[Dixielandjazz] Bill Napier Obit

Robert S. Ringwald ringwald at calweb.com
Tue May 13 07:16:40 PDT 2003

Jim Beebe requested more info on Bill Napier's passing.  Below is an obit.

mr.wonderful at ringwald.com

> Bill passed away on April 30, after struggling with cancer since last
> His step-daughter Michelle is submitting the following obit to the SF
> Chronicle.
> One of the great, celebrated traditional jazz musicians of San
> Francisco's history has died. On April 30, 2003. Bill Napier, tagged
> by Herb Caen as "San
> Francisco's saltiest clarinet" passed away in his sister's home in
> California. The cause of death was cancer.
> Bill Napier was born in Asheville, North Carolina on August 9th,
> 1926.  Both his
> mother and father were musical stage performers. His mother was a leading
> lady in companies from Chicago to New York and his father had a quartet in
> which he sang baritone and was also a straight man in a comedy act in New
> York. Bill began traveling with them when he was five years old. At age 12
> received his first clarinet from a Jesuit teacher.  Because of his
> parents need to keep traveling, Bill basically taught himself to play
> clarinet by ear. Without formal lessons, he puffed his cheeks out
> like Dizzie Gillespie's and over the years developed his own smooth,
> unique and mellow sound.
> When he was still in grade school, Bill and his parents moved out to San
> Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. In his teenage years, he and his
> childhood friends, Robin Hodes, Bob Mielke and Gene Mayl, began "sitting
> with Burt Bales at 'Dick's At The Beach'.  Later, Bill and his
> friends co-founded the traditional San Francisco jazz scene of the
> 1950's that was reliant on a propulsive 4/4 beat.
> During the Beatnik era of the 1950's Bill had an apartment in North Beach
> above the Savoy Tivoli ($37.50 a month!).  During an era of intense
> and artistic energy for San Francisco, Bill Napier's clarinet was at
> the heart of it, with many of the great and struggling musicians,
> artists and poets of the time coming to his "pad" to "get down" &
> "get hip".
> In May of 1953 in Yellow Springs, Ohio he recorded with the Dixieland
> Kings "The Riverside 2504 Session", which included Robin Wetterau, Jack
> Vastine, Gene Mayl and Bill Young.  He toured with S.I. Hawakawa, Bob
> Scobey, the Harlem Globetrotters and throughout Europe in the 1960's.
> Allen came into San Francisco to "sit in" with him.  Martha Raye came into
> to "ball" with his music.
> Bill was a distinctive and popular sideman who played with many of the Bay
> Area's best.  His long career included recording and performing in bands
led by
> Bob Scobey, Turk Murphy, Wingy Manone, Joe Sullivan, Jack Sheedy, Dick
> Oxtot, Bob Mielke, Ev Farey, and Bob Schulz.  Whether he was playing at a
> club, in concert, at the ballpark, or jazzing up Powell Street, his
> swinging clarinet kept feet tapping and both listeners and fellow
> musicians enthralled.
> For the last 25 years he has recorded and performed in the San Francisco
> Area with Robbie Schlosser's, Magnolia Jazz Band.  Married three times, he
> was last married to his beloved wife Kathleen for 29 years, until her
death in
> January of this year.  His sister Diane Ghostley and her children, his
> stepdaughters, Michelle Maria Boleyn of San Francisco and Kathleen Ellen
> Harper of North Bend, Oregon, survive him.
> Bill Napier's ashes will be scattered in San Francisco Bay. A private
> will be held for family members and fellow musicians.
> Memories and comments may be sent to: robbie at magnoliajazz.com

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list