Archive for the ‘Musicians’ Category

R.I.P. Bill Holland

December 17, 2018


Bill’s name isn’t the most familiar among Baltimore musicians, but throughout his days at Parkville High School he was the tenor sax player in The Poker Chips, a band of teenagers that set a standard as young professionals.

We just learned of Bill’s death which occurred this past August following a bout with cancer. He leaves behind his son, Andres, whose place in Bill’s life was a story in itself. Bill and Andres attended the last Jam in 2012 … it was great to see them.

We didn’t like saying we were “old friends,” lest the “old” be applied to our age rather than the length of our friendship, so we referred to each other as our “friendship of long duration.” Goodbye old friend.


Jay Stermer Killed by Drunk Driver

December 27, 2017

Jay Stermer, founding member and keyboardist/arranger for the Admirals, was killed by a drunk driver while walking his dogs just after midnight on Saturday, December 23, 2017. He was killed when a rear-ended car was flung into him. Jay was 74 years old.


Jay Stermer, a Wellington High School parent who plays music and sound effects during Wolverine baseball games, is seen in 2008. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Post news story.

To the best of my knowledge there was not another musician out of the Baltimore band scene of the 1960s who was more well known and more respected than Jay Stermer.

I never knew Jay personally, but I knew who he was from the time I was in Jr. High School. I can only speak to his reputation — I’ll leave it to those who knew him to comment — but that reputation was one of a driving musical force behind arguably the most successful and popular band to come out of that era of Baltimore music.

For me, personally … when I was about 12 years old I saw the Admirals at their regular Sunday gig at Beaver Springs. They were up in the loft of the pavilion playing music everyone wanted to hear, in the way everyone wanted to hear it, and having a lot of fun doing it. My desire to “play in a band” came straight from the Admirals that day.

It’s all the more sad to lose Jay in this tragic way.


R.I.P. Tommy Thompson

June 28, 2016

Tommy Thompson died this morning, June 28. I saw the announcement posted on Facebook by his kids .


Tommy Thompson with Pen Lucy, circa 1970

My memories of Tommy  are mostly from the mid-‘60s. He played with The Elegants and I knew a couple guys in that band. I used to see them at Hollywood Park, and alternate with them there with the Majestics. The Tommy I knew back then was a sharp and talented musician who was always a significant contributor to any band he was in. Like Tommy, I always saw myself as a multi-instrumentalist, and he shared some of his knowledge with me on both bass and drums. These weren’t lessons … just little things, discussed on the bandstand at Hollywood Park between sets, but they are things I still remember that helped move me forward with what I wanted to do.


Tommy Thompson on bass with The Elegants, circa 1965

Fast forward 40 years and Tommy jumped into the Ray Charles Tribute band on tenor sax for Jam 3 at Bobby B’s Palace. I didn’t get to talk to him much that day, but I saw him help organize the sax section on the spot, with courtesy and camaraderie, for that spontaneous performance.


Tommy Thompson on tenor sax with the J308 Ray Charles Tribute Band, June 19, 2005.

Three years later Tommy signed on to play bass with the big band for Jam 4, also at Bobby B’s, and I got to talk with him a little bit more. That was a great band, and Tommy’s bass playing with Dave Tucker on drums was solid as a rock.


Tommy Thompson playing bass with the J408 Big Band, October 4, 2008

In 2012 the last Jam at Padonia Station also featured a big band, with multiple vocalists doing all custom arrangements, and once again Tommy nailed the bass. These were performances for all fun and no pay .. just for the love of the music and the fellow musicians who played it. They were also spontaneous … zero rehearsal … not an easy gig. At that last Jam I got to talk to Tommy a little more, and I also got to meet his wife. As his friend on Facebook I felt his deep pain when she died.

As a musician, Tommy was a true professional … something to be held in very high regard. My knowledge of Tommy as a person is limited, but I can say in every small instance that I knew him he was gracious and smart. I didn’t get to see Tommy very often over the years, but I will sure miss knowing he’s out there.

In Honor Of Gil Monroe

March 2, 2013

Post from elsewhere by Tim Landers – PLEASE contact Tim Landers, (443) 686-1450, to help with this event in honor of Gil Monroe.


Dear Fellow Entertainers, Musicians and Friends, I am sorry to have to write this but I am attempting to pull off something that is very difficult to do. With the exception of a few people, many of you will be startled and I hope even outraged by what I am about to tell you. As many of you know, one of the truly great mentors in my life is Gil Monroe. I don’t think that I need to go into a long drawn out story of everything Gil has accomplished but for those who need a little history here goes: This man lead one of the most successful orchestras in the country starting in the 1940’s. Johnny Mann was one of his piano players and singers, Hank Levy played Sax for him and he worked with the likes of everyone from Guy Lombardo , The Temptations and Buddy Rich to Stevie Wonder. Gil also ran a music store in the Overlea area where many a young musician was given their first taste of what it was like to truthfully be a professional.

We were taught, nurtured and even promoted by this man. He gave freely of his talent and his own equipment so that we could begin to earn money doing what he and the teachers in his studio had taught us to do and never asked for anything in return (except the equipment back). I am fortunate to be living one of the lives that this man touched and have never forgotten him for it. We kept in touch over the years and had lunch and dinners regularly. At 90 years old he’s still sharp as a tack but sadly through no fault of his own has become the victim of what so many of our senior citizens have been experiencing. I will share the actual details with anyone who would like them but for now let’s just say that Gil has been seriously taken advantage of even abused. He was literally tossed out on the street. I know this to be true because for the last month Gil has been living with me. A nurse punctured his eardrum so he can’t hear that well and he’s not up with the latest technology like computers (which is why I feel safe sharing this on facebook) but otherwise he’s in great shape and is not on a single medication.

Recently Gil moved in with his niece briefly until other arrangements can be made. With the exception of a very meager Social Security and Retirement income (which his ex-wife gets part of) he has nothing except a 1997 Lincoln Town Car. What I am proposing is for everyone who wishes to give back something to this man who gave so much to others, pitch in together and organize an event to celebrate his life and give all of the proceeds to Gil. I have already spoken to a few folks but I need alot of help. We need to have a committee set up to handle this huge undertaking so please don’t volunteer unless you are truthfully willing to do a great deal of work for nothing in return other than feeling a little bit better about yourself.

I am proposing that we get a hall in the Baltimore area and organize a volunteer group of musicians to play. Everyone, whether they are playing or not has to buy a ticket and hopefully almost everything from food to drinks and the hall will be donated or acquired at an extremely low rate. All egos must be set aside as we must keep our eye on the ball so to speak. Gil is a very proud man but I know he would greatly appreciate help now and HE DESERVES IT. One thing I do know about entertainers is they tend to have very big hearts and also take care of their own.

If you are interested in helping out, please respond to me via Facebook or call me at (443) 686-1450. I will also be posting this on Baltimore Bands and would appreciate it if everyone out there would send it to everyone they can. Once I see how much interest there is I will make my decision on how to proceed. Remember, hopefully we are all going to be 90 one day and I don’t know about you but I would like to spend my final years with at least a bit of my dignity left. Thank You And God Bless You, Your Buddy, Timmy

Solidarity Forever… Pending a Viable Alternative

November 26, 2012

When asked why anyone would live in Minnesota, a place that routinely charts temps of -20 in winter and +100 in summer, the answer always includes its rich cultural environment. Historically, the business and community leaders here have been totally in sync, and the result has been a wealth of theater, art and music at all levels. This is why recent news is so disturbing.

As of this writing the musicians of both the Minnesota Orchestra  and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, two world-class ensembles, are living (and not working) under a lockout. Of course, so are the players of the National Hockey League (apparently it spreads like the plague), but while hockey players and owners are squabbling over how to divide up millions of dollars, these accomplished musicians are literally fighting for survival—their personal survival as working musicians, and the survival of artistic integrity they feel would be seriously compromised under the contract being offered them.

I joined the Baltimore union for a gig when I was 17. I dropped it when I quit playing, and I rejoined in 2007 for my jazz funeral band. Obviously, I must see value in representing myself as a union musician and in supporting working musicians in this way. There are a wide range of opinions on unionism and organized labor in general, so I’ll just say this: employers are focused, well-organized and highly motivated to keep wages low. How, without some position of strength in numbers, does an individual wage earner or contractor negotiate for equity? The lockout situation here in Minnesota is sad, but we’re not alone. Arts organizations around the country, including many major orchestras like ours, are in similar turmoil.

So what has sparked all this rumination on unions? I have to hold Sam Towers responsible. He recently uncovered a personal cache of materials that had been hidden away for more than 35 years. It consisted mostly of receipts from Fred Walker, but also included 7 issues of “‘The Baltimore Musician’—Official Journal of the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local No. 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians” — dated between 1976 and 1978. Almost as much as Joe Vaccarino’s great book, these 6 to 8 page journals provide their own interesting glimpses into Baltimore music.

The issue featured here is the first of the batch, and it’s one of the more interesting. Dated May 1976, it is filled with familiar names from the BaltimoreJam experience and Baltimore music scene. The names include people suspended for nonpayment of dues, reinstated for repaying dues, and a lot of changes to the membership directory by people you will recognize. This issue even has my own address change when I moved  to Minnesota. Roger Pace is listed under his real name of Paesch. There is a formal announcement by Denny Picasso that he is no longer affiliated with Music Men, Inc. (Gary Chalmers’  booking agency … the story behind that announcement must be interesting). I even spotted an address change for my Parkville Elementary School band teacher, Mr. Clarence Ogilvie (I think he played bassoon).

So with thanks to Sam, and a shout out to Jough Loosmore (he’s currently a Director At large of Local 40-543), here are all 8 pages, scanned as PDFs. Click on each individual link to access the full-size PDF of that page.

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976,_page 1

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 2

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 3

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 4

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 5

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 6

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 7

The Baltimore Musician – May 1976, page 8

Challenge Authority …

November 5, 2012


The Lion King

June 17, 2012

This is a nice little video by Sean Gallagher, sent to me by Ned O’Byrne.
It’s about a man whose voice you absolutely have heard.

R.I.P. Ivan Eugene Bowser Jr.

November 28, 2011
Ivan E. Bowser Jr. 1963

Ivan Bowser, from the 1963 Parkville High School yearbook

We learned over the Thanksgiving holiday of the death on Tuesday, November 22, 2011, of Mr. Ivan Bowser . We write here often (and unfortunately) of the passing of our peers in the Baltimore music scene. Sometimes we write of educators, mentors and influences on our shared ability and desire to make music. Ivan Bowser was all of these.

Mr. Bowser (I could never call him Ivan, even as an adult) was a major influence on the entire Parkville contingent of Baltimore musicians of our era. If you don’t believe me, add up the number of trumpet players within a 4 mile radius of Parkville who double on flute (as Mr. Bowser did). It’s a surprising number. I even doubled on flute, and I was a trombone player.

Mr. Bowser was my band teacher, first at Parkville Jr. High, and then all through Parkville High School (1961-64). He was the coolest guy I knew. He was passionate about the school band sounding good, even when it was just a rehearsal and the venue was a smelly cafeteria, and shared his insights on music and other things in small impromptu groups … like improvisational teaching. He held orchestra rehearsals daily, even when the orchestra totaled 6 people, and led by example as a working musician in addition to teaching. Oh, and he also coached the very successful school golf team–just to add to his cool factor.

Random Ivan Bowser memories:
• he knocked Miles Davis as a sloppy trumpet player
• he admired the work of Stan Freeberg and his musical collaborator, Billy May
• he could keep perfect time with his foot while holding a conversation
• he owned the first VW Beetle convertible I ever saw (and which I and a few friends proved could be lifted onto a sidewalk — he was neither impressed nor amused)
• he was very happy that Parkville H.S. did not have a marching band, and shared the band’s reticence when we had to pull one together for the occasional requisite community parade

Thanks to Mr. Bowser I was introduced to Hank Levy, Stan Freberg, Mozart, jazz, the double bass and German bow, the possibility of a brass player doubling on flute, the value of good meter, the value of diverse living. He was the “un-teacher” … teaching not always through instruction, but also by just offering something interesting to pay attention to.

The last time I saw Mr. Bowser was 40 years ago … I ran into him on break at a country club where we were both gigging, with different groups for different audiences. That seemed right somehow. Peace, Mr. Bowser.

Ivan Bowser with the Baltimore Inter High School Orchestra, 1946

Ivan Bowser Jr. (right) representing City College with the Baltimore Inter High School Orchestra, 1946 (from The Baltimore Sun archives, thanks to Donald Barto Sr.)

Mr. Bowser playing flute at the Parkville High School Jazz Night, 1964.

Mr. Bowser playing flute at the Parkville High School Jazz Night, 1964, with a combo from Hank Levy's band. (from the 1964 Parkville High School year book)

R.I.P. Dave Fultz

June 28, 2011

This information received from Rody Barthelmes …


David Fultz passed away on June 21. He played with Second Coming and was a great freind. He was young … only 63 or 64. Many fellow musicians knew Dave. He was a super guy who had much faith thru all of his health issues — always kept a positive attitude.

Dave Fultz (pictured center, with full beard)


R.I.P. Sonny Robbins

May 11, 2011

This just received from Doc on the west coast …


Thought you would want to know.  Sonny Robbins passed on May 10th in San Diego CA after a long illness.

He played with many groups in Baltimore in the 1960’s and was a fixture in the San Diego music scene for years from the 70’s on.