In Honor of Ivan

October 16, 2014 by

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.


R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

December 5, 2013 by

nelson mandela







The End of an Era

September 24, 2013 by

Volkswagen announces it will stop production of the VW Bus, first introduced in 1950 and the 2nd VW model produced after the Beetle. Brazil is the last remaining producer of the VW Bus, and that country’s impending requirements for air bags and anti-lock brakes in new vehicles has prompted the company to discontinue, rather than upgrade, the classic “hippie van.”

If you ever owned one, you know why this is sad. If you are of a certain age, this news just made you feel a little older.

VW Microbus

VW blueprint

VW Woodstock

R.I.P. Michael G. Athas

July 10, 2013 by
Michael G. Athas obit photo

Michael G. Athas (Baltimore Sun / June 8, 2007)

From the Baltimore Sun Obituaries …

Michael G. Athas, owner of Club Venus
His nightclubs attracted some of the biggest names in entertainment

Michael G. Athas, who during a more than 30-year career in the entertainment business established some of the Baltimore area’s most memorable and legendary nightclubs, died Monday from a glioblastoma at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was one day shy of this 87th birthday.

The son of Greek immigrants George and Arhontoula Athanasakos, Michael George Athanasakos — who later changed the family’s name to Athas — was born in York, Pa.

“During the Great Depression, financial strain necessitated his father to send the family to Greece to live with grandparents while he pursued scarce job opportunities in the U.S.,” said a son, George M. Athas of North Potomac.

The family returned to Baltimore in 1938, where the elder Mr. Athas owned and operated the Capitol Grill on West Baltimore Street. Mr. Athas “worked long hours at his father’s restaurant” and on weekends sang with the church choir at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, his son said.

After graduating from Polytechnic Institute in 1944, where he had been valedictorian, he enlisted in the Navy. He was trained as a radio technician and served in the Pacific. At the end of World War II, Mr. Athas received a full scholarship to attend the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Mr. Athas, who first worked with Industrial Research Laboratories and later with the aerospace division of Aeronca Manufacturing Corp., decided on a career change in 1960 and entered the entertainment industry.


In Honor Of Gil Monroe

March 2, 2013 by

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

R.I.P. Fontella Bass

December 28, 2012 by

July 3, 1940-December 26, 2012

Fontella Bass was born in St. Louis and learned gospel from her mother, Martha Bass, a member of the Ward Singers. She played piano for her mother but eventually got the itch to sing secular music. By the early 1960s she was playing with Little Milton, a blues guitarist and singer with links to the Chess label in Chicago.

After early recordings with Little Milton’s Bobbin label in St. Louis, she joined Chess and released her first records on its Checker subsidiary in early 1965. She had modest success on the R&B charts with a couple Bobby McClure duets, but her career was made by “Rescue Me,” released later that year.

A major crossover hit, the song reached No. 4 on Billboard’s pop chart and has remained a staple on oldies radio, movie soundtracks and television commercials.

Following a 1993 settlement from American Express for unpaid royalties, she said that she “rescued herself” when she began to stand up for her rights as an artist.

[Edited from full NY Times obituary …]

R.I.P. Bede Augustine Clarke

December 17, 2012 by

Last Tuesday I learned about the loss of a dear friend. He died on December 5.

When I met Bede at Parkville High School he was “Bud.” When we became friends he became “Clyde.” When he signed up as a Navy pilot he was Bede, and remained Bede from then on.

He was not a musician, despite the occasional trombone lesson I gave him. He was an artist, a sociologist, a writer, a philosopher, a military officer and Apache helicopter pilot. He lived mostly in Baltimore, MD, and part time in Gulfport, Alabama. I live far away from both of those, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We rarely saw each other over the last 40 years, and had very little contact, but our friendship always remained.

Bede loved my wife and I — he was Best Man at our wedding in 1968 — and we loved him. I never missed him more than the day I learned he was gone. Now, I’ve missed him every day since and will continue to miss him each and every day to come.

Bede A. Clarke

Bede A. Clarke - April, 1967

Bede Clarke, taken 2011 at the Naval Aviation Museum

Solidarity Forever… Pending a Viable Alternative

November 26, 2012 by

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

Amplified Blasts From the Past

November 21, 2012 by

Those of us who know Mr. Sam Towers will know him to be an outstanding musician on both guitar and bass. What I didn’t know until recently is that he is also either: a.) an archivist, or b.) a pack rat. Recently, Sam had the need to dig into some old files and boxes he hadn’t touched in almost 40 years. In the process he uncovered a trove of Baltimore musician history that just has to be shared, so we’re going to share it here.

This first installment starts with a receipt for an amplifier. Not just any amp, but a classic favorite for guitar since it’s release in 1952, two years before Fender began selling Stratocasters. The Fender Twin Reverb.

For perspective I looked up a vintage original 1967 Twin. This one was listed as “near mint” condition and was selling for $2,500.00.

1967 vintage Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp

If you’re willing to sacrifice authenticity and go for re-issue, you can get this 1965 vintage re-issue for $1,350 at Guitar Center.

1965 vintage re-issue Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp

Sam has an incredible stack of receipts from Fred Walker’s … most written in Mr. Walker’s own hand … but this is the only one from Jimmy’s Music Shop, 127 West 48th Street, New York, NY. Musical instruments of all types were always known to be about 1/2 price in New York, even compared to someplace close by like Baltimore. I drove to NY to buy a trombone in 1972 for that same reason.

Here’s Sam’s 1967 receipt for a Fender Twin Reverb. It must have looked a lot like the vintage original Twin above (but probably without wheels) … maybe Sam can tell us if his amp was black face or silver face.

receipt for a 1967 Fender Twin Reverb guitar amp from Jimmy's Music Shop on 48th St. in New York

A Quick Look @ Jam 5

November 13, 2012 by

It’s hard to believe that it was just a few short weeks ago. Here are a few early photos in, no particular order, with thanks to Marja Jordan and Ray Attridge.

Chauncey Harris

Chauncey Harris

George Reeder

George Reeder

2 Tenors

Ed Hall & Steve Scheinberg

Tony Montone

Tony Montone

John Schafer

John Schafer

Tony Montone, Rody Barthelmes, Walt Bailey

Tony Montone, Rody Barthelmes, Walt Bailey

Bob Funk and Larry Bonacorsi

Bob Funk and Larry Bonacorsi

Terrance and Phil McCusker

Terrance and Phil McCusker

Rody Barthelmes and Frank Invernizzi

Rody Barthelmes and Frank Invernizzi