On Sunday, I’m inviting all you fellas to grab your favorite doll and motor over to The Miners Hall Museum in Franklin — or come stag, whether gents or dames — to listen to my gig on historic City and Dance Bands of the Little Balkans.
I promise it will be a barn burner. I even hooked a couple of hep cats named Joe Pauli and Colton Jones from the PSU music department to break it down and swing out on some old tunes on stand-up bass and saxophone.
It’s an interactive presentation, so come ready to share your own memories of not only municipal bands and concerts at the J.J. Richards Band Shell but also jitterbugging at the big halls — Gay Parita, Tower, Trianon, and Blue Moon – and the smaller clubs — Hill Top, Rendezvous, Lefty’s Barn, Chatter Box and 400 Club.
I’ll talk about incredible touring orchestras, like Jack Teagarden, Woody Herman, and Little Jack Little, as well as local bands like The 13 Blackfriars, Harry and His Hotshots, and Archie Jameson and The Melody Kings.
Speaking of local bands, a couple of weeks back I posed the question: “Who is Brin Thomas and the Casa Del Re Orchestra?” a band I discovered in a dance ad for the Gay Parita. I got a call from John Evans who brought over couple of photos of the band in which his father, Albert, played clarinet and sax. Other members were Everett Helms, Darrel Dean, Jimmy Miller, Russell Decker, James Horn, Brin Thomas and Billy Kirkwood.
John, whose dad met his mom, Mary Williams, while playing with Thomas, also shared a late 1930s love saga about his aunt Maxine Williams Alumbaugh who fell in love with and dated famed Bob Wills steel guitar player, Leon McAuliffe, while living in Tulsa (where the band relocated from Waco, Texas in the late 30s). WW II ended the relationship when McAuliffe went off to war. He formed his own touring band that played the Gay Parita when he returned.
I also paid a visit to Larry Black in downtown Arma where he operates an event hall named the Blue Moon Ballroom & Casino after the nightspot by the same name that held dances there for 40 years.
I got a photo of a Blue Moon Casino poster advertising a Labor Day dance in 1933. “Music by Byron Fly and his 10-piece orchestra. Ladies 10 cents, Men 35 cents. Cold drinks and refreshments served.” As national prohibition would not end until December of 1933 alcohol could not be advertised, but I’m willing to bet there were plenty of ‘pocket flasks’ at the dance. (This continued after the repeal of national prohibition as the state of Kansas did not legalize beer until 1937 and liquor until 1948.)
As I research, I’ve been discovering fun and intriguing slang terms from back in the 30s and 40s. I’ve listed 25 of them below. Quiz yourself and friend to see how many you can define. Answers are in italics at the bottom.
1) Able Grable; 2) Ameche; 3) Diggin’ the Jive; 4) Floy floy; 5) Khaki Wacky; 6) Knockin it out; 7) Copacetic; 8) Lay an egg; 9) Licorice stick; 10) Off the cob; 11) Pegs; 12) Swell; 13) Swing a wing; 14) Take a powder; 15) Dead Hoofer; 16) Cinder Dick; 17) Togged for the bricks; 18) Skin tickler; 19) Gobble pipe; 20) Doghouse; 21) Bop; 22) Barn burner; 23) Sides; 24) Snap your cap; 25) Witch Doctor
As far as municipal bands go, back in the day, most all the local towns had one and/or a high school band. Churches too. Of course I’ll share a little of the biography of John J. Richards, who emigrated here from Wales, was a muleskinner in Yale and attended KSTC. He began playing alto horn and cornet at ten and went on to direct local church and municipal bands and become director of both the Barnum & Bailey and Ringling Brothers circus bands.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s an interactive, community presentation, so feel free share any memory that gets tweaked during my talk about bands, musicians and the places they played. Or just sit back and enjoy the show.
It’s at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 23rd at Miners Hall Museum in Franklin. Doors will be open at 1:30. Admission free. Come early, the Accordion and Polka talk last month was standing room only. While you’re there check out the quarterly music display and the rest of the museum’s collection.
1) Girl with low morals; 2) Telephone; 3) Dancing; 4) Nonsense; 5) Boy Crazy; 6) Dancing amazingly; 7) Everything’s fine, okay; 8) Be boring; 9) Clarinet; 10) Corny, goofy; 11) Legs; 12) Great; 13) Dance great; 14) Get lost, Lay off; 15) Poor or bad dancer; 16) Railroad Detective; 17) Dressed up; 18) Drummer; 19) Saxophone; 20) Stand up string bass; 21) Dance wildly to big band jazz; 22) Great time; 23) Records; 24) Blow your top; 25) Member of the clergy
— J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and celebrant. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Training in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 620-231-0499, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, KS 66762