Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rod Serling's Looking Down

I received an email from my college buddy, Tom, asking if I had heard about the passing of Wayne Pegram. Tom didn't know any details, so I contacted a friend on the faculty of Tennessee Tech, from which Wayne had retired. Wayne had attended Tech as an undergrad and was a music department legend when I started there; stories were told of his escapades as a saxophonist with the Troubadours big band. He went on to make his mark as a high school band director, then as assistant director of the University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band, then as Director of Bands at Tech. He was playing tenor again with some jazz groups; I got to jam with him once or twice when I was visiting there.

A month or so after I heard from Tom, I was at a rehearsal with one of the bands I play with, the music of Dick Cary, who played piano with Louis Armstrong for many years. Dick also played trumpet and alto horn, and left a legacy of several thousand arrangements for various sized groups. On this particular night, my friend Jim, whom I hadn't seen for quite a while, was subbing on tenor sax. Jim said he had met a friend of mine from Tennessee in Singapore Airport. He couldn't recall my friend's name, but he had said he was on his way to Indonesia for his son's wedding. They met the way musicians do, with this stranger seeing Jim's tenor case and striking up a conversation, which led to his asking where Jim was from (Los Angeles) and did he by chance know Les Benedict. I finally figured out that Jim had met Wayne.

The irony of this, the Twilight Zone Moment, is that Jim was telling me in present tense of meeting Wayne, when I already knew that Wayne was gone. Wayne made it to Indonesia, but had a heart attack in the car on the way to the wedding and died. Jim had no idea of Wayne's demise and was shocked at how the story unfolded. This is yet another "isn't it a small world" story, but with a strange twist at the end. [cue the theme music--doo-doo-doo-doo...]

Wayne will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.


Paul Shirley said...

Very nicely done blog, Les. I never met Wayne, but we corresponded for a while. He was working on an audio anthology of the Troubadours. They go by a different name today, I believe. I wonder if he finished it. He had never heard or received the first recording we had made at Austin Peay and said he would include the copy I sent him. Wayne had the original tape made in RCA Studio B in May '59 of "Like Beat." I hope it has been preserved digitally or by some other appropriate means. The RCA engineer, Bill Porter, who did the job was a new hire at the time and went on to record Elvis' hits and the Everly Brothers etal. I read an interview of Porter where he said his experimentation during that session with the Tech Troubadours was the first example of the "Nashville Sound," which he attributed to his unique microphone placement, particularly on the drums, giving a more intimate sound. So, the album and the tape(s) are a bit of history according to Porter. Your trivia for the day.

Andy Corum said...

Mr. Shirley,

I found the studio tape of "Like Beat" as a student at TTU in the mid 1990's. It was in two boxes in storage - one had the name "W J Julin" in pencil. Dr. Pegram had concluded that it was the one off studio master copy that was handed to Julian when they finished the album. I managed to get it to DAT and eventually to CD. Unlike the original album - it's in stereo.

Dr. Pegram was my hero, mentor, colleague and friend. I miss him every day. We have formed a Troubadour alumni band - I'd love to hear from you.

Andy Corum