Saturday, August 20, 2005


Following my admonition to tell all of us about the significant and/or interesting people in your life, we have the following:

Ernie Simpson

Mama Huggs brought Diane to Arkansas State to look over the college during her senior year in high school. The year was 1960. I was playing in the symphonic band, and we were rehearsing for a concert coming up soon. Ivon, Diane’s mother, Norman, her dad, and Diane wanted to meet Mr. Minx, as he was a really good friend of Diane’s high school band director, R.B. (Scrubby) Watson, a legend in instrumental music in the state at that time. I didn’t know for sure, but it was said that Scrubby played cornet in John Philip Sousa’s band as a young man.

Scrubby was the band director at Pine Bluff High, and Diane was a superb, two year All-State flute player, whom Don Minx had recruited for Arkansas State. Since Scrubby and Don were friends, Scrubby encouraged Diane to come to Jonesboro and talk to Mr. Minx.

During the rehearsal that day, Mama Huggs, Norman, Diane’s brother Chuck and Diane were in Wilson Auditorium listening. As the rehearsal progressed, problems were developing with some places in the piece we were working on, Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, I think it was. The brass was covering the passage poorly, and Mr. Minx stopped the band to let them know his opinion of how we were playing.

“Goddammit, trumpets, if you can’t get the damned articulation right, I’ll get someone who can!” or words to that effect, in his great booming voice.

Well, Mama Huggs was strait laced, and she stiffened to hear this outburst echo throughout the auditorium from a respected conductor to whom she had been asked to entrust her daughter for four years of musical education. When Mr. Minx came down from the rehearsal stage during a break, she was very cool to him when he greeted her. This was her first time to meet the great Don Minx. He had a winning smile and went on and on, about what a great flute player Diane was, and about how he really wanted her to come to Jonesboro to school. Norman was non-committal, and Diane of course thought Mr. Minx was wonderful.

Don Minx had a charm that would soon win over just about anyone, and soon Mama Huggs was won over too, and in years to come became one of Don Minx’s biggest fans.

Diane entered school in the fall of 1960, and we had our first date sometime before Christmas of that year.

Mr. Minx loved Diane, and she loved him. She was an outstanding musician, and was a top flute player at Arkansas State during her college days. She was only 5’, 1-1/2 “ tall, (she always had a dream that someday she’d wake up and be 5’2”) and since she was short, her feet hardly touched the floor.

One day, Mr. Minx had the folding chair she used in rehearsal sent to the maintenance plant and had 2” cut off each leg, so her feet could touch the floor. With great ceremony, he presented the chair to her in rehearsal, and the band had a big laugh. She was embarrassed, but loved it because he had presented it to her.

She used that one chair all her years in the symphonic band, both in rehearsal and performance. Diane passed away in 1968, and Mr. Minx in 1982. I have thought of how those two had such love and respect for each other and that I was privileged to have had them both in my life. I thought of that incident only recently, a simple little memory that somehow stayed in my mind from long ago.

Tom Pry

“Scrubby” Watson, the legendary Pine Bluff band director, was for some reason simultaneously admired, enjoyed, and feared by those of us who dabbled seriously in music in high school.

One thing was for sure: when you graduated from Scrubby’s hands (and from under the gaze of his one glass eye), you WERE a musician.

If recommended to Don Minx by Scrubby Watson, Diane has to have been one heckuva musician: it’s a double accolade to her skill.

P.S. In case you haven't figured it out, Ernie married Diane, and it is their son, Stuart, who was kind enough to rush the above picture to me for this piece.


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