ART KASSEL and his KASSELS IN THE AIR ORCHESTRA: Saxophonist Art Kassel and his "Kassels in the Air" were a staple on the Chicago music scene for 30 years. Debuting in 1924 at the Midway Gardens, the group spent a 15-year engagement at the Bismark Hotel and frequented the Aragon and Trianon ballrooms, where it received national radio exposure. In the late 1950s, Kassel moved to the West Coast, where he appeared for two years with his orchestra on a local television program, The Gloria Hart Show. In its early years, the band boasted jazz artists Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Mugsy Spanier, but Kassel switched to sweet music during the 1930s. This latter orchestra had an extremely loyal following. After Kassel's death in 1965, the orchestra continued to perform West Coast engagements.
SHEP FIELDS and his RIPPLING RHYTHM ORCHESTRA, including HAL DERWIN, LARRY NEIL, DOROTHY ALLEN: A saxophonist, Shep Fields had a little "gimmick" that helped make his band identifiable. During NBC broadcasts, he would open the show with a "rippling" sound he produced by blowing air through a straw in a glass of water. His band soon became known by the tagline "Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm".
Early on, Shep played in Jenny Grossinger's Catskill Resort Hotel (a well known New York venue). But his career really started in 1934, replacing the Jack Denny Orchestra in New York's Hotel Pierre.
His brother Freddie, who headed the Creative Management Agency, was married to Polly Bergen. Shep's orchestra had some top notch musicians including some future TV stars; Sid Ceasar played the sax.
DICK JURGENS and his ORCHESTRA, including EDDY HOWARD and RONNIE KEMPER: Already an accomplished trumpeter by age 14, Dick and his brother Will formed their first band in the summer camps at Lake Tahoe. They worked as garbage collectors when the band was inactive, but within 3 years, the band had its first residency in one of the local hotels.
The band developed into a polished ensemble, with a sound ideal for ballrooms and hotels. Guitarist/trombonist Eddy Howard, a friend from Sacramento, was the orchestra's first singer. Ronnie Kemper played piano.
Later, Jurgens had residencies at the Elitch Gardens in Denver, CO, at the Avalon Ballroom on Catalina Island, CA., and also at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom., where he became a friend of the owner.
In WW2, Dick served with the U.S.Marine Corps, where he and brother Will toured the South Pacific with an entertainment unit they formed. When WW2 ended, Dick returned to Chicago where he was booked into the Aragon and Trianon Ballrooms. He worked in Chicago until 1956, when he disbanded and went into the hi-fi sales business.