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 WWII, Dick served with the U.S. Marine Corps, where he and brother Will toured the South Pacific with an entertainment unit they formed. When WWII 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.
BLUE BARRON and his ORCHESTRA, including CHARLIE FISHER, JIMMY BROWN, RUSS CARLYLE, THREE BLUE NOTES: Born Harry Friedland, the "Blue Barron" attended Ohio State University, where he played violin in campus band. He started his career as a theatrical agent, booking bands around the Cleveland, Ohio area. Among the bands he booked were Sammy Kaye; Guy Lombardo and Horace Heidt.
In 1936, he formed his own band, using the stage name Blue Barron. Billed as "Music of Yesterday and Today, styled the Blue Barron Way'. A short, pudgy, effervescent person, he never took himself or his band too seriously. The original singer was Russ Carlyle followed later by Jimmy Brown.
His first success as bandleader came in 1938 when he got a contract at the Green Room in New York's Taft Hotel, which included three radio broadcasts each week.
Drafted during WWII, his band continued to work under the leadership of singer Tommy Ryan. His biggest hit, "Cruisin' Down The River" (MGM 10346) came in 1949 and was the country's #1 record for 7 weeks. He disbanded in the 1956 but continued working into the 1960s with bands made up of local musicians.
TINY HILL and his ORCHESTRA: "Tiny" - at 365 pounds - was widely known as "America's Biggest Band Leader". Early on, his band's style was Dixieland-based and with corny novelties; he used sandpaper blocks in a "shuffle beat" that was great for dancing.
Originally a banjoist and drummer, Hill became best known for his 1940 vocals of "Angry" (his theme); "Skirts", and for "Sioux City Sue" recorded in what he called his 'double shuffle rhythm'. With increasing fame, the band began touring widely. He played the Aragon and Trianon ballrooms in Chicago, the Inglaterra in Peoria, and the Melody Mill in Chicago. He made his first recordings in 1939 for Vocalion, and later recorded for Okeh. From 1945 through 1951, he was with Mercury Records. Hill sang vocals on almost all of his records.
Tiny teamed up with the executives of Mercury Records, who were just then forming the company, and became their very first recording Artist in December 1945.
In 1951 the band traveled 46,000 miles in ten months. In 1952, the band racked up 61,000 miles in 11 months -- all by Packard automobiles. Despite the ending of the Big Bands era, Hill continued to play in small combos in the Denver area, often returning to the Midwest for guest appearances.