in the Sixties, the most happening place for jazz in Iowa was
a Cedar Rapids nightspot called "The Tender Trap." It was owned
and operated by a legend in his own right: percussionist Joe Abodeely.
ruled the Club -- and the musicians who played there -- from his
own personal "throne": the drum throne, where he presided ever
watchfully behind his drumset. From his "throne" he barked orders
to waitresses, shouted down patrons who let their cigarette ashes
hit the carpet, and administered his own brand of "swing" with
the power and relentlessness of a moving freight train.
"Trap" was best known, however, for one of its finest discoveries.
Besemer, the house pianist at the "Trap," also played intermittent
gigs in the area. One such gig was gig for students of Currier
Residence Hall, the University of Iowa. At that gig, a young student
who was working on a Masters Degree in Counseling Education came
up and asked if he could sing a few numbers with Cal. Cal said
"ok!" and the guy sang a few "standards." Cal thought he was pretty
good, so he invited the guy to come up to Cedar Rapids later that
evening and sit in at the "Trap."
that night, when Cal hit the "Trap," the place was packed. There
was a bowling convention in town, and the place was full of "women
bowlers" from all over the country. When Cal told Abodeely that
there was an "unknown singer" coming in that night to "sit in,"
Joe was, to put it mildly, furious. Joe related it to me this
said 'What do you mean there's a new guy coming in tonight? With
this place full? Man, what are you doin' to me? He'll stink, and
the place will clear out in five minutes!' "
that, the Trio went to work. And by the middle of the first tune,
the place was "hummin'." They played a set or two. They forgot
about "the guy who was coming to sit in" until they heard a commotion
from the front of the "Trap."
was a nice looking black guy in a rented tux making his way to
the bandstand. He walked up to the piano and said "hello" to Cal.
Cal looked over at Joe.
the guy," Cal said.
looked the singer over, and gave him the "Abodeely stare." It
could melt steel at fifty feet.
Joe said. "Just one song, and if the guy stinks he gets one chorus
and that's it."
guy" stepped up to the mike, called out a "standard" and a key,
and began to sing. It was one of the songs he'd learned from years
of listening to his parents' jazz records.
crowd went nuts.
the end of the second song, women were screaming, people were
shouting, and they beginning to "blow the doors off the place."
Forty-five minutes later, he was signing autographs, and Abodeely
was asking him to become a "regular" at the Trap.
became a "regular," all right. People came from miles away to
hear this UI student sing. He did his first recording with Abodeely
and the "Trap" trio. He even got married on the stage at the "Trap,"
and was a hit until he graduated from the UI and left for a job
in San Francisco. After a short time, he realized that he missed
performing. And he knew that counseling wasn't for him.
went to an open audition at "The Hungry I," was hired, and was
soon "discovered" there, doing the songs he had honed evening
after evening with Abodeely and the Trio at the "Trap." He has
since gone on to become one of the most successful singers of
was "the guy"?
published in the newsletter of the Eastern Iowa Jazz Society,