A native of Pikesville, Kentucky, Baars started on the trumpet/ cornet at age 7 and by the time he graduated from South High School in 1955, had established himself as a solid musician. After studying at Ohio State, he landed a job with Harry Epps and The Muskat Ramblers at the old North Heidelberg, which led to a stint on the road with the Ray Baduc-Nappy Lamaar Band. While in Toledo, he was asked to replace the trumpeter in the Pee Wee Hunt band. Although Baars initially declined, Hunt called him twice a week for six months until he agreed to give it a try. When Hunt later retired, Baars renamed the band the Slabtown Marching Society, and booked it all over the eastern United States and Canada, although Columbus remained his home base. He often appeared locally at the Grandview Inn, The Clock, Gloria, Office Lounge, Tommy Heinrich's, Benny Klein's, Neil House, and Olentangy Inn. Baars recorded on Capitol with Hunt, on Mercury with the Riverboat Five, and on Blackbird with Gene Mayl, as well as with the Salt City Six and the Stanley Steamers. He died in 1971.
Paul Edmund Bierly
Leaving his native Portsmouth, Ohio, Bierly came to O.S.U. where he earned a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1953. However, it is for his virtuoso tuba playing that he is known in music circles, first with the 594th Air Force Band (1945-46), then as assistant conductor of the North American Aviation Concert Band (1961-76), Columbus Symphony (1965-81), Brass Band of Columbus (1984 to present), Detroit Concert Band (1973 to present), Hallelujah Brass Quintet, Ohio Village Brass (1983 to present), and Arthur Fielder's World Symphony Orchestra (1971). Bierly has been honored with membership in the American Band-master's Association, ASCAP's 1986 Deems Taylor Award, and various other citations. He has also published two volumes on the life and music of John Phillip Sousa, edited The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music, and contributed to many other publications and articles.
Robert Mason Cawley, Jr.
At age 8, Columbus-born Cawley won first prize in a state piano competition in Cincinnati, and then at the Chicago World's Fair, competing against 18 year olds. He also took top honors on Major Bowes' amateur show. Billed as the youngest paid announcer on radio, he was featured on WCOL's The Hi-Jinx Show. After serving in the Air Force, Cawley performed at the Hangar Theater Bar, Barn Club, and Netherlands Plaza in Cincinnati, before joining the Frankie Masters and Barney Rapp Orchestras. He performed on The Kathy Godfrey Show on ABC radio and Kate Smith Hour (1953-1953) on NBC-TV, before becoming a sports caster and television director, winning 20 Emmys. Cawley was musical director of the Curt Massey Show and produced the Ray Anthony Show, Hollywood Record Room (with Nat King Cole and Johnny Mercer), and The Creative World of Stan Kenton. In 1966, formed the Bob Cawley Trio, touring from Columbus to Las Vegas. Has produced and directed many other shows, recordings, etc. He now resides in Las Vegas.
Born in Tiffin, Ohio, Decker went on the road as a drummer with the Cleveland-based Sammy Watkins Orchestra before forming his own band in 1933, to play Valley Dale and many local hotels, country clubs, and private parties. In 1935, he took his orchestra to the Black Hawk Restaurant in Chicago, and later to the Oriole Terrace Night Club in Detroit, where he was heard nightly on WXYZ. He also organized an orchestra to tour with Ted Mack for 5 months from Mississippi to the West Coast. Returning to Columbus, Decker continued to play locally. However, after WWII, he entered real estate and eventually turned his band over to Ted Goetz, although he continued to hold Sunday afternoon jam sessions at his house with big name musicians who were passing through such as Bobby Hackett, Jack Teagarden, Pete Fountain, until his death in 1985.
Vera Watson Downing
Born in Jackson, Ohio, Downing grew up in Lima before embarking upon a course of musical study which would take her to Chicago, Prague, Berlin, and London. A member of the Hayden String Quartet, conductor of strings for the Women's Music Club of Columbus, and assistant concert mistress (and charter member) of the Columbus Philharmonic, she also performed on viola and violin with the St. Louis and Minneapolis Symphonies. Co-founder of the Morrey School of Music (1916 through the mid-1940s), Downing was a renowned music educator, teaching at Ohio Dominican, Ohio Northern, and Miami Universities during her lengthy career. She also was active as a member of the Petes-Downing-Hartley Trio and is mentioned in We Too Built Columbus (a history of women in Columbus) for her prominent role in advancing the cause of classical music locally. She passed away in 1971.
A lifetime resident of Columbus, Green is a busy freelance sax and flute player, working most of the major shows which come to town. A featured member of the Jazz Arts Group (a.k.a. Columbus Jazz Orchestra), and the Jerry Kaye Orchestra, he is also a professor of music at The Ohio State University School of Music, where he has taught saxophone, and was formerly head of undergraduate and graduate divisions of music theory. Ray Eubanks, J.A.G. director, has said about Green, "Burdette is the kind of musician who doesn't talk much, but when he turns around to the brass and says something everyone listens." Even such big names as Phil Wilson and Eddie Daniels have been impressed by his lead alto work. Though many feel he has the talent to make it anywhere, Green is content to remain in his hometown.
Born into a musical family in Canton, Ohio, and blessed with perfect pitch, Hanson was a child prodigy on violin. He later established himself as a premiere trombonist, bassist, and trumpeter, and has been known to sing as well. He attended Ohio University, where he was a member of the Ohioans Big Band. In 1955, he teamed up with Chuz Alfred and their group was eventually booked by the Gale Agency out of New York, toureing the U.S. and Canada. They recorded two singles and an LP for Savoy Records, before Hanson was recruited for the Kai Winding Septet. From there, he hooked up with the Buddy Rich Quintet. He recorded with both of these groups, as well. Locally, Hanson has been a featured member of the Jerry Kaye Orchestra, Capital City Jazz Band, and Jerry Weaver Good Time Jazz Band. He is also Member of the Jazz Arts Group (a.k.a. Columbus Jazz Orchestra), and leader of own Dixieland band and trio.
Robert B. Hightshoe
A pillar of the Central Ohio musical community, Hightshoe first garnered attention as winner of the Ohio auditions for Leopold Stokowski's All American Youth Orchestra and, also, the Walter Damrosch Scholarship for OSU 1942-1943. He was 1st trumpet and charter member of Columbus Philharmonic, Columbus Little Symphony, and Columbus Symphony, and organized and led C.S.O.'s Brass Quintet. Hightshoe jobbed in the area and performed in pit band for Kenley musicals. For over 40 years, he worked in the field of music education at Everett Jr. High, Lancaster, Upper Arlington, and O.S.U., where he completed his career as associate professor of trumpet and assistant dean of student advising. He has served as assistant director and section leader of All Ohio Youth Band and Orchestra, is a life member of the International Trumpet Guild, and a charter member of the Columbus Brass Band.
After being chosen Miss Columbus in 1935, Lucille Beckwith changed her name to Lucille Linwood and toured the country as a featured vocalist with the big bands of Bobby Sherwood, Jimmy Dorsey (who called her "Miss Whiskey"), and Woody Herman. It was Glenn Miller who dubbed her the "Jam Queen" following an after hours impromptu session in Virginia Beach. In the 1950s, Linwood was understudy for Kate Smith on her popular television program. Returning to Columbus to settle down, she performed in many local venues, including the Lincoln Lodge, Desert Inn, Deshler, Lake View Inn, Benny Klein's, and Tommy Henrich's. For 9 years prior to her death in 1989, she worked as a lounge singer aboard Jungle Queen, a cruise ship operating out of Ft. Lauderdale.
A native of Filadelphia, Italy, Masdea studied trumpet under Maestro Nicola Carlisano and Prof. Raffaele Maiolo, before coming to America and settling in Lynch, Kentucky, where he directed the local band. Moving to Columbus in 1928, he opened the Masdea Machine Shop, but kept his hand in music, becoming trumpet soloist with various bands, including Alphonse Cincione's Franklin Post #1 Legion Band. Later, Masdea was director of the Fraternal Order of Eagles #297 Band. He started the Masdea Concert Band, which officially became the Columbus Municipal Band in 1953, by an act of City Council and played at the dedication of the Christopher Columbus statue in 1957. He passed away later that same year.
James "Jim" L. Moore
A resident of Hilliard, Moore is a well-known percussionist who has long been associated with music in Central Ohio. A member of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for 17 years, he served as associate professor of percussion at O.S.U. until 1992, and continues as percussion coach with the O.S.U. Marching Band. He also performs with the Brass Band of Columbus, was a member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for 5 years, and a percussion instructor at Butler University. For 10 years, Moore published Percussive Notes, which is now a publication of the Percussive Arts Society, and his Permus Publications is responsible for over 200 percussion publications. In addition, he has been an instructor at the U.S. Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C., Interlochen National Music Camp in Michigan, and International Music Camp in North Dakota.
A native of Canton, Ohio, Pickens attended OSU in the early '40s and began playing piano with the Lou Posey big band. Returning to Canton after serving in WWII, he formed his own band to perform on radio and at local venues such as Meyer's Lake. Then, in the early '60s, he moved back to Columbus, where he headed a trio at Tommy Heinrich's Restaurant. Later, he performed through- out the city at many of the best spots, including the Top of the Sheraton Hotel, Four Winds Restaurant, Wine Cellar, and the Hospitality Motor Inn. For 13 years, Pickens was a member of the Capital City Jazz Band, appearing at the Dell, Jack Bowman's Steak House, etc. He also released an album under his own name.
Bette St. Claire (Betty St. Clair)
The former Betty Waddell of St. Clair Ave. (hence her stage name), St. Clair won the 1940 Ohio State News bathing suit and the 1941 "Miss Bronzeville" competitions. Following her graduation from East High School, local promoter William "Bubbles" Holloway took St. Clair to New York where he introduced her to the popular singing duo of Butterbeans and Susie, who gave her her first break. She subsequently sang with Noble Sissle's U.S.O. touring group, Errol Garner, Dizzy Gillespie's first band (1949-1950), and Howard McGhee before settling into New York night clubs as a featured vocalist. Comparisons with Ella Fitzgerald are not out of line. In fact, Gillespie (who also worked with Fitzgerald) promoted St. Clair for best vocalist in the 1949 Downbeat poll. Her first recording was done with multi-instrumentalist McKusick and arranger-trombonist- pianist Billy Byers. St. Clair recorded at least four albums on the Jubilee and Secco labels before, seemingly, dropping out of music in the 1960s. She died in 1972.
H. "Joe" Schmalz
Although he started on accordion, it was as a bass player that Schmalz is best known. Among the highlights of his long career are playing with Walter Knick at the old Jai-Lai, touring with the Bernie Cummins Band, and performing in Las Vegas in the 1940s. In 1950s, Schmalz joined the Joe Marlee Trio. Then, when Al Waslohn hit town, he accompanied the popular band leader for many years, in big bands and small combos. A staff musician at WLW-C, Schmalz worked the Jack Denton, Spook Beckman, and Sally Flowers shows during the "Golden Years" of live television. He also backed Flippo, The Clown, on rival WBNS-TV. Co-leader of the Capital City Jazz Band from 1979 to present, Schmalz took up the piano in 1995 and, now, is as likely to be heard on it as on bass.
A mutli-talented individual, Shaw has been an inspiration to many local musicians. As a child in Chicago, he began singing gospel music as a member of The Shaw Brothers, accompanied by his mother on piano. Their popularity was such that they toured throughout the United States. Shaw was then hired as the pianist on the S.S. Fair Seas, a cruise ship which sailed regularly between California and Alaska. In 1949, he moved to Columbus, working at various times with Rusty Bryant, Nancy Wilson, Boyd Moore, Roland Kirk, Chic A Dee & Chick A Doo, and Arnett Howard, as well as in his own trio. Most recently, Shaw has been heard as a member of The Listen for the Jazz All Star Band and the Jazz & Eggs Jam Sessions. Gene Walker has said of Shaw, "When he discovered that I wanted to play jazz, he took me to the piano in the Downbeat Club and taught me songs. His influence as a vocalist, pianist and organist has been strong since the 1950s."
Avrom Joel "Al" Sillman
A 1946 graduate of South High School, Sillman at first studied classical music at Ohio State University. However, when he was invited to New York City to stay with his cousin Herman Silverman (the well-know night club comedian Herkie Styles), he was exposed to the jazz scene and it turned his head forever. A newspaper columnist once wrote of Sillman, "the tones emanating from his tenor sax are nothing but sweet and mellow, honey practically drips from Al's horn." This talented musician, who doubled on the clarinet, soon found himself touring with the bands of Glenn Miller, Ralph Flanagan, Woody Herman, and others. Upon returning to Columbus, he became a fixture on the local music scene, playing in combos with with Jimmie Carter and Bill Mimms, and leading his own group, Raz-Ma-Tazz. Unfortunately, Sillman's career was cut short when he passed away in 1989.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Simmons joined the Clarence Avery band on bass in 1932, then Curley Parish's Society Dance Band (with vocalist Raleigh Randolph). He received a two-year music scholarship to Alabama A & M in 1935, then another to Tennessee State College. Graduating in 1940, Simmons taught school before entering the Army, where he organized a band to play in USO clubs at Ft. Bliss and Ft. Dix. Shipped to Okinawa, he built a bass out of an oil drum and continued to perform. Discharged in 1945, he came to Columbus three years later to attend graduate school at O.S.U. Initially, he joined Hank Marr's band at the Club Regal. Since then, Simmons has played with Van Walls Rhythm Notes, Emile Leon, Earl Hood, Rusty Bryant, Boyd Moore, Sammy Hopkins, and the Golden Buckeyes (of which he is a charter member). He continues to perform as leader of his own Simmons Quartet.
John "Red" Stamets
Originally from Canton, Ohio, trumpeter and vocalist John "Red" Stamets came to Columbus to attend Ohio State University. After touring with Billy Butterfield's big band in the 1950s, he led own band at Columbus night clubs such as Ciro's, The Sands, etc. He also played with the Joe Dunlap New Orleans Five at Benny Klein's Steak House and the Joe Dunlap Quartet at the Grandview Inn in the 1970s. An original member of Al Waslohn's band, he performed in many local clubs and appeared regularly in WLC-C television. From 1979-1994, Stamets served as trumpet player, vocalist, and master of ceremonies with the Capital City Jazz Band at venues throughout the city.
A native of Akron, Indiana, Whallon graduated from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He debuted as a guest pianist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1948, and conducted Menotti's "The Consul" in 1950. From 1951-56, Whallon was conductor of the Springfield Symphony before commencing his lengthy association with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, which continued for 26 years until 1982. During his tenure, the Columbus Symphony rose in prominence from a community to a highly regarded regional orchestra. While in Columbus, he also served as musical director of the Chautauqua and Spoletto Festivals. Since leaving his post with the Symphony, Whallon had been in much demand as a conductor, especially of operas, through the United States and Europe. However, he passed away from a heart attack on June 14, 1998.
Born in Coschocton, Wheeler, or "Captain Clarinet" as he is known to many, is a self-taught musician, playing clarinet, sax, and keyboard He attended Ohio State University for 1 year in 1948, before entering the Air Force, and returned to college again briefly in 1955. However, his lack of a college degree has not prevented him from attaining recognition as a music educator. He notes he was hired by Capital University precisely because he wasn't "crammed full of academia". Instead, he had spent his life learning by doing. Wheeler played with the likes of Johnny Long, Stan Kenton, and Si Zentner, before returning to Columbus to start Wheeler's Contemporary Music Workshop in the late '50s. His intent was to teach jazz at a time when formal jazz education programs were non-existant. Operating out of Ziggy Coyle's and Van's Music's, Wheeler's Workshop turned out such students as Don Hales, Don Beck, Roger Hines, Stan Smith, and Ben Lepley. He continued to lead various quartets and octets in the '50s and '60s, before turning his attention increasingly to composition and arranging. He has authored over 1,000 musical compositions and four books.