Hef & Bix (Take 2)

This is from Brad Kay, a regular and regularly thoughtful contributor to the Bixography forum:

I happen to know Hugh Hefner a little, through music, and let me assure you the guy really is a dedicated jazz fan. I used to play around town (L.A.) with Johnny Crawford (some of you may remember him as the kid actor on ’50s TV hit, “The Rifleman,” starring Chuck Connors). Johnny and Hefner are old pals. According to Johnny, one day in the ’70s, during a lull in his acting and rock ’n’ roll crooning career, He and Hef were hanging out at the mansion, and HH said, “Forget this rock ’n’ roll! I want you to hear something!” And he pulled out one after the other of the [Paul] Whiteman Victors with Bing [Crosby] and Bix. This changed Crawford’s whole karma. For the next 15 years Johnny yearned to sing like young Bing (which he does, admirably), and to have a band like Whiteman’s! Eventually, around 1991, he ran into me and my bunch, and we ended up as “Johnny Crawford and his 1928 Jazz Orchestra.” We worked together for about two years, including gigs at the mansion. Hefner had his birthday at our club in ’92. That evening, I played “I Can’t Get Started” with Ray Anthony on trumpet, and backed up Mel Torme on “Stardust”! Hefner loves talking about Bix, and will pause, even when being assaulted from all sides, to do so.

Of course, there’s the Playboy Jazz Festival, and the magazine’s formerly extensive jazz coverage, but we’ll just stop here.

[June 19, 2006]