Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

R.I.P. Al Crawford

September 28, 2019

I’m writing this today to pay tribute to an unsung hero of the 1960s Baltimore music era. Al Crawford died peacefully on September 17, 2019, surrounded by family and friends in Plano, Texas, after a long fight with kidney and heart failure. He was just one week shy of his 77th birthday.

Al loved the music, and the musicians who were playing it in that dynamic era of Baltimore music we talk about here. He didn’t play a musical instrument, so instead he played finance, and marketing … and friendship.

I met Al when I joined the Dynamics in 1963. We rehearsed in the basement of his house off Dulaney Valley Road. He was our great cheer leader and manager. He booked our gigs and connected us to a University of Maryland fraternity where we played a number of very “memorable” parties. He was, as Dynamics trumpet player Don Barto put it, “A big man with a big smile, and a big heart.”

In later years, Al pitched in to help me put on the various Baltimore Jams. He handled the money so I could handle the rest, and in 2002 when the balance of payments came up miserably short, he personally underwrote the event.

I have flippantly said of “Big Al” that he was the only band manager I ever had who didn’t cheat me out of money, but he didn’t do it to be a business manager, honest or otherwise. He did it for the same reason we all played it … for the love of the music and love of the band. Along with everybody else who ever knew him I’m sure, I will miss Big Al.



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. Vernon Ruppert

September 18, 2016

Vernon Ruppert passed away September 9 at his h0me in California. Vern was a musician, band leader, and impresario of Baltimore music in the early 1960’s. Attached is his obituary.

[thanks to Vern’s son-in-law, Darryl Roberts]


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.

R.I.P. Phil McCusker

February 28, 2016

[from Tim McCusker]

My brother, Phil McCusker, passed away last week in Silver Spring, MD. Phil worked in The Admirals, 1968-69, then went into the Army for 3 years. On his return to the Baltimore area he played with Rody Barthemes, Mike Jones, Hiram Bullock, and many others. He went to the University of Miami where he studied bass with Jaco Pastorius and earned a degree in guitar and composition.

In Washington, DC, Phil played and wrote for Tim Eyermann & East Coast Offering and later was a leader for Gene Donati Orchestras.

Phil fought a battle against ALS which finally took his life on February 17, 2016.

[NOTE: Phil participated in BaltimoreJam J512 with the “Freelancers” led by Rody Barthelmes.]


R. I. P. Ray Quigley

November 9, 2014

(From Walt Kraus on Facebook)
Ray Quigley, who was Jim Hughes partner in the Charmed Times magazine, passed away yesterday. [11/8/2014] Our condolences to his family.. He will be buried next Saturday in Essex, MD, there will be at viewing at the Candlelight funeral home, 1835 Frederick Road, on Friday, Nov 14, from 3-5 pm.

In Honor of Ivan

October 16, 2014

It was almost 3 years ago that we learned of the death of Ivan Bowser, Band Director at Parkville High School from 1954-1972, and at Loch Raven High after that. With the 50th reunion of the Class of 1964 coming around, a few of Mr. Bowser’s students from that class got to talking about how much of an influence and inspiration he was, to them and many others. As a result and with the blessing of current principal, Matt Ames, and Ivan’s family, these former students designed a wall plaque to honor Ivan and his many contributions. Last week it was installed by Ivan’s son, Gregg, on the wall of the “new” music wing — there was no music wing in 1964; Ivan’s office was a large closet and the band rehearsed in the cafeteria.

It was a great moment to see the plaque go up. Ivan was the band director when the high school was founded, 1953-54 in what is now the middle school, and the first band director at the high school’s new building and present location on Putty Hill Ave. Mr. Bowser was a dedicated teacher and fine musician, with high standards for performance and a lack of tolerance for lack of effort. As a Parkville graduate myself and one of those many students he influenced, it is an honor to pay tribute to Ivan Bowser.

Zappa Perspective

August 30, 2012

I’m a Frank Zappa guy … have been since “Freak Out” in 1966, the Mothers of Invention’s debut album. Finding out he was born in Baltimore was just a bonus, and I love that the city has given him a bronze bust on public display. I’m interested in the first part of this video where he talks about the music industry. It’s been said before and by others, but I love Frank’s way of nailing things, and I think it’s something we can all relate to.

It’s On!

April 1, 2012