Col. Buck Evans consents to ‘Stroller’ query over latest recording

The following is the entire transcript of an interview recorded on that marvelous new invention, the Dictaphone, that was left here by one of the members of President Harding’s entourage, and which we have just now learned how to operate.

STROLLER (intro): “Buck” Evans – Sir, it is with great pleasure that I have located you after many, many years, through the discovery of this marvelous new record, “Nize Baby”. I must confess that most modern recordings that arrive at the Stroller’s desk are thrown promptly into the coal furnace near my pallet under the press, especially on these cold winter nights, but I confess I was drawn to the liner notes and made immediate connections to the halcyon days of gold that we shared in Skagway and Dawson City. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you to be the former Col. R.B. “Buck” Evans, Spanish American War hero and commandant of the Dyea barracks. Following the unpleasantness with the Jeff. R. Smith gang in Skagway, I believe that upon not fully satisfying the business interests, you resigned your commission and moved on to Dawson,
whereupon you were employed at the Savoy as a piano player. I used to come into the establishment after deadline at the Klondike Nugget and listen to your traditional rags and original syncopatic compositions. It may have been you that urged myself and brother journalist Casey Moran to abandon that wretched laudanum in favor of simple brand whiskey, always remembering to “put a squirt of lemon in it.” This creed saved my life and I will retain it till my dying day. I wasn’t 100 percent sure you and the musician on the album were one in the same, until I came across the reference in the liner notes to your Shanghai customers, the “Flotsam and Jetsam of the Far East.” Back in Dawson City in the early 20th century, I wrote of spending five years “observing the comings, goings and assorted doings of the Sam brothers, Flot and Jet, and all their multitude of kinfolk, including their sisters, female cousins and nieces - at least they said they were sisters, cousins and nieces.” I often wondered where they went after Dawson, and it is apparent that they followed you to China. Congratulations on your success at Guinan’s Jazz-O-Dance Gardens. Dawsonites appreciated you first and it is refreshing to see that the rest of the world obviously is finally embracing these new rythms. Upon a recent visit to old haunts in Skagway, I played the record for Governor Brady who has revived the old Skagway News, and he enjoyed it so much that he has agreed to allow me to interview you for his next edition. Knowing your penchant for guarding your privacy, I trust this new electronic medium to be the best. I hope you have time between limo rides to your nightly engagements in Albania(?) to respond.
E.J. “Stroller” White, esq.
Postscript: We plan to run this feature in our issue just prior to Thanksgiving. Please have the answers back by November 15th. Thank you very much and Happy 1928!

EVANS (intro): I was aghast to hear from a journalistic reptile such as yourself – nevertheless I WILL reply to your absurd questions –obviously they are but the ravings of a sad, sick creature without a shred of self-respect – and little knowledge of English grammar, I might add! In any event,

: Is it true that you named the peaks east of Skagway for Admiral Dewey after walking along the trails by the railroad tracks?
EVANS: Yes. I was a close personal friend of the old gentleman. Years after the battle of Manila bay, when he had been reduced to sweeping out the offices of the pathetic excuse for a newspaper formerly published in the village of “Skagway, Alaska” (not, needless to say, the ACTUAL name of this place), we frequently finished the contents of whatever liquor bottle had inadvertently been left there after the editor – a hopeless dipsomaniac – had staggered out for the evening. The admiral was frequently depressed about the collapse of his naval career and, knowing I frequently passed out along the railroad tracks you mention, begged me to name the peaks overlooking them after him. It was, in fact, his last known coherent request – a sad end for a truly great American!

: Briefly trace your steps from Dawson City dance hall to the speakeasys of New York City in the 1920s, your rumored involvment with Irving Berlin, and your exit as the “Lithuanian paramour” who accompanied Madame Guinan to
Shanghai to open a new club.
EVANS: The story of my life in Dawson, New York and Shanghai is an unpleasant one which I do not care at the present time to relive – certainly not for the benefit of a mountebank such as yourself. As for Miss Guinan, as she is deceased I feel it would serve little purpose to drag her good name yet another time through the gutters of yellow journalism in which creatures like you exist. She was a saintly woman and pure as the driven snow – that is all you or any of your drunken cohorts need know of her.

STROLLER: Shanghai in 1927 sounds fascinating, but where did you find such a fine assortment of horn players to accompany you on this incredible journey?
EVANS: The orchestra as recorded was composed of small animals I trapped and trained to perform on minature musical instruments. Our act was a great hit in vaudeville and was praised by every knowledgeable critic of the era. Probably the high point of our career was performing at the White House itself in the winter of 1901. Unfortunately all of them have since been devoured by slightly larger creatures – feral cats, pet penguins, wild roaches, etc. Several candid photographs of the orchestra were published in the New York Mirror on Sunday, July 8, 1905. You will no doubt find the edition in your morgue.

STROLLER: What prompted the gangland shootouts that closed the club, and how did you get out of Shanghai alive?
EVANS: The underworld of Shanghai must remain shrouded in mystery. Powerful lunar forces are even yet attempting to assassinate me because I once dared to reveal merely SOME of their serpentine, carefully-concealed modus operandi. I am a hunted man, despised, rejected by the very celestial leitmotivs I once ruled – a misunderstood, jejeune genius born years too soon!

STROLLER: To the music, please explain your apparent fascination with necking and petting, and college coeds. Is this all the rage in the Lower states? What’s with the man on the horse staring at the naked lady on the inside cover? He looks a lot like you.
EVANS: The girl is the natural daughter of the dowager empress of Roumania. The horse is actually a well-known public personality and former ambassador to a commonly-mispronouced European industrial cartel.

: This recording has a mix of humorous rollicking melodies and sad and lonely ballads which bring you up, then down. And then you holler “Heels up!” and it seems like everyone’s dancing again. Where did the term come from?
EVANS: The expression “heels up!” was devised by me during the early days of the Klondike Gold Rush – I frequently used it when robbing the old White Pass and Yukon Route train between Bennett and Carcross. The fortune I accumulated as a result provided me the necessary capital to purchase enough mahoghany for my first bar and gambling hall in the quaint, sleepy little hamlet of “Skagway, Alaska” (not its real name).

STROLLER: Just exactly what is in store for you now with this new-found success? Rumors abound that you may be heading to Australia, or returning to Skagway to play in a summer theater show.
EVANS: There is a possibility I may journey to the South Pacific this winter if no important business opportunities in the states present themselves.

STROLLER: Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the music underworld operated by Rev. Neil Down?
EVANS: I have never heard of, met, or even imagined “Reverend Neil Down”. I have vague recollection of hearing several ancient folk myths about a legendary gunman and desperado with a similar name – “everest kneel zound”, I believe he was called –however, if such a person ever really existed at all, he is surely dead by now. There is no point in pursuing the matter – although I am quite sure a ghoul like yourself would relish further embarrassing the poor man’s family, even if he – and they – were eventually found to be totally imaginary, or worse. I must say that newspapers and “newspapermen” – as if any REAL man would or could descend to such a career! – sicken and appall me. That is all I care to say to you, sir. A more elaborate conversation would merely serve to delude you further that there might be some possibility in the future that a Gentleman would ever deign to address a drunken, laudanum-crazed wretch like yourself other than within the confines of a police line-up. No doubt you are intimately acquainted with such a milieu – and I am quite certain that sometime in the future you will inevitably find yourself IN one!
Yours contemptuously,
Col. R.B. Evans, USA ret.
Latouche Plantation
Dyea Parish, Louisiana.
1 November 1927

Editor’s note: “Nize Baby” from Skagway’s Burn Barrel Records is now available in Compact Disc format for modern listeners at various local retail outlets.