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RALPH SLADE * Savanna

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The Sweetest Band in Iowa Land--The Sweetest Band in Melody Land--Sweetest Band in Anyland--updated January 12, 2012

The following recordings of the Ralph Slade Orchestra are courtesy of Mrs. Charlie Vaccaro.
 
All of the vocals are by Charlie Vaccaro of Savanna, Illinois.  As a matter of record, many of the sidemen plus Slade himself regularly performed vocals.  Charlie Vaccaro was the featured male vocalist of the orchestra aside from playing the bass fiddle.
 
It's believed that trombonist Hank Winder, 94 years of age in 2009, is playing on these recordings made at the studio of WOI radio in Boone or Ames, Iowa circa 1939-1941.

Ain't We Got Fun

Gather Lipstick While You May

I'm Nobodys Baby

Six Lessons From Madame La Zonga

You Can Cry Over My Shoulder

Instumental Medley of Songs

RECEIVED OCTOBER 23, 2005 from JIm Milan... mentions RALPH SLADE ORCHESTRA
 
My name is Jim Milan, originally from Clinton, Ia.  I played trumpet and worked with Roy Harstick's band during 1940-41.  Roy played bass and used 6 men, Tommy Kindell, tenor sax,  Paul Melendy and Allan Hammerstein on alto saxes.  I played trumpet and doubled on baritone sax.  Art Isenhart was the pianist.  I do not remember who the drummer was, but think it might have been P.D. Allman, from Clinton.   Roy used special charts, most of them written by Allan Hammerstein.  They were quite commercial, in the style of bands like Tiny Hill, but really well written.
 
I concur with others who commented on Art Isenhart's ability.  He was a schooled musician, always played the right changes and knew all the tunes.
 
I am surprised that Allen Hammerstein's name does not appear in any of the listings that you show.  I was 19 at the time, and completely immersed in big band jazz and all the top jazz soloists at the time; Berigan, Eldredge, Lester Young and so on.   I say this hoping it will lend some credibility to my saying that I thought Al Hammerstein was the best musician in the area at that time.  He was a strong, alto player, and played excellent jazz.  Kindell and Melendy were greatly impressed with Al's playing. 
 
We younger guys were somewhat impressed with the older guys like Melendy, Kindell and Isenhart because they had been "on the road" with Ralph Slade.  I recall that Slade had a regular radio show over WSUI in Iowa City for a time.
 
To fill in a blank - the ? Stumbaugh, bassist, listed with the Lute Geisinger orchestra was Ozzie Stumbaugh from Clinton.
 
A sidelight on Geisinger - he had a horendous stutter.  As I remember it (from his playing at the Moose club in Clinton - my parents were active members of the Moose and would take me with them to Saturday Night dances to hear bands like Lute's), Lute would stutter terribly, but had no problem talking when he had a cigar in his mouth, or when he sang.
 
I enjoyed reading about all the old timers in the area.

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L-R: Don Wilson (Hanover) & Leader Ralph Slade (Savanna) Feb. 19, 1938 WMT AM 600 Studio Cedar Rapid

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L-R: Jack Colebaugh, Lyle Myers, Lester Mauer front

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Ralph Slade & Charlie Vaccaro- Cedar Rapids-1940

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L-R: Lester Mauer,

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Still hangs in the Col Ballroom in Davenport, Iowa in 2007

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Freeport, Illinois-Featuring Vocalist Honey Lea

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Photo courtesy of Ty Kindell, son of Tommy Kindell
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Ralph Slade Orchestra car while still headquartered in Savanna Sept 1934-circa 1936

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Cost of doing business

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Howard Westphal--Pianist for the Ralph Slade Orchestra after Pianist Don Wilson left the band.  In later years, Howard Westphal was pianist for Jack Morgan (Russ Morgan Orchestra) and The Kenny Paulsen Orchestra.  Photo courtesy of Mrs. Charlie Vaccaro.

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That's Bass Fiddler & Vocalist Charlie Vaccaro by the bus tractor

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L to R--Pat Patterson-Hank Winder-Howard Westphall-unknown-Lester Mauer-Jack Colebaugh-Dick Cottrell-Charlie Vaccaro-Don Cottrell
Ralph Slade sitting at Piano- The Ralph Slade Orchestra-1939

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Left to right back row, Don Cottrell -- Charlie Vaccaro-bass & vocals -- Howard Westphal, trumpet -- Dick Cottrell, drums -- Jack Colebaugh, trumpet -- Pat Patterson, trumpet -- Hank Winders, trombone
Left to right front row-Unknown, sitting behind music stand -- Ralph Slade, standing w/sax -- Lester Mauer, saxs, clarinets, sitting behind music stand -- photo courtesy of Mrs. Charlie Vaccaro

Courtesy Mrs. Charlie Vaccaro
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Charlie Vaccaro of Savanna recorded many vocals w/ Ralph Slade Orchestra

NEW May 22, 2005: 2) Courtesy of Musician Ty Kindell aka Billy Zoom, son of Ralph Slade Orchestra Trumpter Tommy Kindell

Biographical sketch of RALPH SLADE

1994 Obituary of Band Leader RALPH SLADE of Savanna

RALPH SLADE portrait

Pianist Don Wilson of Hanover with Band Leader Ralph Slade of Savanna

RALPH SLADE Vocalist Shirley Rae

RALPH SLADE Vocalist Jane Anderson

Sideman Paul Melendy of Savanna

Bass Fiddler Charlie Vaccaro & Trumpter Tommy Kindell of Savanna

Trumpeters Jack Colebaugh & Lyle Myers with Saxophonits/Clarinetist Lester Mauer of Savanna

Drummer Don Yachik and Saxophonist/Clarinestist Paul Melendy of Savanna

Savanna Times Journal, Saturday, June 25, 1932, Page 1, (courtesy John Hanson of Savanna):
 
LARGE CROWD IS EXPECTED TO TAKE RIVER EXCURSION
 
Ralph Slade is member of the orchestra aboard the steamer Capitol.   Leaving Savanna at 9:30 A.M. Monday, the big steamer will dock at Sabula, Iowa, for passengers at 10 o'clock.  From there, the trip down the river will be made to Clinton, Iowa.  Excursionists will be returned to Savanna about 7 P.M.
 
The moonlight excursion will start at 8:30 P.M. and return to Savanna at 11:30 P.M.   Music for dancing on both excursions will be furnished by Tony Catalano and His Orchestra, Ralph Slade, son Mr. and Mrs. Harry Slade, is a member of the orchestra.

Savanna Times Journal, Thursday, July 6, 1933, Page 1 (courtesy John Hanson of Savanna):
 
RALPH SLADE OF SAVANNA MARRIED TO CLINTON GIRL.  WEDS MISS LINDA LUTH ON MONDAY, JUNE 19, AT ROCK ISLAND
 
Announcement was made this morning of the marriage of Ralph Slade, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Slade of Savanna, and Miss Linda Luth of Clinton, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Luth of Bryant, Iowa.
 
The single ring ceremony was performed on Monday, June 19, in Rock Island.  Friends of the bride and bridegroom attended the couple.  The bride wore a blue dress with white accessories.
 
Mr. Slade and his bride are residing in Clinton where he is a member of the F.A. Yates Orchestra.  He always has made Savanna his home.  He graduated from the Savanna Township High School in 1926, and later from Brown's Business college in Davenport.
 
Mrs. Slade is a graduate of the Clinton High School, and of Brown's Business College there.  She has been employed in Clinton for the past few years.

The Ralph Slade Orchestra
September 1934 1940s

"Harbor Lights," "Josephine, "Goofus," Deep Purple," and "The Waltz You Saved for Me" are some the of the many songs that Saxophonist Paul Melendy recalls playing with the Ralph Slade Orchestra. Saxophonist Paul Melendy recalls that dancers across Iowa requested Wayne King's hit songs "Josepine" and "Goofus" as many as three times a night. Another popular dance song of the era was "Twelfth Street Rag," which the Ralph Slade Orchestra most likely played. You're now listening to Wayne King's recording of "Twelfth Street Rag." Paul Melendy sang "That Old Lady" and "Alone."  I hope to add more information on who sang in the orchestra and some of the songs they sang.

Ralph Slade helped make Wayne King's music popular in dancehalls and on radio in much of Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, western Nebraska, and throughout all of Iowa.

Both Wayne King (born February 18, 1901 in Savanna) and Ralph Slade (May 14, 1908) were named in The Big Band Almanac., 1989, revised edition by Leo Walker with introductions by big band leaders Harry James and Les Brown.

Paul "Red" Melendy started with Ralph Slade in the September of 1934 when the orchestra began rehearsing in Ralph Slade's livingroom in Savanna, Illinois. Paul stayed with the successful Ralph Slade Orchestra through the spring of 1939 by which time they had made big band history and was by then tag lined "The Sweetest Band in Melody Land." Prior to playing for Ralph Slade, Paul Melendy played in 1931 for the Irv Martindale Orchestra (recalls the dancehall in Wacker) and The Merrymakers Orchestra (Harry B. Grissinger/Lawrence Morse) in Savanna.

In the early 1940's, Paul played occasionally for Harry Grissinger and Orchestra. In the later 1940's, Paul played for a Clinton, Iowa band and in the 1940's and 1950's Paul played some with the Glen Law Band and with Tommy Kindell.

Paul Melendy is a Savanna Township High School graduate and current resident. Paul moved to Savanna from Thomson after his sophomore year (in 1930) when his father and mother opened Melendy's Groceries in the 1500 block of Chicago Avenue in the neighborhood known as Oak Park in East Savanna.

Original members Ralph Slade and Don Yachik played together in Rev. A. Bremicker's Boys Band in 1923. These were just two of at least six of Rev. A Bremicker's boys who went on toplay in bands throughout their adult lives for dancers and radio audiences from the 1920's to the 1950's.

According to Ralph Slade Orchestra member Lester Maurer, Denison, TX, Ralph Slade left a Chicago band in 1934 to start his own band in Savanna. Five members were from Savanna, one was from Mt. Carroll and one was from Hanover. They started in the September of 1934 rehearsing in Ralph Slade's living room. Little by little they gained jobs fairly close to Savanna. Gradually, the orchestra's territory grew as word-of-mouth made them acceptable in bigger dance halls. Paul "Red" Melendy remembered that when the Ralph Slade Orchestra played out of Savanna, they played the Modernistic and Curtis Club in Clinton, IA, North Eastern Star in Freeport; The Royal Palace in Galena, the Crystal Ballroom in Dubuque, Lancaster, IA, Boscobel, Soldiers Grove and LaCrosse, WI, Roof Gardens in Galesburg, Peoria and Sterling, IL. Also Paul Melendy recalled that Lyle Myers was added as a trumpet player shortly after the orchestra was formed and that Don Wilson took Art Isenhart's
 place on piano about the first of 1938 in Cedar Rapids, IA.

According to Lester Maurer, in about 1936, the orchestra started driving to Cedar Rapids to broadcast on WMT radio and be more central to their engagements. In Cedar Rapids, they started playing battles of the bands with a hillbilly/cowboy band called Tom Owen's Cowboys which increased their work and territory stillmore.

Paul Melendy remembered that in 1936 Ralph Slade purchased an old bus and the orchestra played one job a month for free to pay for it until after the move to Cedar Rapids in 1937.

In 1936, Ralph Slade added Jack Colebaugh as a second trumpet and trombone player. The orchestra then had a pianist, four saxophonists/ clarinetists, two trumpeters, bass fiddle and drums. 

Lester Maurer recalls that Ralph Slade had started with a seven passenger Buick and a trailer for instruments. As their territory grew, they changed to a Chrysler convertible pulling a homemade trailer made for the band and their instruments.  Next were two Ford panel trucks. In 1936, a bus was purchased. With the Omaha booking agency, the orchestra acquired a truck pulling a semi-trailer that housed bunks, closets for uniforms and a section for instruments.
 Next , they tried two Ford panel trucks. But in qabout 1938, Ralph Slade signed on with a booking agency in Omaha. This meant a much larger territory. The Ralph Slade Band needed a truck pulling a semi-trailer that housed bunks, closets for uniforms, and a section for their instruments.  Lester Maurer recalls "this meant packing after the job and eating, riding to the next job and being there the next day."

By 1938, the Ralph Slade Orchestra had played engagements in Southern Minnesota, Southern Wisconsin, Northern half of Illinois and all of Iowa.

Sometime in 1939, the booking agency took Jack (Cole)baugh of Savanna to start another band which Lester Maurer remembered as doing well. In 1940, Lester played one night for Jack Cole and really enjoyed himself.

When I visited Lester Maurer in Denison, TX in 1997, Lester told me the folks in Iowa would routinely request Wayne King's "Josephine" three to four times a night. For a list of some songs Paul Melendy remembered the Ralph Slade Orchestra playing select Ralph Slade Orchestra Photos from the MENU on the MAIN page.

The Ralph Slade Orchestra was listed on page 436 among the hundreds of recognized regional orchestras in The Big Band Almanac 1989 revised edition by Leo Walker with introductions by Harry James and Les Brown.

The Ralph Slade Orchestra and The Jack Cole Orchestra both continued until sometime during World War II when so many bands broke up due to musicians entering the war.

Another musician who played with Ralph Slade in Cedar Rapids in 1936 was Mr. Ellis Stukenburg of Leaf River, Illinois. Ellis was also the studio drummer for The Wayne King Show at the NBC Mart in Chicago in 1950. Mr. Ellis Stukenburg recently recalled that the Ralph Slade Orchestra broadcast live each day at noon on AM radio WMT 600 Cedar Rapids. After the broadcast the band would load up the equipment and drive to a gig that night returning by the next morning to play the radio show again. This busy schedule contributed to musicians, such as Paul Melendy, leaving the band because they were mostly married men in their twenties.
 
For several years, I've stayed quiet about a cute story of the young musicians of the Ralph Slade Orchestra during the early days of the orchestra when the band was still headquartered from Savanna.  As remembered by sideman Lester Mauer, formerly of Savanna, the band had an engagement at the Roof Gardens in Peoria, IL.  The engagement was the night of Charlie Vaccaro's high school graduation.  Ralph Slade coaxed Charlie into skipping the graduation ceremony and instead going with the band to Peoria.  Ralph didn't want to lose Charlie for the night, so he told Charlie, the youngest member of the orchestra, that he'd take him down to the red light district of Peoria after the dance.  Remember this was probaby May of 1937 when American cities and towns were "open."
 
Well, after the dance at Roof Gardens, Ralph and the boys all jumped in a car and cruised the "red light" district of Peoria with Charlie.  But since they were all married men except Charlie that was all they did.  Lester and Paul remember the girls standing on the street waving and inviting this good look-in bunch of musicians to stop.  But they headed back to Savanna instead.
 
In May, 2002, Paul Melendy recalled that the orchestra acquired a girl singer when the orchestra moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1936.  As of March 17, 2005, Paul Melendy couldn't say for certain if the girl singer was Jane Anderson, Shirley Rae or an earlier singer that Ralph Slade had hired.  Paul thought the one he remembered was before either of these ladies.