*This is Part 2 of 3 (Find Part 1, “A Young Cable Forms His First Band” here.)
Put four eager young musicians into their first band and what do they want to do?? Play every club that will have them! And so it was with “Howard Cable and His Cavaliers.”
After playing our first few gigs, word got out that we were “dance-able.” We were booked for dances in Toronto and Kitchener, and then secured a steady summer gig at the Georgian Pavilion in Honey Harbour. We played 3 nights a week, and because this beautiful part of Georgian Bay attracted many vacationers, the dance hall was always busy. We were thrilled that the job lasted three whole summers (1937, 1938, 1939).
I just loved to get together and play music, so when the job ended I organized a rehearsal band in Toronto. One of the musicians in it was Murray Ginsberg, and I’ll share with you the very kind words that he wrote in his book, “They Loved To Play”:
“In 1939, when he was 19 years old, Cable organize a rehearsal band which met every Sunday on the third floor of Selmer’s Musical Instrument Store on Shuter Street, across from Massey Hall. Most of the players were teenagers or in their early twenties . . . . . We were all eager to try Howard’s new arrangements, which bore strong Duke Ellington influences. Those were exciting times. Cable’s energy and passion to rehearse and learn from his musical ideas—to see what worked and what didn’t—was infectious. Each new arrangement was a discovery – a touch of the Duke’s ‘Jumpin’ Punkins’ and ‘Jack The Bear’, a whiff of Charlie Barnet’s ‘Cherokee’. The rehearsals ended much too quickly and we couldn’t wait for the next Sunday to roll around.”
In my opinion, Ellington was the finest musician of the Big Band/Jazz Era and I wanted to be like him. I wasn’t writing charts for the band because I thought I was good, but rather because I knew I wasn’t. This hands-on experimenting was one way I knew would help me grow to the arranger I wanted to be. I spent the whole winter writing for this group.
At the beginning of the summer of 1940, the “Cavaliers” got a booking at Balm Beach near Midland. We opened at the end of June and one week later, on July 1st, the Chateau Gai Pavilion burned to the ground. We lost everything. All of our instruments and all of my charts (I had written several dozen by then) went up in smoke. We returned to Toronto penniless.
Shortly after our return to Toronto, I got a call looking for a trumpet player and pianist for the band at Beaumaris Yacht Club on Lake Muskoka. My friend Fred Davis and I grabbed it! We stepped right into a scene from the Great Gatsby – except this wasn’t a book, this was real life.
I’ll tell you all about it in my next post (which can be found here in Part 3 of 3).