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Ruthie and Dick Johnson
Brockton-based hard working great sounding alto saxplayer and clarinetist Dick Johnson. I sing occasionally with his 4 horn band The Swing Shift. They can and they do. Great band. Regulars include Dick, Bob Patton, Dave Burdett, Terry Anthony, Gary Johnson, Bob Sinicrope, Paul Schmelling. They know hundreds and hundreds of songs. The total 4 horn book consists of a couple hundred charts, but these guys could do weeks of playing without looking at any music. Keys are communicated with hand signals: fingers up for flat keys, fingers down for sharp keys (in Boston: 4 fingers up is Ab, 2 is Bb,etc.) In Rhode Island it’s the opposite: fingers up for sharp keys, etc. Crazy, huh? So you signal the key, everyone modulates and someone starts playing the melody and everyone just jumps in. Medleys forever. Ask Paul Schmelling how many songs he knows. It will astound you. How does anyone organize that many different combinations of chord changes in their brains? Dick is the current leader of the Artie Shaw Orchestra.

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