Satiric radio commentary for the 90s from the man who drained Lake Michigan and filled it with hot chocolate!!!

What's a "Walker"?

Stan Freberg here. A New York Times story helps explain why musicals cost so much. A guitar player was hired for a Broadway musical, but was paid each night not to show up. He's a "walker." I'll explain when I come back. [:60 SPOT BREAK]

Guitar player John Harrington has the most comfortable job on Broadway. When he was hired for the orchestra of the musical, "The Who's 'Tommy'," he assumed he would play each night. No, no, he would be paid for not playing. He would be a "walker." The concept was then explained to him.

As a rock musical, "Tommy" only needed 17 musicians. But the union contract specified an orchestra of 25 must be hired at the St. James Theater, so the producer had to put 8 non-playing musicians on the payroll, at a cost of $1220 each per week.

They're still called "walkers," a term from the old days, when non-playing union musicians would sign in at the theater each evening, and then walk away. Is this outrageous or what?

"A Chorus Line" spent $3.3 million on walkers' salaries. Victor Borge satirized the problem by having the 11 needless stagehands he was forced to hire for his one-man show walk onstage at the end. Once, producer David Merrick, forced by the union to hire four musicians for a dramatic play with no music, made them play in the downstairs lounge, for people using the restroom.

"They're just about ringing the curtain down now on 'Tommy'," says non-playing guitar player John Harrington, in his room 14 blocks from the St. James Theater.

Stan Freberg here.

Copyright (C)1997, Stan Freberg/Freberg, Ltd. (but not very) Distributed by Dick Brescia Associates and Radio Spirits, Inc.