Full Speed Ahead . . .
. . . is the story across the country amid a flurry of promotional activity by the Jan Garber Orchestra.
Now directed by Wisconsin's Howard Schneider, the newest JG Band made its official debut at Milwaukee's 'Blue Canary' on May 19. Result: an enthusiastic, overflow crowd of more than 400 dancers.
An early-July phone call from longtime Garber fan Evelyn Hammond brought more good news: the band "sounds great!" Evie, who also phoned Dorothy and Janis Garber with the same message, had just heard Howard's group at the 'Milwaukee Summerfest'.
Following a pair of early-August appearances in Wisconsin, the Garber Band heads South to Robinsonville (MS) for an August 13 engagement (4:00 p.m.) at the Sheraton Casino. From there, it's on to the 'Columns' in St. Charles (MO) the next night - August 14.
Other current bookings in the Garber date book include the Bay Beach Pavilion in Green Bay (WI) on September 1; Michel's Ballroom in Menasha (WI) on October 8; Hofer's Ballroom in Wolford (IA) on October 12; the Starlite Ballroom in Wahoo (NE) on October 13; the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake (IA) on October 14; and the Dubuque (IA) County Fairgrounds on November 15.
"Most places are just now beginning to book into next year," Howard reports. "We have several dates already booked for 1996, with other strong possibilities coming in on a regular basis."
Some bad news and good news for veteran Bandleader Don Glasser - in that order. The bad news: a light springtime stroke. The good news: steady, "very encouraging" progress ever since. According to longtime Glasser/Costello flower Jack Norton, Don and Lois have spent eh summer in Birmingham, with therapy very much in the forefront. The 'Music Smooth As Glass' Orchestra - one of the national's best and most visible for more than four decades - will be back at 'The Club' in Birmingham next month, with Don due on the bandstand. The band will return to the Midwest in October, with engagements set for both the Willowbrook Ballroom near Chicago and the Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines (see story). Don, who turns 75 this month, has been in the music business since 1938. 'Gabbings' readers interested in wishing Don well can write him at P.O. Box 55, Lincoln Avenue, Arlington IL 61312.
It's not 'The Wax Works' any more. In its place, veteran broadcaster/host Bill Miller has just unveiled a new, syndicated radio program of his own: 'Bill Miller's Collector's Corner'. Produced in association with the 'Music Of Your Life' Radio Service, the new program first aired in early June on nearly 150 radio stations in 38 states and Canada. It originates weekly from studios in the Kansas City area. 'Collector's Corner' features the familiar five-hour nostalgia/variety format, combining the best non-rock music of the past 50 years with news vignettes and capsule versions of classic radio shows. Bill also hopes to launch a regular column in 'Dancing USA' Magazine, plus interviews with JG leader Howard Schneider, 'Dancing USA' columnist Jack Lebo and other musical personalities. A catalog and newsletter are also on the drawing board. If you'd like to locate a station in your area, or perhaps help promote 'Collector's Corner', you can write Bill at 110 S. Cherry, Suite B, Olathe KS 66061. Phone: 913-768-6936. Fax: 913-768-6937. Interested stations can also contact the 'Music Of Your Life' Radio Service toll-free at 1-800-375-7722.
Leo Walker, 1910-1995
He was one of Jan Garber's best friends and biggest boosters. Of considerably more importance, his two published works on the nation's dance bands have probably done more to rekindle interest in the bands, preserve their memory and perpetuate their popularity than the efforts of any other person in the United States.
Amazingly, Leo Walker's passing on March 13 at his Mesa (AZ) home has gone virtually unnoticed and unreported. In lamenting this fact in a recent note, Leo's wife Peggy - with him for nearly 59 years - is grateful for this 'Gabbings' coverage "he so truly deserves." Peggy added that Leo "shouldn't be too soon forgotten by those who benefited from his fierce devotion to, and love for, the big bands."
Leo had told a reporter recently that "none of us is so na´ve as to believe we can bring back the 'Big Band Era'. The factors which built it the first time no longer exist. A name band was created by records and remote radio broadcasts from big-band locations. In truth, radio and the big bands built one another. In its infancy, radio turned to the big bands as its primary source of organized programming. The record industry is now a jungle, with interested other than big bands, and radio is a new world, with networks now secondary.
"The new big-band sound era will not be dominated by names with national prestige, but carried on by good local bands and those with territorial prestige. There is much evidence that there are talented young musicians in every major city, qualified to staff such bands and anxious to do so."
Leo was later to write that "the big band sound is still very much alive despite the many obituaries written periodically in its honor."
It's doubtful that Leo Walker, whose spirit will also remain very much alive, would care much about a personal obituary. The bands - and his family - were always of prime importance. In addition to Peggy, Leo's survivors include son Maurice of Littleton (CO); sisters Amy Dumpert of Exeter (in his native Nebraska) and Marie Forman of Idaho Falls (ID); a granddaughter; and nine nieces and nephews.
Leo Walker was 84.
Amid on-again, off-again rumors of its forthcoming sale and closure in early 1996, the venerable Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines (IA) will feature the Russ Morgan Orchestra on New Year's Eve. A packed house is pretty much assured. Anyone interested in welcoming 1996 there, or finding out for sure what lies ahead for this storied ballroom, can call 515-223-1341. A lovely dance-band landmark for well over a half-century, Val-Air reigned as the flagship ballroom in a midwestern chain of dancing locations owned and operated for many years by the Archer family.
Many, many thanks to those of you sending $$$ donations for the 'Gabbings' cause this time around. So far, so good, although printing/postage costs keep going up (of course). Take care. Cheerio!