A Young Howard Cable Forms His First Band.

When I was a teenager, Big Band music was in style!  Dance clubs were filled with the driving sound of Swing, and young men would take their ladies out for a night of some real Fred & Ginger style, cheek-to-cheek dancing.

But I was a musician, not a dancer, so I loved to go out and just listen to the Big Bands. I frequently did so with my friend and schoolmate, Fred Davis.*   From my home in Parkdale, it was a short walk down to the Palais Royale on the waterfront. There we would be treated to the sounds of great bands like Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Spivak or Woody Herman – LIVE!

We could not go inside the Palais — not so much because of age restrictions, but rather, because we didn’t have ladies. In those days it was understood that these dance nights were couples events and young bucks like us could not just wander in unaccompanied.

That did not matter to us. The stage could be seen through the big windows, and with the hot summer weather those windows would be open, allowing the magnificent sound of Swing to stream out loud and clear.

As I stood in the night air and took it all in, the sound energized me so much that I thought to myself, “I’d like to DO this”.  So I turned to Fred and said, “I think I’ll form a band.”

“Can I be in it?” he asked.

“Sure, what do you play? ”


“Well you’ll need to play a horn.  Which one do you want to learn?”

I recall that he was fond of listening to Bunny Berigan, so I was not surprised when he chose the trumpet as his instrument.  He bought a “10 Easy Lessons” book, and with some mentoring from Ellis McLintock, he soon became my trumpet player.  With the addition of Frank Wiertz and Harry Dowton, I formed my first dance band, “Howard Cable and His Cavaliers”.  That was 1937.

Our first gig was a commencement dance at the Argonauts Rowing Club on Lake Shore Boulevard. I’m not sure as teenagers if we sounded particularly great, but we certainly looked the part.

The accompanying photo is the only one I have of this band. It is one of the few times you’ll see me without a moustache.

(*Fred went on to host Front Page Challenge from 1957 to 1995.)

Howard Cable and His Cavaliers 1938

Howard Cable and His Cavaliers 1938

*This is Part 1 of 3  (Find Part 2, “Smoking Hot Charts! here)


Filed under Big Band Era, Howard Cable, The Jazz Era

27 responses to “A Young Howard Cable Forms His First Band.

  1. can’t wait for more

  2. Thanks Barb. Hopefully I can do one post per week.

  3. Dianne Parke-Jones

    Sooooo handsome!!!

  4. Yes, Fred is very good looking isn’t he.

  5. Hello Howard,

    Thanks for visiting our page. From reading just the first paragraph of your last post we know you have a fascinating story to tell!

    We’re doing our best to keep swing alive and inspire the masses.

    Take care and keep it up!

    The Swing Sessions Team
    Bailrigg FM

  6. Cleone Duncan

    Loved your first blog, Howard. I, too, grew up in the Big Band era and must admit it is still my favorite instrumental music. And dancing to it was so exciting. Can’t wait for your next epistle.

  7. So good to hear from you. I have great memories of Charlottetown and our Toronto studio work. Hope all is well with you.

  8. Peggy Feltmate

    I remember you and Fred D. reminiscing at the DuMaurier event out west. Great stories! Look forward to more of them appearing here. (p.s. you look a little bit like Fred MacMurray without that moustache…)

  9. Pingback: Smoking Hot Charts! — But not in a good way. | Howard Cable Remembers

  10. I have fond memories of that time in Saskatoon. Remember Triumverate? (sp?) It got one performance.

  11. Pingback: Band Photo From 1938 | Howard Cable Remembers

  12. Scott and I both loved this entry. I played a game to see if Scott could name your first tpt. player and he got it! Sheesh, there is no stumping that guy. Great photo and story. I love this page! Looking forward to more. love Joan

  13. Good for Scott ! Keep the guessing game going. There is lots more to come.
    Fondly, Howard

  14. Howard, can you tell me if you ever knew a band by the name of Bill McKeag and his Orchestra? I found an old acetate marked 1936 recorded at Ralph T. Snelgrove’s Truetone Recordings at 22 Grenville Street. with this band on it.
    It is a complete mystery to us collectors.

    Thanks for any information you can provide.


    Ken McPherson

  15. Hello Ken:

    It is great to hear from you.

    I remember Bill McKeag from the 30s. There were pick up bands in those days. I remember playing with him in a pavilion in Longbranch and at Ramona Gardens on St. Clair Avenue. I think he was a trumpet player, but I’m not 100% positive. After those gigs, I never saw him again. Sorry I don’t have any more information for you.

    As you probably know, the building at 22 Grenville later became the CBC Playhouse Studio. We did the Canadian Cavalcade with Lorne Greene from that studio.

    Keep in touch.

  16. Thank you for your quick response, Howard. There are so many unanswered questions about bands that played during the 1920’s and 1930’s in Ontario. Did you ever hear Gilbert Watson and his Orchestra, when they had a gig at the Old Mill during the 30’s?

  17. Ken: Yes, I knew about Gilbert Watson and his Orchestra, but was too young to go to the Old Mill in the 30s. The band that followed Watson at the Old Mill was Joe DeCourcy and his Orchestra. I knew several members of that band.
    Do you have a copy of the book, “The Bands Canadians Danced To” by Helen McNamara (1973)? It is a great source of information.

  18. bert carriere

    Hi Howard. I’m a great fan of yours and it’s an honour to know an icon like you. You’re the great model. Sincerely Bert Carriere.

  19. Thank you for the kind words, Bert. It’s so nice to hear from you.
    I hope we can have a visit when I am in Stratford in October.

  20. Hugh Corbett

    Howard, I often thought I was born in the wrong era after you introduced me to big band music at ESA. Those were great times and I am really enjoying the music history you are sharing with all of us.
    Thanks, Hugh Corbett

  21. Jane Pauel

    Hello Mr. Cable: I did comment earlier re: summer in the 40’s in Waubaushene, realizing that it was the late 30’s. My Mom would have been 19 that summer. She was born in 1918. I also remember her telling me that the dance hall burned down the following year and everyhing was lost.
    I also found a photo of her with Fred Davis..adorable. (they were both so skinny) hahaha.

  22. Hello Jane:
    I DO remember that the Bayview burnt down. That was so long ago.
    Did your mother ever mention the Golden Slipper? It was just down the block from the Waubaushene bakery.

    P.S. I would LOVE to see that photo of her with Fred Davis

  23. Jane Pauel

    My mother passed away last March and her photos have been divvied up between family members. I will definitely try to track it down. There was also another sweet photo of her, Wyona and her sisters; Wyvonna, June & Betty. And yes I believe it was at the Golden Slipper. They are staged with the band’s instruments outdoors…it’s smashing!
    Pretty sure that Wyona and Wyvonna both worked at the dance hall too.
    I know that they were all wonderful dancers.

  24. Jane Pauel

    My aunt tells me that it was the Silver Slipper in Waubaushene and the Reid girls always went to the Bayview because they worked there.

  25. John Gilmour

    Hi Howard,
    I was born in 1938, so I only got into the big bands in the 1940’s, but later on I was a Salesman for Heintzman piano’s, and every time I worked the Exibition, I would always wander around, until i could hear your orchestra playing, at the bandshell, or the outdoor better living building, but my biggest and most emotional packed experience, was when I escorted my mother in law to the maple leaf gardens, to see the opera, “La Traviatta”
    as we sat in the dark, and heard those beautiful strings, coming out of the darknes of the Overture to La Traviatta! that performance had a tremendous impact on me, that has lasted a lifetime, my hearing has gone, but my tinnitus, will still play it once in a while.
    Respedctfully Yours,
    John Gilmour

  26. John Gilmour

    Hi Mr. Cable,
    John Gilmour again, I forgot to mention, that my favourite band was Louis Armstrong, so I went to a pawn shop on church st. and bought a trumpet, and as i quickly learned I could not figure out the arrangements of the valves to get each note, so I went to the Elliss McLintock, and Dave Snider Music studio on carlton, and took enough lessons to play the scale, but discovered that I couldn’t toungue quick enough, so started plunking on the piano to blue moon, and all the songs that can be played with that left hand.
    It’s wonderful listening to your memories, as I was a real lover of instrumentals, and received ear training, at St. Paul’s School, which really allowed me to enjoy big bands, as i could listen to each instrument. I used to joke, “of all the things I lost last Year, I miss my mind the most”
    I now say with honesty, ” Of all the things I have lost during my life, I miss my Hearing the Most”
    Kindest Regards, John Gilmour.

  27. Frank

    I have heard of the musical talents of Fred Davis and I have heard the music of Mr Cable in Halifax.

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