Howard Schneider . . .
. . . isn't easily intimidated. He thrives on obstacles; tosses aside roadblocks; chews up challenges; and leaps tall buildings (although not necessarily in a single bound).
Good thing. For Howard and others leading dance orchestras in today's volatile music-business atmosphere, it's seemingly one adversity after another.
The latest round of bad news comes from the Delta Steamboat Company, controller of the 'American Queen' and 'Mississippi Queen' riverboat cruises. According to Howard, the company recently announced that effective next year, there will be no more cruises built around a big-band theme.
This mysterious decision will adversely affect the Jan Garber Orchestra and numerous other musical groups. Isolated riverboat appearances remain possible, but sustained cruises. . at least for the foreseeable future . . . are out.
Followers of the JG Band who enjoy cruising have one more chance: September 22-24, when Howard and the troops will be spotlighted on the Mississippi Queen Riverboat Cruise in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Howard remains steadfastly upbeat in the face of this and other problems. To smooth his commitments to the Jan Garber Orchestra, intra-state musical activity and his full-time insurance/financial planning business, Howard now operates from a converted office building in his Wisconsin hometown of Kewaskum. Here's his new address/phone number for contact purposes: 1523 Fond du Lac Avenue, Kewaskum WI 53040. Phone: 262-626-1600. Fax: 262-626-6789.
Buoyed by consistently favorable comments wherever the Garber Band appears, Howard continues to soldier on despite apparently diminishing dance band demand. Here's the latest appearance schedule . . .
Mississippi Queen Riverboat Cruise, New Orleans, September 22-24; Crystal Ballroom, Staunton (IL), October 21; Paramount Theatre, Anderson (IN), November 1 (concert); Lakeside Ballroom, Guttenburg (IA), November 11 (2-6 p.m.); Casa Loma Ballroom, St. Louis (MO), November 16; Hollywood Casino, Tunica (MS), November 18
Thanks to longtime friend and 'Gabbings' reader Dan Demuth, a pristine copy of some vintage Jan Garber sheet music arrived in Lincoln recently. Its title: 'So Blue', published in 1927 and featuring a cover photo of JG trumpeter Harry 'Goldie' Goldfield. In all the editor's 17 years of 'Gabbings' work, the subject of Garber sheet music has never surfaced. Anyone care to comment?
An update on the last issue's exploration of which 'big-name' bandleaders are still with us. Of the 15 mentioned, it's now pretty well established that at least 12 are still around: Ray Anthony; Russ Carlyle; Del Courtney; Chuck Foster; Don Glasser; Henry Jerome; Elliot Lawrence; Billy May; Buddy Morrow; Alvino Rey; Artie Shaw; and Orrin Tucker. Off the 'survivors' list, according to 'Gabbings' reader Darrell Abbott: Cab Calloway (died 1994) and Carmen Cavallaro (died 1989). Other leaders confirmed to still be around . . . perhaps not all in the 'big-name' category . . . were reported by 'Gabbings' reader Ed Polic: Dan Belloc; Noni Bernardi; Buddy Childers; Buddy DeFranco; 'Peanuts' Hucko; Milton deLugg; Abe Most; and Pete Rugolo. The status of Blue Barron remains uncertain.
If anyone out there is seeking either an original LP recording by the Jan Garber Orchestra or a taped copy, a good person to contact . . . with about 80 JG albums in his collection (including numerous duplicates) . . . lives in Northern California. For details, contact Don Dennis, 15041 Jack Pine Way, Magalia CA 95954. Phone: 530-873-0994.
After many years of residence in the Los Angeles suburb of LaPalma, Jack Barrow . . . oldest surviving member of the Jan Garber Orchestra . . . has now completed his move to a nearby, "very beautiful" retirement community. Here's the new address: Emerald Court, Apt. #116; 1731 Medical Center Drive; Anaheim CA 92801. Phone: 714-772-1616.
Reminders on the River
Nothing like a nice cruise on the Mississippi to help revive memories of the Big Band Era. Especially with someone like Lynn Roberts around. Lynn, shown above with Garber bandleader Howard Schneider on a recent 'American Queen' voyage, launched her dance-band singing career at the age of 18, worked with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James . . . to name a few . . . and remains active today, including an annual concert with Doc Severinsen and the Milwaukee Symphony.
Two prominent singers and a well known singer / bandleader have departed since the last issue of 'Gabbings' . . .
Perry Como. This genuine American musical icon launched his singing career in the early 1930s; joined the nationally-famous Ted Weems Orchestra in 1936; sold more than 100 million records during a 50-year contract with RCA Victor that began in 1943; helped pioneer television variety shows in the mid-1950s; and performed on TV specials during four of his seven-decade career. He lived in semi-retirement during later years with his wife Roselle, who died in 1988 at age 84. Perry Como died on May 12, six days short of his 89th birthday.
Al Hibbler. A versatile singer, he launched his own band after winning an amateur talent contest in Memphis; joined Jay McShann's big band in 1942; spent eight years with Duke Ellington, ending in 1951; recorded with numerous artists, and was one of the first artists signed by Frank Sinatra for Frank's new 'Reprise' label; won the Downbeat Magazine 'Best Band Vocalist' Award and the 'New Star' Award from Esquire Magazine; and performed 'When The Saints Go Marching In' at the 1971 funeral of Louis Armstrong. Al Hibbler died on April 24. He was 85.
Billy Williams. 'That Singin' Man'. First-rate singer, composer and musician (saxophone, piano); featured vocalist with Sammy Kaye from 1942 to 1947; formed his own band in 1950, played throughout the nation for the next 38 years; composed 'Where The Mountains Meet The Sky' . . . his band's theme song . . . along with several other prominent tunes, including 'Sho' Nuff' and 'I'm Headin' East'. Billy Williams died on June 27. He was 87.
The ongoing 'Gabbings' honor system for annual ($10) dues continues to work well, with finances currently on solid ground. Thanks to everyone for your ongoing support . . . not to mention those cards and letters. Keep them coming!
Peggy Walker, widow of noted big-band author Leo Walker, is now recovering from recent back surgery at her home in the Denver suburbs. Good wishes may be directed to Peggy at 5950 South Jellison, #F, Littelton CO 80123. (Peggy happily supplies photos for 'Gabbings' use from Leo's extensive files.)
George Doerner offers CD pair
Shortly after a three-year stint in the Garber trumpet section, George Doerner formed his own band in 1956. The solid dance group remains active 45 years later, now marking 31 consecutive years at 'The Club' in Birmingham (AL). In addition to playing a quartet of three-week engagements at 'The Club' each year, the Doerner Band also appears regularly in and around George's hometown of Savannah (GA). It was formerly a regularly scheduled attraction at Roseland Dance City in New York for more than 20 years. Now, exclusively for 'Gabbings' readers, George is offering a pair of newly released CDs for your musical enjoyment: a total of 22 great songs, along with a medley of four. One CD, with George's former 12-piece group, was originally recorded several years ago. The newer disc features his current eight-piece band. The CDs are $12 each, with no added shipping/handling costs. For some fresh, dance-friendly music, send your CD order to: the George Doerner Orchestra, 620 East 52nd Street, Savannah GA 31405. (For added information, George's phone n umber is 912-238-4101.
Bob Milliken, a saxophone mainstay of Jan's World War II 'swing' band (1941-1945), suffered a nasty, down-the-stairs fall at his home on July 1. A circular bone at the top of his neck was fractured, but Bob's spine . . . fortunately . . . escaped damage. He's now home after two and one-half weeks in the hospital, and had been fitted with a smaller neck brace. Meanwhile, Bob's wife Betty was slated for knee-replacements surgery on August 20. The couple marked their 60th wedding anniversary on July 28. (Thanks to Bob's JG pal Stu Bruner for this important news item.)
That's the credo of longtime 'Gabbings' reader and dance-band fan Don Lynch (Colonel, USAF, Retired). Don, who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Richfield (MN), has just completed 16 years as a volunteer tax preparer. Don has also been helping others for the past seven years at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis where he works as a patient escort. In what's left of his spare time, Don dabbles in amateur radio. He also operates a consulting business dealing with pay and pension matters for active and retired military personnel.
Best wishes to you all for pleasant late-summer temperatures and a smooth, trouble-free transition to fall. And don't forget to take advantage of the dance bands available in your area. Good music, everybody. Cheerio!