to HOTWSF book) are his photos. Steve Jackson was his name. And he really took a liking to me and said we could use any photos. When he passed away, I was really worried that his family wouldn’t let us use the photos but they honored his wishes. That’s how we got the photo on the cover.

FRANK FISHER: I’d forgotten all about it. John Handy called. George Spencer who’s the musical director of the Courtney Band. Junior Courtney Band. He’s the musical director, and he plays piano for John’s small group. So they were having a rehearsal at John’s house, and he said, he saw me the next night at rehearsal, he said, “Man I saw a picture of you and Coltrane and John Handy and Pointy Poindexter. I said, where? He said, at the John Handy’s house. John Handy had that picture on the wall, where he got it from. And see, I haven’t seen that book so he sent me, somebody sent me a copy of it. I’ve got a small print. It’s a copy, not that well, it’s not that good, it’s kind of dark. But when the book came out I saw that one.

EPS: So tell me about that night – how did this whole thing come about? Was Coltrane in town?

FRANK FISHER: I didn’t even know him. I know Pony and John but I didn’t know Courtney. This was like in 1952. Yeah. (EPS: That’s pretty early) This was 1952 'cos Bop City closed in ’65, I think, started around in ’40, late ‘40s, ’49, something like that. And this was in ’52. 'Cos John (Handy) and I, we had a gig at Slim Jenkin’s in Oakland. That was a, one of the best night clubs, finest night clubs on this side of the bay (Oakland side) was Slim Jenkin’s. We were in there for two, his house for two weeks and we stayed six.

And this particular night, John says, let’s go to Bop City after we got off from Slim’s, so that’s why we were both playing with our jackets off, we had a uniform and it the same. We had a blue and white jacket with green ties. John talks about that uniform like it’s a, should have come out of the garbage. We had to look alike, you know? And I think I picked out the jackets and the ties.

And we left Slim Jenkins’ at that particular, this particular night to go to Bop City. And just so happened, just so happened they called us up. Called John me and John Handy, and Jimbo, who’s the owner of Bop City, he would call and talk to some guys that would call a set the front line, would call the front line, the rhythm section usually stayed the same. It was the house band stayed there. But any other drummers comes, another drummer would let the other drummer sit in and another piano player. But they called, he’d call you up. And if you couldn't play, you didn’t, they didn’t call you up anymore. And he called, giving them the hook. You get up there, you think you could play. And they’d never call you back 'cos there was a drummer, you got a story in here about that particular drummer, that he would, he bombed out when he played, and Jimbo told him go practice. Go practice. And he said it took him about six months before he came back and he got called up again. And they say he stuck that time. (laughs)

EPS: So Jimbo already knew who you were? And after you guys were at Slims you came over to Bop City to hang out, and Jimbo calls you up on stage?

FRANK FISHER: Just called you up on stage, and said…somebody else had been playing, so ok, you get up. You, you, you, and you. Come on up.

You remember Frank Foster, the guy you kept giving him my name, Frank Foster was a soldier stationed at the air base in Marin City, I can’t think of where. And he was in uniform. And he came one night, and they called him Soldier Boy. And the piano player, I can’t think of his name. said “No, not now Solider Boy. Not now soldier boy”. So another piano player said, “let the soldier boy play. He’d be coming over for regular for two or three times before he got a chance to play. So let the soldier boy play.” And Dexter Gordon was there that night. And he got up on the stage and he said, what you want to play, Soldier Boy? And he said, I want to play Strike Up the Band. Said, what tempo? He said any tempo you want.

EPS: Dexter Gordon said this?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah. So and they got the rhythm section to put it up (starts beating out a drum beat on the table) to get to this (beats on the table faster) to get Soldier Boy to where he couldn’t play. But they did the hands, (sings the tuen) dah de la da da…they put it up, and they got to the break. Dexter took a deep breath to take his solo, and Frank Foster ran right around (sings tune) do de la do do… and Dexter looked back at him, where’s this little guy come from? And the guy said, “I told you let the soldier boy play!”

And later, after he (Frank Foster) got out of service, that’s how he ended up with the Count Basie band. He was with the Count Basie Band until well, after Count passed away. He had, Frank Foster had the band, when Frank Foster had a stroke, Cleveland…Grover, not Grover Cleveland, Cleveland, the trombone player took over the Basie Band. (corrects himself) After Basie passed, Frank Foster had the band. And when Frank Foster had a stroke, I think, Grover took over the band. Then Grover passed away and that trombone player, I think he’s got the band now. They changed it. The last time I saw them was over in Fairfax at Broadway 19 Club, but Cleveland, Grover had the band that time, and was in a wheelchair at the time. Yeah, 'cos Grover and I used to play together before he got with the Basie Band. And I had a couple of gigs with Frank Foster when he was in the service. Ernie Lewis was the piano player, and Ernie Lewis, John Handy, and Frank Foster and myself and a drummer, played a couple of gigs down at San Jose for at a, like a recreation center.

EPS: Al Smith?

FRANK FISHER: No. Saxophone. John (Handy) and Frank Foster. Three horns and three rhythms. And Ernie would get a lot of gigs 'cos he was associated with the union at the time, so he’d get it like, he’d just get some guys and say, “I want you and you and you,” and we’d go play the gig. Everybody knew the basic tunes, so we didn’t have to rehearse, just start playing ‘em. But that’s the way that came about.

EPS: So do you remember what song were you playing when this photo was taken?

FRANK FISHER: No, I don’t. 'Cos I didn’t know, I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know who he was in town with. 'Cos any time a group came to town, they would play at the Fairmont or the Claremont, after they’d finish over there, they would come to Bop City to jam. 'Cos Bop City didn’t open 'til like 2 o’clock in the morning. So Dinah Washington might be there, or Ella Fitzgerald, anybody. If they were in town, they would come to Bop City, and they’d stay there 'til 10 o’clock the next morning playing. 'til you got ready to go home, that’s when you went home.

And they had Sammy David, Junior, would be there. Duke Ellington. Just anybody you could name would always come to Bop City after their performance, wherever they were playing, they would come to Bop City. And they had Dinah Washington’s name on the back of her chair. Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald. And if you came and you were sitting in their chair, and Ella or Dinah came in, you’d have to get up. That’s the way Jimbo had it, you know? It basically it closed, I think it closed in ’65.

EPS: What was Jimbo like?

FRANK FISHER: He was a nice guy. He was really, he really stern, firm, you know, if you could play, he’d call you up. If you couldn’t play, if he called you up and you couldn’t play, he didn’t call you no more 'til you go practice.

EPS: It must have been mortifying if you couldn’t play. Getting on stage…

FRANK FISHER: Yeah, guys getting on stage, if they could blow it and get up there, and they’d call a tune that, that’s all you worried about ifthey’d call a tune that you really don’t know, you know, you’re not familiar with. And then that’s where you would worry, but Jimbo gonna give me the hook or what? Or you avoid playing, taking a solo. You played ahead and let somebody else play a solo. If it was a tune you weren’t familiar with.

EPS: Did you play any of the other Fillmore clubs?

FRANK FISHER: I did most of them – Booker T, there was a hotel on Fillmore. I think it called the - The Booker T Washington, I played there several times.

EPS: Do you remember who you played with at the Booker T?

FRANK FISHER: I played with different guys all the time, you know, it’s hard to keep, if you had a steady group, you could remember the guys, but you might play a gig with somebody you didn’t know. We need a trumpet player, come on. Or hey, Frank, we need a trumpet player over here, tomorrow night, where? Booker T Washington Hotel. Who am I playing with? Just be here. Find out when you get here. (laughs) But that’s the way that went for a while.

EPS: What was the neighborhood like? Was it slow during the day and came alive at night?

FRANK FISHER: Alive at night. I never did know how, what happened in the daytime. But that’s when I first saw Saunders King. There was a theater on Fillmore and Geary, I think, it was a club downstairs under the theater, a movie theater.

EPS: Was it the Texas Playhouse?

FRANK FISHER: That was just a bar.

EPS: The New Orleans Swing Club?

FRANK FISHER: No, it was another one. I’m thinking the movie theater was on –

EPS: The Temple-

FRANK FISHER: And the club was in the bottom but I can’t think of the name of it, but that’s where I first, the first club I went to when I came to San Francisco and my cousin, Ray, took me there. Saunders King, it’s where I first met Eddie Walker, I mean not Eddie Walker, but Eddie Walker and his brother.

EPS: Eddie Alley?

FRANK FISHER: Eddie Alley and Vernon, yeah. They, they were there. And I didn’t know who they were at the time, you know? Before I found out, I’d played with Eddie for several gigs after that, you know, after he found, we got to know each other.

EPS: What was Saunders King like? ‘Cause he was kind of a big guy in the Fillmore. He had that regional hit, “SK Blues.”

FRANK FISHER: He did, he was. I never, I only played with him at a party over in Oakland. He knew my sister-in-law. And my sister-in-law gave like a jam session at a house one time. She had a big barbecue and chili and all that kind of, and invited the guys to come over. It was a party. And she knew Saunders good, so she invited Saunders, so I got to play with him at the party, you know. Jerome Richardson would come. In fact, Jerome Richardson and I played together at one of the strip clubs on North Beach.

EPS: The Hungry Eye?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah, over in that area, called the, it was called the House of Blue Lights. It was called the House of Blue Lights. Jerome Richardson. We were the two horns and piano, bass and drums.

EPS: And they’d strip?

FRANK FISHER: The club was a, it was a strip club, but they weren’t bare. Strip barely, you know, to the bare bone. But it was like 10 girls on the show, and each would have like 10 minutes to perform. And we would play, we would start at 8 o’clock and play until 1. We never took a break, the saxophone player would take a break, and just leave me and the drummer and the piano. When the piano, when the drummer took a break, I played piano. If he took a break, I played drums with my no-drum playin’ self. That was a, like 1953. And I played there for about six weeks, and I was working in the daytime, too. You’d get off from work and be over in San Francisco and start playing at 8 o’clock. I’d get off (EPS: Did you ever sleep?) Laughs… I get home about 2 and you get up at 6 and go to work. Laughs… So I worked at, at the air base, and I was, I worked in flight test. I was electronics crew chief. And what we would do we would install the equipment. And when a plane got ready to fly, we’d have to fly with it, so I got a lot of flying time with ASW, that’s anti-submarine warfare aircraft, what they call a P-3 Orion. And when my day job.

EPS: Did you play at the Fillmore Auditorium at all?

FRANK FISHER: No. Played at the Civic Center. Civic, the Civic Auditorium. With Sarah Vaughn. Yeah. In fact, Bill Cosby was the master of ceremony. And back in those particular days, when a group came in and depends on where you were playing, the Civic Auditorium called for 18 musicians. So if you came with a group with only six musicians, like Sarah did, put herself and her group, her musicians and herself, the union would have to hire the rest of the guys. The, six from 18 is what? Nine or twelve? Twelve.

Yeah. Well, the union rep would call stand-by musicians. You’d have to have the amount of musicians at the place that the place requires. At 18 musicians, you play somewhere they counted 10 musicians, and they came up with 4, you could get called for stand-by duty. And they’d pick you at random, you know?

'Cos Sarah Vaughn came to the Civic Auditorium, and you know, it was just Sarah, piano, drummer and a bass player. No horns. So the rest of us, we had to fill in. But Bill Cosby was the master of ceremony. And they would tell you when you go on a stand-by gig, bring your horn, 'cos you might have to play. So I brought my horn, and Bill Cosby say we’d like to let you guys sit around and make this money and not do nothing, 'cos you just stay there and you get paid. If you were stand-by musician you get paid cause you didn’t have to play. And Bill Cosby, before the show started, Bill said, you guys come out on the stage. And about 8 of us -- couple of horns, and the piano player was, piano was already there. And the drums was already there. And bass player very seldom brought his bass, but he asked the guy could he use, that’s Sarah’s bass player, could he use his bass? Usually you have to tell him yeah, 'cos a lot of times they don’t let you do that. And he made us play. He was out there directing us. What do you guys want to play? So you call it, Bill.

That was, wait a minute, let’s see. That could have been ’60 something, somewhere in the ‘60s. Could have been in the ‘60s. Yeah. And that was at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. 'Cos they used to play, the Warriors used to play there. You know, before they moved to Oakland. Yeah, and and now they are trying to go back to San Francisco.

(Elizabeth shows Frank photos from Harlem of the West)

FRANK FISHER: Looks like Sammy Simpson, but I can’t…it looks like Sammy Simpson.

EPS: That’s Sammy Simpson? Sammy Simpson was white?

FRANK FISHER: No. He’s very light complexion. Saxophone player. I know him, that’s Pointy Poindexter. And this guy played, in fact, his mother used to live around the corner from me. (EPS: In Oakland?) In Richmond. And he later went with Diz. He played with Diz for a while, then he went to Sweden and he stayed over there and never came back.

EPS: We have it listed as Leo Wright?

FRANK FISHER: Leo Wright, that’s him. Yeah. His mother, I’d been playing gigs with him and I had no idea that he, his mother lived in my neighborhood. And I came out of the house one day and he was walking down the street, I said Leo, what are you doing over here? He says, my mom lives around the corner. So we would hook up every so often. In fact, we played a gig in Reno. They would have ever year they would have a Miss Bronze contest in Reno.

EPS: There is an African American community in Reno?

FRANK FISHER: No, but if there was, I didn’t know where it was, but they would have it there. There was a, there was a club in Reno that most of the black people would call New China. 'Cos we couldn’t go to Harrah’s or the other ones. And we’d go to Reno and we’d all end up at, you’d go to the New China Club, you’d see everybody you know from the Bay Area. That’s what all the black people hang out at New China Club.

And we took a group up and they put us on a truck, a big truck with a flat bed. And we paraded down Main Street in Reno, and the contestants were in like convertibles sitting in the back of the convertibles. And that night, they would have the dance and the presentation of whoever won the contest. And we would hang out at the New China Club. When we got there, the manager and owner of the club would say you guys want your money now or after you play? I said, well, give me my money now.

And we got ready to go home, we’d drive up there, we’ve got to go home. And Leo said, wait a minute, man. He said, I’m broke, he said give me, loan me. And I told the guy I wanted my money when we got in the car, get ready to go home so I wouldn’t have a chance to lose it. I said, no, give me my money when we finish. When we finish playing the gig, give me my money 'cos we were leaving right after that 'cos we had to drive all the way back to the Bay Area. And it wasn’t Leo but the saxophone player, another saxophone player. When you got, he wanted his money now when we first got there. And we got ready to go he didn’t have nothing. So one of the guys gave him four silver dollars. That’s when they were using real money, you know, silver dollars. And the guy said, “hey, man, take this four dollars.” He, and we were waiting for you. And he went back in and in five minutes, he was back out there crying. Now get in the car, let’s go home. That was…

And another thing about Reno, in 1958, when my wife and I went to get married in Reno, that was at the courthouse. And it was another white couple from San Francisco and me and my wife. We were their witnesses and they were our witnesses.

EPS: You were friends or just they happened to be there?

FRANK FISHER: We just happened to be there, getting married at the same time. The guy said, come on, we’ll go in together. You be my witness, and I’ll be your witness. So I said, the guy from San Francisco did. So we went in and we got married. And after we got married, this was in January 1958. He said, let’s go over to Harrah’s. And I looked kind of…. “Well, I oh, I don’t know.” He said, “Oh, come on. Fish,” he called me Fish. “Come on, Fish.” So I said, ok.

My wife didn’t know from Adam what happens in Reno, you know, about the segregation, 'cos she never had been to Reno anyway. So we went over there. And I, when I walked in the door, the four of us walked in the door together. And I saw the security guard look real funny. And the cashier I went over to get four dollars in change, fifty cents, 'cos I wanted to play the fifty cent machine. And so I asked the cashier could I have change, and I give her two dollars, give me half dollars. And I saw her nod at the security guard. And so I got my four dollars and started back toward the machine. And he came at me and touched me on the shoulder. He said, “Sir.” Very polite. Couldn’t get no politer than he was. Sir. He said, “would you mind taking your stash and go down to the New China Club?” And I knew where the New China Club was. Because that’s where I was headed in the first place 'til this guy from San Francisco said let’s go to Harrah’s. And I say, “Are you telling me that you’re not wanted, I’m not wanted here?” He said, “that’s exactly what I’m telling you, Sir.” And so when me and my wife, I told my wife, “let’s go.” And the other guy, the couple from San Francisco said “where you going, where you going? You just got here.” I said, “Man, they’re putting me out.” He said, “what you mean they’re putting you out?” I say, “they are putting me out, 'cos I didn’t want to come with you in the first place, 'cos I knew what happened. And he didn’t know that was the situation was like that in Reno. And so we went to the New China Club.

EPS: What year was that?

FRANK FISHER: That was in 1958. January 31st, 1958. Because we got married on the 31st of January, 1958 at the courthouse. And I never saw that guy again. We came upon the bus and I think he and his wife drove up, we come on the bus, I left my car in Richmond and we caught the bus and went up there.

EPS: Were buses segregated?

FRANK FISHER: No, not there. But they were in Houston. 'Cos when I came to California to visit my godfather in 1941, I had to stand up from Houston to El Paso. From Houston, Texas, to El Paso, Texas. And they had a sign at halfway of the bus – colored, white. And all colored seats were taken up by white people. So. And there was some empty seats in the front in the white section, but I couldn’t sit there. You know, where you come into the bus, where they open the bus and the little stairs that you come up? I stood there and sat there from Houston to El Paso, Texas.

And when I got to El Paso, the bus driver said you can sit anywhere you want to now. So I rode from El Paso to Los Angeles anywhere on the bus that I wanted, 'cos the bus drivers change, I think they change when they got to Phoenix. The same bus driver that was there in El Paso, I think, he switched with another driver in Phoenix, Arizona. So I could sit anywhere, but when I got ready to come back, I came back on the bus, and I was okay until they got to El Paso. Then I had to wait for somebody to get out of the colored section where I could go sit down. So.

Same thing happened to us when we were in the service. We would go on the pass, when I was stationed in Ft. McClellan, Alabama. The closest black college to Ft. McClellan was an all-girls school. I can’t remember the name of that. But anyway, on Friday nights they would have a dance. And the soldier from Ft. McClellan, we’d get a convoy. The Army trucks would take us to Talladega, Talladega College. And it’d be waiting for us, 'cos there’s no boys there. All the boys that had gone to service. And we take the convoy down, we had to come back by bus. But during the dance, you couldn’t leave out of the room with any females. They had MPs at the door. If you wanted to talk, you’d get addresses and phone numbers. But you couldn’t leave, you couldn’t leave long term.

So when we got ready to, when the dance was over, we’d go to the bus station to get a ride back to Ft. McClellan, which is in Anniston. And if there’s white soldiers there, we had, they’d fill the bus up and take off. The next bus would come up and it was still white soldiers there, they’d fill the bus up and take off. We had to wait 'til there’s no white guys around before could get on the bus to get home. And we’d get back to our base, my company commander who was a white, would say why you guys late? And we told him. They won’t let us get on the bus, 'cos we’re black. We had to take the last bus. 'Cos we were supposed to be back before 5 o’clock. We didn’t get back ‘til like 9:30 or 10. And my first sergeant said, told the captain, said that’s the way it is, sir. You can’t blame them for that. We can’t take the bus over, you know, we have to get on when they say get on. That’s what the situation was down there.

EPS: Did you play at the Club Alabam, or the Town Club?

FRANK FISHER: Alabam but not the Town Club.

EPS: What was Club Alabam like?

FRANK FISHER: It was, it wasn’t like. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe what the club is like. Slim Jenkin’s was a sophisticated type club. And it wasn’t like Slim Jenkins at all. It was a little, I’ll say a little less than what Slim Jenkins was, 'cos Slim Jenkins was the décor, beautiful club inside, you know? I still have a picture of my group when I was playing at Slim’s but I didn’t think about it when I came over, 'cos I got a group, my group with John Handy was playing with me. And we had, I had five musicians, and three dancers. And…

EPS: (Interrupts) Who were your musicians?

FRANK FISHER: Eugene Kiel. John Handy, Floyd Drake… Uh, uh…Eugene Kiel, Floyd Drake, John Handy, I forgot who the drummer was. Al Torres, Al Torres was the drummer. Who later went on to play with Mr. Blind Piano from England?

EPS: I know who you are talking about but I can’t think of his name.

FRANK FISHER: Blind pianist from England, I can’t think of his name, either. But the Al Torres played with him after me 'cos he was, Al Torres was raised up, he was Italian but he was raised up in East Oakland, I mean West Oakland. I met him at the DeFremery Park. You know, when all musicians get together, and we end up in the same group at one time or another.

But we had, we had one guy from Sudan. He was a fire eater. I had two, three dancers, one fire eater. And musicians. And we would play some, we called it, “Delight in Baghdad.” At the time, didn’t even know where Baghdad was. And the guy from Sudan, Africa, he wore a turban. So he wrapped, we all wore turbans that particular night. And we didn’t know about wrapping turbans, but he did. So he’d wrap each musician’s turban. And we’d come out with our turbans and our blue and white checkered jackets and green ties. I bet we looked horrible. But we were in uniform. That was in ’51 or ’52, because one of the nights, John and I left there going to Bop City. It was in ’51 or ’52, 'cos that’s, we played there in 1950 and then we left, we went for two weeks and Slim kept us for 6 weeks. Then he changed bands. And then I got this group together with the dancers and the fire eaters and he brought us in for one night, for that particular performance, called Night in Baghdad. That was like 1953, somewhere in there.

EPS: When you were at Bop City, were there any other memorable nights?

FRANK FISHER: Coltrane was the most famous one that I did, at the time, but he wasn’t famous at that time. But a lot of times, I never saw Diz there. But I always saw Sarah Vaughn –

EPS: Did she get up and sing there or just hang out?

FRANK FISHER: She just, she would sing, she would sing a couple of numbers. She wouldn’t stay up there long because, you know, she just finished singing wherever she was singing before she came here, 'cos she was leaving her gig to come to Bop City. And I never saw Ella there, but I saw Sarah and Dinah Washington there. And Sammy Davis, Junior. I saw him there. He would play drums. Yeah, he played drums. He played good drums, too.

EPS: Was it a mixed crowd? Or was it mainly…

FRANK FISHER: Mixed crowd. Always a mixed crowd. 'Cos that was the only place that you could go to jam, with a mixed crowd was at Bop City. If there were any other clubs, it wasn’t mixed. But Bop City was. Everybody, anybody could come to Bop City, didn’t care who you were. You could be, if you were a dog, if you could play you’d come in and bark to death. (laughs)

EPS: Why do you think that was?

FRANK FISHER: The same reason we couldn’t play at the Fairmont at the time. And we couldn’t play at the Mark Hopkins, at that particular time until after the unions merged then. And then Circle Star Theater, I played in the Raider band, you know, the Raider football team? And the ‘49ers they had bands at the time, you know, that played. We’d always come out and play whoever was singing the Star Spangled Banner a band could accompany them. Like the Raider band.

Allen Smith called me, we had a gig there one night at some hotel in San Francisco. And he was already playing with the Raider band. He’s sitting there with the ‘49er band. 'Cos the ‘49er band only had 3 black musicians. Out of the 35 guys, 30-something guys in the band, they only had 3 black musicians. Allen Smith and a trombone player, Ike Bell, and one more guy. And when the Raiders, you know, the Raiders weren’t here then. The ‘49ers were here first. (EPS: LA)

And then when the Raiders came, Dale Courtney formed the Raider band. So then there was a ‘49er band and a Raider band. So Allen Smith was then the Raider band also for both bands and so was Ike Bell.

And so Allen and I had a gig up on 9th Street and Market, I can’t think of the name of the hotel. Right on 9th and Market. And he asked me at intermission, said, “hey, man, you’d like to play with the ’49, with the Raider band?” I said, “yeah.” He said, “well, I’m gonna call Dale Courtney and mention you, and then have Dale, have you call Dale Courtney.”

So he did, and Dale Courtney called me and said, “Allen told me you want to play in the Raider band?” He said, “how many can you make?” I said “Make any, any of them.”

So I think Allen at that particular time, Allen and I was the only two black players in the Raider band, but later on, Julius Courtney, Senior, and we had, it was a mix. The band was mixed, but at the time, there was a ’49er band, when the ‘49ers were in town, the Raiders were out of town. So when the Raiders were out of town, we played with the ’49er band. When the ‘49ers were out of town, we played with the Raider band. But when they, they hired me first, so when the ‘49ers was in town, if there was two games that they played that both teams are in town at the same time. But I always played with the Raider band 'cos they hired me first. And that, I played from 1968 until 1981. I played with them 13 years. Any Sunday I was either over there, or over here. And that lasted until they, when they left in ’81 to go to Los Angeles. And they didn’t come back until ’95 or ’96.

EPS: So going back to the Fillmore, during the ‘50s, what were the cops like?

FRANK FISHER: They were but I never had any problem with the police when I was going over there. I’d go play and come back home.

EPS: Did they ever raid the clubs?

FRANK FISHER: No, not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge. I’m not saying they didn’t, but not to my knowledge they didn’t. 'Cos I never, I don’t think they ever raided Bop City. 'Cos that was the, that was a prime, that would be a prime subject for clubs after hours, you know, if they knew what’s going on, and they saw… They start off selling food. And I think I don’t know if the health department had something to do with it or not, but they had, they would sell near-beer. Whatever near-beer is. (laughs) That’s almost beer but it’s near-beer. But I can’t remember the cops having to come into Bop City to change anything. I can’t remember that. The other clubs I don’t know about.

EPS: Did you meet Charles Sullivan?

FRANK FISHER: Was he a promoter? I remember him.

EPS: He had the lease on Bop City. Slim Gaillard had Vout City, then Jimbo took over and had Bop City. Charles Sullivan promoted the Fillmore Auditorium and ran a couple of clubs…

FRANK FISHER: Yeah, I remember him. I remember him, but I never had any dealings with mangers or promoters or you know, anybody in that capacity. So it was some guys, they’d say some of them were kind of tricky. And kind of beat you out of, there was one guy in the East Bay -- he was like a promoter also. And you, if he got a gig for you, I know we had a gig down in Fresno. Like a 7-piece group, and the Fresno, uh, Merced some place down in the valley, a neighborhood place, but anyway, he would tell you how much you’re gonna make, and after you played the gig, he’d want you to give half of it back. And we said uh-uh. No. You said we were going to get $65. That’s what we’re gonna get. We can go all the way to Merced, you know, gas wasn’t high at that time, but we still had to get gas and the wear and tear of going down there and coming back. And he said, you have to give me $10 back. Said no, no, we’re not even going if that’s the way it’s gonna be. You know, so he would try to trick you into playing gigs and giving the money back. So we broke him up from that. We, you don’t get, you get the gig, we, if what you say we’re gonna get paid, that’s what we’re gonna do. No kickbacks. (laughs)

EPS: Did you ever record with anyone?

FRANK FISHER: Only David Hardeman. And Courtney, David Hartman and Courtney and there was another small group. Can’t think…Johnny Taylor, he had a tune called “White Port and Lemon Juice.” And I think I was on that one. That was on a 45. “White Port, Lemon Juice” was one side and I forgot what was on the other side. But they played the other side more than they did “White Port and Lemon Juice.” And didn’t record that much.

EPS: Did you play the Champagne Supper Club?

FRANK FISHER: Uh, I don’t think I did. I remember it, but I don’t think I played there.

EPS: I mean, it looks crowded.

FRANK FISHER: They was always, people was, always somebody there. In all of those clubs. You could walk out of one and walk to the other one. And all of them down Fillmore. You could go club to club, and people would just leave one and go to the other, have a drink, leave one and go to the other one. Some of them had music and some of them just had juke box, you know?

EPS: Oh this was it – Elsie’s Breakfast Nook and Harold Blackshear’s Café?

FRANK FISHER: Blackshear’s is the place I was trying to think of where they had the theater. The Temple Theater. Right. Harold Blackshear’s. That’s the first club I went to when I came to California. My cousin, Ray, took me there for, when Saunders King was playing there. And he had a trumpet player named Eddie Walker. And that’s where I met Eddie Walker, 'cos Eddie Walker formed a big band later on. And he asked me to play with him. But Saunders wasn’t with him at the time. Eddie Walker, Blackshear’s Café.

EPS: Was that a nice club?

FRANK FISHER: It was a nice, it was small, but it was nice.

EPS: Did you play at Jackson’s Nook?

FRANK FISHER: Jackson’s Nook? No. I didn’t play Jackson’s.

EPS: What about the Long Bar?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah. Played at the Long Bar.

EPS: Was it really the longest bar in the world?

FRANK FISHER: Well, I don’t know how, if it was in the world. But it was long. (laughs) It looked like it was from here to that first post there. It was long. It was more bar than anything else.

EPS: Yeah, I was told it went for a whole city block?

FRANK FISHER: It was a long, it was a long one. Lionel Hampton, I remember, I sat in with him at one time. We played at the American Music Hall in San Francisco. And I don’t think he liked the way I played, 'cos he didn’t hire me. (laughs)

EPS: Did you run into Billie Holliday when you were playing?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah. In fact, I tell you, we were walking down Fillmore one day, me and my cousin, Ray. And it was a car parked in front of the Long Bar. And it was two people in there asleep. It was Billie Holliday and her manager. So we walked by, and Ray says, did you see who that was? I said, who? He said, there in that car asleep. He said, I said no, he said, that’s Billie Holliday. So you kidding? And it was Billie Holliday. And of course they played there the next night, and I don’t know why they was sleeping the car in front of the club. I don’t know if they, where they were coming from or if they had played any place at all. But it was her manager, I can’t think of his name. But he managed Billie for a long time.

EPS: So she played at the Long Bar the next day?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah, they must have been the next night or, 'cos I didn’t, we didn’t go. But I know I heard that she was at the Long Bar. Now, the morning we saw them, or the evening we saw them, you know, why they were sleeping in the car. They might have been passed out, or something. I’m not sure. I don’t want to say one way or another.

EPS: Did you go to the Primalon Ballroom?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah, I played there with Julius Courtney’s small group. Earl Watkins, I played with him, too. He just passed away not too long ago. He was one of the union reps in Local 6. Yeah…I knew him, played a lot of gigs with Earl. 'Cos Earl would play with, Watkins would play with the brothers. Vernon and Eddie, yeah. And they had the, I played with Eddie a lot at the Ebony Fashion Show, when they would come to town. They’d play at the, this place on at Nob Hill up from the Fairmont Hotel, or some auditorium.

EPS: The Masonic Auditorium?

FRANK FISHER: Masonic Auditorium. And it, the Ebony Fashion Show would come once a year in the fall.

EPS: They allowed African Americans in the Masonic?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah. At, this was after the merger. This was after the merger. And Eddie had to… he was the house band for every time they came. And I would play with Eddie. And Earl Watkins would play – no, Eddie would play drums. Vernon would play bass, and me and oh, I forget who the saxophone player was at the time, anyway.

And one night, or one year I called Eddie and I told him I couldn’t make it 'cos I had a gig. 'Cos the, I had the gig way before Eddie knew he had the gig at the Fashion Show. And I recommended a trumpet player, a friend of mine from Texas, we went to college, the same college, I was ahead of him, but he – George Alexander. So I’m sending George in my place. And he kept George. Never called me back any more. I tell George about that all the time. I say, George, every time I give a gig, the the last time I give you a gig, they kept you. You were supposed to be just filling in for me. He said, that’s the way it is, you know?

EPS: You played with Little Richard?

FRANK FISHER: Yeah. Right here.

EPS: You played at the Fillmore with Little Richard?

FRANK FISHER: No, no. At the Oakland Auditorium. 'Cos most of my gigs were over here. (East Bay) And when we had a gig in San Francisco, you know, we’d go play and I’d come back home if we didn’t go by Bop City, I’d just come on back home. 'Cos I was working person. I had to get up the next morning. I’d been working – yeah, I had to be at work at 7:15.

Went to jam with Johnny Otis before he, Johnny Otis. Well, he got famous, used to come down on 7th Street, for a jam session down at a little club up from Slim Jenkins, they had on Friday evenings they would have jam sessions, and Johnny Otis used to come down all the time.

EPS: Do you recognize any people behind Johnny Mathis here? (shows Frank photo of Johnny Mathis singing in Bop City)

FRANK FISHER: Stranger to me. It’s Earl Watkins.

EPS: That’s Earl Watkins right there?

FRANK FISHER: I don’t know who these guys are. Tell you a story about Johnny Mathis. We used to go to, there’s a club on Turk and Hyde. And somebody, Stan Kenton guys would come by. Turk and Hyde.

EPS: The Blackhawk.

FRANK FISHER: Blackhawk. Right, see you remember better than I do. I get CRS easy! (laughs) Johnny Mathis used to come by, and some guy said no, we don’t want no singer. We don’t want no singers in here. And they finally let Johnny sing, and the owner of the Blackhawk, the female, the lady that owned it, was his, ended up being his manager. (EPS: Really?) Ended up being Johnny Mathis’ manager, and they made, you know, how famous Johnny got. Yeah, and that same guy – Mr. We Don’t Need No Singers -- Johnny Mathis was making money, we still jammin’. (laughs)

EPS: Do you recognize any of these guys? (shows another photograph to Frank)

FRANK FISHER: He’s one that looks familiar. He looks like Frank Butler. I don’t know. These two I don’t. That was at Bop City, too, wasn’t it?

EPS: Yep.

FRANK FISHER: There’s a lot of, when you’re not there, if you don’t go for like a month or something, you know, 'cos I didn’t go ever week or nothing like that. I’d just go, say let’s go to Bop City and I’d go and maybe I didn’t go again until a month or so later. Maybe longer. You know, a lot of people passed through but in a given timeframe between.

## END OF INTERVIEW ##