SEVENTY YEARS AGO, EVERYONE WAS VERY YOUNG: BOB WILBER, DICK WELLSTOOD, WILDCATS AND FRIENDS

Let’s begin with some good sounds:

And some explanation, from New York City, 1947:

wilber-one

This post (like so many others) is the result of others’ kindness: in this case, the still-swinging clarinetist Bob Sparkman, who at 88, is “still playing and listening.” Some months ago, Bob sent me this note: Thought maybe you’d be interested in four old photos of Bob Wilber and Dick Wellstood recently sent to me by a local fan, taken, probably, in 1945 or 46, at a place called The Hanger, in either Springfield or Westfield, Mass.

I certainly was interested, but this post had to wait until I had a functioning scanner: what better way to inaugurate it than with rare jazz photographs I could share with you?

wilber-scan-one

Dick Wellstood for sure.

wilber-scan-two

More sounds, from February 1947:

and it’s only fitting to conclude the musical segment with a DREAM:

If you can identify any of the musicians in the photographs, I will be happy to add the information.  If your contribution to the post is twofold: one, to listen to the recordings and smile; two, to be thankful for Bob Wilber and all he has given us, those two things will more than suffice.  Bob and his beloved wife, Pug Horton, are still trucking along in their home in England, and we salute them.

A postscript, or THIS JUST IN.  Chris Tyle, indefatigable and many-talented, sent me cleared-up versions of the four photographs above — out of pure generosity.  Here they are.

1

and

2

and

3

and

4

May your happiness increase!

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10 responses to “SEVENTY YEARS AGO, EVERYONE WAS VERY YOUNG: BOB WILBER, DICK WELLSTOOD, WILDCATS AND FRIENDS

  1. Thanks for this post. Interesting to be reminded how the names of the musicians were printed right on the record. Coincidentally, I was just reading through the interview we conducted with Bob Wilber in May of 1998, the weekend he received an honorary degree from Hamilton College. Here is an excerpt about the Wildcats:

    MR: You managed to get your own group together in high school, The Wildcats.
    BW: Yeah. I was playing with these older fellas and then I gradually found out about other musicians around the county. Eddie Fife was in Larchmont and up in Greenwich Connecticut there was a piano player, Dick Wellstood, and the bass player, Charlie Traeger. And out of this group we gradually had jam sessions to get together. We got a group together that, we called ourselves The Wildcats. And we started playing around. And we all went down to Jimmy Ryan’s for one of their Sunday sessions. And we got friendly with Milt Gabler who was the founder of Commodore Records, had the Commodore Music Shop. And we kept bugging Milt. We’d go down there every Sunday, “Milt, hey may, we’ve got a little band, can’t we get up and just play one number?” “Oh don’t bother us kid, come on, just sit down and listen to music.” Finally he says “okay you guys, I’ve got a little opening here, get up there and play a little bit.” So we got up there, and it was a sensation, the people loved it. And he said “you kids are all right.” So he let us come back and play and then he said “you know you kids are really something else, I’d like to record you for Commodore.” So this was a great opportunity. I remember we took about six hours to record four titles. I mean we were so nervous. Now this is history, this is going back to the era when you still had waxed disks you know. In 1947 you still had a waxed disk with that stylus that cut the disk. And that red light went on and you had three minutes and that’s it. If you made a mistake you know, you spoil it. There’s no splicing tapes together, none of that. So we made four sides and then at that point is when I started studying with Sidney Bechet of course.
    MR: There was a comment in one of the jazz books that said that the first American revival group of consequence in the East, talking about The Wildcats. Did you know you were doing Revival at the time?
    BW: Well in a sense we did because we were immersed in the music of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Armstrong Hot Five, and we wanted to play in that style. We didn’t want to imitate their records. We wanted to play in their style but be creative at the same time. And yeah, in a sense it was quite different from the traditional jazz that was happening around New York at that time. I mean that was mostly centered around the Eddie Condon group and Pee Wee Russell and those guys, who were doing their own thing but it was quite different than what we were doing. So it was unique.

    Monk Rowe
    Director/Fillius Jazz Archive
    Hamilton College

  2. “New Orleans Shuffle” was recorded by the Halfway House Orchestra on 25th September 1925 in New Orleans. The Whitmore who gets the composer credits on the label is Tom Whitmore, the piano player. It was issued on Columbia 541-D.

  3. Dan Morgenstern

    You should send these to Pug and Bob! Dan

    >

  4. Dear Dan, they read the blog and I’ve already posted on Pug’s FB site. No Luddite, moi!

  5. Thanks. For all the good work. Sure brings back a lot of memories of that golden era. So much great music played by superb musicians. Glad I was in on a small part of it. Peter Pepke.

  6. Joe Carbery: Sorry, it’s not “Tom Whitmore,” it’s William “Bill” Whitmore who was the composer of “New Orleans Shuffle.” He replaced pianist Mickie Marcour for the Halfway House Orchestra’s September 25, 1925 recording session (which included his composition). He was replaced on their remaining sessions by Glyn Lea “Red” Long.

  7. Michael, if you don’t mind, a little more about Bill Whitmore.

    He seems to have been missed in the book “New Orleans Jazz: A Family Album,” which in some ways in not surprising since his only claim to fame was the one recording session with the Halfway House Orchestra and his tune. According to census records, William A. Whitmore was born in New Orleans, February 1898. In 1930 his occupation was as theater organist and in 1940 he was working in the Louisiana tax office. His address was 536 Seguin Street which is in the Algiers area of New Orleans. (The house is still there.) I was unable to find out when he passed away.

  8. Henry Duckham

    I have a photo taken 1946 or ’47 taken on a Sunday afternoon at Jimmy Ryans. It is comprised of Denny Strong,drums; Charlie Traeger valve trombone (sic), G. Stewart Baird, cornet; myself, clarinet and Dick Wellstood’ piano. Would be glad to send it on. Clue me in on the procedure. Best Hank

  9. Can the trumpeter in that second photograph be perhaps…Buck Clayton?

  10. I think a different facial shape, but any excuse to call Buck’s name is valid here.

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