I Don’t Need Saxophone Instructional Pamphlets and I Never Will
Remember when bulk orders of glazing putty were all the rage? Those were the days. Dick Clark would come on the stage and say “The Platters will play another song for us if we put in a 200 pound putty order” and everyone would cheer and fill out forms in triplicate. Before him it was the Kansas City Consolidated Glazing Putty Presents Harriet Larson and Her Singing Wallaby Variety Program, which swept the Putty Awards and set a record for the shortest radio program name all in the same year.
Years later I got to meet Harriet Larson, and she said she loved every minute of that show, except for the last episode, where the wallaby put a contract out on her and she was dodging bullets in between choruses of “A 40 Pound Putty Order… Of Love.” She blamed the whole thing on saxophone instructional pamphlets. “If they’d left us alone with our glazing putty the wallaby would be here with me instead of chucking his glass eye at the prison counselor,” she said.
Back in Harriet’s day, the tragic fall of a well-known wallaby would’ve drawn outrage. But the president of the glazing putty factories was secretly luring the viewing public away from wallabies and toward instructional pamphlets. The “Green Gaucho,” J.P. Atlantis. He was convinced that he could stop the end of the world from coming if everyone learned to play band instruments, so he took all the momentum from putty and put it behind a series of pamphlets – “Learn Saxophone Today!” and “Blow Your Way To Not Armageddon” were two of the most popular. By 1966 preteen saxophone players were everywhere – they even outnumbered chubby restaurant mascots.
Armageddon didn’t come. Unfortunately, elevator music did. Those kids who’d grown up saxophoning into the wee hours of the night were creating light jazz renditions of every song ever written. Thousands of years of musical achievement – Beethoven, Brahms, Harriet Larson and Her Singing Wallaby – all down the drain. “J.P. Atlantis saved the world but lost its soul,” wrote Norman Mailer.
Ironically, the only one who avoided the apex of the light jazz scene was the singing wallaby. He worked in the prison laundry room, and they’d subscribed to the easy listening channel for years. But when light jazz took over modern culture they jacked up the subscription fees and the prison couldn’t afford it anymore. They got the farm report channel instead, so the wallaby folded soiled linens to the latest on pork futures and made a fortune. His victims got all the money, so they bought a nightclub in Kansas City, where they feature avant-garde bluegrass four nights a week.