[Dixielandjazz] RIP: Russ Polette

Beth Schweitzer beth at portafortuna.com
Thu Oct 14 11:08:08 PDT 2010

James Russell "Russ" Polette, a musician and singer in St. Louis during
the heyday of Gaslight Square, died of complications from congestive
heart failure on Sunday (Oct. 10, 2010) at Sunset Hills Health and
Rehab. He was 92 and lived in south St. Louis County.

 During the 1960s, Mr. Polette performed on the old "St. Louis Hop" TV
show and on shows with Charlotte Peters and Marty Bronson. He performed
on live radio shows with Roy Queen and Eddie Arnold and with local band
leaders Russ David and Buddy Moreno.

 He played string bass and sang with banjo great John Becker and
recorded an album with him, "Riverboat Banjo Goodies," which included
Mr. Polette's signature song, "Cecelia."

 He played with various bands at venues including the Admiral, the
Robert E. Lee Riverboat and the riverboats the Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and
Becky Thatcher. More recently, he played at Graham's Grill in Kirkwood
and Culver's in Fenton.

 He worked days as a union carpenter. He retired about 1980 after back
and knee surgery but continued to play the bass and sing with the Don
Scherrer Banjo bands. They recorded several albums, including a version
of "Hello Dolly" in which he impersonated first the voice of Louie
Armstrong and then the voice of Carol Channing. His last performance was
about four weeks ago at Culver's, with Don Scherrer on banjo and Pat
Arana on trombone.

 He began his professional career at 14 playing guitar for a country
band in his hometown of Herculaneum.

 At home, he helped his father install running water and a toilet for
the family of nine children.

 After graduating from Herculaneum High School in 1939, he served as a
tank crewman in Europe in World War II, earning a Bronze Star. He
learned to play the accordion in the Army and also learned barbering.

 Visitation will be 4 to 9 p.m. today at Kutis South County Chapel, 5255
Lemay Ferry Road. The funeral will be at 9 a.m. Friday at Kutis. Burial
will be in Assumption Cemetery in Herculaneum.

 His wife, Lorraine, died in 2005. Among the survivors are three
daughters, Denise Dawson of Arnold, Sherri Hendrickson of Las Vegas and
Shelley Day of Springfield, Mo.; his first wife, Joyce Jacobs Polette of
St. Paul, Minn.; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one
great-great grandson.

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