Bucktown Then and Now – Getting Started! Part I

by Van Young

Part One of Getting Started!

Dixieland jazz bands have been popular for over a hundred years and I’ve enjoyed it for most of those years. My introduction to jazz included trad along with swing. Around 1948, my close friend, Don “Stud” Boyer, saw that I knew next to nothing about jazz so he invited me to come to his home after band practice.

I recall the first piece of jazz I heard or paid attention to was when Stud played a new Duke Ellington record and said it was special because Duke had hired a drummer, Louis Bellson, to play with the big band. Stud went on to share an important fact: Louis was one the first white musician to play in Duke’s band, or for that matter…any black band. I’m sure I gave him a big “wow” despite the fact I’d never heard of Bellson. The second record he played used a lot of solo work and I was impressed, especially with trumpeter Wild Bill Davison. Duke and Wild Bill made a jazz lover out of me in a hurry. That was over 70 years ago but when folks ask me about what jazz players I favor, my response is usually Duke and Wild Bill!

I spent a lot of time at Stud’s home, listening to his jazz recordings. We also made several trips to South Bend to a downtown record shop that specialized in jazz recordings. My jazz collection inched along but it was all jazz! We also attended Sunday jazz concerts at the Colfax dance hall in South Bend. Most of the talent came from local jazz musicians, some who hit the big time. The big bands on the road often stopped in South Bend, several for an early morning gig and, by golly, they usually had a crowd! How early was it? Yes, some good jazz can be had at 8:00 a.m. The band had to take time before playing for breakfast and then the fun began! South Bend’s closeness to Chicago meant most of the bands had played there the night before and then they climbed into their bus for a quick nap and then South Bend!

We went to the Colfax Dance Hall one time to catch the Basie band. I remember Basie stepping out of the band bus and going inside by himself to check things out but then he returned and got back on the bus and off they roared!  We never found out for sure why but we did discover later that Basie insisted upon a first-class sound system, band stands, etc.

Eventually, Stud and I began attending live jazz in Chicago as well as festivals in several other cities. One trip we made was to Soldier’s Field where the Playboy Jazz Festival was performed. Being under 18 occasionally kept us out of the Chicago bars that used jazz. We practically lived at Andy’s. All of the better Chicago jazz musicians played there as well as the traveling jazz players.

Stay tuned for Part Two in the first Saturday of August issue!

*The Buchanan Chronicle wishes to provide a venue for guest writers to be showcased. We may edit but only for typos, language, or length; as we desire to present submissions as received.*

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