Demand . . .
. . . for those ' big name' dance bands of the past was declining well before September 11. Now, as the year ends, shockwaves from the terrorism continue to keep more and more people jobless; more and more companies struggling for survival; and travel/entertainment industries experiencing deadly-serious erosions.
Gloom and doom is never what 'Gabbings' has been about. But in addition to the ongoing loss of more Garber-linked friends, disturbing long-term trends among the nation's dancing-venue operators now carry sharper-than-ever doses of reality for us all.
In the words of JG leader Howard Schneider, "it appears that the September tragedy put a scare into many people regarding travel, and this has adversely affected the size of our crowds."
A couple of other negatives cited by Howard . . .
Ballroom/club/hotel operators are looking harder than ever for ways to save money these days. Usually involved in this process is the hiring of local rather than 'name' bands.
The demographics of the dance band business are definitely unfavorable. As Howard stated, "the older folks who like to dance to our kind of music are dying off." At the same time, the younger generation . . . largely unaware of the famous orchestras of yesteryear . . . is staying away from dancing as a primary form of entertainment.
The recent bankruptcy filing by the Delta Steamboat Company will result in numerous lost jobs for the Jan Garber Orchestra next year. To date, the total number of JG dance engagements for 2002 has now been reduced by well over a dozen. "It begins to appear," Howard explained, "that only the biggest names in the dance-band business will ultimately survive."
Despite his uneasiness about the future, Howard refuses to give up. He's already arranged for the JG Band to play for the 2002 Annual Convention of the National Ballroom & Entertainment Association (NBEA), and is actively seeking a variety of other appearances for the JG troops.
Howard encourages 'Gabbings' readers to contact his personally and promptly with any possible leads to booking the Jan Garber Orchestra. His address: Howard Schneider, 1026 Hillside Drive, Kewaskum WI 53040. Phone: 262-626-1600. Fax: 262-626-6789.
Here's the to-date 2002 appearance schedule for the JG Band:
Osthoff Hotel, Elkhart Lake (WI), March 8-10. (Reservations required. Call 800-876-3399.); Dubuque (IA) County Fairgrounds, April 7; Big Times Dance Club, Baton Rouge (LA), May 17; Hollywood Casino, Tunica (MS), May 19; Indiana Roof, Indianapolis (IN), August 25; Dubuque (IA) County Fairgrounds, September 8; Col Ballroom, Davenport (IA), September 14 (Dinner/dance with the Ken Paulsen Orchestra); Lakeside Ballroom, Guttenburg (IA), November 10
"After September 11, we all need the sounds of the big bands and the beautiful dance orchestras more than ever. Music always helped all of us during WWII, and today we need the reassurance of those sounds again."
(Helen Sheppard, longtime Garber fan from Ontario, Canada.)
Jack Barrow dies; 30s link
Details are sketchy. But recent word from California confirms that likeable Jack Barrow, apparently the last surviving member of the Jan Garber Orchestra of the 1930s, passed away on October 1. He was 89, and had moved from his long-time LaPalma home to a "very beautiful" retirement community in Anaheim only a few months earlier. Jack and his trombone joined the JG Band in 1937 as the first replacement to the original Jan Garber/Freddie Large Orchestra. He fronted his own dance band during WWII, and rejoined Jan in 1947 for a two-year stay. Jack was active in both the Boy Scouts and the Elks Lodge for well over a half century and retired from the aerospace industry in 1977. Several years ago, when it was discovered that Jack, at 19, had launched his musical career with the famous Kay Kyser Orchestra in 1931, questions arose concerning why he hadn't told anyone about this sooner. "You didn't ask," Jack Barrow casually replied. His survivors include three sons.
In case anyone's curious about the status of the 'Jan & Dorothy Garber Endowed Music Scholarship' . . . unveiled in the April 'Gabbings' after Dorothy's passing . . . the news is anything by uplifting. This memorial scholarship fund, far from being new, was actually established in 1966 by friends of Dorothy and Jan. Purpose: to honor them on their 40th wedding anniversary. So what's happened to the fund since? Not much. Responding to a 'Gabbings' inquiry, Centenary College Scholarship Director Traci Alsup noted that "the scholarship has yet to be awarded because the balance is low. Any gifts to the scholarship would be greatly appreciated, as they would help the fund to grow and eventually earn enough interest to make an award." So much for the assumption that 'Gabbings' readers would generously respond to April's request for memorial donations. It's not too late, folks. To officially remember Jan and Dorothy Garner, send your gift to the 'Jan & Dorothy Garner Endowed Music Scholarship', c/o Traci Alsup, Centenary College of Louisianna, 2911 Centenary Blvd., P.O. Box 41188, Shreveport LA 71134. Everyone's support is greatly appreciated.
Good news from Marengo (IL), where the nation's #1 Garber fun . . . Evelyn Hammond . . . is on the mend with a different doctor and different medication. Evelyn marked her 80th birthday in September, but celebrations were definitely not in order. She was deeply troubled with arthritis, not to mention a staph infection and immune system problems. In and out of the hospital four times in five months, Evelyn is now firmly "holding the fort" after regaining some lost weight. She can be reached at 423 E. Washington, Marengo IL 60152.
That Singin' Man
He's Billy Williams, featured in the August 'Gabbings' following his passing in Arkansas at age 89. You'll recall that Billy sang with Sammy Kaye from 1942-1947; led his own band for some 38 years beginning in 1950; and composed several prominent songs along the way. (If you'd enjoy hearing Billy on broadcasts of Sammy Kaye's 1944 'Sunday Serenade' and/or remotes from Houston with his own band, contact the 'Gabbings' editor.)
Other news in the 'Musical Milestones' category comes from the Garber hometown of Shreveport (LA). There, Charles T. ('Scotty') McCord Jr. passed away on August 9. Closely linked with Dorothy Garber's family for many years, and one of the Jan'sbiggest boosters, the colorful 'Scotty' McCord was also a prominent 'Gabbings' supporter since the newsletter's revival in 1984.
The Dwain Muller Orchestra, a longtime dancing favorite throughout the Midwest, is staging a closeout sale of its cassette recordings. Seven titles are still available, including a live radio broadcast. Price for each cassette is $6, including shipping/handling. Orders should be sent to Dwain at 13922 Hickory Street, Omaha NE 68144. Complete song lists will be sent on request. For more details, call 402-333-0574.
Did you know that Larry Elgart is leading a band again these days? Larry often worked with his late brother when the Les Elgart Orchestra captivated America's dancing public beginning in the early 1950s. (Thanks to 'Gabbings' reader Herman Edwards for the Elgart update.)
Telephone area codes seem to be changing all over the place these days. If your prefix phone digits have been altered recently, please drop a card to 'Gabbings' and let us know.
Things currently okay on the financial front, as 'Gabbings' continues to keep its head above water. Please monitor your own $10 annual dues status (except for Garber alums and families), and respond accordingly. We're pretty much on the honor system, and remain grateful for everyone's encouragement and help.
As another year hits the horizon, let's hear it out there, if you please, for Howard Schneider. His ongoing admiration for, and loyalty to, 'The Idol Of The Airlanes' is absolute . . . his work schedule beyond belief. As Howard marks seven years as leader of the Jan Garber Orchestra, his resurrection of the JG musical library is a joy to behold. So is his trumpet, which helps provide the subtle . . . and sometimes not quite so subtle . . . musical updates that Jan himself relied on to keep pace with the ever-changing trends and tempos of modern taste. Thanks, Howard. If anyone can keep the JG Band up there in the ranks of those 'biggest names in the business' you mentioned earlier, it's you. Great show, sir.
Hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays. May 2002 be especially good to each of you. Cheerio!