[Dixielandjazz] Unheard-of Bands

Dan Augustine ds.augustine@mail.utexas.edu
Tue, 18 Jun 2002 14:07:13 -0500

    My research on the following idea is only barely begun, but i thought i'd mention it to see what others thought.
    It has seemed to me for years that playing dixieland is one of the most accessible (NOT 'easiest') kinds of music for people of average talent to play.  One doesn't have to be a virtuoso to play most of the tunes, but of course virtuosos are the ones who make it sound easy and who are able to play improvised jazz that goes past being mere entertainment and enters the realm of 'art' (which, like 'reality', nobody can define, and perhaps rightly so).
    Highschool players, town bandsmen, duffers on the musical golf-course--all can honk along pretty close to the notes and rhythms required in a lot of dixieland songs.  Hence, it is not surprising, and all to the good, that a lot of amateur dixieland bands pop up all over the landscape, because the music is fun to play and to listen to, even if it's not on the expert-level.
    Well, this notion, together with my meanderings around on the internet and in various dixieland-periodicals, prompted me to see if i could see how many dixieland bands there really are "out there".  I'm not talking about bands that everyone has heard of and that have made recordings--there are scads of them; i'm talking about bands below that level, down to the novice bands that even the next-door neighbors are not aware of.  How many are there?
    Well, i think there are thousands.  Most of them get NO publicity or mention of any kind in newspapers, church bulletins, posters on telephone-poles, or sentences on webpages.  Before there was the internet, i would have had no chance of finding any of their names, but now i can do a Google (or other) search and come up with a number of hits, which i estimate to be a low percentage of the bands actually playing.
    For example, go into Google and type "dixieland+Tulsa" and see how many hits you get (choose any state, city, whatever).  I didn't believe that there were only three dixieland bands in the entire state of Texas (Jim Cullum, Alamo City, and Old Waterloo), so i did searches on "dixieland+Texas" and then "dixieland+Dallas" and so forth.  Here are the results, which i'm sure are by no means exhaustive:

1) Dallas: Alexander's Ragtime Band, Alexandria's Ragtime Band,Brother Jolly & the Saints, Charlie Hamilton Band, Dallas Hot Five, Dave's Tin Pan Alley Cats, Dr. Jazz Trad Band, Hella Shrine Dixielanders, Johnny Massey, Metroplex Dixieland Band, Nick DiGennaro, Night Music, Otto Norman Combo, Razzmajazz Dixieland Band, Real Thing Riverboat Gamblers, Rodney & the Reporters, 
Scott Whitfield's Dixieland Jazz Band, Smokey & the Bearcats, Swing Shift, Upper Dallas Jazz Band, Thomas Hulten, Dixieland
2) Houston: Market Square Jazz Band, Basin St. Brass, Hal Woolery, Lou Colbe, Arabia Temple Dixieland Band
3) El Paso: Sunland Dixieland Jazz Band, Dane Wayne's Dixieland Band, Billy Townes
4) San Antonio: Jim Cullum Jazz Band, United States Air Band of the West, Alamo City JB, Band-Aids JB
5) Austin: Old Waterloo JB, Jim Siegler Band, Swingin Dixieland Texas Style
6) Other cities: Father Coco (Corpus Christi?), Texas Klezmer Orchestra (a lot of klezmer bands also play dixieland, which is why i included this one), Bill Everbach, Port Aransas, Benny Theiler (Dixie Land), Ethan Atkinson (Dixieland), Kit Reid Dixie Land Band, 62nd Army Band

    I'm sure you folks in these and other cities in Texas can think of bands i haven't mentioned.  But, my point is that dixieland is not dying at all, but instead is incredibly active, all over the world.  It's just that there's no way (yet) to know about them all, nor for them to communicate with each other.  But i think (thanks to the internet) that it's becoming easier for that to happen.
    End of rant.


P. S. I'm part of a fledgling dixieland band myself here in Austin (well, OK, Round Rock), which we may name "The Chaparral Bushwhackers Jazz Band" in honor of the street we rehearse on and the guy in Washington, so that's one more unheard and unheard-of band (and perhaps a good thing, too).