The Story of The Salty Dogs

With the War over, it was time for everyone to get on with their lives, including, in many cases, going back to college to finish an education. At Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, students were pouring back to resume studies. One of the men’s residence halls, Cary Hall, had just been opened to civilians, and a number of returning veterans took up residence there.

At this time, many special interest clubs such as camera and folk-dancing clubs were being formed. One day, a student named Chuck Marsh put up a bulletin board notice calling together all Cary residents interested in jazz music to meet in the Cary Hall Tower Lounge located between the two Cary towers. Thus was born the Cary Jazz Club.

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After a time, the Jazz Club grew as students living outside Cary Hall became involved; eventually it became a University-wide organization re-named the Purdue Jazz Society, and meetings were held in various rooms in the Purdue Memorial Union Building including the Tower Room.

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
Birch Smith-tpt and Dick Mushlitz-bjo, co-founded the group at Purdue University in 1947.

Eventually, a Jazz Society band was formed as a democratic group; there was no designated leader; tunes and tempo were selected by mutual agreement. A band name was selected by Birch Smith and Dick Mushlitz. As Birch Smith recalls, “Mush and I had become special friends. He used to come to my room frequently to listen to records. We were both moving in the direction of New Orleans jazz and wanted a band name similar to the Excelsior Jazz Band or Original Superior Jazz Band. Mush brought a thesaurus to my room; and, after consulting it, we settled for The Original Peerless Jazz Band.”

The Original Peerless Jazz Band played for campus functions including some concerts in the Memorial Union Tower Room. In addition, the band would play tailgate on a flatbed truck for campus rallies. They were a campus hit. Some of The Original Peerless JB members in the first few years were: Smith, cornet and slide trumpet; Mushlitz, washboard and banjo; John Palmer, piano; Cliff Selman, drums; Ted Bielefeld, clarinet and soprano sax; Bob Berg, trombone; Don McMillan, clarinet; Howard Simpson, cornet; and Carl Zaisser, piano.

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In the fall of 1948, the band was hired for their first off-campus job at the Gun Club in Lafayette across the Wabash River from the campus. Since The Original Peerless Jazz Band had formal University ties through the Purdue Jazz Society, they felt it prudent to take another name for off-campus engagements where they would be paid for their efforts. Birch recalls, “Ted Bielefeld was in my room one afternoon, and we were listening to a 12-inch Blue Note recording of “Salty Dog” by a Hodes group which featured Sidney Bechet. The recording begins with a vamp, and then someone yells out, ‘Oh! You Salty Dog!’ We looked at each other and immediately decided this should be our extra-curricular name.” (Hear The Track.)

The Gun Club was a lively establishment, serving as a local hangout for the Purdue students to let off a little steam. According to Mushlitz, “When we started playing there, it was on a once-a-week basis. We sat in the middle of the back room to play; the place was long and narrow. A jazz band was a brand new thing both at Purdue and in Lafayette, so business picked up. Business got so good that some evenings the line to get in stretched down the block.” Since the group had both a drummer and washboard (Mushlitz), Mush was urged to take up the banjo and did so.

Soon, the Salty Dogs made their first recording, a broadcast from Purdue radio station WBAA. They played on Chuck Marsh’s weekly jazz program, and the performance was transcribed for broadcast on the State Department’s “Voice of America.” In 1949, the Salty Dogs appeared as the intermission band for a Doc Evans Jazz Band concert sponsored by the Jazz Society and held at Fowler Hall on the Purdue campus.

During the 1948-49 school year, the Salty Dogs began to make excursions to Chicago to play with the University of Chicago Jazz Band and to sit in with musicians at various clubs. Mush remembers playing with Lee Collins at The Victory Club, Bud Jacobson at the Apex Club, Georg Brunis at the 1111 Club, Baby Dodds and Miff Mole at The Bee Hive, and Bill Reinhardt and Munn Ware at Jazz Limited. A favorite, though, was visits to Estelle and Jimmy Yancey’s home at 11 W. 35th St. They always welcomed young aspiring musicians, and people like Albert Ammons were always dropping in.

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It was about this time that the Salty Dogs had some personnel changes. Warren “Buzz” Reynolds from Yonkers, NY, started playing clarinet with the band during the fall of 1949 when Ted Bielefeld left. Selman, Simpson, Palmer, Berg, and Zaisser graduated in 1950. Enie Barrott from Lawrenceville, Indiana, became the regular drummer. Pete Bartley and Ralph Maxson played trombone and Walt Dornbusch took over the piano spot.

John Ely from Gary, Indiana, came in on trumpet in the fall of 1950. He stumbled onto the Salty Dogs when he heard them play at the cooperative where he was living during his first semester in the spring of 1950. He recalled, “I eventually took over the trumpet spot when Howie left at the end of the semester, and I’ve been hooked on the music ever since.”

Although he left the University in 1950, having completed a semester of grad school, Birch Smith was still around playing either cornet or bass trombone with the Dogs. He remained on the scene until he replaced Doc Evans in the Turk Murphy band and toured with him for most of 1956.

As time passed, the Salty Dogs played more and more in Chicago. They began to play at The College Of Complexes, Foley’s Follies, and other places on the near North Side. Eventually, they started Sunday afternoon concerts at the Red Arrow Jazz Club in suburban Stickney. The Red Arrow was a colorful establishment, which supposedly had been a favorite hangout of Al Capone.

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Lyell “Lefty” Ludington played drums for a time and was replaced in 1951 by Jerry Jordan from Flora, Indiana. “In the spring of 1951 during my senior year of high school, I heard the Dogs play at a fraternity rush weekend,” Jordan recalls. “I loved the music and practiced my drums all summer. After a few weeks at Purdue in the fall, the Salty Dogs needed a new drummer and I was asked to play which I did for two years.”

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
Dick Mushlitz-bjo, one of the founders of the Salty Dogs, leads the band at the Red Arrow Club, Stickney, IL, 1951. Buzz Reynolds-clr, John Ely-tpt, Ralph Maxson-tbn, and Don Ewell-pno , Jerry Jordan-dms (hidden)

During their Chicago engagements, the Salty Dogs had the pleasure of meeting a number of traditional jazz greats. “One Sunday afternoon an old, stooped, black man shuffled into the bar, sat down and quietly listened to us,” recalls Jerry Jordan. “Someone recognized him—it was Baby Dodds who had played drums with the Oliver Creole Jazz Band! We asked him to sit in but he was reluctant because of arthritis in his hands. We finally convinced him and he played one number before returning to his seat. We were thrilled. After we played our next number, I looked up and he was gone. That was an unforgettable experience.”

Mush continued to be involved after graduating but played his last job as a Salty Dog regular at the Red Arrow in September 1952, going on active Navy duty in October. Randy Wilkinson replaced him on banjo. As the early 1950s went on, Walt Dornbusch graduated and was replaced by Ray Gretencord on piano. Roger Griffiths also played piano on occasion. Jack High, a “towny,” was a sometime string bass player for the Dogs during this period. Several local high school students, John Cooper, piano; Jim Snyder, trombone; and Jim Williams, tuba; were frequently following the Salty Dogs around town to hear them play since the three were interested in jazz and played together in a high school jazz group.

By 1952, the Dogs were using Jim Snyder, still a high school junior, on trombone; and soon thereafter John Cooper followed. A local banjo player, Jimmy Wilson, was also used on occasion. That same fall, Jim Williams, known as “Whip,” entered Purdue and took over the tuba spot from Hugh Young until the Fall of 1953 when he left school and joined the Navy. When the band traveled to Chicago to perform, Don Gibson was frequently used on piano. Jack Carrell became a regular on cornet in 1952; and, for a time, he and Ely played two-horn style. Jerry Jordan graduated in 1953 to be replaced by Dick Karner on drums.

About this time, the Lu Watters influence began to make itself felt. “During a Chicago trip, several of us picked up the West Coast 78 rpm sides of the Watters band and began learning all those tunes,” remembers Jim Williams. “I spent hours playing tuba with them. The Watters sound was what interested us as a band, and we wanted to emulate that style. I played the heck out of those records.” Wayne Jones recalls, “In the summer of 1954, Jim Snyder’s parents were out of town for a few days. He and I stayed up almost all night listening to those West Coast records over and over, just the two of us, drinking beer and listening to those great records. That was one of the happiest nights of my life.”

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Early in 1954, the Salty Dogs cut their first commercial recording, an EP album titled, The Salty Dog Express, in a back room of the Purdue Music Hall. Personnel for the session were Jack Carrell, “Buzz” Reynolds, Jim Snyder, John Cooper, Randy Wilkinson, and Dick Karner. The group played without a tuba since “Whip” Williams left, and a replacement had not been found. Listening to the recording today, the Lu Watters influence is evident in the band’s style.

In January 1954, Buzz graduated and entered the Air Force. For the next year, he was stationed in Wisconsin and Illinois and continued to play with the band sporadically. John Ely graduated in May of 1954 leaving the band with a single trumpet player, Jack Carrell. The Salty Dogs filled the vacant tuba spot with Bob Rann in the fall of 1954. Rann recalled, “I read about the Dogs in the student newspaper. They had a notice that they needed a tuba player, so I went to the tryout in the Student Union. Reynolds, Carrell, Snyder, Karner, Cooper, and Wilkinson were there, and I got the job.”

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
Bob Short-tpt. of the Turk Murphy Jazz Band stops by for a session at Purdue University, 1954. Dick Karner-dms, Jim Snyder-tbn, Randy Wilkinson-bjo, Bob Rann-tba, John Cooper-pno.

Over Thanksgiving break in 1954, several members of the band made a trip to Milwaukee to hear Turk Murphy’s band for the first time. Spending most of the day driving to the Three Dolls Cafe, the boys arrived after dark on a cold, windy night only to be met with disappointment. Jim Jones, picks up the story. “Since we were underage, the owner wouldn’t let us in—what a shock after the anticipation of seeing our hero, Turk. After an hour or so, Wally Rose and Ev Farey came out to talk to us. They took pity and convinced the owner to let us stand inside the doorway for one set …a memorable evening!”

Jack Carrell was graduating in the Spring of 1955 and auditions were held to uncover a replacement. Darrel Guimond, from Oakland City, Indiana, was tabbed for occasional local jobs so he could gain some experience. During the summer, the Salty Dogs played many Sundays in Chicago at the Hunt Club and the Sabre Room, driving up on Sunday mornings and returning to Purdue late that same night. Carrell was able to make many of the weekend gigs, while Bill Price and Birch Smith also played many of the Chicago jobs.

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
Chicagoan, Frank Chace-clr. was often featured when the Purdue students traveled to the Windy City to play in one of several nightspots. The Sabre Room. 1955. Dick Karner-dms, Bob Rann-tba, Chace, Jack Carrell-tpt, Jack Lord,-bjo, Jim Snyder-tbn, John Cooper-pno.

Price was based in Minneapolis where he led his own band and Birch had moved to Chicago after leaving Purdue. The rest of the band playing in Chicago that summer consisted of Snyder, Cooper, Karner, Rann, Jack Lord, banjo; and Frank Chace, clarinet. Soon, the Dogs were booked for the first of several engagements at Chicago’s famed Blue Note.

Birch Smith has a special remembrance of this particular lineup. “My experiences playing with Jim Snyder and Frank Chace remain the most successful and satisfying of all the front line combinations that I have worked with.”.. this from the man who went on to play with the Murphy/ Helm combination a year later.

After Buzz Reynolds graduated in January 1954, the Salty Dogs occasionally used the legendary clarinetist Darnell Howard for the Chicago engagements. Rann recalls, “I used to drive the band from Purdue to the Hunt Club in Berwyn in my big yellow Oldsmobile 98 convertible. We’d pick Darnell up and drop him off at his place on Chicago’s South Side. Was he ever a player!” They also had Franz Jackson as a special guest on clarinet. By the fall of 1955, Darrel Guimond had developed into the regular trumpet man, playing all the jobs both home and away. He continued until he left school in June 1957.

During the 1950s, traditional jazz was going through a revival period on college campuses, and Turk Murphy, Louis Armstrong, George Lewis, Kid Ory, Bob Scobey and others played engagements at the Purdue campus. The Salty Dogs typically played during intermission; and, after the concert, a session was usually held at one of the fraternity houses, giving the Dogs the opportunity to jam with the jazz greats of the time.

On other occasions, trad jazz players would drop in on the Dogs in Chicago. Bob Rann remembers, “Turk Murphy was playing in Madison, Wisconsin, one weekend and decided to drop in on us at the Hunt Club. He sat in with us—it was the first time I met him. Doc Evans also showed up to hear us at the Hunt Club.”

In the summer of 1956, Bob Rann was called by Turk Murphy to substitute for Bob Short, who had broken his leg in a flying accident. “I took the train from Berwyn, Illinois, to Carson City, Nevada, and played with Turk’s band at the Golden Nugget for two weeks. At that time, he had Birch Smith, Bob Helm, Dick Lammi, and Don Ewell. I was only 19 at the time, so I used a forged ID card to get into the casino. Turk wanted me to continue playing after the two weeks were up, but I had to get back to Purdue for the fall semester.”

During the summer of 1957, the Salty Dogs returned to the Blue Note opposite Bob Scobey and Lizzie Miles, the classic blues singer who performed with King Oliver’s orchestra and recorded with Jelly Roll Morton and Clarence Williams in the 1920s. The band personnel for those performances was Cooper, Jim Jones,banjo; Joel Jensen, drums; Rann , Chace, Bill Price, trumpet; and Snyder.

Lew Green joined the Salty Dogs on cornet in the fall of 1957. Other band regulars that fall were Snyder, Cooper, Lord, and Jensen. Russ Dagon of the Purdue Symphony played clarinet occasionally for local gigs while Kim Cusack began to play the Chicago engagements.  Jim Williams, who had returned to Purdue in the fall of 1957, began to play tuba again in the fall of 1958.

In the spring of 1958, the Purdue Reamer Club decided to once again sponsor a Salty Dog record. Jack Lord had graduated in January so the Dogs enlisted Jim Jones, Lord’s close friend and high school mate, to play for the recording session.

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
Lew Green-cnt, joined the band to record at the Universal studios in Chicago 1958. Jim Snyder-tbn, Green, Joel Jensen-dms, Whip Williams-tba, Jim Jones-bjo, Russ Dagon-clr, John Cooper-pno.

The recording session was held at the Universal Recording Studios on Chicago’s North Side (Walton, off Rush) on a spring Sunday. “The studio was immense,” recalls Jim Jones. “The Chicago Symphony recorded there regularly. We got started about mid-day. I remember well that Lew’s dad brought a beautiful tenor banjo for me to use—it had belonged to Fred Van Eps.”

By the fall of 1958, this lineup was still intact except for Eddy Davis, who took over the banjo spot when Jim Jones graduated in May of 1958. During the summer of 1959, the Dogs continued to play in Chicago. Wayne Jones substituted on drums for Jensen who spent the summer in Europe.

Jim Snyder graduated in the spring of 1959, leaving a vacancy in the trombone spot. An audition in the fall of 1959 uncovered freshman trombonist, Tom Bartlett, who knew of the Salty Dogs prior to coming to Purdue and had hoped even then to eventually join them. Bartlett played the campus jobs, and the more experienced Jim Dapogny was often used on trombone for the out-of-town performances.

Lew Green and John Cooper continued at the cornet and piano spots. Dick Connors from Logansport, Indiana came in on tuba for Jim Williams who had graduated, and Eddy Davis remained on banjo. Jensen continued playing drums with Wayne Jones being used for some of the Chicago gigs. Throughout that year, the band operated without a regular clarinetist for local performances, while Kim Cusack held the spot when the Dogs traveled to the Chicago area.

Joel Jensen graduated in January of 1960, and Jim Froeschner and Dave Keen played drums locally in his place for a time. During the summer of 1960, Mike Walbridge played tuba for a few jobs with the Dogs in Chicago while Dick Connors handled the tuba chores for campus bookings. Jim Dapogny continued to play trombone on many off-campus performances.

By the end of the spring semester in 1961, Lew Green graduated and moved to Chicago with John Cooper following in a few months. At this point, the only experienced campus personnel left to carry on were Connors and Bartlett.

A call was made to Darrel Guimond, who had returned to Purdue after a few years absence, and he said he was interested in playing again. He also served as business manager. Bob Lord, drums; and Brent Dickson, piano; who were occasional subs the previous year, were elevated to full-time status. Larry Wilkins came into the band having played clarinet with the Purdue Symphonic Band. Their first performance together was the traditional Freshman First Nighter in the Union Building in the fall of 1961. Eddy Davis, living in Lafayette at the time, played banjo that night.

Under the tutelage of Guimond and Connors during many Tower Room rehearsals, the band was whipped into shape. Bob Lord remembers, “Some of us weren’t familiar with the Murphy-Watters style then, but they used their records to teach us. We also came to understand and appreciate the Salty Dog history through Guimond’s stories of his earlier time with the Dogs. Bartlett had some reel tapes of the 1950s Salty Dogs bands, and we listened to those a lot. We were very much aware we were carrying on the Purdue Salty Dogs tradition.”

Throughout the fall of 1961 and spring of 1962, this band appeared at major Purdue campus functions and performed concerts throughout the Midwest. In May of 1962, Steve Ley took over the tuba chair from the graduating Connors.

That fall, the campus band got an offer to play the Brainard Club in Chicago. For eight successive Sundays the boys drove up to Chicago, played four sets, and returned to Purdue to attend Monday morning classes. Chicagoan Bob Sundstrom joined the band on banjo for these engagements. “It was a great time for us playing in Chicago,” Steve Ley recalls. “Mike Walbrdge would drop in to play second trumpet and Eddy Davis would come by to hear us.”

For some time the band tried without success to find a regular banjo player. And then one day in the fall of 1962, Doug Lampard from Sydney, Australia contacted the band as he had played with traditional jazz bands in his home country before taking an electrical engineering teaching position at Purdue. He was immediately enlisted and the Dogs had the traditional lineup they sought.

About this time, Mitch Crask and Lynn Oberholtzer began to play banjo with the Dogs. In a few months, Dr. Lampard returned to Australia, leaving the banjo spot to Crask and Oberholtzer. Others to play occasionally with the band during this time were Rick Carriker, clarinet, and Doug Livingston, piano.

Darrel Guimond graduated in January 1963, but continued to play for another year or so, commuting from his home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, while Bob Lord took over the business affairs. One of the band’s favorite boosters was Bob Rippey from Waukesha, Wisconsin, who was the owner of the Triangle Jazz record store and a jazz concert promoter.

As Tom Bartlett recalls, “During 1962-63, we played a number of concerts for Bob at the Merrill Hills Country Club, but the November 1963 gig was an important one for us. Bob invited E.D. Nunn of Audiophile Records to hear us, and an agreement was made on the spot to do a recording session. We owe Bob at lot for that.” A month later, Audiophile AP-82, The Salty Dogs of Purdue University, was recorded at Duncan Hall in Lafayette, Indiana. It was the last hurrah for this particular Salty Dog group as Lord, Bartlett, and Dickson graduated, and Guimond moved from the area.

It was regroup time again for the Purdue Salty Dogs in the spring of 1964. Mitch Crask remained on banjo and took over as business manager. Lynn Oberholtzer moved to piano, Steve Ley returned to trombone, and Dick Weimer from Indianapolis played clarinet. Al King, a graduate student, played trumpet and Bob Rucker, who had a previous stint with a circus band, handled the tuba chores. Larry Wilkins, attending grad school, remained on clarinet and Jim Quirk, Purdue economics professor and long-time Salty Dog supporter, played cornet on occasion.

They found their drummer, Yoichi Kimura, while rehearsing in the Union Building Tower Room. “I came to Purdue for graduate school in January 1965 and found out about the Salty Dogs when I saw their record on sale at the bookstore. I went to a rehearsal, and Steve Ley asked me who my favorite drummer was. I told him Baby Dodds.” That was all it took. Yoichi eventually finished his graduate studies in 1967 and returned to Japan where he took up the drums for The New Orleans Rascals.

In December 1966, the Purdue Salty Dogs made a trip to Los Angeles as part of the Purdue Rose Bowl contingent. While there, they played concerts at a meeting of the New Orleans Jazz Club of Southern California and at L.A.’s Statler Hilton and the Hollywood Paladium. In 1967, the boys recorded an LP for Cuca Records (KS-3050). The tradition of Salty Dogs at Purdue’s campus came to an end shortly after the recording session. Many of the band members were leaving school, and replacements couldn’t be found. Musical tastes were changing to rock ’n’ roll and folk, and interest in traditional jazz in the area dried up.

Starting in 1961, the group that had solidified in Chicago when Lew Green and John Cooper left Purdue continued to operate out of that base. After the campus band’s run at the Brainard Club on Chicago’s south side, Lew Green got the full Chicago band in there for several more weeks. In order to avoid confusion in the public’s mind, they decided to use The Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band as their name.

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
While several Salty Dogs alumni were regrouping in Chicago, this campus band continued the Purdue tradition into the mid-60’s. Brent Dickson-pno, Steve Ley-tba, Tom Bartlett-tbn, Darrel Guimond-tpt,
Lynn Oberholtzer-bjo, Larry Wilkins-clr, Bob Lord-dms.

Regulars throughout this period included Green, Cooper, Walbridge, Cusack, and Wayne Jones. Eddy Davis held down the banjo seat until June 1963 when Bob Sundstrom replaced him. Several Chicago trombone players were used including Jim Beebe, Bill Hanck, Ralph Hutchinson, and Doug Finke until Jim Snyder returned to Chicago from Baltimore in the summer of 1963. The OSDJB secured their first extended engagement in the Chicago area during 1963. The venue was Paul’s Roast Round, a restaurant and bar on Roosevelt Road.

The boys had the good fortune to record with a special guest, Clancy Hayes, in the summer of 1964. Hayes happened to be in Chicago in August 1964, performing at the Plugged Nickel on Wells Street. The band for the Hayes recording was made up of regulars Green, Snyder, Cusack, Cooper, Walbridge, and Jones augmented with Jim Dapogny, who helped with the arrangements and played second cornet and valve trombone. Clancy was featured as a vocalist on nine numbers. The session was released on Delmark 210, Clancy Hayes – Oh By Jingo!

In 1969, the Dogs took up residence at a club called Sloppy Joe’s, located at Dearborn and Hubbard; and played there on Friday and Saturday nights for nearly the full year. Jack Kuncl recalled, “It was a great place to play. It was an old-fashioned place with fish nets on the walls from when it had been a steak and seafood restaurant.”

OSDJB regulars included Lew Green, John Cooper, Bob Sundstrom, Wayne Jones, Kim Cusack, and Jim Snyder. In addition to these, a number of other Chicago musicians played off and on. Mike Walbridge had a stint with Turk Murphy’s band during this time, and Dave Melcher and Ed Wilkerson filled in for him until he returned later in 1969. Jack Meilhan played banjo on occasion.

Jim Snyder began to phase out of the band during this time, and Roy Lang, Jim Beebe, and Bill Hanck temporarily filled the trombone chair. Finally at the end of 1969, Tom Bartlett returned from his army duty in Panama and permanently took over the trombone spot.

In the summer of 1969, Jack Kuncl came on the scene as a Salty Dog regular. “When Bob Sundstrom left the Dogs, I took over his banjo chair,” Jack recalled. “I had spent a lot of time with Eddy Davis prior to this and he helped me a lot with my banjo playing. He was a fantastic player. When he was playing on Bourbon Street, I’d come in after I’d get off my late shift job; and we’d talk all night about jazz and banjo stuff.” By the time the Sloppy Joe’s gig ended, the OSDJB had transformed into the strong, cohesive unit that would carry on for the next 45-plus years; Green, Bartlett, Cusack, Kuncl, Walbridge, Cooper, and Jones.

During the summer of 1969, the OSDJB made its first appearance at the St. Louis Ragtime and Traditional Jazz Festival held on the Goldenrod Showboat moored on the Mississippi levee. Over the years, this festival became a favorite of all the leading bands, and the Dogs were a permanent fixture at this great event.

Tom Bartlett in particular has special memories of all those years playing on the Goldenrod Showboat. “The St. Louis Festival was always special to the Salty Dogs and in particular to me. I have always had a keen interest in steamboats and showboats; and then, when the Salty Dogs started playing on the Goldenrod for the Festival, it all came together for me. The St. Louis Fest was the place to be—it was the best possible environment being on a showboat.”

Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band
The “Original” Salty Dogs performed together for over three decades at jazz festivals around the country. They were headliners on the Goldenrod Showboat, St. Louis, MO., here with guest Ernie Carson-cnt, 1982.
Kim Cusack, clr, Lew Green-cnt, Jack Kuncl-bjo, Carol Leigh-voc, Carson, Wayne Jones-dms, John Cooper-pno, Tom Bartlett-tbn, Mike Walbridge-tba.

In 1974, Turk Murphy brought his band to the St. Louis Fest for the first time. Turk and the Dogs shared top billing for many years after, and the festival was the beginning of a unique relationship between Turk, linchpin of the San Francisco style, and the Dogs, a revivalist band that emulated Turk and helped promote his style of music.

Tom Bartlett says, “When Turk came to the St. Louis Festival for the first time in 1974, it became a mega-event. He really raised the importance of the Festival, and I think it was the only jazz festival in the United States where jazz fans could hear Turk’s band play. I was personally so overwhelmed just being there with him. It was through those festivals that I got to know him well. Turk said that he liked the Festival on the Goldenrod; because he could relax and just play, far away from the pressures of running a jazz club.”

The Dogs’ relationship with Turk actually started in 1973 when a very special event took place. On the weekend of February 9 and 10, Turk Murphy appeared with the Dogs as a special guest at the Hall Brothers Emporium of Jazz in Mendota, MN outside Minneapolis. Tom Bartlett recalls that, “years later, Turk confided to me that, a few days after he agreed, he wished he hadn’t. He just didn’t do this sort of thing.”

What a memorable concert it was for all in attendance. Here was Turk Murphy playing with one of the great young traditional jazz bands in the country weaving his own special magic. As a special treat, Turk would occasionally step to the microphone and tell the audience some anecdote about the tune they were about to play.

Tom Bartlett thinks, “Sometime during the weekend, Turk began to realize the Salty Dogs were trying to compliment his music by playing his arrangements and tunes. He was wary from past experiences of those who were seemingly trying to steal his stuff. The experience went a long way to cement the relationship between Turk and the Dogs”

Toward the end of 1973, a new musical force became part of the Salty Dogs story when Carol Leigh began singing with the band. Carol remembered, “I was working in Chicago at the Gaslight and I asked Russ Whitman if there as a band around that played in the Turk Murphy style. He told me about the Salty Dogs. The Dogs were playing at the Big Horn on a Sunday shortly after that, and Russ drove me out to hear them. I sang a few numbers, including ‘Sunset Cafe Stomp’; and that’s how it got started.”

The OSDJB and the Turk Murphy Jazz Band combined for a recording session on June 18, 1981 at the Premier Studios at 3033 Locust St. in St. Louis. According to Lew Green, “There were no rehearsals as such. We only had a vague idea how we would go about the arrangements so we fell back to our usual approach—spend a few minutes talking through the arrangement, roadmapping it on an easel, and go!” The results of this session can be heard on GHB BCD 494, The Original Salty Dogs on The Mississippi.

Salty Dogs Turk Murphy
A special friendship with the Turk Murphy Jazz Band culminated in a two-band recording called, “The Biggest Bear Stomp” Premier Studios, St Louis, MO, 1981. Turk Murphy-tbn, Tom Bartlett-tbn, Mike Walbridge-tpt, Lew Green-cnt, Bob Schulz-cnt, Kim Cusack-clr, Jack Kuncl-bjo, Phil Howe-clr, Bill Carroll-tba, John Gill-bjo. (not shown: John Cooper and Pete-Clute-pnos, Pat Yankee and Carol Leigh-vocs.)

In the 1980s, Tom Bartlett and Jack Kuncl became close friends of “Banjo” Ikey Robinson, who recorded extensively with Jabbo Smith during the 1920s. According to Kuncl, “We kind of drifted into a relationship with Ikey. We all knew about him, of course. He was always so friendly when we’d go hear him play at his gig at Hackney’s Restaurant in Glenview; and then, unexpectedly, he invited us over to his apartment on Chicago’s Southside. Eventually we came up with the idea to do a Dogs recording as a tribute to Ikey, and he was very enthusiastic about it.”

The OSDJB actually recorded some numbers leaving “vocal space” on the tracks for Ikey to dub in later. Sadly, Ikey then became seriously ill with cancer and passed away in October 1990 prior to completion of the project. The re- cording, Joy, Joy, Joy on Stomp Off SOS 1233, was finished with various members of the band doing the vocals in place of Ikey.

As the 1980s rolled into the 1990s, the OSDJB continued to play their special brand of traditional jazz, primarily at the key jazz festivals throughout the country.

To commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of the Salty Dogs, the August 1997 issue of The Mississippi Rag published Bob Lord’s band history “Those Dogs of Mine” and Tom Bartlett published his “Salty Dogs Jazz Band Family Photo Album.”

In October 1997, the Salty Dogs celebrated fifty years as a jazz band, with a weekend of concerts. Organized by banjoist Jim Jones, it was an incredible outpouring of alumni of the Dogs, dozens of which were still actively playing somewhere in bands.

The Saturday night event was held at their ancestral home, Purdue University. The large crowd was treated to hearing bands from various eras, loosely organized in chronological fashion, beginning with the founders, Dick Mushlitz and Birch Smith.

Tom Bartlett says, “I remember a repeated comment from many of the musicians,…they were delighted to finally meet so many of the guys they had idolized for years. A highlight in my mind was the reassemblage of the 1958 group, led by Lew Green, which included John Cooper, pno; Jim Snyder, tbn; Jim Jones, bjo; Whip Williams, tba; and Joel Jensen, dms. The emotional camaraderie of the musicians was obvious. It was truly an unforgettable weekend.”

Following the Saturday event, many traveled to a Sunday afternoon concert for the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz held to continue celebration of the long Salty Dog history.

Looking back over the past years, it is clear that the Salty Dogs story is a special and remarkable one. Started at Purdue University by a group of collegiate jazz enthusiasts, the Dogs quickly developed into a midwestern traditional jazz force. Each version of the band built upon the efforts of the previous contingent and further extended and enhanced the tradition started by the 1947 founders. By one estimate, there have been about 90 musicians who have played with the Salty Dogs over these past years. Many consider their time with the Salty Dogs as one of the most significant of their life events.

Some, such as Ted Bielefeld, Bob Bonsack, “Enie” Barrott, Cliff Selman, Dick Mushlitz, John Ely, Birch Smith, Paul Scroggin, John Topel, Jimmy Wilson, Carl Zaisser, Jack Carrell, Eddy Davis, Carol Leigh, Jack Kuncl, Jim Snyder, John Cooper, and Wayne Jones are now deceased, but their presence and contributions are fondly remembered by those who performed beside them or knew them on a less formal basis.

Current Salty Dogs
The current Salty Dogs: Tom Bartlett-tbn, Mary Green–pno, Mike Walbridge-tba, Jimmy Barrett-bjo, Lew Green-cnt, Kim Cusack-clr, Andy Schumm-dms.

The Salty Dogs are truly an extended family. Jim Snyder may have said it best: “Once a Salty Dog, always a Salty Dog.”

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Tom Bartlett has played Trombone with The Original Salty Dogs Jazz Band for 50 years as well as appearing with the Yerba Buena Stompers.

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Bob Lord

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