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The Story Behind The Picture

Robert Daugherty and son Geoff Daugherty are both accomplished luthiers and bassists. They have co-joined their photographic talents to create this story behind the picture. They are owners of “The Daugherty Violin Shop” in Eureka, California (www.stringrepair.net).

Just Play B NaturalBassist Chubby Jackson

Some kids grow up knowing the names of baseball players while I grew up knowing the names of jazz musicians in big bands.

For instance, in Woody Herman’s band, there were such names as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn; Shorty Rogers, Bernie Glow and Milt Jackson. But, the most fascinating for me was the bass player, Chubby Jackson.

I learned that Chubby joined Woody’s band in 1943. He was a zany character who brought a touch of vaudeville to the band. He was known as the cheerleader. His antics ranged from wearing comical costumes, doing slapstick routines with his bass to giving outlandish vocalizations. However, none of his clowning over shadowed his powerful bass playing. In 1946, he won the readers jazz polls for best bass player in magazines Esquire, Metronome and Down Beat. Also, that year, he endorsed the model S-51 Kay bass. It had five strings with a blond finish and was called the “Chubby Jackson Model.”

In the 1950s, Chubby led his own band. In addition to making recordings and touring in Europe, he hosted a television show for kids on ABC in Chicago. His eighteen piece band was featured between re-runs of “The Little Rascals.” In those days, when I was a teenager, I had a 45rpm album of his band called, “Father Knickerbopper.” The music was high-powered and dynamic.

During the summer of 1993, my son Geoff was visiting me in Los Angeles. One afternoon in Hollywood, after finishing some business at the musicians union, we crossed Vine Street to visit Gary Chen at “Stein on Vine,” a music store and frequent hangout for musicians. When we entered, Gary was by his desk, talking with a stocky, older gentleman. Gary introduced us to Chubby Jackson. Instantly, we fell in with their spirited conversation. Chubby was truly comical, spinning tales with animated delivery.

Gary left us to help a customer while Geoff and I followed Chubby out to the parking lot behind the store. There, the brisk banter continued. Fortunately, Geoff had his camera with him. He shot a roll of film, capturing Chubby’s lively gestures.

The photo of Chubby playing “air” bass was taken while he was giving a kind of music lesson. He was saying, “Do you know, when you’re playing a slow ballad and you’re not sure of the first note in bridge? Just play B natural! If it’s wrong, you can slide up to C or down to B flat. You see? Either way, you’re safe. And, they’ll think you’re very hip!”

I mentioned that in the mid-1960s, I had played bass with Woody Herman’s band, more than twenty years after him. I said that on more than one occasion, a fan would ask, “Are you Chubby Jackson?” At most, I was twenty-six at the time and not the least bit “chubby.” I commented that the question had always struck me as funny.

As we were saying our goodbyes, Chubby asked, “Do you know where I can find a ‘Chubby Jackson Model’ Kay bass? You know… the blond one with the five strings? Can you believe it? They named a bass after me and I don’t even own one!”

Over the years, Geoff’s photos have been a fond remembrance of our chance meeting with a legend: Chubby Jackson.

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