Born in Columbus on May 25, 1913, Louise Smith, as she was known professionally, graduated from East High School. In the late 1940s, she was a member of the Ray Grable Band playing Stone's Grill. Not only could she play well, but she also "sang like a bird" according to Paul Betz. Unfortunately, her domestic life was not very happy and then when she was seriously injured in an automobile accident her voice was damaged by a tracheotomy. Louise performed as a single, in jazz combos, or as the driving force with a big band rhythm section. She often joined Betz for gigs at the Officer's Club at Lockbourne Air Force Base, along with her second husband, Fred Ames (tenor sax/clarinet/flute/violin). Frank LaRue also was a fan of Louise's and would hire her for his band. When she was booked into the Streamliner, Louise told Betz that she "knew" she had "made it." While raising six kids, Louise also played a nine-year stint behind the Hammond organ at the Shel Steakhouse on Sullivant Avenue. In her nineties, Smith continued to perform at hospitals and for senior citizens in Garner, NC, until just before she passed away earlier this year.
Falling under the influence of Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden at an early age, Bob Butters won the Tommy Dorsey trophy in the Look Magazine 1946 swing band contest at Carnegie Hall. As a student at MIT, he led the Dinner Music Society of Upper Beacon Street band, playing college functions at Boston's Savoy Café. During this period, he backed numerous jazz legends during this period, including Wild Bill Davison, Henry "Red" Allen, Max Kaminsky, and Omer Simeon. He was even invited to sub for J.C. Higginbotham and "Big Chief" Russell Moore. Following his graduation in 1951, Bob moved to Ohio where he joined Carl Halen's Gin Bottle 7. He also worked with Gene Mayl's Rhythm Kings and Eddie Bayard's Bourbon Street 5, both on and off the Delta Queen. Although he has lived in Columbus since 1957, Bob has worked primarily in the Dayton-Cincinnati area. His first Columbus gig was with the Capitol City Jazz Band at Diebel's. Later, he joined Terry Waldo's Gutbucket Syncopators. In 1985, he became a charter member of the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band. He has also subbed in the Toll House Jazz Band and Dave Greer's Classic Jazz Stompers. Since 1997, Bob has served as president of the Central Ohio Jot Jazz Society.
Although he was born in Columbus, Norman Barnhart attended Harding High School in Marion, Ohio, where he took up the tuba. Following graduation, he enrolled in The Ohio State University school of music in 1940. Norm was a member of both the concert and the marching bands. However, he was drafted in 1942, and wound up playing both the tuba and the string bass in the U.S. Army Band. Norm began working small clubs with a trio in 1947. A year later, he joined celebrated jazz accordionist Earl March, who was based in Chicago. The next year, Norm came back to Columbus and found employment with Walter Knick at the Jai-Lai restaurant for the next 5 ½ years. He has worked steadily ever since then in small groups in the Columbus area. In fact, at age 85, Norm is still going strong. More.
Roger Dini, a Chicagoan by birth, graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University. While in college he formed the Moonlighters, a 4-piece group that played weddings, class reunions, lodges, etc. On their off days, they played the Baby Doll Polka Club on Chicago's south side during the time when live remote broadcasts were originating from the club. This occupied him from 1950 to 1963 when he relocated to Columbus for business reasons. Roger did not resume playing until 1971 when he began sitting-in at Schmidt's Restaurant on Morse Road. By August, he had formed a duo to play Friday and Saturday evenings and soon it had expanded to a trio. In 1979, the group was moved to Schmidt's in German Village where they continue to perform. As the original sponsor of Oktoberfest, Schmidt's gave Roger the assignment of hiring, scheduling, and introducing the polka bands. When the German Village Society took over the operation of Oktoberfest in 1985, Roger was named polka band coordinator, a position which he held for 15 years. For 17 years, Roger and Schnickel-Fritz played the Oktoberfest in Cincinnati each year, as well as the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival, Marion Popcorn Festival, Minster Oktoberfest, Cambridge Festival, Springfield Festival, and similar events. In 1985, they were hired to work the German pavilion at Epcot-Disney World in Florida for a week. More.
Dr. Janet W. Ebert was born in Columbus and graduated from Bexley High School. At The Ohio State University, where she earned a bachelor's master's, and PhD, Janet played flute in the concert band, orchestra, and other school ensembles. She sang with the Collegium Musicum and the University Singers. She also served as student secretary for the OSU Marching Band under professor Jack Evans. Although women were not admitted to the band at that time, she was such a highly regarded member of the organization that she became the first woman to play with the marching band at Ohio Stadium. In 1973, Janet became the first secretary of the TBDBITL Alumni Club, to which she also contributed alto horn. She is also an active performer on flute, piano, and organ. A music educator throughout her career, Janet has taught in many schools and at Urbana University. She has conducted workshops and seminars at various conferences and performed throughout the United States and abroad. Her publications are too numerous to mention, as are her participation in community associations. Janet is a member of Delta Omicron and Tau Beta Sigma music honoraries and Phi Delta Kappa and Delta Kappa Gamma education honoraries. A long-time resident of Urbana, Ohio, is also something of an expert on Simon Kenton, the celebrated frontiersman. More.
Originally from Ocean City, New Jersey, Vince Evans is, perhaps, best known in Columbus for being a member of the original Bob Allen Trio from 1964-71. However, during the 14 years he lived and worked in Central Ohio, he also played numerous gigs with Ron Beaver, Meg Murphy, and Chuz Alfred. A graduate of the University of Miami's music program, Vince has backed such artists as Steve Lawrence and Edie Gore, Jayne Mansfield, Robert Goblet, Phyllis Duller, Phil Ford and Mimi Hines, and many others. After leaving Columbus in 1985, Vince established himself as the premier bassist in the South Florida area. He is a regular at jazz festivals, appearing with Eddie Higgins and Ira Sullivan. He was both the bassist and featured vocalist with the Larry Nonzero Orchestra at Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel. He has made several recordings, including Jazz for God.
The Four Pharoahs (Morris Wade, Bobby Taylor, Johnny McDaniel, Ronnie Wilson, George Smith, Bernard Wilson) all attended East and Central High Schools. Ronnie and Bernard were brothers (but not Bobby who went on to form Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers). The Tommy Wills band backed them on "Give Me Your Love", which was recorded at Sid Nathan's King Records studio and originally released on Esta (Hamilton, Ohio), followed by Ransom (Columbus) and Paradise (New York). The Nu-Trons backed them when they played in clubs. The group appeared at the Apollo and Paramount Theaters in New York with Hank Ballard, the Five Royales, and Laverne Baker. After the group broke-up, they reformed as King Pharaoh And The Egyptians. After the Four Pharoahs took off, the found themselves appearing with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Jackie Wilson, and Otis Redding. They toured the deep south and even played the Apollo in New York. Sonny Till of the Orioles sings back-up on their third single. After Bobby Taylor left the group, to be replaced by Pee Wee Lowery, they evolved into King Pharoah And The Egyptians.
Born in Columbus and educated at the New England Conservatory of Music, Joey Nichols was one of the most well-known and well-liked lounge entertainers in Columbus for over twenty years. You might have caught him at the old Magic Lamp, The Sands, The Gloria or, later, at The Apartment Lounge, where he held court of many years until his death due to cancer. A veteran of World War II, Joey had been playing piano since childhood. However, it wasn't until 1970 that he actually had one in his own home, a gift from an old friend, and was able to start pursuing his dream of a family band. With eight children, Joey harbored hopes of one day managing such a group. Unfortunately, that's when cancer struck. Since he was the family's sole provider, he continued to play his nightly gig, but when he died his eldest child was only 15. Nevertheless, his four sons Tony, Jimmy, Joe, and Fred pulled together and formed The Silver Nichols, later renamed The Nichols Brothers.
Bob Jolly's actual name is Jelley and he was born in Ashland, Ohio. He started playing trombone at the age of 12 when his father accepted a used horn as payment for a loan. He led his own high school dance band, before joining the Tommy Van dance band which toured the state. When it came time to attend college, Jelley enrolled in the local Ashland College, continuing his playing with the school's band and orchestra. For six years, he was a member of the 300-piece All Ohio State Fair Boy's Band. In 1940-41, he held down the first chair and soloist spots. In 1942, Bob toured the United States and Canada with the Tommy Reynolds Band. Following his graduation from college in 1943 with a B.S. in public school music, he became a pilot and flight engineer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After his discharge in 1946, Jelley moved to Columbus and joined the Ray Mund Orchestra. Four years later, in 1950, Bob formed the Bob Jolly Orchestra which was an on-going concern for the next 45 years. They played country clubs, lodges, dance clubs (they were the house band for the local Arthur Murray studio), Columbus Maennerchor, and countless wedding receptions. Bob's orchestra was known for the quality of both its musicianship and its arrangements.
Janet Burntstedt O' Brien, was born and raised an Iowan. She says her high school years in Des Moines, were lucky ones because she was one of only two students who played piano well enough to accompany the school musical productions and therefore, she got to learn a lot of show music. She attended Iowa State University for two years before she followed her wanderlust and enrolled at The Ohio State University (1942). She majored in math, but played for voices classes in the OSU School of Music. She offered to play for the symphonic choir, auditioned and because of her skills and experience, Janet won the job that was usually the exclusive domain of piano majors. She married in 1951 and put her music career on hold while she was rearing her young family of four. But as soon as her children were up and going, she became the choir director for Central College Presbyterian Church in Westerville. Another job that she cherished was accompanist to the Dell Singers, a show group created by Capital University professor and night club owner, Dick Johnson. Janet was in the piano bar business performing weekly on Parsons Avenue. The Dell eventually closed and she offered herself as a sub at the Wine Cellar on Dublin-Granville Rd. She worked for eight years, until the Wine Cellar closed. In the past few decades Janet O'Brien unique skills, endurance and range of repertoire have become legend, as she supports a wide range of show groups (Vaudevillities, Voidvilities, the German Village Singers), soloists and churches (Christ United Methodist Church).
Born in Columbus, John was initially drawn to the piano at the age of 7, inspired by a second grade classmate's performance during "Show & Tell." At the age of 8, John fell under the influence of The 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert album. It changed his life. With Goodman as his hero, he switched to clarinet, eventually holding first chair in both the Whetstone High School Band and Orchestra. However, upon graduation, he realized that he was "no Benny Goodman or a Ron Hockett for that matter" and returned to the piano. In fact, he hadn't really left it, having joined the Novelaires when he was 13 and remaining with them for five years. He then attended Capital University, while working with the Ray Cincione and Howard Everitt orchestras. After earning his degree, he enlisted in the Navy, serving in the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., and developing his arranging skills. One of his bandmates suggested that he relocate with him to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area following their discharge and John took him up on the offer. He found work with the Mal Fitch Orchestra while earning as masters degree at North Texas State University. He also played gigs as pianist/arranger for the likes of Martha Raye and Jack Benny. He also worked with Tommy Loy's Upper Dallas Jazz Band, which used to do battle with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band. He first met Cullum in 1976, and was asked to join the band three years later. For the next 22 years, John was an important member of Cullum's group, contributing over 1,000 arrangements and performing on the highly regarded Riverwalk, Live From the Landing radio series. Effective New Year's Eve 2003, he left the Cullum band to strike out on his own as a pianist/arranger and leader.
For someone who spent much of his life away from Columbus, Richard Suddendorf has quite a local legacy. Born in Cincinnati and educated at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Illinois, Richard came to Columbus in 1956 as a professor of trumpet and assistant director of the marching band at Ohio State. During his tenure there, he served as director of the University Brass Choir, associate conductor of the Concert Band, and a member of the Faculty Brass Quintet. He also played in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Columbus Brass Quintet, and the Kenley Players Orchestra. In 1970, he moved to Capital University where he was director of bands, instrumental department coordinator, and conductor of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, and Symphony Orchestra. He also served two years as conductor of the Columbus Junior Symphony. At this point, he dropped off the local radar, becoming director of bands and professor of music at Western Michigan University. For the next dozen years until his retirement in 1991, Richard impact on music in that state up north was similar to what it had been here in Central Ohio. When he returned to Columbus following his retirement, he resumed teaching and conducting at Capital University. He also served as musical director and conductor of the Westerville Ohio Concert Band and organized the Vintage Brass Quintet to play at retirement communities and nursing homes through the Columbus area. Richard had received numerous accolades throughout his career.
As a teenager in Columbus, Karen Fanta Zumbrunn saw Marian McPartland perform and the die was cast. A product of the old University School, she graduated from North High in 1958 and went on to attend The Ohio State University. During college, she played solo engagements and led a small combo at private parties, dances, open houses, and night clubs. After three years of working and saving money, she went to Paris, living with a French family and studying at the Sorbonne and at L'Ecole Normale de Musique (which was directed by Nadia Boulanger). While there, she worked steadily at the famous Blue Note jazz club and also cut her first record as part of the International Stars of Jazz. When she returned to Ohio State to earn an MA in musicology, her thesis was on "12 Blues of Charlie Parker" (the first thesis on jazz in the OSU program)...From there, she went to Harvard before completing her Ph.D.at the University of California at Berkeley. Among her teachers locally were Mary Tolbert and John Ulrich. Now a resident of New Jersey, Karen is an adjunct professor at Rutgers University and Middlesex and Mercer County Community Colleges. Since 1999, she has led a jazz trio that plays regularly at the Rusty Scupper Supper Club in Princeton, New Jersey, and released two CDs: "Snowfall" and "Twilight World." Karen is much in demand for her program on the elements of jazz in which she demonstrates improvisation and the role of each instrument in the combo. Although she hasn't lived in Columbus for many years, we are proud that she got her start here.
THE COLUMBUS SENIOR
MUSICIANS HALL OF FAME
CLASS OF 2005
Louise M. Amspoker aka "Louise Smith"
Robert "Bob" Butters
Janet W. Ebert
The Four Pharoahs
Joseph N. Ginnetti aka "Joey Nichols"
Robert Jelley aka "Bob Jolly"
Richard J. Suddendorf
Karen Fanta Zumbrunn
Photo Gallery (most photos courtesty of Jim Loeffler):