[Dixielandjazz] Re: Jim Cullum info

Don Mopsick mophandl at landing.com
Wed Aug 27 12:26:23 PDT 2003

From: "Kurt" <bowermastergroup at qwest.net>

<<On second thought...Perhaps Jim Cullum could add "The Landing" franchises
his empire.  He could sell franchise (McDonalds meet McCullums) rights to
jazz societies or other investors (with deep pockets) in large markets and
in exchange, give permission to use "The Landing" name and secret recipe for
success.  At the end of each NPR broadcast they could say, "Visit 'Jim
Cullum's The Landing Jazz Club' in a city near you."

T-shirt sales alone would make someone rich.>>

-----Original Message-----
From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
[mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com]On Behalf Of Kurt
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2003 12:09 AM
To: TCASHWIGG at aol.com; dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
Subject: RE: [Dixielandjazz] Jim Cullum info


<If Jim can do it so can you, I do not believe for a minute that San
Antonio, Texas is the only place in America where Dixieland and OKOM is
loved and respected enough to support a club six nights a week.>

Easier said than done.  I wish what you say could happen in every market,
but it simply isn't realistic.  I'd like to know what formula Jim Cullum
used to create the success of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, the NPR agreement,
the Landing jazz club, the many albums, tour dates, festivals, etc.  I have
to believe it started with the company he keeps on and off the stage.


Kurt and Tom:

Let me 'splain why it took so long for me to answer this one: the exchange
took place on August 6 when we were out of range of a computer, on the road
in Minnesota. It took me this long to dig through my list of old messages.

Yes, the Cullum story is a remarkable one. There are several points in your
posts that need clarification.

1. Here is the way I understand the public radio thing: Riverwalk is carried
by Public Radio International, not National Public Radio. There are crucial
differences between the two which help explain why we are on the air at all.
NPR was created and is funded by the Congress of the US, that is, your tax
dollars hard at work. It is a centralized bureaucracy, their own building in
Washington. PRI on the other hand is a much looser confederation of
independent producers, of which we are one. Our production company is known
as Pacific Vista Productions, located in Petaluma, CA. 30 years ago, the
only game in town was NPR with its Eastern elitist outlook. They would never
have permitted shows like A Prairie Home Companion and Riverwalk to exist.
What could these rubes from Minnesota and Texas possibly know about anything
that public radio listeners would want to hear? Thankfully an alternative
network at first called American Public Radio (APR) arose to fill this void,
and later became PRI, our network. I am not familiar with the details of
this genesis, but a key player was our Executive Producer, Margaret Moos
Pick, a formidable force in radio and culture. By the way, Riverwalk is now
the second-oldest public radio jazz show, exceeded only now by Marian
McPartland's Piano Jazz (on NPR).

2. The popularity of Jim Cullum and his bands goes way back before the
advent of Riverwalk in 1988. Jim Cullum Sr. was a fine clarinetist from
Dallas who worked with Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey, and others. He was also
a member of a very prominent Dallas business family who founded the Tom
Thumb grocery chain. Business and jazz were two poles in his life which he
alternated between during his lifetime. The solid business background helped
Jim and son Jim Jr. make the original Landing a success on the San Antonio
Riverwalk right off the bat in 1963.  Very early, the Cullums realized the
importance of promotion. They made Happy Jazz Band records almost every year
and appeared on local high-powered AM radio often. I am surprised at how
many people I run into who still have those old records and remember the
broadcasts, and not only in San Antonio. Also, the band began touring at a
very early point. Along the way, the Cullums exploited their long-standing
friendships with people like Yank Lawson, Bob Haggart, Billy Butterfield,
etc. to create the World Series of Jazz in San Antonio, some of the earliest
classic jazz festivals anywhere. They also produced concerts by Benny
Goodman, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, and many others.

3. When Jim Sr. died in '73, Jim Jr. took over, the band became the Jim
Cullum Jazz Band, but the same attention to promotion prevails. But also,
Jim has always tried to attract the best players possible and, importantly,
to maintain an artistic focus on the kind of jazz he wanted played. Very few
requests from the audience unless it's our kind of jazz, no tipping
accepted, very few sit-ins unless we know them, etc. This is a man with a
clear vision of the music he wants to play, and this is one of the key
elements of his success.

4. That said, it must also be pointed out that this is not an easy life.
There are many formidable obstacles which Jim is constantly slamming up
against: The Riverwalk changed drastically about 8 years ago with the coming
in of chains like Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, etc. so there's now a
ton more competition. San Antonio convention business, upon which we are
dependent to a certain degree, has had its ups and downs in recent years.
Recessions and 9/11 affected our business. Although we have an excellent
location in the Hyatt Regency, expenses go up. The radio show has its own
set of struggles, not the least of which is trying to make it in a jazz
world of boppers hostile to anyone who loves a melody or plays a banjo. I
chuckle every time I read a usenet post on rec.music.bluenote about how we
are the "establishment!" If they only knew..

5. The Landing is open 7 nights a week, most weeks. We are closed only a few
days in January when the band takes their vacations and they drain the San
Antonio River for maintenance.

6. T-shirts and CD sales don't make you rich. Owning copyrights and patents

To sum up, there are no "secrets" to Jim's success. One has to truly believe
in one's product first and foremost. Then, one should take into account
Jim's long history in the jazz life and his business background. But, most
importantly, there is the man's character: dogged persistence, energy,
positive outlook, and the will to "close the deal." He was dealt a hand, and
he played it.


PS: I encourage you all to sign up for Jazz Me News, the September issue
coming out next week has an interview with Vernel Bagneris about his part in
the new Ray Charles biopic, and an interview with Juanita Greenwood of
Summit Jazz Weekend in Denver. Go to www.riverwalk.org and click on
Subscribe Now in the lower left hand navbar.


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