[Dixielandjazz] Fw: Excellent -- was YBJB Watters Band

Robert S. Ringwald robert at ringwald.com
Sun Jan 23 14:46:36 PST 2005


In a post regarding the placement of musicians in the YBJB, Lu Watter's 
band, I mentioned that I used to play in a 10-piece band that set up in a 
similar arrangement, with the rhythm section in front.

I sent a copy of the post to Sugar Willie, leader of that band.  Below is 
his comments:

 ----- Original Message ----- 
From: "William Erickson" <sugarwillie at earthlink.net>
To: <robert at ringwald.com>
Sent: Sunday, January 23, 2005 2:34 PM
Subject: Excellent

Your response to Dave Bilgrays comments on ³front line configuration² was
right on target.  Couldn¹t Ove said it better myself.  Happines is when
somebody else does all the talking.

I mentioned my admiration of the Guy Lombardo band to Nick Dragos.  He came
back with this:


The immortal Louis, who obviously was #1 because he changed the way every
single jazz artist, be it instrumentalist or vocalist, played, sang, or even
thought about all music, especially jazz.

But what freaked out lots of his fans was this: He was the #1 fan of Guy
Lombardo..... absolutely loved the way those saxes handled the MELODY.
Thought Carmen Lombardo's playing dripped with soul.....

So there...........


I responded as follows:



Back when I was a kid, the big thing among aspiring jazz musicians was the
³dance band.²  All the schools had one.  All of us took a whack at forming a
band on our own.  If you didn¹t want to write the music for it, stores sold
³stock² arrangements of all the famous dance band tunes of the day.  Each
package sold for around 40 cents... Big money back then.  There were many
famous ³Name² bands kicking around.  Each tended to establish their own
style and stuck with it.  Most band leaders were from bands that came before
them, so they would more or less carry on the same sound.  For example, from
Glen Miller came Tex Beneke, Ray Anthony, etc.  From Buddy Bolden came Count

In the center, we had the ³dance band.²  From there, a band could evolve
into two opposite directions when formed:

1. Very reserved and regimented music meant strictly for dancing to.
2. What I call ³power swing.²

The first one is self explanatory.  ³Background² music, so to speak.  Shep
Fields was a typical example.  These bands came to be known as ³hotel² bands
(usually the house band for some swank hotel), ³Mickey² band (short for
Mickey Mouse) ³commercial,² ³society,² whatever.

³Power swing² is where each musician goes all out to show off his ultimate
capabilities.  The arranger makes the entire band into that one musician.
Woody Herman¹s ³third herd² was a classic example.

There were two adjectives to describe a musician... or music lover:  ³Hep²
was one extreme (today we say ³cool²) and the other was ³square.²  To
idolize a ³power swing¹ band made you ³hep.²  To dig a ³Mickey² band made
you ³square.²  Nobody wanted to be known as a ³square.²  So the ³in² thing
was to laugh, or make jokes about ³Mickey² bands.

The ultimate ³Mickey² band was Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians.  Some
of the cleverest jokes in the history of mankind were directed at this band.
A great gag was to imitate the ³Guy Lombardo Sound² by blowing sax with a
very wide vibrato.  At this, it was customary to crack ones ass laughing.

HOWEVER... As one learns more about music and how musicians blend and work
together, one comes to slowly realize that the Guy Lombardo band ain¹t too
shabby.  Finally, when one actually goes to see the group in action, the
full brunt of the bands quality becomes awesomely apparent.  Those guys are
good!!!  They swing, they entertain and sit up there having themselves an
absolute blast.  When they came off with ³The South Rampart Street Parade,²
that did it for me.  I was sold!

Supposedly, Guy blows a little fiddle.  Carman Lombardo is the hub of the
band.  I think one of the Lombardo brothers leads the trumpet section.  But
guy just stands in front of the band and moves a large white baton around.
No semblance of conducting... Just moves it around.  You have to watch
closely.  Carman is leading the band.

Over and above everything, what makes that band is the strikingly
identifiable style.  No other band has that exact sound and timing.  Some
are similar, but no cigar.  The band is easy to recognize.

Y¹see, Satch got to really know music in general.  That¹s why he was able to
peg Carman Lombardo.  He saw the same things I do.


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