COMING UP: DAN TERRY by Bill Coss (p. 14)
IF YOU COULD have swung by your heels from the beams at Boston’s Totem Pole during the month of October, you would have seen an interesting sight; musicians who were enjoying themselves, a leader who beamed constantly and dozens of sweet young things crowded around the bandstand (making the aerial maneuver necessary), who had tugged his right sleeve down to his fingernails asking for requests and autographs. Dan Terry’s band was swinging for everyone in every way. And the people were dancing for him; he asked them to when a particularly danceable number came up and they melted away from the stand into the already packed dance floor as if to please him personally. This friendship between leader and dancer is indicative of why the Terry band is likely to hit the top brackets soon. Dan seems to be able to lead his audience constantly without making them aware of any pressure. His ability as a front man is unquestionably great.
Musically, the band is sound throughout. The reed section is a cohesive swinging unit. The trombones have the depth and brilliance necessary for their prominent position in the band. The rhythm section plays with the constant audible beat so necessary for today’s dancers. Bill Legan of the trombone section has the male vocalist chores and, although a certain stiffness is hurting his selling potential, he is constantly improving. Ace Lane, also of the trombone section, and Dan sing the novelties. Estelle Mann, a cute addition to any microphone, sings well with good intonation and intelligent phrasing. With the addition of another trumpet, Dan will have one of the best sounding bands in the nation
Fortunately, the thinking behind the band is just as competent as the music. The Terry band has come this far with very little help. Unlike other bands, he has had no record contract with its accompanying promotion and financial backing to help him along. The fact that he is surging toward the top can be credited almost solely to himself. It is his ability as a salesman that is a prime consideration when looking at the band’s ultimate position. Dan knows that a front man must project to the dancers, must pace them well, must be able to handle his men and, most importantly, be able to sell the product all the time. Dan could sell A.C. phonographs to people with D.C. current.
He has picked musicians who have the ability to produce. And he has picked the ones who want to and will work in close cooperation for one cause. He works his men hard but not unjustly and he manages to instill in them a personal and musical pride.
More than that, he understands what has to be done to boost the business back into the good years. The disc jockeys must help more than they have. The record companies will have to stop spending most of their money on single artists, thus neglecting the core of the business, the bands. The music publishers, who are crying for the return of the big bands, will have to do something constructive in the way of backing and promotion to help the return. Promoters will have to stop sitting back, waiting for something to happen. Business is bad only because everyone is waiting for the bonanza which they feel will occur “because the world owes me a living.” The solution, he feels, is simple enough. Play good music that always swings and get all the factors in the business to cooperate. Not one to sit still for more than one coffee at a time, Dan is actively trying to do something about these failings through his own personal calls and correspondence.
Dan has a lot to learn yet, he’s the first to admit it, but he has no trouble accepting what he learns from each new engagement. He is constantly experimenting with the presentation of the band and just as constantly scrapping those ideas which are without value. This open-minded attitude, free of the egotistical astigmatism of others in the business, will be another contributing factor to his success.
I told Dan recently that I was sending someone out to hear the band on its last night at the Totem Pole and I supposed that the band would be laying-off on the last night as so many do. “Send him along,” said Dan. “The band will sound better on the last night than it did on the first. What kind of businessmen do you think we are?” —B. C.