Book Excerpt: Bass Line - The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton
Authors: Milt Hinton and David G. Berger
After Walter Page, Basie changed bass players fairly often, and one day he called me and asked if I'd go out with the band. By this time I was busy freelancing and really could not afford to leave town. Besides, I'd made the road scene for sixteen years and was about to leave my family and start all over again. Basie came up with a solution: "Look, we're gonna be right around New York for the next month. Why don't you do the gig while we're here? That'll give me the time to find a guy to take on the road and break him in." Basie was my friend and he was asking me to do him a favor, so I told him, "Okay, I'll do it provided you take me back and forth to work every night." "You got a deal," he said. The pay was terrible. I think I got seventy-five dollars a week. But the band was great. Gus Johnson was the drummer. Lockjaw Davis, Marshal Royal, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Johnny Mandel - the songwriter - and Joe Newman were also in the band. And, of course, Freddie Green was always there.
When you're a bass player in Basie's band you spend your time walking. The rhythm section is responsible for a big part of the sound which is his trademark. I'd heard it for years, so playing it was enjoyable for a while. Basie wouldn't let me get bored. On stage, we'd always be a couple of feet apart and he'd kid with me all night. If we were playing up-tempo and I was walking fast and starting to sweat, he'd tinkle a couple of notes, then lean over to me and say, "Go ahead, hog, you're gonna take it anyway." I always broke up.