Jazz Institute of Chicago

Remembering Cy Touff

© Jeff Lowenthal, all rights reserved
© Jeff Lowenthal, all rights reserved
© Jeff Lowenthal, all rights reserved

Remembering Cy Touff
by Marty Clausen

My wife Marge went to Senn High School with Cy Touff and Bill Russo, but I didn’t meet them until a few years later and found I always learned something when I was around them.

Two days after our wedding in 1952, I started working seven nights a week at the Postime strip joint at Clark and Kinzie. If we wanted a night off we had to pay our sub $15 for the seven hour gig—two dollars more than we were making.

The band was Bob Victor, trumpet; Wilke Benner, piano; and me, drums. The first sub I saw walk in one night was Cy Touff, whom I had met before but never worked with. Of course he played all the music like he wrote it, and we had a good time.

A week later the piano player took a night off and Cy showed up and faked his way through seven hours of the strippers slow, medium and fast routines on piano! He was no Thelonious Monk, but he got the job done.

A week after that I needed a night off. Cy said, “I’ll work it for you.” I asked Bob Victor [it was his gig] and he said, “Yeah, Cy filled in before on drums. He did OK.”
That was my musical introduction to Cy Touff. As the years zipped by we worked together on a ton of gigs, jingles [he also played harmonica], and record dates.

On the album “Touff Assignment,” were Cy, Eddy Higgins, Sandy Mosse, Bob Crenshaw, and me. On Sandy’s album, “Relaxin’ With” it was the same bunch.

Cy was always fun to play with and came to every job prepared. We could be working in a toilet somewhere for $15, or on a well-paying commercial with full orchestra, it made no difference. Cy gave the proverbial 100% in any setting. Bill Russo and Cy Touff were two of the original cast in my musical life, and it’s very hard to imagine a world without them; so whatever you do, value the time you have with the special players in your lives—we really are “only passing through!”

Copyright ©2003. All rights reserved.

All photos © Jeff Lowenthal, all rights reserved

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