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Mike Montano interview, September 19, 2008: transcript


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First played in Las Vegas with Jack E. Leonard in 1960. Only worked at two hotels during his 24-year Las Vegas career - Flamingo and riviera

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Montano, Mike Interview, 2008 September 19. OH-02135. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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An Interview with Mike Montano An Oral History Conducted by Lisa Gioia - Acres September 19, 2008 All That Jazz Oral History Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas i ©All That Jazz Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2008 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV — University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Editors: Barbara Tabach, Melissa Robinson, Angela Ayers Transcribers: Kristin Hicks Interviewers and Project Assistants: Lisa Gioia-Acres and Claytee D. White ii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of Harold L. Boyer Charitable Foundation. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the All That Jazz Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada Las Vegas iii Table of Contents Interview with Mike Montano September 19, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Lisa Gioia - Acres Preface Mike talks about being born in Hawaii to Filipino parents and relocating to the mainland with his parents and siblings when he was quite young. Mike discusses growing up in Stockton, California which was diversely populated with a large Filipino population. Mike recalls experiencing no racial prejudice until he went to college 1 - 5 Mike discusses both ol his parents" musical inclinations. Mike recalls his mother wanting all of her children to learn music, and they were all given piano lessons. Mike remembers having a piano in his home since he was seven years old, and his mother always playing and singing. Mike discusses hearing jazz in high school for the first time and this being a turning point in his m u s i c a l c a r e e r ; h e w a s n o l o n g e r i n t e r e s t e d i n c l a s s i c a l m u s i c 5 - 7 Mike recalls getting his degree from the College of the Pacific as well as his reasons for attending there. Mike discusses playing for dances to help with expenses. Mike talks about visiting a friend in Las Vegas in 1958, and getting a chance to look around and meet other m u s i c i a n s a n d r e a l i z i n g h e d i d n o t p l a y a s w e l l a s t h e y d i d 8 - 1 1 Mike talks about going to San Francisco, after graduating from college, to find a job. Mike tells of his first professional job working at the Rickshaw. Mike recalls their being two musician's unions; one for blacks and one for whites. Mike talks about trying to support a wife and baby on $50 a week. Mike recalls working on a cruise ship with the ship's band 12 - 16 Mike talks about how he came to be in Las Vegas. Next Mike recalls returning to the islands as a pianist conductor for a singer where he stayed for several years before returning to Las Vegas. Mike also talks about traveling with Toni Lee Scott as her piano player. Mike then discusses how he came to work with Jack E. Leonard. Mike finishes by talking about the rest of his career in Las Vegas 17 — 25 Index 26 - 30 iv Preface Mike was born in Hawaii to Filipino parents. He moved to the mainland with his family when he was very young. Interestingly, Mike's parents had to apply for citizenship as Hawaii was not yet part ot the United States. Growing up, Mike worked in the family grocery store in the San Francisco area. Even though it was his father's dream that his sons would take on the family business, it was not to be; Mike became a musician, and his brother became a professional • * soldier. Growing up in Stockton, California, Mike experience a very diverse population. It wasn't until Mike went to college that he first experienced prejudice. Mike comes from a musical background with both of his parents being musically inclined. His father played the violin, mandolin, and the guitar as a hobby. Mike's mother was a singer and played the piano. It was their mom's insistence that they learn music which started Mike on his career path. Growing up, there was a piano in the home, and Mike started playing when he was seven years old. In high school, Mike was taking lessons to become a classical pianist. Hearing jazz for the first time changed Mike's direction; his focus became fixed in the jazz world. Following graduation with a Bachelor of Music degree, Mike headed to San Francisco to find a job. Mike began working clubs in San Francisco which eventually led to working with David Allen which Mike considers his big break. Mike then went to work on a cruise ship where he played for about a year. Mike first played in Las Vegas with Jack E. Leonard in the 1960s. During his entire career in Las Vegas, Mike only worked at two hotels for a total of 24 years; the Flamingo and the Riviera. Mike admits he did not start out to become a career musician. Sometimes you just don't know what is going to happen. v I isa (lioia-Acres. Today is September 19, 2008. I'm here conducting an oral history n \ in* for the All That Jazz oral history project, and I'm here with musician Mike Montano. \m I saying your name correctly, Mike? Correct. vml it's spelled? M O-N-T-A-N-O. Montano. And what is the origination of that name? It's Filipino. Mike, w hat instrument did you play? I play? Piano. u l'"« wt're going to start this interview out. We're going to talk about your Las Vegas life and ipi rience. Prior to that, please take us back to your very early years. Who was mom? Who was lad? If you could give us their names and what kind of work that they did and where you ' iuinated from. Just give us a life story way back when. •riginally from Hawaii. Then we moved to the mainland. My father's name was Catalino. He started .: > he an engineer and decided not to do that. He came from the Philippines and wanted to own a • H.cry store. In the early years, in the '30s as I remember, he worked for some very big people as a :. :.or. handyman and driver. I can remember he worked for the Magnums, Joseph Magnum, hi re is this located? in Bay Area, San Francisco. He went on to help start the now defunct Joseph Magnum apparel :i San Francisco. It's now gone. He finally achieved his dream opening a small mom-and-pop r-i cr> store in the San Joaquin Valley in Stockton, California. I I d o y o u s p e l l y o u r d a d ' s l a s t n a m e ? O h , w a s t h a t h i s l a s t n a m e ? So. no. »h. « tit. His first name? VT-A-L-I-N-O. i him Montano. Okay. •I ime very successful as a mom-and-pop store. Branched out. I used to work there when I was in high tchool. 1 I his is Lisa Gioia-Acres. Today is September 19,2008. I'm here conducting an oral history intersiew for the All That Jazz oral history project, and I'm here with musician Mike Montano. Am I saying your name correctly, Mike? Correct. And it's spelled? M-O-N-T-A-N-O. Montano. And what is the origination of that name? It's Filipino. Mike, what instrument did you play? Do I play? Piano. Well, we re going to start this interview out. We're going to talk about your Las Vegas life and experience. Prior to that, please take us back to your very early years. Who was mom? Who was dad? If you could give us their names and what kind of work that they did and where you originated from. Just give us a life story way back when. I m originally from Hawaii. Then we moved to the mainland. My father's name was Catalino. He started out to be an engineer and decided not to do that. He came from the Philippines and wanted to own a grocery store. In the early years, in the '30s as I remember, he worked for some very big people as a gardener, handyman and driver. I can remember he worked for the Magnums, Joseph Magnum. Where is this located? This is in Bay Area, San Francisco. He went on to help start the now defunct Joseph Magnum apparel store in San Francisco. It's now gone. He finally achieved his dream opening a small mom-and-pop grocery store in the San Joaquin Valley in Stockton, California. How do you spell your dad's last name? Oh, was that his last name? No, no. Oh, wait. His first name? C-A-T-A-L-I-N-O. Catalino Montano. Okay. Became very successful as a mom-and-pop store. Branched out. I used to work there when I was in high school. 1 What was the name of the store? Stockton Market. The main drive for the store was delivering the labor camps in Stockton. In tha, area they had a lot of asparagus camps and then pears and potatoes. He used to dcltver groceries to the different camps around in the valley. His hope was for my brother and me to take over someday in the store. Well, that wasn't meant for me, and my brother became a professional soldier. Then Stockton, as it grew, needed his store. So they bought my father out. I don't know what sour i, was: in the 70s I think, and built a freeway right over it. So you can't go home again. No, no, no, you can't. He was retired until he passed away. My mother's from 1 lawaii from a town called Waipahu. What was your mother's name and maiden name? Her name was Luminada Encabo, E-N-C-A-B-O. 1 don't know what year - she didnt talk much about when she came over from Hawaii. But she was born in Hawaii? Yes. And you lived in Hawaii until you were what age? We came over here when I was young. We came over here before the war started. So it had to be late '30s. I was born in '37. What were their reasons for coming here? They wanted a better life. What did your mom do in Hawaii? Schoolgirl. Then I guess she met my dad, and then they came over here. W hat took your father to Hawaii from the Philippines? I guess ifs a natural place for people coming from Southeast .Asia and coming across. Some went directly to the United States. He went to Hawaii and then came to the States. I guess life must have been - it must have been hard there in Hawaii. As I think about it, there was not much open for opportunities especially for, I guess, Filipinos. Was there a prejudice in Hawaii? No, no, no, no. There was never that. There's a class thing that they were mostly laborers. Like when the 2 Chinese first came they were laborers. Everybody who first came to Hawaii was a laborer. Then eventually the Chinese got into more businesses, and the Japanese Americans got more into politics. Filipinos, laborers. Portuguese, mostly fishermen and had a lot of ranchers, overseers for ranchers. If you read Hawaiian history, Portuguese and Spanish were brought over to be overseers. The native Hawaiian, unfortunately to this day, their status is almost like the American Indians here. But, no, there is no prejudice in Hawaii. There is a pecking order, like anything has a pecking order. Even in jazz there's a pecking order. I guess it's natural. Do you have recollections of your early childhood in Hawaii? No. Why did they choose the Bay Area? I have no idea. No idea. That's the only thing about my mother and father. My mother, her dialect and her "tribe, was Vesian. And my father, his "tribe" or dialect was Ilocano. And they didn't speak to each other in Filipino. They spoke English. So we grew up in an English-speaking house. I think it's because they wanted to assimilate. That was the big thing, to assimilate being English-speaking Americans. I can remember, though, when my dad and mom were studying for their citizenship. I remember that, and I remember when my dad finally got his citizenship. But mom didn't need to get citizenship. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. She was Hawaiian. Yes. Then why did she -- Way back when. You're talking about in the '20s, '30s. They weren't part of ~ I didn't realize that. And I was a history major and I didn't realize that. Yes. I don't think you were automatically — were you? I don't know. You weren't automatically a citizen, were you? I thought Hawaii — I don't know when Hawaii became — Same as Puerto Rico. Hawaii became a state in '59. Okay. So that must have been it. They were just a territory, but what was it like way back when? I have no idea. They never talked about it. 3 One of my biggest regrets is that I never really got to know my father. He was always working. I knew him by image. But like any father of any ethnic peoples — Italian, Irish — the father, if they're from another country, they come over here and all they do is work. So I never saw him that much, and he never talked about his past. I remember my sister asked him once — this is what she told me. We were thinking one time for my mom and dad's anniversary, before he passed away, to send them back to the Philippines, and my father said, "What for? I'm an American." So he had no desire, which was strange, but I never knew why. He had no desire to go back. Very interesting. You have a brother and a sister. Any other siblings? I've got a brother who's deceased now. My sister is the only living relative I have. And where were you in line? First, second, third? First. I'm the oldest. And my brother was the middle. And what was his name? Gerald. He's the one that became a professional soldier. Then my sister was the youngest. And she lives up in « that small suburb outside of Seattle. What is her name? Sylvia. When did mom and dad pass away? My father passed away in the '70s, late '70s. My mother passed away in the early '90s. I just don't think about it anymore. What was it like growing up in Stockton? At the time, Stockton had the biggest Filipino population outside of Manila. A lot of it had to do with the farm work. Growing up where we lived, which was wonderful, we lived in a mixed neighborhood. There were Spanish and Chinese. We lived next door to a Japanese lady. Italians, Portuguese, Irish. It was wonderful. Sounds it. Yes. There were a couple of black families that lived down the block, and so I never experienced overt prejudice until I got into college. It was in college that I experienced my first taste of racial prejudice, but through grammar school and high school, none of us saw that. None of us experienced that. Maybe because of the area we lived in and the neighborhood, we never thought of it. It wasn't until I went to 4 college, which was College of the Pacific. It's called University of the Pacific now. What kind of prejudice and bias did you experience? Socially. You just felt a little social distancing from some people, little remarks that you just looked past. Some places that we would have to wait a little longer. We didn't have to wait as long as the blacks to get waited on, but you waited wondering what was going on. I remember my father said, it was during the war, there used to be signs in stores in Stockton about no dogs, no blacks and no Filipinos. Unbelievable. Oh, yes. It still goes on. It's not overt. Yes, its not overt, but it s there. I hat's the thing about Vegas. They've come a long way. But if you really scratch hard enough this is still the "Mississippi of the West." That's what it was when I first came here in '58. We couldn't have integrated groups. Well, in your early years » first of all, I have to ask were mom and dad musical? Oh, yes. My father played violin, and he played mandolin and the guitar, but that was just a hobby, a pastime. Where did that come from, though? I have no idea. My mother was a singer. 1 understand from her talking once in a while about it she'd sing, you know, little local dance bands. That's where my father saw her; singing in a dance band. He was older. I don't know by how much older than my mom, maybe 15, 16, 17 years. I guess I'm fascinated just by listening to your story about how it sounded like there was not a lot of discussion in the family about the past. No. I'm just fascinated by that. So did you ever get an opportunity to hear anything about their mothers and fathers? 1 met my grandmother before she passed away. Was she as closed off? Jeez, I have no idea. I was five, six, seven. What was the typical day in the life of your childhood? Did mom stay home? Did she work outside the house? 5 She stayed home. Was she involved with you as a child and your brother and sister? To the point of, in those days, to make sure that we studied, behaved, practiced. When we were little my mother s goal was to have my brother and my sister and 1 learn music. She had no idea we'd become professionals. She just wanted us to play piano. So all three of us started to play piano. And I'm the only one that stayed with it. When I was 13 — yeah, 12 or 13,1 got a summer scholarship to go to this Sherwood musical conservatory in Chicago. It just was something I liked and I took. My brother became more into sports and was mechanically inclined. He eventually worked in a garage before he went in the army. He went in the army when he was — and he lied about it — 16. So he was in the army almost 30 years. My sister is the smart one. She took after my mom. She was really academically inclined. What kind of work does she do? She's retired now. But she worked for the Seattle university system up there. So when was your first experience on a piano or any other instrument? Piano, I was seven. Did you have a piano in your home? Yes. Were finances tight for your family when you were a child? Well, as far as I can remember, we never really went without, but money was scarce, especially during the war. Because my father had a grocery store and we lived out in the country and he had a lot of friends who worked in the labor camps — so there was this — during the war I remember the hardest thing to come by were the essentials — sugar, butter and meat were rationed. Well, everything was rationed, but those were the hardest to come by. But you had a piano. Had a piano. Somebody felt that was important enough. Well, my mother loved to play and sing. Till the day she died she loved to sit down and play and sing. So she worked professionally -- When she was younger. Yes. 6 Do you remember the name of the band that she - No. As I said they rarely talked about the past. Now, when did you have opportunities to hear your mother's musical abilities? m the house. She'd sit down and play the piano and sing in her spare time, whenever she had spare time. And then when we all had married and moved away, she kept that piano that we were raised on. She'd still sing and play until the day she died. W ow. So at age seven you started playing piano. Did you play in school? And how influential were your school years in your musical career? i ligh school was the turning point. I was taking piano lessons. I was going to be a classical pianist. So my piano teacher at the time was Stella Lejero, Ms. Lejero. We practiced, my sister and I and my brother. At the end of the year her students gave a recital. We did that until I got into high school. Then I heard jazz. Ooh. I didn't want to do classical music anymore. So when I was in the eighth grade going into the ninth, a friend of mine played some "Bud" Powell stuff and Basie and stuff. Oh, yes, I liked that. Then he played a record that had just come out, The Four Freshmen. That was it. That's what I wanted. I wanted to write like that. So when I was in the high school, in the ninth grade, I started a band. I started writing and had a vocal group. W hat was your high school? I dison High in Stockton, California. And what was your band's name? I he guys, just the band, you know. What was the name of the vocal group that we started? They were all kids. All the kids that were in the vocal group, we had two girls and three guys, they all belonged to the elite choir, which I belonged to called the Edisonettes. So I started talking to the kids. And I told them ~ I remember saying I heard this group and we can sing like that and we've got to start a group. So we started in about the ninth grade. Had a band. We played at high school dances and sang at high school dances. Were you popular? Yes. It's nice to say, yes, we were. That continued until college. In college we sort of drifted away. I had .one to college and everybody started getting married or getting jobs or going away and that was that, but it was a wonderful four years. A wonderful four years. So you knew you wanted to be a jazz musician. 7 No, not a jazz musician. I m not a dedicated jazz musician. I like jazz. I knew I wanted to be a musician, and I liked to play jazz, but I never started out to be a "jazz," musician, just a good piano player. I like jazz, though. I love to play jazz. The transition from doing classical music to doing jazz music, was there any difficulty there for you? No. No. You just had to listen more. I remember the reason why I went to the College of the Pacific. First, it was in Stockton. That's what Stockton is known for. At that time it was a little college town before it became a university. It was a college town. And its two claims to fame were my piano instructor, Professor Shadbolt, was the instructor for Dave Brubeck. So, okay, I'm going to go study with him because I was exposed to Brubeck and that type of playing, and the other was the famous football player named Eddie LeBaron for the Pacific Tigers. He went on to become a professional with the NFL. Did you complete all your years of college? Yes. And what was your degree in? Music, bachelor of music, BM. And what did you do with that? Nothing. I didn't minor in teaching. I didn't do that. And you stayed in Stockton after college? No. So talk about your career. Did you work as a musician to support yourself? I worked part time in Stockton. I got tired of working out in the fields for school clothes and stuff. So you did do that? Oh, yes. Yes, yes. We started getting more jobs playing for dances, and I liked that. Then I used to go up to San Francisco. That was the thing, going to San Francisco where all the clubs were and stuff like that. So we'd drive up to the city and, at the time, go to the Black Hawk and Jimbo's Bop City and The Jazz Workshop. About how old were you at this time? I was about 17, 18. My first and only time I saw the Jazz at the Philharmonic. And that's where I first saw 8 Oscar Peterson. That was the only time up in San Francisco that I went. Then as I got older and I was driving, I'd go to Monterey to go to the Monterey Jazz Festival. I did that for a while. But going back to high school, high school was the turning point. I switched my major because my mother wanted me to be an aeronautical engineer. She had this thing for Floward Flughes. So you will be this. So 1 was taking all these engineering classes and hated it, you know. Now when you think about it, math and music are hand in hand. They're synonymous. I switched my major when I was a junior in high school trom engineering to music, but I always played in the marching band. I played clarinet then. So I played clarinet all through high school and through the first two years of college. When you were at that stage in your life, did you envision for yourself a life in the music business? I had hoped, but I really never thought about it. It was just great to do and I enjoyed it. I wondered if I could get a job. Can I make a living at this? Can I get a job at this? So I went to San Francisco in '59. Well, I notice that you came to Vegas in '58. What was that for? Yeah, in the summer. A friend of mine lived here. And he was talking about Vegas and stuff like that. So he said, "Come see." So I came. Did you fly or drive? I drove. And saw. He took me around. He was very, very informative. That's during the heyday. What did she want you to see? Was he in the music business? Yeah. He was a bassist. We went to the same college together. He was a senior when I was a sophomore. And then when he graduated he eventually became a wonderful doctor in music. His name is Vince Gomez. And he came here to Vegas. He was married and had a child. So there was nothing in Stockton and in that area. So he wanted to see what it was like. So he came here to Vegas and was working off and on. In those days there was a lot of work, various types of work, a lot of lounge work. And that's what he was doing was lounge work. He wasn't on a house band. So when you came did you go to work or did you just look around? Oh, no, no, no. When I first came here, I wasn't allowed to work. I just came to take a look and see. While I was here I got a job as a busboy at the Riviera. It was just what I needed to support myself. Just took a look and see what was going on. I met a lot of wonderful people. That's where I first met Gus Mancuso, the legendary Gus Mancuso. He had just come out of the army and was living out here. There was a place called The Ranch where McCarran Airport was. And a lot of musicians lived out there because it was 9 cheap. Cinderblock places with swamp coolers, you know. I looked around and got to meet a lot of people. Ed Voyeur, a wonderful man, he's one of the first guys I met who was a saxophone player then. Then he became a bass player and a world-class photographer. He's retired now. In fact, he lives two blocks down from me. Anyway, I met him and another guy named "Bamma" McKnight, who was a drummer who became an engineer over at the atomic testing - Nevada Test Site. Yes, but in those days everybody was young and they wanted to play. Only a few that I knew were getting in. A lot of guys were getting off the road from well-known bands and they had more experience and more connections, whatever, how they got in. There was so much lounge work that everybody was working somewhere, somehow. I guess they knew they couldn't make a living for whatever reason, if they had a family or something, they couldn't live on part-time work. So they all went to do something else. My friend Vince - oh, to finish up when I was here, I looked around and I found out that I didn't play as well as I thought I did compared to these guys here in Vegas or know as much as these guys, especially in the reading department. And I had better go back to school and finish it up. So this was like during your college years? Yeah. I came in '58 during the summer. So you headed back to Stockton? I went back to Stockton to finish up. In the meantime, my friend Vince went to Hawaii to get his master's degree at the University of Hawaii in education. This was the thing about Vince. He never wavered about teaching. In fact, we had a little trio in San Francisco in the early years, '60, '61, '62, and we wanted to become the first Asian islander trio in San Francisco. They didn't have one. This is Vince Gomez? Yes. He was a bassist. The drummer at the time, he was a wonderful guy and has since passed away, was Pepe Wassen; good drummer. None of those sound Asian. They're Filipinos, but that southeast Asian Pacific islander. I had heard in later years Pepe was playing with the wonderful guitarist Frank D'Rone. People of my age will remember him as a guitar-singer. He played here in Vegas for a while. Anyway, he got to work for him. Vince, when he got his master's, taught all around and eventually, we call him Dr. Fix It, became a well-known conductor. Was on a Fulbright. 10 Went to Chile, Philippines, wherever. He'd go and teach strings. If they needed to have somebody come in as a consultant, they'd always call Dr. Fix It. We still call him Dr. Fix It. He still does that. He goes and adjudicates high school bands and junior college bands. He flies all over the country and he's retired. He retired finally from the University of California in Santa Cruz. \ our discussion about you said you didn't feel like you were good enough when you were here. No. In those days. 1 hen you went back to school. Can you tell me, in your opinion, what the difference between an education in music versus some of the guys I've interviewed who just played? Well, again, I personally think there are a lot of variables, how much you were exposed and how much playing you did when you were young. A lot of guys are naturals, have natural abilities. Others, like myself, were more studious. You had to study a little harder. But still the talent emerges. Well, yes, I guess. I would say myself, I'm more of a journeyman. I'm a good journeyman as opposed to - there's a wonderful pianist, Billy - what is his last name? He works at the Top of the Stratosphere. A wonderful player, wonderful, whew. I'd say he's a natural player. I didn't set out to be a piano major. See, guys like on saxophone or tenor, they're music, that's their major. I specialized in theory and harmony. And playing was okay. But at the time when I was going through it that didn't really interest me. I liked to play and I did a lot of playing. Really, at one time, I wanted to be an arranger. I remember in college my theory and composition professor. We had to write little pieces. He told me one time, he says, you know, you're at the wrong school. He said you should go to L.A. and go to one of those professional places. Everything you write is jazz or sounds like a Hollywood movie track. He says, you're not really cut out to be a serious composer. Did you take offense to that? Yes, a little bit, but he was right. I listened to classical music. I didn't have a head for it. I couldn't hear it. A lot of arrangers, wonderful arrangers and composer have that inner -- they hear that. They can hear everything. Don Costa was one of those guys. Claus Ogerman. They hear everything in their head. I forget their names. I have those senior moments. They were saying that these guys could hear stuff when they're playing. They hear the whole thing. So that's not something that comes no matter what kind of training you have; it's just there; it's 11 innate? Yes. Interesting. So you're getting ready to graduate college. What are you going to do with your life? Don't know. I know I'm going to go up to the city. The city is San Francisco. San Francisco. I thought about going back to Hawaii. But I hadn't been there in so long. I was mainly raised here on the mainland. But 1 had a lot of relatives there. So I went right to San Francisco. To do? Get a job hopefully. And did you? Yes. A friend of mine, his name is Alan Jenn, he's since passed away, I met him when I was still in college. He used to play at a little place called Georgia's Log Cabin. It was a very successful nightclub in south San Francisco owned by a Chinese family. The son, George, was a good pianist. He was also an engineer, but he was a good pianist. I used to go up there. One time while I was up there somebody introduced me to Alan Jenn. Oh, it was Santo Savino's now deceased wife, Letty Luce. Letty was singing at Georgia's Log Cabin, and we became friends. She introduced me to Alan. In those days there weren't that many Asian players and Filipino players, Pacific Islander players. So they said would you like to sit in? I said, yes, thanks. That was my first time playing up in the city. I guess I did all right because they said, hey, anytime you're here you come on over and sit in any time you want. So I used to make it on the weekends. I'd drive up and hang in the city with them and sit in. When I had that vocal group, I brought them there once. And that's how I got that. Anyway, when I got out of college, I looked Alan Jenn up. He's the one I owe the beginning of my career to in San Francisco. He let me move in with him and share an apartment. He was considered, at that time in Chinatown, the Frank Sinatra of Chinatown. Yes, he was a Frank Sinatra devotee and the whole thing, a good singer. He was a drummer. Did you sing at all? No. No, I can't. Except for the Edison that's in choir, no. That began my love affair with singers and the spoken word. I think, if anything, I grew myself when I studied and I stayed. I wanted to be a professional 12 accompanist, not so much a player. But I loved accompanying like Tommy Flanagan or Hank Jones or some of the great — Lou Levy. There are a lot