May 24, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
After more than five years of death and destruction, of buzz bombs and A-bombs, Panzer tanks and kamikaze planes – after 60 million men and women had perished during World War II, if you were one of the lucky ones who survived, well, it was time to dance!
And dance we did.
In 1947, two years after the deadliest military conflict in history, Central New Yorkers were cutting up rugs from Three Rivers to the Valley. In fact, the Syracuse area enjoyed such a lively nightclub scene that the now-defunct Herald-Journal regularly ran 40-column-inches of advertisements under the heading of “Dining and Dancing.”
My friend, Syracuse singer Mimi Osmun, recently sent me an old tearsheet from the daily newspaper which attested to the vibrancy of the music scene here 65 years ago.
Some two-dozen busy bistros placed ads including Club Candee which presented Elmer Dade’s Dancing Dolls performing “The Follies of 1947.” Located at the corner of Valley Drive and West Seneca Turnpike, Club Candee served “boneless golden Southern-fried chicken” for 75 cents and featured music by Don Eldon’s Orchestra and singer Dave Fairchild.
Prices were a tad higher at Three Rivers Inn on Route 57 six miles north of Liverpool where you could dine on Oneida Lake pike or frog legs for $1.50 each and dance to the music of Joe Cronin’s Orchestra featuring vocalist Michael Fortune.
Down city at the Brown Jug, at 521 S. Salina St. next door to Loew’s Strand, Kate Gonyea played piano and Solovox. Kate’s Solovox was a newfangled instrument designed by Alan Young of the Hammond Organ Co. and manufactured between 1940 and 1948. It was a three-octave monophonic keyboard attachment instrument intended to accompany the piano with organ-like voicings.
Famous for its steaks and spaghetti, the Heidelberg Grill at North Townsend and East Division streets featured Tony Piazza’s Orchestra and Chet on the Solovox for dancing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The bus stopped at the front door of The Cantina at 722 Butternut St. which also tripped the light fantastic on weekends as did Michael’s at 700 N. Salina St., where The Four Men performed “music the way you like it.”
Over at the Sports Room at 276 James St., Johnny Francher’s Jiving Jammers hosted jam sessions on Sunday evenings and Monday nights. Andre’s 700 on South Salina Street presented Dick Robinson’s Orchestra fronted by popular vocalist Sam Traino.
Pianist Harry Martin played with Fred Spafford & His Fifty Club weekends at the Plaza Grill, 1440 W. Genesee St., on the city’s West End. Harry later took Barb Shetron’s place in Mimi’s Mamas at the Valley Post and the band’s name changed to Mimi’s Mamas and a Papa!
Out in the suburbs, rascals ruled.
The Rhythm Rascals (wasn’t that Lou Lovell on trombone?) played for dancers on Saturday nights at Sea-Van’s in East Syracuse. Meanwhile, Huey’s Rascals held forth Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at The Dutchman’s Riverside Beer Garden on Baldwinsville Road at the Cold Springs Bridge.
Mimi Osmun recently reminisced about the post-war nightclub-mania with Wally Melnick who shared his copy of the Herald’s Dining and Dancing ads from July 1947. Wally is a trombone player long active in area concerts and marching bands. He turned 87 on April 23, and – since he has retired from performing – Marty is selling his instruments. If you’re interested, give him a jingle at 476-4304.
Besides sliding the ’bone, Marty also played bass for the Jim DeLine Gang on WSYR-TV, which – in those pre-cable days – was received over the airwaves on Channel 3.
For a half-decade, the Rhythm-Airs big band – for which Mimi plays keyboards – has staged its weekly dances at McNamara’s Pub in Camillus. But beginning June 6, the band will move its popular Wednesday-evening performances to the Solvay Moose Club, 1121 Milton Ave.; 488-3477.
Led by trumpeter Maureen Clum, the orchestra performs Swing Era standards from 7 to 9 p.m. every Wednesday. Admission costs $5 per person, $7 per couple; food and drinks available.
On Saturday, June 2, trumpeter Charlie Bertini hosts his 28th annual AppleJazz concert at The Pavilion at Dwyer Memorial Park, at Little York Lake near Preble. As usual, Charlie has hired an all-star lineup including John Allred, Terry Myers, Dave Hanlon, Ronnie France, Ronnie Leigh, Jeff Phillips, Mark Doyle, Lauren-Jessica Bertini. The music begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are nearly sold out for this always popular concert; (407) 248-2898; applejazz.com.