One of the famous venues of The Big Band Era, The SunnyBrook Ballroom in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Photograph courtesy of The SunnyBrook Foundation and used with permission.
In 2003, a group of concerned community members banded together to try to preserve and renovate the landmark SunnyBrook Ballroom near Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Ballroom, which opened in 1931 with one of the largest dance floors east of the Mississippi, had fallen into disrepair. So they formed a non-profit organization, The SunnyBrook Foundation, and Thomas Sephakis became its Chairman.
"In order to help put SunnyBrook back into a functional facility, and preserve it from more delapidation, we must act quickly," Sephakis cautions.
The property was added to the National Historic Register in 2005.
"As we spread the word, we are hoping that a few more 'Angel' donors might step forth, who remember SunnyBrook and its glorious history, and wish to contribute some large amounts to the effort to help us save it from becoming simply another memory," Sephakis commented.
Big bands regularly included the Ballroom on their itineraries, playing for enthusiastic audiences. For instance, when Glenn Miller and His Orchestra played there on Sat., November 4, 1939, they drew 4,002 patrons. When the band returned for its third time, on Sat., February 28, 1942, the crowd swelled to 7,125 and, according to reports, state troopers had to be called to preserve order.
"Today," according to Sephakis, "the remains of the 'wall of fame,' a large wall behind the SunnyBrook stage, is covered with signatures of the many performers who played at the Ballroom."
The Foundation continues its nationwide fundraising effort, with a goal of $3 million, to restore the SunnyBrook to its former glory. For more information, including how to contribute, call 610-323-8326 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
"At this time, we have raised just under a half a million, so our cause has become a desperate one and now we are battling the elements and time itself," Sephakis acknowledged.
A CULTURAL LOSS IS RIGHT
Sometime this year, another big band relic, The Hotel Pennsylvania in midtown Manhattan in New York City, is to be demolished to make way for a 2.5 million square-foot office tower, with five trading floors designed to attract financial firms.
The 1,700-room Hotel, at 401 Seventh Ave., near 33rd St., once regularly presented the nation's top bands, in such settings as the Madhattan Room and the Cafe Rouge. At various times from the late 1940s, it was called the Statler Hotel or Statler Hilton, and the Penta Hotel, before reverting back to the Pennsylvania. Its telephone number inspired the 1940 Glenn Miller recording, Pennsylvania 6-5000.
"There's definitely a market for the space right now," observed David Arena, President of the brokerage firm Grubb & Ellis Co. He added, "it's probably still a great place for a dance, but it makes an even better trading floor."
Constructed in 1919, the building was never considered a standout piece of architecture, and evidently was never proposed for landmarking.
According to Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, "It's probably slightly more of a cultural loss than an architectural loss."
SEE THE BIG BANDS IN-PERSON - SELECT LIST
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks: Jan. 10-13, International
Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), New York, NY; Jan. 19 and 21-23, Association of
Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), New York, NY; Jan. 20, Chandler, AZ; Jan. 25,
Cotton Club, New York, NY
Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Bill Tole: Jan. 21, Touhill Performing Arts Center,
University of Missouri St. Louis
Harry James Orchestra directed by Art Depew: Jan. 15, Charlie O's, Valley Village, CA
Gene Krupa Orchestra directed by Michael Berkowitz: Jan. 20, The Center for the Arts,
Scottsdale, AZ; Jan. 27, private, Greensboro, NC
Hal McIntyre Orchestra directed by Don Pentleton: Jan. 21, The Center for the Arts,
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien: Jan. 11, Choral Shores Performing Arts
Center, Tavernier FL; Jan. 12, San Pablo Catholic Church, Marathon, FL; Jan. 13,
Tradition Square, Port St. Lucie, FL; Jan. 14, The Parker Playhouse, Ft. Lauderdale, FL;
Jan. 15, Burnt Store Presbyterian Church, Punta Gorda, FL; Jan. 16, Ruth Eckerd Hall,
Clearwater, FL; Jan. 17, Lely High School, Naples, FL; Jan. 19, University of South
Carolina, Lancaster, SC; Jan. 20, Grove Park Inn & Resort, Asheville, NC; Jan. 21,
Spivey Hall, Morrow GA; Jan. 23, North Florida Community College, Madison, FL;
Jan. 25-28, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, FL; Jan. 29, private, Naples, FL; Jan. 30,
Eissey Campus Theatre, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Jan. 31, Polk Theatre, Lakeland, FL
NEW COMPACT DISCS - SELECT LIST
Louis Armstrong: "Vol.7: Stop Playing Those Blues: Original Recordings 1946-1947,"
Naxos Jazz Legends (UK) 8.120817
Charlie Barnet, "You Go to My Head," Audiophonic 61014 [ 2-CD set of transcriptions ]
Tex Beneke, "Beyond the Sea," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 725 [ 27 tracks from 1946-49,
mostly RCA Victor studio sides ]
Jimmy Dorsey, "It's All Yours," Flare ( UK ) ROYCD 248 [ 22 various Decca recordings featuring vocalist
Helen O'Connell ]
Tommy Dorsey, "Sweet and Swing," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 724
[ 18 of the earliest Victor recordings by T.D.'s Orchestra and Clambake Seven in 1935 ]
Maynard Ferguson, "Wow!: The Formative Years," ASV Living Era ( UK ) CD AJA 5659
[ with J. Dorsey, Barnet, Kenton, others ]
Ralph Flanagan, "Dancing in the Dark," Montpellier ( UK ) 26 [ a sampling of RCA Victor singles ]
Woody Herman, "Woody's Winners," Mosaic Singles MCD-1013 [ = 1965 LP Columbia
CL 2436 / CS 9236 + 3 tracks from "Woody Live East and West" Columbia CL 2693 / CS 9493 + 5 from "Jazz Hoot" C-32530 ]
Jay McShann with Jimmy Witherspoon, "Goin' to Kansas City Blues," Mosaic Singles
MCD-1011 [ = 1958 LP RCA Victor LPM-1639 + 3 tunes issued on RCA ( Fr ) 741.083; most of the tracks are in stereo
for the first time ]
various, "The Cotton Club Orchestra and The Missourians," Vintage Music Productions
VMP 0212 [ forerunners of Cab Calloway's band, from 1925 and 1929-30, respectively ]
various, "Hot Dance Bands From Okeh," Retrieval ( UK ) 79050 [ 2-CD set incl. Ace Brigode,
Emerson Gill, Vincent Lopez, Gus Arnheim, Ben Selvin, Freddie Rich, and others ]
various, "Jazz Piano, The," Mosaic Singles MCD-1012 [ Ellington, Hines, others; = 1965 LP RCA Victor
LSP-3499 + bonus tracks ]
various, "Teddy Powell and Sonny Dunham: Live 1942-43," Montpellier ( UK ) 22
[ Powell = 1972 LP First Time Records FTR 1509 "Teddy Powell and His Orchestra 1942-43"; Dunham = 1942 broadcast issued on
LP Big Band Landmarks Vol.I "Sonny Dunham and His Orchestra 1942" and abridged on Golden Era LP-15044 "Sonny Dunham
and His Orchestra: 'Hold Everything'"]
NEW IN-PRINT AND / OR ONLINE - SELECT LIST
Iverson, Ethan. "Reissues: Asking for Fats," DownBeat, Jan. 2007, pp.78-79. [ favorable review
of Bluebird/Legacy 3-CD set 82876 81125 "Fats Waller & His Rhythm: If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It! ]
Kulick, Mike. "The 'Hi-De-Ho' Woman: Part Cotton Club tribute, part family tradition,
Chris Calloway's 'Celebration of a Legacy' will benefit Children's Miracle Network-
Richmond [ VA ]," richmond.com, Jan. 23, 2007.
Schermer, Victor L. "Butch Ballard: Legendary Philadelphia Drummer," allaboutjazz.com,
Jan. 9, 2007. [ interview with Ballard (Williams '42; Basie '49; Ellington '53) ]
Tumpak, John. "Band Singer, An Autobiography," Miller Notes, Jan. 2007, pp.5-6. [ review ]
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU
Ray Anthony, trumpeter (Miller '40-'41; J. Dorsey '42) - bandleader ('46- ), b. Jan. 20, 1922
Dick Nash, trombonist (Donahue '47; G. Gray '49; Beneke '50; May '53), b. Jan. 26, 1928
Ed Shaughnessy, drummer (Byrne '48; Ventura '48-'50; Millinder '51-52), b. Jan. 29, 1929
Beverly Ricono Rogers, 79, widow of bandleader and actor Charles "Buddy" Rogers,
d. Jan. 3, 2007, "after suffering from a variety of illnesses"
Jimmy Cheatham, 82, trombonist (Ferguson '61; Ellington '72), d. Jan. 19, 2007
Joe Lipman, 91, pianist-arranger (Shaw '36-'37; Berigan '37-'38; J. Dorsey '39-'42;
Ayres '58), d. Jan. 21, 2007
Floyd Standifer, 78, tenor saxophone / trumpet (Venuti), d. Jan. 22, 2007, "cancer and
Floyd Levin, 84, jazz historian - author (Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and
Musicians), d.Jan. 29, 2007, heart attack
HONOR FOR ELLA
Ella Fitzgerald, one-time vocalist with Chick Webb's band, becomes the 30th inductee in the United States Postal Service's "Black Heritage" stamp series. The stamp, with a color portrait of Fitzgerald, will be dedicated during a ceremony at Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York City on January 10th.
A TRIBUTE TO LAWRENCE WELK
Two musical groups from the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, including their Lakeshore Big Band, will present a concert, "Lawrence Welk Remembered," on January 20th at the Capitol Civic Centre. The program, to be conducted by Professor Michael J. Arendt, "will feature music that is reminiscent of the Welk shows, with vocal and instrumental arrangements of popular music."
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