There's good news . . .
. . . and news that's not so good. On several fronts.
First of all, belated happy-holiday wishes and new year greetings to everyone. For a reason already known to some of you and as explained below, the December issue of 'Gabbings' was delayed.
Here's some good news . . .
Of the 17 days of riverboat-cruise dance dates earlier announced as being cancelled for this year, 10 of those days are now back on the JG appearance schedule for 2004.
These restored days are based on a trio of newly-announced riverboat tours: (1) Greenville MS to Memphis on February 25-28 (American Queen); (2) New Orleans to Natchez MS on March 2-5 (Mississippi Queen); and (3) Cincinnati to Wheeling WVA on April 17-21 (Mississippi Queen).
In the words of JG leader Howard Schneider, these three cruises are apparently back on the schedule based on plenty of positive feedback from Garber fans. A sampling of reply cards from riverboat patrons to riverboat management reveals a consistent message: "Excellent band, excellent music!"
At the same time, Howard is now seeking feedback on a pair of possible other Garber cruises being considered for later this year. The first, from May 23-29, is from Los Angeles to Vancouver BC, with stops in San Francisco and Victoria (Canada). The second is a 12-day venture into the Western Mediterranean, with numerous stopovers, from September 23 until October 5. 'Gabbings' readers interested in either or both of these cruises are urged to contact Howard ASAP. His phone number is 1-262-626-1600.
Also back on this year's JG dance itinerary after earlier cancellation is the Dubuque (IA) County Fairgrounds. Two Sunday dates are now listed for Dubuque, including March 14 and August 15. Dance times for both engagements: 5:00 until 9:00 p.m.
Other return visits now confirmed by the Garber Orchestra for 2004 include the March 5-6 'Big Band Weekend' at the Osthoff Hotel at Lake Elkhart (WI); and the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis on (Sunday) September 19 from 5:00 until 9:00 p.m. Also on the early itinerary for this year is a Saturday-night visit to the Starlite Ballroom near Wahoo (NE) on October 16.
For complete, timely details on the band's upcoming appearance schedule, check the JG website at www.jangarber.com.
Con loses Mary Jean
'Gabbings' Editor Con Good lost his wife Mary Jean on the morning of November 29, 2003. She was 69. Her passing, in the emergency room of a Lincoln hospital, was sudden and unexpected. Inurnment took place in the couple's hometown of Kimball (NE) on December 6 following an earlier memorial service in Lincoln. Mary Jean was a longtime restaurant hostess and banquet manager in Nebraska's capital city, and converted her captivating personality into literally hundreds of friends during a 30-year career. She and Con would have celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on December 27. Her survivors include four children; two grandchildren; a brother and sister; and nieces/nephews.
In what could possibly be classified as 'less-than-good-news', Howard's latest three-year contract to lead the Jan Garber Orchestra expired in May of 2003. A renewal is cautiously expected, but remains unconfirmed at 'Gabbings' press time. "An extension," according to Howard, "is a matter of immediate concern."
Meanwhile, an offer by Howard to secure legal, exclusive rights to use of the Jan Garber name has apparently been declined by trustees of the Garber estate.
Responding to a feature story in the last 'Gabbings', JG 'swing band' veteran Stu Bruner wants to create a false impression. He did not . . . as stated in 'Gabbings' . . . write "most of the arrangements" for the 1944-1945 JG Orchestra. "I did a lot of vocal arrangements during that period," Stu relates, "but never added anything instrumental except a new 'My Dear' to Jan's library."
Here's another dubious topic for everyone to ponder: the future of your 'Garber Gabbings' newsletter.
The last issue (published in June of 2003) included a cancellation ultimatum for no fewer than 62 delinquent dues-payers. Well . . . as privately predicted . . . only 20 of those in arrears have brought their dues up to date. Result: a loss of 42 subscribers, leaving the current mailing list down to 160.
To date, only five renewals for 2004 have been received.
Alan Copeland, as founder of, and arranger/singer for 'The Twin Tones' vocal group, was a key personality with the JG organization for nearly two years starting in late 1946. Alan went on to become a regular singing member of the 'Modernaires', emerging later as a Grammy Award winner for his choral-arranging efforts with ABC Records. A West Coast resident, Alan has recently reunited with the 'Modernaires' for a two-month engagement in Palm Springs, and is very close to having a book published on his exciting life and musical times. (Stay tuned to 'Gabbings' for an announcement.)
Amid a rising tide of regretful changes in today's world, longtime JG fans and 'Gabbings' readers Peg and Ned Disque of Colorado Springs are expressing 'thanks' for helping keep the Garber music alive. "Whenever I need a lift," Peg says, "I play Jan's records and tapes. His rhythm always picks me up . . . no other like it!" And as for Howard Schneider: "He's good!"
Canada's Helen Sheppard writes that most of the big-band scene in Toronto these days is "certainly not our style." At the same time, Helen notes that "several really big orchestras are making Spring/Summer concert appearances that are very popular."
Just when you might have given the old 'Vitaphone' sound system up for dead, along comes a new catalogue of 'Vitaphone Films', containing features and shorts. 'Gabbings' reader George Lazzatti reports that a disc featuring the JG Band has recently been uncovered from 1928. For more 'Vitaphone' details, contact: Ron Hutchinson, 5 Meade Court, Piscataway NJ 08854. Phone: 732-463-8521
Awards continue to roll in for longtime JG fan and dancing devotee Earl Blair. Late last year . . . his 50th in Boy Scouting . . . Earl, now 87 became one of only five persons in the nation to receive the coveted 'Marvin M. Lewis Award' for volunteer work with the Boy & Girl Scouts Of America. The award is given by the Elks Club, which has included Earl as a member for the past 61 years!
A pair of prominent clarinetists have departed sine the last issue of 'Gabbings'.
'Peanuts' Hucko. He started on the saxophone as a teenager, and played with numerous bands in the early 1930s. He then switched to clarinet during WWII, playing both instruments with the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band throughout Europe. 'Peanuts' later was active for three decades on the New York jazz scene, working with such famous musicians as Louis Armstrong; Eddie Condon; Benny Goodman; Al Hirt; Ray McKinley; and Jack Teagarden. He also fronted the postwar Glenn Miller Orchestra; appeared prominently on Lawrence Welk's popular TV show in the early 1970s; and worked as a studio musician for both ABC and CBS. 'Peanuts' Hucko died last summer in Fort Worth at the age of 85.
Henry Cuesta. Another clarinetist often compared to Benny Goodman, Henry was best known as a featured performer on the Lawrence Welk TV show for a decade beginning in 1972, and on later PBS rebroadcasts. Henry Cuesta was 71 when he passed away early this year in Los Angeles.