Phil Wilson, Unfazed
As Told by Charlie Jennison
Trombonist Phil Wilson had been friends with pianist Tommy Gallant since their childhood in Exeter together. In the 1960s, Tommy’s trio, with Smiley Trefethen on bass and Pete LaGasse on drums, used to play regularly at The Library Restaurant on State Sreet in Portsmouth, and Phil often dropped by to sit in when not gigging in Boston. At that time, The Library featured a piano bar, with a row of stools around the curved cover of a baby grand. Phil would always take the last seat on Tommy’s right, in order to see Tommy's hands on the keyboard, and also to place himself in favorable relationship to the bass and drums, which were behind Tommy. The musicians would generally reserve that seat on any given night in anticipation of Phil's arrival.
One particular night, when I also happened to be there, a loudmouth drunk entered the bar and claimed the prized seat over the objections of the trio. Tommy tried in vain to explain to the disruptive customer that the seat was reserved for a visiting artist, but was rebuffed with, “he can sit somewhere else—I got here first,” or something along those lines.
Sure enough, in a short while, Phil showed up, and while unpacking his horn, indicated to the determined customer that he was expecting to sit on the end seat to play some music. The drunk, however, took exception and told Phil he wasn't going to move an inch, and Phil could play elsewhere. Rather than make a scene, Phil simply called a tune and started playing his trombone, placing the bell of the horn right next to the surly customer's ear and blowing robustly. In about a minute, the drunk got up and, mumbling something uncomplimentary under his breath, left the restaurant, never to return!
Of course hilarity ensued following his departure, and Phil claimed his rightful spot at the bar for the remainder of the evening!