[Dixielandjazz] Pee Wee Hunt and then some

Don Ingle cornet at 1010internet.com
Tue Oct 27 15:10:51 PDT 2009

My dad was a member of the Goldkette stable in Detroit - operated much 
like the Lester Lanin NY office, with bands assembled from the signed 
players under different leaders for each gig. A few bands were set up 
with regulars, others ad hoc to fit the gig. The key band was the Victor 
band with Bix and Tram, and dad did get to be a part of that during his 
Goldkette days (1926-29.)
Pee Wee Hunt (real first name Walter) was past of the Orange Blossoms, 
led by Hank Biagini. Dad noted that this leader was not liked by most of 
the men in it,so "one day they fired the leader" The members 
incorporated as the Casa Loma Band, fronted by Glenn Grey Knobloch. It 
was actually led by Mel Jensen, a violinist from Toledo.
But when the "name bands" were not playing a gig in town or on tour, 
members were swapped to fill in with other Glodkette "Units."
In one situation, Goldkette had the contract for music on Bob Lo (Bois 
Blanc) Island, a Canadian Island in the Detroit River with a dance 
pavilion and lots of good booze since there was no prohibition in 
Canada. There were two bands on this gig, one to play on the ferry 
excursion boat enroute to the Island, the other to play at the Island. 
Dad was in the "Vagabonds", led by pianist Fred Bergen, with bassist 
Steve Brown, trumpeter Fuzzy Farrar, Jimmy Dorsey, and others in the 
stable at that time. My mother would go along with dad and dance to the 
band on the boat with Pee Wee Hunt in it, then when they were on the 
island, Pee Wee would dance with my mother while dad played. This story, 
told by my dad for many years, was confirmed when Pee Wee Came through 
Lansing MI in '52 where I was winding up college at Michigan State. I 
picked mom up at our then family home in Ovid, MI and brought her to the 
club where Pee Wee was playing and during intermission he would sit with 
us and spin tales of that time, telling the story of their "dance 
date"all over.
It was an interesting time in Detroit. The Goldkette office owned the 
Graystone Ballroom, and when the Victor band was not playing, they had 
the McKinny's Cotton Pickers booked, with Don Redman as leader. Another 
popular Goldkette unit was led by Chuck Wallcott, who later became 
musical director for Disney, underscoring many of the classic Disney 
cartoons of the 40-60's. Russ  Morgan was part of the Goldkette Stable, 
and also wrote and orchestrated for the Detroit Symphony. (Used to bring 
arrangments by for my dad to copy parts from as dad's copy hand made for 
the cleanest chart parts in town according to Morgan.) The Detroit 
Athletic Club house band was led by Tommy Dorsey for a time. Both 
Dorseys put in their hitch with the remarkable musical "empire" of Jean 
Goldkette. Musicians and jazz mavens alike can only salute the existence 
of Goldkette's impact of both jazz and the beginnings of much of the big 
bands that followed.
(It was a great time to be young and part of it - my dad was 19, just 
married,when he joined up in 1926. Thankfully, I listened well when he 
talked of his "great days" in Detroit. Great they were.
Pee Wee Hunt's thread made this flow of memory begin. My brain smiles!
Don Ingle

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