Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A League of Her Own

By Chet Williamson

In her book, Swing Shift: All-Girl Bands of the 1940s, author Sherrie Tucker documents the largely forgotten history of women musicians and their contributions to the big band era. She notes that during WWII, when men were serving overseas, “swing skyrocketed with the onslaught of war.” The book is filled with firsthand accounts of remarkable women playing in all-female jazz and dance bands all across America.

Here in Worcester, one such band was Maxine King and her Starlets, an all-girl territory band that barnstormed throughout New England in nightclubs, dance halls, and ballrooms. At its peak, the group had as many as 13 members and by most accounts could really swing.

King was a gifted pianist and organist who was born in Worcester on October 5, 1922. Her family name was George. Her real name was Sadie Ferris George. There is no known origin of the name change to the more Americanized “King.” The guess is that it was fashioned after one of the Andrew Sisters (Maxine) and the King Sisters. She grew up in a traditional Lebanese home and practiced her faith at St. George Orthodox Church. She first lived at 31 Wall Street, in the same neighborhood of local trumpeter Emil Haddad.

In fact, according to Maxine’s younger sister Dolores, Haddad was first taught how to play the trumpet by Michael George, one her older brothers. Emil was 13 when he first started playing.  

Author Elizabeth Boosahda, who is a cousin to the George family, wrote about Maxine and those early days in her landmark book, Arab-American Faces and Voice; The Origins of an Immigrant Community. “Around 1939 and 1940, when she was just out of high school, she had practice sessions with Emil Haddad on the trumpet, Richard Haddad on the saxophone, and her brother Michael on the trumpet at their homes or at an empty store owned by Emil Haddad’s parents. They did gigs together.”

The adcopy for the book reads: Boosahda focuses on the Arab-American community in Worcester, Massachusetts, a major northeastern center for Arab immigration, and Worcester's links to and similarities with Arab-American communities throughout North and South America. Using the voices of Arab immigrants and their families, she explores their entire experience, from emigration at the turn of the twentieth century to the present-day lives of their descendants. This rich documentation sheds light on many aspects of Arab-American life, including the Arab entrepreneurial motivation and success, family life, education, religious and community organizations, and the role of women in initiating immigration and the economic success they achieved.” It was published by University of Texas Press, 2003.

Boosahda also noted that Maxine King’s all-girl orchestra played gigs not only in New England, but all the way into New York, and at military bases. “Her four brothers were in the U.S. military and enjoyed the orchestra’s music.”

Teenager Emil Haddad on trumpet with the Al Gervais Band 
Before taking up the trumpet, Haddad was already an entertainer by the age of 10. He and Al Dahrooge – also a neighbor and cousin of the George family – formed a comedy act and for a period of time appeared every Saturday morning over radio WTAG.

In addition to both being Lebanese, Maxine and Emil were the same age. As teenagers they went to Commerce High School, which at the time had an outstanding music department, boasting two large orchestras and concert bands, choruses, and glee clubs.

Commerce High School Orchestra, 1939

Maxine was the fifth of eight children of Thomas and Sophie George, both originally from Lebanon. “My father got up every morning at 4 o’clock to chant and pray,” says Dolores. “We all sang in church. Maxine was the organist.”

Student walking outside Commerce High on Walnut Street

  The El Morocco, a legendary Lebanese restaurant
owned by the Aboody family,
first opened in 1943 on Wall Street. 

By the 1930s the George family moved to Hamilton Street, where Dolores still resides. She says Maxine was earning money for the family by playing music at an early age. “She was a special person. Maxine had perfect pitch. My mother made it a point to see our teachers once a week and one of them said to my mother, ‘Your daughter has musical talent.’ She recommended her getting private tutoring. I still remember her teacher. Her name was Marie Louise Webetts. She was a real Blue Blood American. She lived up near Fairlawn Hospital.  Lessons were $25 a week. That was a lot of money back then.”

Before putting the all-girl band together, Dolores says Maxine worked general business musical jobs all over the city. In particular, she recalled her sister playing at Putnam and Thurston’s Restaurant on Norwich Street. She also worked at the Eden Gardens, Hotel Coronado, the Bancoft Hotel, and at one point, Maxine was the house pianist at the Plymouth Theater.

Maxine died on July 17, 2006 and according to her obituary in the Worcester Telegram, she played between showings of movies and newsreels at the Plymouth when she was 12 years-old. “She later played with such well-known groups as Spike Jones, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Horace Heidt and singers: Vic Damone, Dick Haymes, and the Ink Spots.”

“She was invited to join Spike Jones, but my parents said, no because while at home she was required to sleep in her own bed every night,” says Dolores. “I remember she had an agent. She also studied in Boston.”

Maxine (2nd from left) and her Starlets, circa 1945

Unfortunately, very little is known or documented of the all-girl band. In 1945, Telegram entertainment writer James Lee made mention of them in his column, Backstage: “Under the marquee: Maxine and her Starlets, all-girl Worcester orchestra, play a repeat date Sunday at the Merry-Go-Round, Hoosick Falls, NY, nightclub.”

The trumpeter in the group was Jane Krasuki, an accomplished musician who held a “gold card” with Worcester’s Musicians Union Local 143. She was later a member of a trio called the Rhythmettes. 
Dolores, who was born in 1939, was little too young to remember the band, but she says, “I have a 78 of the band somewhere. I remember them travelling. They played in western, MA at a place called the Bernardston Inn.”

The March 12th 1949 edition Billboard magazine mentioned Maxine. An item, with the headline of “Organ Jamboree Big at Dolan Skateland” read: “Worcester, Mass, March 5 – An organ jamboree held February 28 at James J. Dolan Skateland here was reported a big success by Mrs. Norman Allen, wife of the Skateland organist. Five organists, including Allen, were featured. Ira Bates, Boston; Joe Nickerson, the Sheraton Hotel, Boston; Ron Harry, Fitchburg, Mass., and Maxine George, Worcester, Mass., appeared on the program. To the skater selling the most tickets to the affair went an album containing an autograph record of each organist. Skating was offered the first half of the evening, with ballroom dancing following. Organ novelties were offered between sessions.”
In 1948, Maxine played a church convention in Grand Rapids, MI and met her future husband Moses Hattem, who owned a prominent dining establishment in that city. She left Worcester in 1950, settling in Grand Rapids where she became a well-known pianist and organist for more than 50 years. She first came to prominence there after performing at Hattem’s Restaurant.

Grand Rapids is comparable to Worcester. A 2010 census counted its population as a city of 188,000 people and is the second to Detroit as the largest city in Michigan. Maxine and Moses had four children. A daughter, Donna still lives in Grand Rapids. “My mother was very talented. She had a great ear. She could play any song in any key. She played in the family restaurant and elsewhere, everywhere, really. And, she taught. She recorded one album. It is called Music by Maxine.”

Downtown Grand Rapids, circa 1950s

At the restaurant Maxine played for many dignitaries, including Betty and Gerald Ford, who were so enamored of the pianist that they invited her to the White House as their guest. According to her Grand Rapids Press obituary, “she was the pianist at the weekly Grand Rapids Lions Club meetings, Cascade Hills Country Club, and many local retirement communities. Maxine was the organist and member of St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church.” Aquinas College has established the “Maxine G. Hattem Memorial Music Scholarship” for students pursuing a major in music with a preference in piano and organ.”

Note: This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome at: chromatic@charter.net. Also see: www.worcestersongs.blogspot.com. Thank you.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Black Elks on Chandler

By Chet Williamson

The Independent Benevolent Protective Order of the Quinsigamond Elks #173 is best known as the Black Elks. Back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the first Elks Club was on Summer Street. By the 1980s, the order set up shop at 200 Chandler Street on the corner of Bellevue Street. Like its predecessor, the Black Elks held Sunday afternoon jam sessions. The house band was the Soul-Jazz Qt., featuring trumpeter Barney Price, bassist Bunny Price, drummer Reggie Walley and pianist Allan Mueller. Qt., was an abbreviation out of necessity. Sometimes the group was a quartet, other times a quintet.

A pianist in residence with the Thayer Symphony and Chamber Orchestras today, Mueller is also an outstanding jazz pianist in the Oscar Peterson vein. A few years ago he sat down to recall his days at the Elks. The intent of the conversation was to document the club as part of an oral history section of the Jazz Worcester Real Book. Unfortunately, the section didn’t make the cut. Here is our conversation. 

Pianist Allan Mueller
Tell me what you remember about the club? 

It was the same type of thing we were doing at the Hottentotte [A former club on Austin Street]. We played a session. It was a Sunday, like 3 to 7 p.m. The music room was separate from the bar. I remember that the stage was tiny and not very deep. We had to spread across. If you are looking at the stage, Reggie was on the left. I was next to him. Then Bunny. The three of us would be in the back. Then the horns would be out front. Barney really liked being right out there with the people. There was some kind of soundboard and occasionally a deejay would crank something up on the break.

Who were some of the guys who sat in?

Bunny Price, Al Mueller, Barney Price, and Reggie Walley
A lot of guys would come in and you wouldn’t even know their name. They’d say “Hi, I’m Bill.” There were so many. And of course you have all these guys lined up on the side. They would be holding their horns waiting to play. I can remember Bob Simonelli would come in and play. He would get so frustrated because you’d be playing a tune like, “l’ll Remember April” and somebody would be up there blowing and he might be three fourths of the way through the tune and stop playing and walk off.

We’d be in the middle of a tune and this guy would start at the beginning. You’d go nuts trying to figure out where all these guys were. If you were playing “How High the Moon” in G, they’d play in G, but they wouldn’t make any changes. Simbob would look at me. We just decided to keep the form no matter what.

Bob Simonelli
It was loose and relaxed. Reggie would be smoking his pipe and smiling. Everybody was drinking and having a good time. We’d set up, play and have a good time. It was fun. I can remember Teddy Blandin coming in. When I left, one of my students, Jim Heffernan, came in.
Jim Heffernan

What was the audience like at the club?

It wasn’t just a black crowd. It was a good mix of white and black. Everybody was there to hear the old tunes and remember back when there were clubs where you could go out and hear that stuff. There were very few places where you could go once the Hottentotte closed. As those places died out you wound up with discos and deejays. Before you knew it there were not many venues for musicians to play.

Nobody seemed to bother us. I could never remember any instance of any kind of a racial thing going on. When I was there or Nat Simpkins was there it was just a crowd of musicians and a crowd of people that liked music. There was no, I’m black and you are white. No problems. It was a natural situation. We played and people appreciated what you did. Nobody would ever hassle you.
Nat Simpkins
I taught at Clark [University] during that period and so just spreading the word that we were doing jazz on Sundays you’d get a lot of kids coming down sitting-in. I’d have students get up and play a little bit. That’s the name of the game, how you learn to play. Again, you had to be a little careful because the union was strict about people sitting-in. They weren’t supposed to unless that had a union card. They didn’t like the business of sitting-in anyway. We did it anyway.

Charles Ketter
[A partial list of other players to have played the jam include Bruce and Steve Thomas, Bill Vigliotti, Jim Robo, Charles Ketter, Jerry Pelligrini, Bill Ryan, Tommy Herbert, Sonny Benson and Willie Pye.]

Trumpeter Bill Ryan and saxophonist Joe Pisano

Did you ever play at the club when it was on Summer Street?

You are talking about the original Elks, which was way over in the Laurel/Claytonneighborhood. I did a lot of playing over there with Barney and Reggie. This was in the 1960s. I remember going into the place. There was a big old upright piano in there. It was really beat, out of tune, but not ridiculous. The sustain pedal didn’t work. I can remember somebody went out back and found a broom handle. We were able to saw it off and stick it on the piano. We did a lot of stuff like that. We’d take the whole front of the piano off so you could hear it.

Larry Monroe
It was like a session. One time Larry Monroe was with us. He was studying at Berklee. I remember we rolled the piano right out of the club and down the street. Some of the local kids were riding it. We rolled it right onto a basketball court and we played an outdoor thing there. The kids were running and jumping all over the place. It was all-acoustic. Bunny played an old upright bass. There was a saxophone player name Al Pitts. He was great. It was fun to play blues with guys like that. They played the real stuff.

What it was like working with Barney? There’s not much is written about him.

Mueller, Price, Bill Myers, Bobby Gould and Monroe
Barney Price was a super guy. I played with him quite bit. He used to like to open with the theme song from the Burns and Allen TV show, “Love Nest.” That was a tune that he liked to play. He had a great voice. He used to sing a lot of things He actually sang more tunes than Reggie. He knew more tunes.

Mueller, Bunny and Barney
He was great with the crowd. Right off the top of his head he always had all kinds of stories, little anecdotes and stuff. The first concert I did at Clark University, I had Larry Monroe and Barney, Bobby Gould, Bunny Price and myself. It was when I first started to teach at Clark. We did a jazz concert. I remember Barney got on the mike and he said, “What town are we in? Oh, wait a minute this is Worcester.” 

This was a typical Barney thing. He would always keep you laughing. He had a million stories. I think a lot of it was because he worked at the train station helping people with their luggage. He had a lot of personality. We did a lot of jobs together and he was an awful lot of fun to be with. Barney and Howie Jefferson were also a great pair to work with.

I seemed to recall him going from Louis Armstrong hits to modern stuff. Was he flexible like that?

He was open to doing anything. I mean, jazz-rock tunes, he’d get in and play it. Barney was good with the swing and the old time blues. He’d get in and do his thing, whether we were doing a Cannonball Adderley tune, “Walk Tall.”

Elwood "Barney" Price

I had a lot of respect for Barney. He may not have been a schooled musician but the guy was a real musician and somebody that I respected. It was for what he was able to do, his entertaining with the people. It’s certainly something I can’t do. Barney, Howie [Jefferson] and Reggie were the three guys.

You have to hear these guys back in their prime to really appreciate them. The problem is some people hear them when they are old and their chops are starting to go and they say, “What’s the big deal with these players?”

This article was first published in Jazzsphere on April 16, 2008.

Note: This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome at: chromatic@charter.net. Also see: www.worcestersongs.blogspot.com  Thank you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nine bars with Nubar Alexanian

By Chet Williamson

In the introduction to his book Where Music Comes From, photographer Nubar Alexanian writes: “I’m not sure if you’re born with a musical ear or whether you develop one from your father constantly whistling into it. I can still see myself standing next to our old Magnavox Hi-Fi when I was eight years old.

“My father stood right next to me, keeping the beat with his finger and whistling the notes to Armenian songs. I ended up playing clarinet in an Armenian band with my cousin. I did my first solo gig when I was ten years old playing Armenian music in a night club in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Alexanian was born here in 1950. Continuing with his memories in the book of music he says, “For a first-generation family trying to transmit its culture to their children, music was essential. But I was a second-generation kid growing up in America. One rainy Saturday morning, I walked down Portland Street in Worcester and purchased a copy of Meet the Beatles.

“In my family, this was a dramatic decision, taken with some risk. My father, an engineer, was working a second job, but he came home early that day. He walked over to the Magnavox, took the Beatles off, and made it clear he never wanted to hear that in his house again.”

Alexanian attended Burncoat High School and says he didn't become passionate about photography until college. “In 1968 I entered Boston University. I was assigned three roommates. The four of us shared a three-room suite. The first, the son of a United States ambassador, smoked opium every night and carried on about how people didn’t like him. The second, an orthodox Jew with whom I shared a room, prayed with Tefillin every morning in front of our dorm window and wanted to be an opera star. The third, a tall bearded guy from Chicago named Charlie, mainly stayed alone in his room. The music coming from under that closed door sounded strange and formidable.

“After a few weeks, my hair was well on its way to my shoulders. I'd lie on Charlie’s floor listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Pharoah Sanders. I don’t know how many copies of Kind of Blue we went through by the end of our sophomore year, but every note and nuance of that album is engraved in my musical memory. It was a long way from ‘Hava Nagila’ and ‘Never on Sunday’ duets with my cousin. Every so often Charlie and I would fly to Chicago on $29 student airfares and go to blues clubs. We’d sneak into the Newport Jazz Festival and sleep in the bushes. Jazz and the chaotic passions on campus during those times were my formative influences.

“But as I grew older, I noticed how much like my father I had become. To this day, before he begins a project, he turns to Armenian music. He always makes sure that music is in his immediate environment. So do I. Certainly our taste is different, but music is an indispensable part of our lives, and one day I found myself wondering why. I was standing in the gospel tent at the New Orleans jazz Festival in 1981 trying to photograph how music made me feel. What was it about Coltrane, Miles and Billie Holiday that I found so extraordinary? What made music such a powerful force?”

In the sixties, Alexanian attended Boston University during the Vietnam War-era. “I needed a way to understand what was going on without committing myself,” he said. “I picked up a camera. A camera lets you get close. You are photographing it. You are not committed. I left college after two years and started to take pictures, full time. I finished my degree at UMass a few years later.”

Today Alexanian is an internationally recognized documentary photographer whose work has appeared in LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, American Heritage, Audubon, GEO, The London Sunday Times, Premiere and others. David Friend, director of photography at LIFE magazine, said this about Alexanian’s work: “I can name only a small handful of photographers now plying their trade who share Nubar's passion (for his craft and his subjects) while at the same time retaining what amounts to an unswerving commitment to ‘pure photojournalism,’ a style of reportage in the finest documentary tradition.”

In addition to publishing a series of books featuring his photographs, Alexanian has presented numerous one-man exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, and his work is held by museums and private collections worldwide, including Polaroid, the University of Arizona, and the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris. In 1983 he was presented with a Fullbright Fellowship. For more than 25 years, Alexanian travelled to more than 30 countries focusing on long term personal projects. He is the co-founder of the Essex Photographic Workshop in Essex, Massachusetts. These days he directs and shoots films for Bose Corporation. He lives in Gloucester with his wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Abby Rose.

Alexanian’s first music book is Where Music Comes From. It was published in 1996 by Dewi Lewis Publication, Manchester, England. This work, his first major color project, explores what inspires the great musicians of our time, documenting the creative processes of musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Philip Glass, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, and others. In 1997 it was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the best and most inspirational books for young adults.

On its website, Bose Corporation wrote about Alexanian's Where Music Comes From, stating: “For five years, he accompanied more than 25 captivating music makers of our time on their travels and in their daily lives. The result is a passionate celebration of the creative souls and spirit behind the harmonies and melodies that sweeten our lives.”

Seiji Ozawa and Wynton Marsalis 

“Alexanian's photographs and interviews take you to Milan where Wynton Marsalis warms up in front of a bathroom mirror before a concert. They lead you to India with Philip Glass, immersing himself in the mystical roots of that ancient civilization, and to South Africa, where Joseph Shabalala absorbs the richness of his Zulu culture. Then they send you on a tour of the United States with Phish.”

Albert Murray 
Here is the publisher's description: “Photographer Nubar Alexanian's Where Music Comes From honors the transcendent nature of music and the gifted human beings inspired to make it. With strong, lyrical color images of the highest quality of reproduction and text derived from Alexanian's ongoing dialogue with his subjects, the book allows viewers to experience music as it is being created.”

Alexanian spent five years working on the project. He traveled around the world shadowing and photographing more than two dozen committed artists. He rode on the tour buses, hung out backstage, attended jam sessions and teaching seminars.

He immersed himself in their world. In the process, he got to know each artist as people as well as performers. As a result, Where Music Comes From is a document that makes manifest the spirit of their music.

Harmonica player Jr. Wells

The book features more than 100 photographs. Other musicians photographed in the book, include Aretha Franklin, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, The Mississippi Mass Choir, Marcus Roberts, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Jr. Wells, among others. The book also includes such gems as a handwritten composition by Marsalis called “Buddy Bolden.”

Art Farmer and Wynton Marsalis
Opposite a photo of Marsalis talking with his bandmates is the quote: “The foundation of both jazz and democracy is dialogue, learning to negotiate your own agenda within the group’s agenda. Jazz is like a good conversation. You have to listen to what others have to say if you’re going to make an intelligent contribution.”

“Ornette Coleman once told me: ‘Every living thing has something inside of it that does not want to die. Find out what this is and play that.'” -- Nubar Alexanian 

The follow-up to Where Music Comes From is JAZZ written by Wynton Marsalis and Alexanian. This, his fourth book, was published by Walker Creek Press in 2002. In its introduction the publishers state: “Jazz is a conversation between word and image, and between Wynton Marsalis, one of jazz’s most charismatic and gifted artists, and his audience. Using inspirational quotes taken from lectures and workshops, which he conducts all over the world, Marsalis’s philosophy is emphatic: jazz cannot exist without communication, truth, respect, self-control and wisdom.

"His appreciation of and reverence for each of these elements, combined with the lyrical images of award-winning photojournalist Nubar Alexanian, make this a compelling and inspirational view of America’s greatest music. For both Marsalis and Alexanian, jazz is a metaphor for the best kind of human interaction, and JAZZ illustrates all this beautifully.”

Music continues to inspire Alexanian’s photographic output, regardless of the focus. He says, “In places like Egypt, people were often entombed with instruments because they believed that music came from another world and having an instrument there would be essential. Humans everywhere have relied on music -- the medium created by the gods -- for dialogue. I understand why they believed this. Some music speaks to me so universally and powerfully, it does indeed seem otherworldly.”

This article was originally published in Jazzsphere.

Note: This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome at: chromatic@charter.net. Also see: www.worcestersongs.blogspot.com  Thank you.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Shining Trumpet of Eddie Patrowicz

By Chet Williamson

A parade of notable trumpeters have marched in and out of Worcester County over the years, namely Irving Peskin, Wendell Culley, Barney Price, Don Fagerquist, Ziggy Kelly, Emil Haddad and more recently, Jerry Sabatini and Bill Fanning, among others. A great player deserving wider recognition is Eddie Patrowicz.

In his illustrious career, his cornet and trumpet were heard in the company of such legendary figures as Leo Reisman, Eddie Duchin, George Gershwin, Glenn Miller, and Benny Goodman. His clarion call also sounded behind singers Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra. 

Petrowicz was born to Polish immigrants in Dudley on September 26, 1904. Largely self-taught, young Eddie was surrounded by music as a child. His father Frank, played the euphonium. His brother Stanley, played the trombone. They were a household of brass players and members of the Pulaski Brass Band, an organization that began in 1889. The popular group performed at social engagements throughout the southern New England region during the Patrowicz family tenure. 

Frank Patrowicz top row, third from the left, circa 1922
Frank, brother Stanley, and Eddie

By the time Eddie was in junior high school he was already helping the family’s collective income by playing in local orchestras. Appearing with one such ensemble at Beacon Park in Webster at the tender age of 16, Patrowicz would soon leave school to pursue music full-time.

“Unhappily I know little about my father’s life in his early formative years,” says son, Dr. Tully Patrowicz. “It was my understanding that he worked as a ‘bobbin boy’ in the Slater Mills in Webster. He completed two years of high school. Apparently at that time his affinity and talent with both cornet and primarily trumpet launched him into a full time career as a musician.”  

When asked if his father received any musical training, Tully says, “I am not sure what if any formal training my father had. I do clearly recall that he was devoted to daily practicing several hours using the Arban Book of Scales. I often asked him to play something recognizable, which would delight me. My favorites were ‘Carnival of Venice’ and ‘Napoli,’ which I first heard played by Red Nichols on 78 RPM records. I am under the impression that there was a lot of self-directed learning in those early years as the family was far from affluent.”

The Webster Times, 1920

In 1921 at 17, Eddie Patrowicz joined the Swan Serenaders, a Worcester-based band led by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and bandleader, Einar Swan, who later gained fame and immortality as the author of the deathless torch song, “When Your Lover Has Gone.”

The Serenaders were essentially a teenage band, hell bent on playing the new music known as jazz. It’s not known how Patrowicz hooked up with the crew, but he was in the right place at the right time and evidently arrived with the right stuff. Early pictures of the group show Billy Conn as the trumpeter with the Serenaders, who would become a prominent local bandleader in this own right. 

The Swan Serenaders played together from 1922 to 1924. Webster, Dudley, Southbridge and other towns in Southern Massachusetts were their stomping grounds as well as Worcester. They also ventured beyond the confines of New England, appearing in Pennsylvania, New York and Florida. 

Their business card read: “Swanie’s Serenaders. Have played Keith and Poli’s Circuits – Our engagement – Your Success.” Playing the Keith and Poli circuits meant they performed in venues owned and operated by Benjamin Franklin Keith and Sylvester Zefferino Poli, who were two of the most prominent vaudeville promoters and theater agents in the country at the time.

In 1923, members of the Serenaders appeared under the name of the Palais Royal Players, which were affiliated with the Paul Whiteman Palais Royal Orchestra. Both bands took its name from the famous Palais Hotel, which was a large café and nightclub in Times Square in New York City.

In September of that year they received mention in the Norwalk Hour, a Connecticut daily newspaper. The headline read: “Night of the Big Dance of Craftsmen’s Quarry Will be Marked by Presence of the Palais Royal Orchestra in Pavilion.” The piece stated:  “Following their appearance here, the Palais Royal players will play for an Allington, Penn., syndicate. During the coming winter they will play at the Ormond Hotel, Fla. The orchestra is making a big hit on its stay here, especially the quartet selections.” 

Whether the name change was a marketing ploy by Keith or Poli is not known, but the band was essentially the Serenaders, consisting of Swan, who is listed as the saxophonist and leader with pianist Sam Swenson, violinist Julius Levinsky, drummer Ernest Pahl, bass horn player Oscar Werme, cornet and trumpeters Leon Kroll and Edward Patrowicz, trombonist George Trupe, and banjoist Joseph T. Toscano.

The dance was held at Roton Point in Norwalk, CT. The reviewer also noted that audiences at the venue were “listening to the best music in its history, is the consensus of opinion of all who have been attending the park since the Palais Royal Orchestra, Paul Whiteman’s unit came here. Everyone, including even those who do not dance but merely come to hear, says that manager Neville Bayley of the park should have had the players here earlier in the season. Much hope is being expressed that the players will be here next year.”

Einar Swan
A year later, Swan was off to New York to stay. In 1924 he was hired by Victor Lopez to play at the famous Roseland Gardens. Oscar Werme was enlisted into the ranks of Whiteman’s bands. Patrowicz would also join his bandmates in the Big Apple a few years later. He spent the next four years working with the Will Hardy Orchestra, a popular band that played to sellout crowds on Martha’s Vineyard.

Hardy was a songwriter from Worcester who wrote “Tivoli Girl,” a tune named after the Tivoli dance Hall in Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard. In her book, Martha’s Vineyard, Bonnie Stacy said Hardy wrote the song to capitalize on the popularity of the dance hall. Originally called the Cottage City Casino it opened in 1901 and closed in 1964. It had the distinction of housing the Flying Horses Carousel, which was moved to the Vineyard from Coney Island in 1884.

In their book, Music on Martha’s Vineyard: A History of Harmony authors Thomas Dresser and Jerold Muskin described the dance hall: “Easily identified by two towers, one at either end, the Tivoli was a large wooden structure, painted yellow. The second floor ballroom opened up onto a wide veranda, which allowed dance music to flow outside.”

The authors also mention Will Hardy, taking quotes from the Vineyard Gazette and Railton’s History of Martha’s Vineyard. “In the 1930s some of the nation’s best-known dance bands entertained in brief stands on weekends, but it was Will Hardy’s sextet that created the magic of the Tivoli. You didn’t have to dance to feel the Tivoli magic. Thousands were enthralled by the music as they strolled along Circuit Avenue. Band leader and composer Will Hardy ran the Tivoli ballroom from 1915 to 1931. Hardy’s “endearing, all-time favorite ‘Tivoli Girl’ is evocative of the era.”

In addition to running what has been described as a “Novelty Orchestra,” Hardy was the publisher of the weekly sheet music serial called The Musical Visitor. The bandleader wrote and published a variety of songs. “Tivoli Girl” dates from 1917, but was an endearing and popular song for islanders for many years. It was certainly in the band’s repertoire when Patrowicz worked with Hardy.

The next band of note that Patrowicz hitched his horn with was the legendary Eddie Duchin. Born in Cambridge in 1909, the pianist intended to be a pharmacist. In fact, he was a graduate of Mass College of Pharmacy, who financed his studies by playing with his campus orchestra.

Duchin at the piano
At 21, Duchin was leading his own band, playing professionally around Boston. Patrowicz may or may not have played in this band. According to the Pittsburgh Press, soon after obtaining his degree, Duchin took a job with Leo Reisman at the old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. “At the end of the season, Mr. Duchin formed his own orchestra. Success came almost immediately.”

This is more likely, where Patrowicz worked with Duchin, which eventually led to the trumpeter becoming a longtime member of the Reisman orchestra. Patrowicz’ son, Tully recalls many conversations with his father about his musical career. “With regard to dad's association with Eddy Duchin, he had said that he was a roommate with Eddy Duchin. However, I really never knew more of their relationship or what the time frame was. It is my impression that Leo Reisman brought Eddy Duchin to NYC'S Central Park Casino but subsequently Duchin left Reisman to form his own Eddy Duchin Orchestra.

Central Park Casino, New York, New York
“Whether or not my father was in Eddy Duchin's Orchestra full time or freelance or at all I can't be sure. Apparently from a brief review of the tomes of Brian Rust's American Dance Band Discography 1917-42, it appears that Eddie Duchin in 1929 was recording on the Victor label as Leo Reisman's pianist.”

Acccording to Karl Reisman, Leo’s son, his father moved to New York in 1928 to open Mayor Jimmy Walker’s Casino in Central Park at 72nd St. and Fifth Avenue. “With him he took a young piano player introduced by his wife’s sister Frieda (later Elsa) who was dating him. His name was Eddy Duchin. In New York at the Casino there were two rooms. Reisman was in one and in the other Emil Coleman was making a hit with his piano playing. So Leo started featuring Eddy Duchin in his arrangements.”

As mentioned, a year later, Duchin struck out on his own and later in the 1930s would even take over the Casino band, keeping many of the songs and arrangements.

Ophthalmologist Tully Patrowicz was born in Flushing, Long Island, NY in 1932. In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, he, said ''I think when you grow up in New York, you are bound to be a part of the arts.” The Patrowicz family music tradition already well-established by Tully's parents (his mother Beatrice Lufkin Patrowicz a student of piano) thought it natural that their son would discover that piano studies are a basis for understanding music's many wonders. Tully now bemoans, "I live with my father's words to this very moment: ‘You will be sorry someday that you didn't practice.’ What my father didn't say is that I would be sorry every day.”

However, all was not lost on Tully. He states that, "not only was there the influence of my parents but also there was that of the many musicians in our Long Island neighborhood that ensured that I would gain a deep-felt appreciation for music and all fine arts for which I will remain eternally grateful.”

Tully says that Eddy Duchin is not mentioned as Reisman's pianist in the discography reference after 1930-31. He also notes that his father didn’t appear with Reisman on record until a few years later. “My father first came on the Brunswick label recording scene as Reisman's first trumpet on March 15, 1934 according to the discography reference,” he says. Which means, Patrowicz may have worked with Duchin during the period of 1929 to 1934.

Patrowicz, back row, third from left
Leo Reisman
Reisman was born in Boston in 1897 and according to the Songwriters Hall of Fame “began studying the violin at age ten and by his early teens was performing with hotel bands and in 1919 formed his own band.”

Jerome Kern dubbed Reisman’s orchestra, “The String Quartet of Dance Bands.” In addition to Duchin, his ensembles featured such pianists Harold Arlen, Nat Brandywynne and Johnny Green. His vocalists included Fred Astaire, Lee Wiley and Dinah Shore.

The Hall of Fame noted that from “1921 through 1941, the Reisman Orchestra recorded nearly 80 hits on the pop charts including the #1 recordings of ‘The Wedding of the Painted Doll’ (1929), ‘Paradise’ (1932), ‘Night and Day’ (1932), ‘Stormy Weather’ (1933) and ‘The Continental (You Kiss While You’re Dancing)’ (1934).”

Reisman orchestra, 1937
Patrowicz followed such notable trumpeters as Johnny Dunn, Bubber Miley and Max Kaminsky with Reisman. Dunn was considered the king of New York jazz cornet players in the 1920s. Miley, who followed Dunn in Mamie Smith’s band, was also a soloist with Duke Ellington. His tenure was 1930-31. Brockton born Max Kaminsky is a legendary figure of the New England traditional jazz scene.

Reisman orchestra
It could be argued that the years Patrowicz spent with Reisman were his glory years in the music business. He recorded, traveled extensively, and played in the company of some the most famous musicians and singers of the day with the bandleader.

“I do remember that dad traveled with Reisman's Orchestra to France & Monaco by passenger liner before WW II hostilities began,” Tully says. “I also remember that dad was with Leo Reisman seated as first trumpet for many years during the 1940s, during which time the orchestra's primary full-time venue was NYC's Saint Regis Hotel, a venue for the enjoyment of many of the world's celebrities.

The history books and various discographies only report Patrowicz as having recorded less than a dozen sides with Reisman, but given the years with the orchestra, the trumpeter may be incorrectly documented. Tully explains: “The discography reference is not clear as later references for Reisman's first trumpet may still be my father under the alias of Frank Petrilli.”

"The String Quartet of Dance Bands"
According to the November 6, 1975 edition of the Worcester Telegram, Patrowicz traveled extensively throughout this country, Europe and South America and associated with “some of the biggest names in the music business, including Arturo Toscanni, who was director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Russ Columbo, Eddie Duchin, Paul Whiteman, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, George Gershwin and Tommy Dorsey.”

One of the Gershwin performances happened in Worcester. From the book George Gershwin: His Life and Work by Howard Pollack, the author writes, “To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin and Harry Askins, the theater manager who introduced him to Max Drefus in 1917, launched an extensive 1934 road tour featuring the composer and the Leo Reisman Orchestra performing not only the Rhapsody but a new work composed specifically for the occasion, the Variations on “I Got Rhythm” for piano and orchestra.”

The Telegram also reported that Patrowicz played in “musical movies, on radio and in vaudeville. He played in the White House during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency. He played trumpet behind many vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.”

“After the Reisman years were over,” Tully says, “much of my father's work was freelance on Broadway, with the NBC Symphony, Cruise Ships (notably the SS United States), playing for the United States Merchant Marine Academy Reviews at King's Point, Long Island and at  private teaching."

In 1964, at the age of 60, Eddie and his wife, Beatrice moved back to his hometown of Dudley. “He loved the area,” says Joanne Gagnon, Eddie’s niece. “He loved the hills around here. He and his wife returned to the area. They built a home on Dudley Hill not far from Nichols College, ran their little Gift Shop in Quinebaug, CT while Uncle Eddie taught music."

Patrowicz continued to play music professionally. He led a band called the Villagers that played regularly at the Colonial Restaurant in Webster and worked in Ray Stone’s Big Band at the Stateline Casino.

Now 85, Gagnon recalls her uncle fondly. “I thought the world of him,” she says. “If he played the Colony, my husband and I would go for dinner and a dance. I was proud of him. I saw him many times. He kept playing. He used to say, ‘I want to keep my lip up.’”

In the last four years of his life, Patrowicz and his group Eddie’s Trio, were featured weekly at the Publick House in Sturbridge. He also continued teaching privately and one day a week at Annhurst College in Woodstock Conn.

“As a child growing up in a musical family it was apparent that my father’s whole professional life and dedication was to music and the joy it brought others,” Tully says. “As a seasoned musician, he was fortunate to have traveled widely and to have played and performed with many wonderful colleagues and orchestras both popular and classical.”

On November 5, 1975, Edward F. “Eddie” Patrowicz died at Hubbard Regional Hospital after a brief illness. He was 71.

“Although I will never know all about my dear father, I do know that his kindness, warm humor and smile -- and most of all -- his love of life, family, music and musicianship have provided a legacy that all of our family can be proud of for all of the many years to come,” Tully says.

Note: Special thanks to Dr. Tully Patrowicz, Joanne Gagnon, and Carla Manzi for their assistance.

This is a work in progress. Comments, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome at: chromatic@charter.net. Also see: www.worcestersongs.blogspot.com  Thank you.