Nate Wiley and the Crowd Pleasers
Bob and Barbara’s, 1509 South St.
This is the house that Pabst Blue Ribbon built. The walls are covered floor to ceiling with Pabst memorabilia spanning several decades–from the corny caucasoid ’50s when Danny Kaye shilled for the brew, to the blaxsploitation ’70s when he was replaced with a Foxy Brown lookalike. The one constant in all those ads over the years is this catchphrase: “Now at Popular Prices.” That’s the asking price for Nate Wiley and the Crowd Pleasers, which has been cranking out no-cover-charge soul-powered organ jazz at Bob and Barbara’s for the last 24 years. Now 80 years young, Wiley first started playing sax back in 1948, when he returned from European theater laundry detail in World War II. Back in Philly, he earned a living as a steel worker, but he made his fun blowing horn–mostly in hole-in-the-walls, often scoring the bump-and-grind for exotic dancers. Turning 80 was no big thing, says Wiley, except for just one difference: “I ain’t a sex man no more,” he says, before picking up his horn and launching into “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Wiley takes it nice and easy these days, a couple songs and then a break, maybe a cat nap on an amp. He’s a lifer. “This is the longest job goin’,” he says. How much longer does he see himself doing this? “Until it’s over.”
[Photo by JEFF FUSCO]