Recently I was searching for a particular item related to the word MIZPAH. During said ramblings, an unexpected question was asked of me. It was, “Where did you first hear about the word MIZPAH? And when I rummaged around in my mind to the source of that particular word, I was back in my teens and the people who had wandered in and out of my life.
The only time I’ve ever actually heard the word MIZPAH used was by a really nice, handsome young man that I once knew who was the equipment manager for Ralph Marterie’s orchestra back in the 1950s. He was also a trumpet player and, during the time of our friendship, he became a musician in that orchestra, which was really exciting. Music was and still is a particular passion of mine and he is just a part of that history. I am on the right in the picture , standing on a stool beside a tall friend from my high school class.
On the night I met the man who introduced me to the word, I was being pursued across the dance floor by a somewhat lecherous older man. Gosh, he may have actually been in his late 20s or even mid-30s! Little did I know “my hero” was standing at the approaching edge of the dance floor and stepped in between me and this guy, asking, “Is this gentleman bothering you?” Being young, this had the same exact effect on me as if he’d been a knight in shining armor who had galloped up on a white steed. He politely sent the man on his way and encouraged me and my girlfriend to stand there with him for a little while, just to be on the safe side. He was lots closer to our tender age and told us he was with the band, so we stood and talked with him for a time and he was fascinating.
We would see each other whenever the band happened to be in town. Mostly, we’d just have a snack somewhere after the evening’s gig, which my girlfriend and I always attended, take a drive or go to a movie on his night off. I got to meet a lot of big band leaders and musicians of that era through this friendship. And when new Marterie records were to be released, I’d always get an advance copy of them from my friend, mailed with a little note that was unfailingly signed with the word MIZPAH followed by his first name.
MIZPAH is from the Bible. It is Genesis XXXI: 49 and it says “May the Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another. Isn’t that a lovely sentiment with which to sign a note, card or letter to someone who is simply a special friend?
He had an older mentor from his home town who was also a musician in this band. His name was Rudy and he played tenor saxophone and would buy us lemonade during the breaks. He became quite famous after he joined Bill Haley & The Comets. Rudy continued to send two tickets to many, many concerts when they were in town. At the first one, he introduced us to Bill Haley and the other Comet musicians and presented me with an album with his personal note written on the back. At later concerts, we got to meet other famous singers and musicians of that era who were also appearing.
Unfortunately, I only recently discovered that he, a non-smoker, contracted lung cancer in 1974 after an European tour and died on February 5, 1976 at the age of 52. Heaven gained a really rockin’ angel with a heart of gold and talent unlimited He had remained with Bill Haley for 20 years and in 2012, my sweet and dear friend, Rudy, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame post-humously.
I find it ironic how remembering where I first heard one particular word led me back to so many dormant memories of good times with some truly wonderful people who were once in my life so long ago. Of course, as we teens matured, we took off in different careers and directions and these connections just got lost in the shuffle. But I still love music and treasure such memories.