The cruises cometh . . .
. . . in 2003, that is. But in 2004, the cruises apparently goeth away.
Just as the Jan Garber Orchestra continues to sail smoothly through a highly successful current series of four riverboat cruises (17 total days), the sponsoring 'Delta Queen Steamboat Company' has pulled the plug entirely on appearances by the JG Band for next year.
This is nightmarish news, folks. The loss of 17 appearance dates. . from a 2004 dance schedule already depleted by the disappearance of long-prominent bookings in Dubuque (IA) and Staunton (IL) . . . is more than enough adversity to leave Howard Schneider and his carefully-rebuilt Garber Band struggling for survival.
"Despite our consistent high marks from riverboat patrons" Howard said, "the people at Delta Queen have unilaterally decided to switch next year's musical-entertainment emphasis from 'sweet' bands to more swing'-oriented groups. He added that in this process, only the services of bands linked to Sammy Kay, Russ Morgan and Guy Lombardo are being retained for next year on a limited basis.
The Garber Band is thus out of the immediate riverboat picture, with no apparent chance to re-enter the mix until 2005.
Howard noted that many segments of the music-entertainment industry are currently floundering. Reasons: the '9-11' terrorist attach and its ongoing uncertain effect on the nation's economy, and now the war.
In spite of its enormous popularity with the nation's dancers since 1918, it's probably time to candidly admit that the Garber Band, for whatever reason, never truly achieved the bona-fide 'big name' status it deserved. And sadly, the 'Idol of the Airlanes' continues to mean less and less to more and more people.
Needed now . . . from 'Gabbings' readers everywhere and all others interested in the survival of the Jan Garber Orchestra . . . are marketing ideas, including names of places for the band to play and names of persons to contact. In short, if you know a booking agent, or persons involved in the operation of ballrooms, hotels, clubs, resorts and/or concert venues . . . it's time to pick up the phone. Howard Schneider is hoping to hear from you. His business phone number: 262-626-1600.
Meanwhile, here's the latest list of (limited) JG engagements . . . with more hopefully to come . . . for the rest of the year . . .
Watertown WI Riverfest (concert), August 2, 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.; Henderson (KY) to St. Louis, September 10-13 (American Queen Cruise); Quality Inn & Suites, Hwy 36, Hannibal MO, September 14, 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. Phone: 1-573-406-0943; Indiana Roof, Indianapolis IN, October 19, 5:00 until 9:00 p.m.; Cincinnati to Henderson (KY), October 20-23 (Mississippi Queen Cruise); Natchez (MS) to New Orleans to Natchez (MS), November 12-19 (seven-day Mississippi Queen Cruise)
Speaking of problems, there's another big one out there demanding the immediate attention of no fewer than 62 persons on the 'Gabbings' mailing list: delinquent dues! That's right . . . three of every 10 persons now receiving 'Gabbings' have yet to respond with their $10 dues payment for 2003. And if you see a red checkmark in the box above, you're one of them! Folks, your volunteer 'Gabbings' editor for the past 19 years is just that: an editor. Not an auditor. Not an accountant. Not a bookkeeper. So if a mistake has been made in our less-than-professional financial records, you need to say so . . . with no less than a Xeroxed copy of your uncredited payment! Otherwise, this June issue will regrettably be your last. (Believe it or not, the great majority of 'Gabbings' financial support comes from alums and families of the Garber Band, who aren't even required to pay dues.) Nothing personal out there. Hope to hear from you all soon.
JG Catalina Island Cruise scheduled for September 1-5! (1-800-347-6136)
Two widely known and widely respected musical personalities have departed since the last issue of 'Gabbings' . . .
Dolly Dawn. From the time she joined the George Hall Orchestra in 1935 until owning the group outright six years later, Dolly Dawn became one of the most prominent female band vocalists in the business. Her band soon became known as 'Dolly Dawn & Her Dawn Patrol', but lasted less than a year due to wartime personnel problems. Dolly continued her career as a single for many years, playing clubs, dance halls and street fairs across the nation. In recent years, Dolly's popularity re-surfaced with the release of an album of her earlier recordings with George Hall. Dolly passed away on December 11 at the age of 86.
Max Pillar. To everyone who danced and romanced in the Seattle area from the latter 1930s to the early 1990s, Max Pillar became firmly established as the Pacific Northwest's 'King of Dance Music'. Similar accolades followed Max to Arizona for several years during the early part of the past decade, when his 'Good Times Orchestra' completed a successful musical migration to the Sun Belt. Born in Chicago, Max took his clarinet and saxophone to Seattle soon after high school, and later replaced the soon-to-become-famous bandleader Chuck Foster in the reed section of the nationally known Ray Herbeck Orchestra. He returned to Seattle, and launched his own band, in about 1939. Max died at 89 in May of last year.
Jack Motch dies; helped 'sweet' return
Jack Motch, who helped spearhead the Jan Garber Orchestra's return to 'sweet'-styled dance music following World War II, died at his Santa Clara (CA) home on February 24. He was 91. For nearly 10 years leading into the mid-1950s, Jack played piano and shared arranging assignments for the JG Band. He then launched a career switch after moving to California by becoming an electrician, but never really left music. Jack formed a talented four-piece combo that became a big attraction throughout the Santa Clara Valley, playing for well over 20 years into the early 90s. During the latter 1960s. . . some years after Jack had left the JG Band . . . he was asked by Jan to return for the Hollywood recording sessions that produced the final series of Garber LPs for Decca. Jack's musical career spanned eight decades. He was still a teenager when it began in the late 1920s. Jack once led a band of his own, and played with a quintet of other top bands over the years: Buddy Rogers; George Hamilton; Paul Pendarvis; George Olsen; and Henry Busse. Jack's survivors include Versie, his wife of 44 years; five children' two brothers and a sister; six grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. His passing leaves the initial postwar Garber Band with just two surviving members: Memo Bernabei and Frank Bettencourt.
Bruner keeps Jan's 'swing' fires burning
He freely admits to an imperfect memory these days. But as nearly as Stu Bruner can recall, only a trio of sidemen from Jan Garber's World War II 'swing' band are still around: Himself, Bob Milliken (alto sax) and 'Bunky' Jones (bass). Stu manned the JG baritone sax for a period starting in late 1943, and "also wrote most of the band's 1944-1945 arrangements." Performing at the peak of the Big Band era, Stu was also a valued sideman for Harry James . . . where he helped cut 60 sides for Columbia Records and appeared in several movies . . . for Joe Sanders, and for Bobby Sherwood. Stu was born in Kentucky nearly 81 years ago, logging the first of his 40-year teaching/administrative music education career there before moving on to Florida and then to Cincinnati. Along the way toward earning several college degrees, he also served as a clarinet/sax instructor at the University of Tampa and was principal clarinetist with the Tampa Symphony Orchestra. Stu's musical proficiency takes in all the saxophones from soprano to baritone, and additionally includes the clarinet; flute; oboe; trumpet; trombone; and tuba! Officially retired for the past 15 years, Stu has remained active promoting and encouraging interest in all kinds of music within our schools. He and wife Ginny have been married more than 40 "great" years. And how does Stu describe Jan's World War II 'swing' band? In a word, "gentlemen." He called all the sidemen "wonderful people," recalling such names from the JG Band's nucleus as "Kleeb; Dougherty; Winter; Hass; Milliken; Sayre; Motch; Jones; and Timbrell.
These times are not for the timid, folks. Both the Jan Garber Orchestra and its 'Gabbings' newsletter need your help, support and encouragement, and they need it now. The alternatives are to see both disappear . . . probably sooner than you think . . . and probably never to return. For the 'Idol Of The Airlanes', Howard Schneider deserves better. Let's see to it that he gets the best all of us have to offer. Cheerio!