Still the best . . .
. . . dance band of them all! After nearly two years, the 'Gabbings' editor had an in-person chance on August 19 to hear Howard Schneider's Jan Garber Orchestra for the second time. The marvelous JG style, enchanting and effervescent as ever, remains a true joy.
These days, the 'swing' craze now sweeping the country is bringing more and more young people to ballrooms and other dancing venues than Howard can recall seeing in years. And with a brilliant Frank Bettencourt arrangement of 'One O'Clock Jump' in the books, together with a newer 'Opus One' chart by Jimmy Duffy - along with 'In The Mood', 'Woodchoppers Ball' and other 'swing' standards - the Garber Band is well equipped for the challenge.
Meanwhile, armed with a new female vocalist and buoyed by solid Iowa crowds at the Surf (Clear Lake), the Val Air (Des Moines) and the County Fairgrounds in Dubuque, the Garber group is now gearing up for this upcoming trio of very special appearances . . .
Highlighting the JG Band's schedule for the months ahead is that inter-island cruise of the Hawaiian Islands on April 10-17, 1999. In addition to the Jan Garber Orchestra, this cruise will feature Howard Schneider's Dixieland / Jazz Band and All-Star Polka Band. Colorful brochures - included in the last 'Gabbings' - are still available. For complete information, contact 'Dynamic Cruises & Tours'. The toll-free phone number: 1-889-328-5958. Delay not! The seven-day cruise includes five ports and four islands.
Back into 1998, that October 23 engagement at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (Michigan) also looms large. The Garber Band will appear on Friday, followed by the Guy Lombardo Orchestra on Saturday. For full details on this great weekend of dancing, call the Grand Hotel toll-free at 1-800-334-7263.
New Year's Eve will find the Garber troops at the fabled Hotel Peabody in Memphis (TN), where a four-course dinner and dancing program runs from 8:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. A deluxe overnight package is being offered, including parking; champagne / party favors to help usher in 1999; and a morning-after buffet breakfast. For the full story, call the Peabody's Trish Maloney at 901-529-4000. (The hotel's fax number is 901-529-3600.)
As more and more engagements are already falling into place for the Garber Band, the JG story will soon enter the computer age. A web page is now being developed, containing both the band's history and present-day activities.
Howard's new female vocalist was mentioned earlier. "Sounding great" and "very well received" since first appearing with the JG Band in April: Margie. Margie has extensive singing experience in and around Chicago, and will hopefully add a refreshing dimension long absent from the bandstand.
From his "longest letter in 15 years," former Garber jazz trumpeter Ted Bowman reveals that things are going well in Las Vegas. Commenting on the last 'Gabbings', Ted remembers working with JG vocalist Larry Dean and with Orrin Tucker at the Dunes Hotel, and joining the Garber Band in 1953 with the help of Memo Bernabei. Ted, now 76, still plays occasionally.
Alas, the passing parade of prominent musical personalities continues. The current list sadly includes Ron Harvey; Ernie Rudy; Helen Ward; Tom Lee; and Gordon Salyer.
Ron Harvey, who directed the Jan Garber Orchestra from 1988 to 1993, died on August 16 at his home in Fond du lac, Wisconsin. He was 70.
Ron, whose real name was Ron Bothe, left radio / tv in 1986, forming his own business of producing and syndicating radio programs. He returned to Station KFIZ after leading the Garber Orchestra.
Ernie Rudy, a drummer and novelty man, joined the Sammy Kaye Orchestra in the mid-1930s. A dispute over travel resulted in a mass exodus of the 'Swing & Sway' Band in the early 1950s, with Ernie assuming leadership of the new Kay-styled group.
The Ernie Rudy Orchestra lasted about eight years, centering its activity in and around Chicago, the East and South. Ernie passed away recently in New York City.
Helen Ward, whose vocals were a key factor in the early success of the Benny Goodman Orchestra, died in April.
She toured and recorded with Goodman's band from 1934 to 1936, and later performed and recorded with the bands of Hal McIntyre; Harry James; Teddy Wilson; Gene Krupa; Bob Crosby; and Red Norvo.
Helen Ward was 82.
Tom Lee and Gordon 'Gordo' Salyer were two of the best friends dance bands - and dance music - ever had. Long retired, both were always ready, willing and more than eager to share their massive collections.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in helping Tom and Gordo promote, popularize and perpetuate the dance band sounds we all enjoy became their instant and everlasting friend.
There will be no replacing either of them.
Remember Jan's 'Satin Touch' LP that came out on the Ridgeway label in the mid-1950's? Julie Vernon, who handled vocal chores on that album (along with Larry Dean) under the name Jeri Randolph, has never owned a copy of the actual disc. She's most anxious to acquire one. If you have a copy of 'Satin Touch' you'd be willing to part with - or know someone who does - let Julie know. Here's her address: Julie Vernon, 231 Monroe, Pomona, CA 91767.
Dorothy the Doer
That would be Dorothy Roe of Lewiston (NY), widow of a key member of the emerging Jan Garber Orchestra of the 1930s. Her husband Doug, a pianist and arranger in the original 'Little Freddie Large Orchestra' when it was taken over by Jan in 1932 and quickly became a coast-to-coast sensation, passed away five years ago. They had been married 60 years. Since that time, Dorothy - now 88 years old - has become one of the most active volunteers anyone in her community can recall. Described as a "spunky, friendly lady who spends most of her time helping others," Dorothy volunteers at Mount St. Mary's Hospital' the Lewiston Public Library' Lewiston Kiwanis Club; Artpark; the Annual Peach Festival; and the Lewiston Historical Society. In addition, she's the official librarian at the Lewiston Presbyterian Church. As a Red Cross volunteer at the hospital, Dorothy was recently recognized for the fourth time as a member of the '500 Club' - a select group of volunteers who each serves more than 500 hours per year. Dorothy refuses to let her age slow her down. She does lots of walking, stays fit, and plans to continue volunteering "as long as I can."
The Musician & The Lady
For the better part of 20 years . . . in between stints with such bands as Tommy / Jimmy Dorsey, Jan Savitt and Bob Crosby . . . Frank Langone could be found at the far end of Jan Garber's front-row sax section. Meanwhile, Jeanne Landis launched her extensive career as a solo dancer in 1932 at the age of 14. Jeanne and Frank met aboard ship on her return home from Paris in 1936, married 10 days later and stayed together until 1940, when continuing career conflicts ended the relationship. Both later remarried, with Frank playing frequently on the road and Jeanne continuing her dancing into the 1950s. She appeared at clubs in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere, working with the likes of Ted Lewis, Isham Jones and Xavier Cugat. They met again in the 1970s, and their second marriage in June of 1978 . . . on Jeanne's birthday . . . followed their first by 42 years almost to the day. Frank . . . survived by a son in Omaha and a daughter in California . . . passed away in January of 1988 at the age of 80. Jeanne turned 80 in June. Today, she remains in New Jersey with her dog 'Dorsey', a great bunch of memories and marvelous friends . . and greetings to Frank's numerous Garber friends across the country.
From vintage Garber collector Sam Watts (San Francisco) comes word that a 1926 JG recording sold for $176 at a recent auction there. The record - 'How Could Red Riding Hood' - was released by Victor on December 24, 1926. But according to Sam, it was withdrawn on January 14, 1927, when nervous Victor officials deemed the lyrics a bit on the risqué side. And no wonder! Read them for yourself (but only if you're not easily offended) . . . "How could Red Riding Hood been so good and still kept the wolf from the door? Father and Mother she had none. So where in the world did the money come from? Please let me ask it - who filled her basket? The story books never tell. They say she was a maid most discreet, and there is no doubt she must have been sweet. But you know and I know that sweet girls must eat. How could Red Riding Hood have been so very good and still kept the wolf from the door?" (Wow! Naughty, naughty!)
Garber fans who may be wondering what Jan's World War II 'swing' band sounded like now have a brand-new recording to satisfy their curiosity. It's a just-issued CD on the 'Circle' label. Title: 'Jan Garber & His Orchestra: The 1944 Swing Band, Volume I.' Price: about $14. Featuring Liz Tilton and Bob Davis on vocals, the recording also includes such longtime JG stalwarts as Bill Kleeb, Moe Winter and Jack Dougherty together with current 'Gabbings' reader Bob Milliken of Pittsburgh. Check your record store for # CCD-99, but remember: this is NOT Jan's most familiar postwar 'sweet' band! (Thanks to Garber fan and 'Gabbings' reader Jay Cohen, who provided this information by phone from New York City.)
Chatting With Chuck
They're not able to get together too often these days. But when they do, smiles are usually the order of the day for Memo Bernabei and Vince DiBari. The Garber alums visited with Chuck Cecil during a gala 75th birthday tribute to the legendary Los Angeles radio personality. Chuck's 'Swingin' Years' show has been making music on the air in the LA area for the better part of 50 years. Vince (trumpet) and Memo (sax / clarinet) were together on the Garber Band in the latter 1940s. Vince is now retired after serving for many years as vice president of Los Angeles AFM Local #47. Memo, a frequent 'Gabbings' contributor, left the Garber Band in the mid-1950s and has led his own group in and around LA ever since.
The Big Five-Six
A report from Huron (SD) confirms a recent 56th wedding anniversary for 'Gabbings' readers and Garber fans Oliver and LaVonne Nicholas. The lifelong South Dakota residents met on a dance floor in 1941 and were married less than a year later. To mark the occasion, 'Nick' and LaVonne drove nearly 200 miles for a dance at the Coliseum Ballroom in Worthington (MN). Since 1977, the couple has also taught ballroom dancing for the local adult education program. They retired in 1980 after combined teaching careers of 74 years in South Dakota public schools. 'Nick' and LaVonne have two children and five grandchildren.
Best wishes to everyone for a pleasant Fall season as 1998 begins to wind down. 'Gabbings' plans a return visit sometime toward the end of the year. Cheerio!