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.)