Category Archives: Howard Cable

Dressing Up For The Roy Rogers Circus

In my previous blog post I wrote about Roy Rogers’ performance at the CNE Grandstand Show in 1954. (Yes, the act really was called, The Roy Rogers Circus.)

I promised to locate the images of myself in the cowboy garb the orchestra and I were required to wear to match the theme of the show. Thankfully a few photos have surfaced. This first one shows my two daughters and I standing outside Trigger’s horse trailer.

cable daughters

With my daughters standing beside Trigger’s horse trailer at the CNE 1954

In this matching image of me with my two sons, I have put the cowboy hat on my head and you can now see the buckskin fringes. Thanks to the magic of Kodachrome, the colours are still vivid after all these years.

With my two sons beside Trigger's horse trailer at the CNE 1954.

With my two sons beside Trigger’s horse trailer at the CNE 1954.

I also wrote in that post about how Dale Evans signed all of her autographs with a reference to a bible verse.  My daughters were kind enough to share with me the 8×10 photo she signed for them. You can clearly see “Happy Trails, Dale Evans, John 3:16” at the top.

Dale Evans with Buttermilk - autographed photo 1954

Dale Evans with Buttermilk – autographed photo 1954

If you missed the original post, you can find it here.  If you are enjoying my blog posts and want more, please become a follower. The next post will talk about Gene Autry, the not-so-wholesome cowboy.

 

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A Fabulous Lifestyle At Beaumaris Yacht Club

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

After the terrible fire at Chateau Gai, which turned my new charts into ashes and left me jobless, the summer of 1940 was not looking very promising from a music point of view. But when luck smiles on me, it is usually ear to ear. That same week I received a call from young Denny Vaughan.  Hearing about our situation, he informed me of two job openings at the Beaumaris Yacht Club on LakeMuskoka. They were looking for a trumpet player and a pianist for their dance band. It would be 4 nights a week, for a salary of $12 per week, plus room and board. Fred Davis and I grabbed the opportunity.

The band, which was a pick up group, played stock arrangements – and did so quite well. The group was fronted by a non-musical business man who, though he looked the part, most likely got the job because of his business connections rather than his musicianship. Our ballroom, complete with balcony overlooking the lake, occupied the entire second floor of the 1911 yacht club building.

The area of LakeMuskoka near Beaumaris was popular with wealthy American bankers and steel tycoons– almost all from Pennsylvania. They built lavish mansions along miles of shoreline, and it wasn’t hard to see why the area earned the nicknames “Little Pittsburg” and “Millionaire’s Row.”  (Although today it would have to be called “Billionaires’ Row” to have the same meaning.)

The Beaumaris Hotel, where we had our lodging, was up on the hillside a fair distance from the yacht club. There was a very distinct separation between the status of the patrons and that of the employees, and we were quickly informed of the “rules of the establishment.”  The hotel’s front grounds and lobby were for the guests only. Musicians were on the same social tier as maids and kitchen staff, and as such our only access was through the back door. We were also required to walk the back path down to work, rather than the shorter route down the front.

While the hotel catered to tourists, the ballroom was frequented by the wealthy Americans from the surrounding area. Reminiscent of the novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald, they would arrive in style — in our case by boat. I remember watching from the balcony as the beautiful Muskoka cruisers pulled up one by one to the dock. They were magnificent hand-crafted powerboats finished in gleaming mahogany. To my surprise, almost all were chauffeur-driven. The men with the caps would wait 3 hours, like livery people used to do, for their employers to have their fill of alcohol and dancing, then drive them back to their cottage estates.

Beaumaris was my first taste of how very different the world was for the fabulously rich. I really didn’t know that lifestyle existed prior to this. (And if you are thinking to yourself, “Howard, didn’t you at least catch a glimpse of that lifestyle on TV?” Remember that households didn’t have television yet.)

All in all, this dance gig provided a great opportunity for all the members of the band. Not only were we teenagers who were being put up in a hotel, but we got to play dances in beautiful Muskoka all summer long.  We played 4 nights a week, and had the rest of the time for ourselves.  Fred spent his free time socializing, while the other guys did the typical things that teenage boys do while away from adult supervision.

And me? I sat on the upper balcony of the yacht club re-writing my lost arrangements.

Beaumaris Yacht Club Dance Band  (summer 1940)

Beaumaris Yacht Club Dance Band (summer 1940)

 

 

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Smoking Hot Charts! — But not in a good way.

*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).

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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? ”

“Nothing.”

“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)
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Howard Cable embraces social media !!

My music career began in 1939 and has continued uninterrupted to the present day. Over and over again I have had to adapt to the changing times to stay afloat. By all calculations I must be on my eleventh life by now. (I get 18 of them, by the way.)

My newest adaptation is not a musical one, but rather a decision to move into the computer age.   This is a big step for a man who has long considered himself a “techno-rebel”.  I refused to learn the Finale or Sibelius programs, because I prefer to write music with a felt pen and score paper.  I do not know how to work a VCR or DVD player. I do not know how to program that funny cable box to record TV shows when I’m not home.  But none of this worries me, because knowing  things like this are not all that important, really.  But I will tell you what IS important — MUSIC !

So I will do whatever I have to do to keep the great eras of music alive.  If it means learning how to blog at 92, then so be it.

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