Toots Thielemans Takes a Lingo Lesson
As Told by Terry MacDonald
For Belgian guitarist/harmonicist Jean “Toots” Thielemans, English is, of course, a second language. So we can certainly understand and forgive an honest vocabulary lapse. That doesn’t mean we can't enjoy it, though.This story was told to me by my old and dear friend, Richard Lavsky, a composer of advertising jingles.
As the owner of Dick Lavsky’s Music House in New York, Richard had the opportunity to hire many of the greatest, most famous jazz musicians, and he took advantage of that opportunity almost daily. The musicians, by the way, were delighted to get the jingle work, too, which paid very well indeed. (As an advertising Creative Director, I had the great good fortune of being a part of productions in which musicians like Hank Jones, Grady Tate, Eddie Daniels, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Steve Gadd, Dick Hyman, Bob Dorough, and many others recorded music for my ad campaigns. But that's perhaps a story for another day.)
For one of his jingles, Richard wanted a harmonica. His first choice to play it, needless to say, was Toots Thielemans. And, as luck would have it, Toots was in New York at the time, and Richard was able to book him. Which he did.
Richard was a little surprised, though, when, one day before the scheduled session, Toots showed up in the studio.
“Toots, the session is tomorrow!” Richard told him.
“Oh, I know it is,"”Toots responded. “But I thought maybe I could take the chart (the arrangement) home with me.”
“Oh, sure. No problem.”
“Yeah, I'd like to bushwhack it.”
“Hmm. Bushwhack it?” Richard asked him.
Not sure now if he'd used the right jargon, he plodded on anyway, though with some nervousness. “Yeah, you know. Bushwhack it!”
“You mean woodshed it?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! Woodshed it!”