“I Cover the Waterfront”* Memories are Made of This

By Phil La Borie

I love music, especially jazz and classical, but I’m also a fan of bluegrass, rockabilly, (my sons have a band), western swing, you name it. However, I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of heavy metal or rap.

I gave my first (and only) piano recital when I was six. I was so short my music teacher had to install wooden blocks on the pedals for me to reach them. I also wrote an essay about jazz for my 8th grade English class, so my interest in things musical began at an early age.

I remember about the same time I wrote that essay that I burst into tears when I heard about the untimely death of Clifford Brown, the great jazz trumpeter. I still get misty thinking about his unfortunate death and those long ago times.

I also recall lying in bed in my darkened boyhood bedroom on hot summer nights listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on my folks’ record player. The sound was magical, and I wondered how anyone could play it so unhesitatingly and smoothly. Its soothing effect washed over me like water.

Later on in high school, my friends and I made the 350 mile drive to and from upstate New York to New York City for a weekend of music.

We visited as many jazz clubs and musical venues as we could – from Birdland and the Hickory House uptown to the Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, the Five Spot, Cafe Bohemia and Fat Tuesday’s in and around Greenwich Village. We also boldly ventured to some place way down on Hudson Street in the heart of the meat packing district to catch the last set – they closed at 4 am!

Listening to these wonderful musicians and vocalists, I soon discovered that I was a far better listener than performer. However, I continue to dance (solomente) around my kitchen listening to Marion McPartland’s Piano Jazz program on Saturday nights and try to figure out the solution to the classical Piano Puzzler on NPR radio.

So, it’s safe to say that I could be classified as a real musical nut.

My love of music reached a crescendo when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester. While I was clearly an underachieving student, to put it mildly; Chuck Mangione was a gifted student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and the leader of a swinging jazz group.

The band performed on weekends in downtown Rochester at The Knights of Pythias Hall – a civic group dedicated to doing good works. And, since they also operated a bar on the premises, they were clearly dedicated to providing good times as well.

I was in attendance on most weekends, instead of attending to my studies as I should have. I so enjoyed listening to the group and talking with its members, and since I happened to be the Social Chairman of my fraternity, I took it upon myself to hire Chuck and the band to play for a dance at the frat house.

The band duly arrived at the appointed date and time and set up shop in one corner of the large first floor living room. The rug had been rolled up and the furniture moved out of the way. The lights were turned down low and the bar was open for business.

All was in readiness.

My date for that particular evening was a lovely young lady with huge dark brown eyes and long black hair. She was a vision in a floor length, off the shoulder blue taffeta gown. Remember those?

She also fancied herself an accomplished jazz vocalist and if the truth be told, she was pretty darn good, or at least I thought so.

When we arrived at the dance, Chuck and the band had been at it for some time. As was their wont, the tunes they had played so far were all up tempo and while the audience was appreciative, there was only so much hot jazz they could listen to, or even dance to.

This went on for a bit more and then my lovely date whispered in my ear that she’d like to dance, but to something slow. In particular, she’d like to hear a soulful, slow jazz ballad titled “I Cover the Waterfront.” Could I do something about it?

Well, as Social Chairman, of course I could do something about it, I manfully answered.

By the way, if you’ve never heard the tune, or have forgotten the lyrics; some of them go like the ones below. You can also Google them. I’m particularly fond of the version Billie Holiday recorded, but you can also listen to the Frank Sinatra rendition:

I cover the waterfront

I’m watching the sea

Will the one I love

Be coming back to me?

Here am I

Patiently waiting

Will you remember?

Will you return?

I cover the waterfront,

In search of my love

And I’m covered

By a starlit sky above *

When the band took a break, I nervously approached Chuck with my request. He was already making a name for himself and who was I? But I could feel my date’s eyes boring into my back, so I pressed on.

Remarkably enough, he agreed to my request and “Waterfront” led off the next set.

I stepped onto the dance floor with my lady in blue, held her close (she was wearing some really wonderful perfume) and started to slowly circle the dance floor.

I was in blue heaven. But then, she started singing into my ear. Well, kind of into my ear. But actually, it was more like singing to the other dancers. To say they did not appreciate her efforts would be a serious understatement. In fact, they hated it and I soon discovered her as well.

We broke up shortly thereafter (nothing like peer pressure to change a relationship) and she went off to marry a dentist from Ohio. I still wonder what became of her. Nothing like music to stir up memories.

*(c) 1933, by Johnny Green (composer) and Edward Heyman (lyrics)

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie

    Phil La Borie

    Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at smilesforall.com. Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at plaborie@voxinc.net.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close