Guy Lombardo and His Loyal Canadians
The Guy Lombardo Music Centre in his hometown, London, Ontario, Canada, has reached the 25th anniversary of its founding, but the city, which temporarily closed the Centre's doors last September citing poor attendance, is now considering whether the place should be permanently shuttered.
There has been frequent coverage in the London Free Press.
"This whole thing is such a screw-up it's impossible to understand," Douglas Flood, who has operated the Centre for many years (largely on a volunteer basis) as part of a group called The Friends of Lombardo, recently charged to the newspaper. "I think it's the pits."
"I think the city has seriously underestimated the groundswell of public support this museum has," Richard Young, another Friends of Lombardo member, commented.
Janis Cascadden, whose mother was Lombardo's cousin, shared with me a letter
which she wrote to the Free Press:
"Lombardo always had praise for hometown"
Just so you know, the Lombardo family does still have a
"living link" here in London. My mother and her twin,
were Hubert Lombardo's siblings. Although they have
passed away, I am much alive and living here in London.
I must say, it is sad to see what has happened to Guy
Lombardo's London legacy.
Even Macleans Magazine (Nov 12, 2007) commented that this
Canadian musical icon deserves better, and that London
should be ashamed of allowing such a rich part of
Canada's musical heritage to die of apathy.
No matter where Guy travelled, he always told people that
he was from London, Ontario, Canada .
He named his band Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians,
and wore his classic red tunic blazer as a symbol of
Canada. He was proud of his city and country.
He returned numerous times to help Londoners and receive
awards, and when he couldn't be here for a function, my
Uncle Hubert "filled in" for him. The Lombardo family
always were proud ambassadors for this city.
I have researched Lombardo genealogy for years now and
each year when I return to the tiny island of Lipari,
Italy, from where the Lombardo family came. I proudly
share a bit of London. Guess I will have a whole new
story to tell on my next visit.
The Guy Lombardo Music Centre was opened in 1983 by Col. Tom Lawson.
Information about and photos of the Centre may be viewed on the Internet at guylombardomusic.com/museum.html, courtesy of Lombardo historian Joe Enroughty, a bandleader and member of The Guy Lombardo Society.
Meanwhile, other London area residents have written to the Free Press, offering their thoughts about the Centre.
"It's something London should be proud of," Valerie Yates suggested. "When I first came to London from England, I was quite proud to think I was in the city where Guy Lombardo was born."
"It's part of London's heritage, it's part of our history," Rick Miller agreed.
A volunteer board ran the Centre until 2001, when infighting caused board members to resign, so the city took over.
"I do believe the city will eventually close it," George Smith predicted. "That thing is a done deal. I'll bet you it happens within the year."
"This is his birthplace, this is his home," Marlene Gilbert observed. "We've destroyed so much of our heritage, it would be a shame to destroy this legacy."
Present operating expenses are $27,000 a year, but attendance has reportedly been dropping. In 2007, 400 people visited, the city says, though that number has been disputed; attendance as recently as 2006 was given as 1,400.
The Centre's most prized (and largest) holding has always been Lombardo's famed winning speedboat, the Tempo VII. Also on display are a red band jacket worn by popular Lombardo vocalist Kenny Gardner; a violin once played by Lombardo; photographs and artifacts donated by members of the "Royal Canadians" band, including tenor saxophonist - vocalist Fred Higman and pianist Fred Kreitzer; and Lombardo record album and sheet music covers.
A number of visitors who arrived from the U.S. by bus as part of a sightseeing tour which stopped at the Centre were reportedly disappointed.
"They were dismayed by what was there," John Winston, Tourism London chief, explained.
Even locals voiced concern.
"The Guy Lombardo Museum was a disgrace from the start," Eunice Walker stated. "They should do something worthwhile for this band leader who put London on the map."
Another resident, C.A. Mallett, called the Centre "cramped and grungy."
It has been suggested to split up and move the collection to various sites, including a pavilion being built at nearby Springbank Gardens, Museum London, or other area archives.
Brian Meehan, Museum London's executive director, charges that few parts of the Centre's collection are "museum quality" and a permanent Lombardo display is unlikely.
However, Port Stanley residents want to open their own facility, The Stork Club Big Band Museum, dedicated to their village's big band heyday, and say that they'd be happy to include any Lombardo memorabilia which London doesn't want.
"It should be moved from London, as it doesn't seem to be appreciated there," Gwen Loose said.
"It should go to Port Stanley, where it will be looked after," Jim Scott concurred.
Other interest has come from the towns of Brantford and Goderich.
"There's enough places out there that would take it in a minute," Flood, a retired police officer and now 78, points out. "If the thing is so bad, why does everybody want it?"
The London council's community and protective services committee has now pledged $10,000 to the idea of creating a new facility celebrating the legacy of all Londoners, including Lombardo. A proposal is to be unveiled to the full council on April 21st.
New In-Print and / or Online
David Bernhart, "A Message From the President," [ Big Band Academy of America ]
The Bandstand, Mar. 2008 [ remembrance of trumpeter Pete Candoli ( Dunham '41; Bradley '42;
McKinley '42; T. Dorsey '43-'44; Herman '44-'46; Beneke '47-'48? ) ].
"Bunny Berigan's Big Day," Beaver Dam [ WI ] Daily Citizen / wiscnews.com, Mar. 25, 2008
[ annual plans to celebrate Berigan's life and career continue in his hometown of Fox
Lake, WI ].
"Legend of Broadway, The," Jazziz, Mar. 2008, pp.46-49 [ a few examples of the
photographs of Popsie Randolph ].
Martin Cizmar, "Troupes keep time long after founders lay down the beat," [ Phoenix, AZ ]
East Valley Tribune / eastvalleytribune.com, Mar. 14, 2008 [ comments by Barrie Lee
Hall, Jr., 58, and Bill Hughes, 77, leaders of The Duke Ellington Orchestra and The
Count Basie Orchestra, respectively ].
Joanne Fox, "Glenn Miller Orchestra continues in full swing," Sioux City [ IA ] Journal /
siouxcityjournal.com, Mar. 7, 2008 [ leader Larry O'Brien comments in advance of the
band's local appearance Mar. 14th ].
Carl Kelly, "A Review: Harry James concert benefits Lely big band program," Marco Island
[ FL ] Sun Times, Mar. 20, 2008 [ Fred Radke and the James Orchestra drew 700 to
their Mar. 14th performance at Lely High School ].
Kyle Lawson, "Innovative band keeps Basie's jazz alive, fresh," The Arizona Republic /
azcentral.com, Mar. 13, 2008 [ leader Bill Hughes and trumpeter Scotty Barnhart
comment ]. See also Lawson's related writing, "Harlem to Kansas City to fame and,
finally, to legend"; "Count Basie in cinema"; "Basie's best beats."
Patricia Miller, "Count Basie's Orchestra is top brass," Durango [ CO ] Herald, Mar. 18,
2008 [ review of Bill Hughes and the Basie Orchestra's Mar. 13th performance at Fort
Lewis College ].
---, "To Basie's music, couple finds love, commitment," Durango [ CO ] Herald, Mar. 25,
2008 [ Keith Sylvain proposed as a surprise to his girlfriend, Michelle Rabouin, during
the Mar. 13th Count Basie Orchestra concert at Fort Lewis College; Sylvain convinced
Bill Hughes, leader of the Basie Orchestra, to call out from the stage, "He (Sylvain)
wants to know will you marry him." ].
Kim Morgan, "Happy Birthday Desi Arnaz," huffingtonpost.com, Mar. 2, 2008.
Carla Nelson, "Grand Island native performing with Glenn Miller Orchestra," Grand Island
[ NE ] Independent / theindependent.com, Mar. 15, 2008 [ re: pianist Ron Mills ].
Robert Ronzello, "A Visit with Lorry Peters," "Glenn Miller Fans" Yahoo group, Mar. 16,
2008 [ a three-part post tracing the life and career of vocalist Peters ( McKinley-Miller '57-'59 /
'61 "Glenn Miller Time" RCA Victor LP ) ].
Joel Selvin, "Keely Smith '50s demure hippest kitten speaks freely now," San Francisco
Chronicle / sfgate.com, Mar. 20, 2008 [ Smith (Prima '49-'61) comments, "I'm basically a
square. I've led a very normal life." ].
Jeff Tamarkin, "New Orleans Museum to Celebrate Lionel Hampton's 100th Birthday,"
JazzTimes / jazztimes.com, Mar. 24, 2008 [ the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New
Orleans will present an exhibition about Hampton from April 19 to July 30 ].
After nearly 30 years, The Count Basie Society of England ceased operation with its final meeting held last October 7th.
According to Bob Weir in Jazz Journal International, "The reasons for its demise are the familiar ones - a declining, ageing membership and reluctance to take on committee positions."
Henry Busse, "Henry Busse and His Orchestra" film short included as "special feature" with
1940 Edward G. Robinson film "Brother Orchid" (available separately or as part of the set
"Warner Brothers Pictures Gangsters Collection Vol. 3"), Warner Home Video.
Cab Calloway, "Hi-De-Ho" film short included as "special feature" with 1937 Humphrey
Bogart film "Black Legion" (available separately or as part of the set "Warner Brothers
Pictures Gangsters Collection Vol. 3"), Warner Home Video.
New Compact Discs
Bob Crosby, "The Complete Bobcats Volume 3," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 753.
Harry James, "The Chronological Harry James and His Orchestra 1946 -1947," Classics
( Fr ) 1455.
Elliot Lawrence, "Elevation," Sounds of Yester Year ( UK ) DSOY 755.
Freddy Martin, "Judy Garland Live At the Coconut Grove," DRG 19107 [ August 5, 1958
performance with Martin and His Orchestra at the Coconut Grove of The Ambassador
Hotel in Los Angeles; = 1959 Capitol LP "Judy Garland At the Grove" (ST-1118) +
additional songs recorded that night and subsequently released on Garland compilations ].
various, "Count Basie [ and ] Benny Carter Legendary Radio Broadcasts," Storyville ( Sw )
1038411 [ Basie: 2/15/37, 7/9/38, 1940; Carter: 5/20/39, 1946, late 1942 or early 1943 ].
Big Band Itineraries - Select List
Count Basie Orchestra directed by Bill Hughes, Mar. 2, Raue Center for the Arts, Crystal
Lake, IL; Mar. 13, Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO; Mar. 14, Union Colony Civic Center,
Greeley, CO; Mar. 16, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale, AZ.
Cab Calloway Orchestra directed by C. Calloway Brooks, Mar. 28, Chandler Music Hall,
Tommy Dorsey Orchestra directed by Buddy Morrow, Mar. 3-14, aboard Fred Olsen's
Balmoral sailing from Miami, FL to the eastern Caribbean; Mar. 22, aboard the aircraft
carrier USS Hornet, Alameda, CA.
Les Elgart Orchestra directed by Russ Dorsey, Mar. 25, Drury University, Springfield, MO;
Mar. 27, Association of Professional Orchestra Leaders dinner-dance, Poretta's
Banquets, Chicago, IL.
Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Barrie Lee Hall, Jr., Mar. 14, Chandler Center for the
Arts, Chandler, AZ; Mar. 17, Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts, Wickenburg, AZ.
Harry James Orchestra directed by Fred Radke: Mar. 7, Nashua, NH; Mar. 9, Westminster,
MD; Mar. 10, Henderson, NC; Mar. 11, New Bern, NC; Mar. 14, Lely High School, Marco
Island, FL; Mar. 15-Mar. 31, aboard the ms Zuiderdam cruise from FL to Rome, Italy
( continues into April ).
Sammy Kaye Orchestra directed by Roger Thorpe, Mar. 29, Officers Club, U.S. Naval
Station, Newport, RI.
Glenn Miller Orchestra directed by Larry O'Brien, Mar. 2, Turnage Theatre, Washington,
NC; Mar. 4, Walhalla Civic Center, Walhalla, SC; Mar. 6, The Carlyle Club, Alexandria,
VA; Mar. 8 [ private ] Hilton Hotel, London, Ontario, CAN; Mar. 9, Charlotte Performing
Arts Center, Charlotte, MI; Mar. 10, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis, IN; Mar.
12, Batesville High School, Batesville, IN; Mar. 14, Eppley Auditorium, Sioux City, IA;
Mar. 15, Holland Performing Arts Center, Omaha, NE; Mar. 16, Grand Island Senior High
School, Grand Island, NE; Mar. 25, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale, AZ; Mar.
26, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ; Mar. 28, Texas Station Hotel Casino, Las
Vegas, NV; Mar. 29, Cal State University, Fullerton, CA; Mar. 30, Citrus Community
College, Glendora, CA.
Jack Perciful, 82, pianist (James '58-'74), d.Mar. 13, 2008, "had suffered from chronic lymphatic
leukemia for seven years."
Alan Timpson, 68, noted Glenn Miller historian and collector, d.Mar. 31, 2008.
Happy Birthday to You
Orrin Keepnews, writer (A Pictorial History of Jazz: People and Places From New Orleans to Modern Jazz) -
record producer, b.Mar. 2, 1923.
Rocky Rockwell, trumpeter - vocalist (Welk '51-'62), b. Mar. 2, 1923.
Harry Prime, vocalist (T. Dorsey '47; Flanagan '49-'53), b.Mar. 5, 1920.
Dick Hyman, pianist (Goodman '50 / '55 / '85-'86) - arranger, b.Mar. 8, 1927.
Keely Smith, vocalist (Prima '49-'61), b.Mar. 9, 1932.
Donn Trenner, pianist (Fio Rito '43-'45; Morrow '47?; Brown '54-'56 / '57-'60?), b.Mar. 10, 1927.
Quincy Jones, trumpeter (Hampton '51-'53; Gillespie '56) - composer (Basie '58 Rat Race / The Midnight Sun Never
Sets / Meet B.B.), b.Mar. 14, 1933.
George Avakian, record producer, b.Mar. 15, 1919.
Bob Wilber, clarinetist - soprano sax (Hackett '57; Goodman '58), b.Mar. 15, 1928.
Larry Elgart, saxophonist (Byrne; Les Elgart) - bandleader (Les & Larry Elgart; Larry Elgart), b.Mar. 20, 1922.
Bill Hughes, trombonist (Basie '54-'57 / '63-'84) - leader (Basie Orch. '03- ), b.Mar. 28, 1930.
Where Are They Now?
Drummer Gary Hobbs worked with Stan Kenton's band in 1975-77, during which they toured and recorded the albums "Kenton '76," "Journey Into Capricorn," and "Kenton Live in Europe."
Now age 59, Hobbs teaches at the University of Oregon, is a member of the Mike Vax Big Band (mentioned in January's "News") which performs along the West Coast, and writes songs.
More information about Hobbs may be found on his website, garyhobbs.net.
send feedback about March 2008 "Big Band News" via e-mail
FEEDBACK AND FOLLOW-UP
Christopher Popa follows-up:
Clarinetist Al Shipley, 77, has created a website, "The Big Band Sounds of London Ontario," to honor past and present bands from that area. The URL of Mr. Shipley's website is londonbigbands.ca. For instance, to view information about Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, click on "Past Big Bands," then "Guy Lombardo."