I cannot find out much information about the drummer-xylophonist Dillon Ober.  John Chilton wrote no thumbnail biography of him; he does not appear in Sudhalter’s LOST CHORDS.  I have no photograph to share with you (although Don Ingle says that Ober looked like Robert Benchley, later went to work in the Hollywood studios, and was a superb drummer).

All I can ascertain is that he recorded with a Ted Weems small band in 1922, with Irving Mills, Ben Bernie, and Jack Pettis in the latter half of the Twenties.  After that . . . ?

But a jazz scholar who wishes to remain anonymous has been able to read a diary that Ober kept in that period.  Aside from the intriguing period data (gigs played, personnel of bands, wages, names of friends, telephone numbers and addresses) there are a number of strongly worded philosophical statements: Ober was obviously someone who observed the scene closely and expressed himself wittily.

Here are two gems:

I like jazz music and my girlfriends to be SOFT and HOT.  That FAST and LOUD that other people go for does nothing for me.


Those people who say they “like the music” are fine, I guess.  We need them.  But they want to talk to me before I’m playing, after I’m playing, sometimes even when I have the sticks in my hands.  Do I come up to a doctor or a lawyer while he’s in the operating room or the courtroom to tell him how he should have done that operation or won that case?  I can’t stand them.

More to come.

May your happiness increase.


  1. Michael, great minds must think alike because I just happened to be admiring Ober’s playing in the Pettis band (alongside the incomparable Don Murray). Thanks for shedding some light on the intricacies behind this obscure, and obviously reflective, name from the past.

    Dig his cymbals behind Bill Moore’s trumpet on “Doin’ the New Low Down”:

  2. Dillon Ober was an uncle of my childhood friend Gary Ober, who lived at the end of our street. The street was Cloverdale Rd. in Newton, Mass. Now Newton, Ma. I recall heated conversations between Dillon and Gary’s next door neighbor …the neighbor was a French Horn player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I would baby sit for him and my Uncle Louis once spotted Gary and I ballroom dancing in the horn players’ living room. Gary was merely showing me the Fox Trot but Uncle Louis never let me off the hook. Gary Ober and Dillon Ober grew rhubarb together but Mrs. Porter, the neighborhood bitch, pulled it out of the ground and left it in a heap. It was a big deal on Cloverdale Rd. Some this is true and some is not.

  3. I would like to have met Dillon Ober. He spoke the truth, and his words of wisdom still ring true today.

  4. A quick check of shows a Dillon Ober living in Queens in 1930. Born in 1904 in West Virginia.

    This from

    CAST: (feature film)
    1. The Crime of Dr. Forbes (1936) Student doctor with skeleton
    2. Ramona (1936) Comedy singer
    3. Every Night at Eight (1935) Trick Drummer

    So it seems in addition to being a studio orchestra in Hollywood he was also a bit player. Which means he probably held an Actor’s Equity card and would be traceable through them.

  5. Pingback: Attender FROM THE DIARY OF DILLON OBER -

  6. Pingback: A Dillon Ober Playlist | The Pop of Yestercentury

  7. Catherine Bohannon Warner

    I was watching Big Bands on TV and thought about Dillon Ober. and found this web site. I know a little about Dillon Ober and his wife Nella. I was about 15 years old in Miami, Florida and my mom and dad, a Miami Police Officer, owned two houses on one lot. Dillon and Nella Ober rented the one in the back for I believe about two years. I knew he was a drummer and Mrs. Ober, as I called her, would tell stories of their life in Hollywood. Dillon Ober played drums and marimba in a small night club on SW 8th Street near Coral Gables. I think he was going to start a band as he had me copy music for him. My mom became friends with them and at one point Mrs Ober told my mom while working at the club someone had hit him in the chest and a few days later he went to the hospital. I think he died about a week later. Mrs. Ober left and I think went back to West Virginia.

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