Thursday, September 05, 2019

Les Brown at the Carnation Gardens, September 1972

Here's another great series of photos featuring a world-famous Big Band - Les Brown and His Band of Renown! Due to my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to these bands, I asked Mr. X (the photographer) if he could pass on any relevant information. So he asked a musician friend, who spoke to somebody who is in these photos! A trombonist named Jack Redmond ("3 Finger Jack").

Here's what Mr. Redmond had to say (all of his contributions are in yellow): 

I don’t know what year this was. Maybe around 1970 or so (Major here... these are from 1972). I think I recognize my mutton chops. Anyway, here’s the personnel:

Trmpts:    Don Rader, Hal Espinosa (lead),Bobby Clark,Fred Koyen.
Bones:     Bill Moffett, Stumpy Brown, me.
Reeds:     Butch Stone, Lou Ciotti, Matt Utal (lead alto), Ralph LaPolla, Fred Cooper.
Piano:      Bob Alberti.
Bass:       Ernie McDaniel.
Drums:    Norm Jeffries.
Vocalist:  Jo Ann Greer.

Jack Sperling was the drummer most of the time in the 25 years or so that I was on the band. Others for lengths of time were Lloyd Morales and Jerry McKenzie. Norm was just with us for that Disneyland week, I think. Lou Ciotti was the fine jazz tenor player. Don Rader (Rades-my room mate all over the world) was be-bop trumpet, of course. Hal Espinosa became president of Local 47 years later.

Bob Alberti later became Bob Hope’s TV musical director. Butch Stone played bari sax, but was a great comedic singer. Beautiful cat. Jo Ann was married to ex Les Brown trumpet player Mickey McMann, who later became a charter member of the Lawerence Welk TV orchestra.

I hated those freaking red coats. We finally got rid of them, but then got some REALLY FONKY plaid ones. Almost made me glad when we had to wear tux’s.

You can see Jack in this view - second row, and second from the right (again, on trombone).

It is SO COOL to actually hear from one of the band members! This is all thanks to Mr. X, his friend Mark, and the generous help of Jack Redmond.


Nanook said...


SO COOL - yes-! I'm afraid at the time, I didn't appreciate just how great all these jazz bands were, and the great Disneyland tradition of including these acts in their line-up of live bands at The Park for so long.

On a side note, I see Disneyland provided a Shure Vocal Master, 6-channel PA Mixer - for the single vocal microphone I presume. A decent system; but far from a high-end sound system.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Yes, it's VERY COOL getting to see this many pics of the group, and also getting all that background info on the band members! Like Nanook, I didn't appreciate the fact that these bands were playing at DL so regularly. I remember walking by, and seeing and hearing them, but I never stopped to enjoy them, darn it!

Andrew said...

Very fun info. It goes to show that there's a story behind every performing group you see, at Disneyland and otherwise.

It would be cool to have "big bands" back at Disneyland!

K. Martinez said...

I must've been a weirdo in my youth because I would stop and sit and listen to the bands. I remember getting a burger and milkshake from time to time at the Carnation Plaza Gardens and listening to the bands. Usually at night it was the featured big band playing and at day some local talent performing. One of my favorite times to go to Disneyland was Memorial Day weekend because they had a jazz festival throughout the park. Those days seem to be gone. Great memories though.

How awesome that you have a special guest today who was actually there and a part of this band. Thanks, Major

And thank you, Jack Redmond "3 Finger Jack". I really enjoyed what you've shared with us here are GDB.

stu29573 said...

I love that Disneyland had top shelf entertainment. It's a shame that they decided they could do it all in house. Not that the groups are bad, by any means, but they are of a slightly lessor status, in my opinion.

Pegleg Pete said...

Les Brown's 'Sentimental Journey' (with Doris Day) is one of my all-time favourite tunes. Admittedly this was almost thirty years on from that wartime classic, but it's still amazing that one could routinely see old-school jazz musicians at Disneyland back in the day. Thanks for the photos, Major and Mr X. And thank you, Jack Redmond, for all the very cool info.

JG said...

Wow-O Major. This is very cool indeed. Thanks to Mr. X, Mr. Redmond and the Major for posting this with all the insider info.

Like many here, I was always in a hurry to get to the next ride, or Tom Sawyer Island, and ran right past events like this. I remember seeing the banners and advertising for big name entertainers, (but not this specific one) and never giving it a second thought.

I've read that the music you enjoyed as a kid is the music you listen to in age, and this must be true since Mom and Dad were big Lawrence Welk fans and now I am too. Rock and roll never took hold of me, and to this day I cannot stand Stevie Nicks. And so now I wish I had sense enough then to stop and do as Ken did, sit and enjoy good music in Disneyland.


JC Shannon said...

My mom loved the big bands and saw many of them during the war. I grew up listening to them, and became a fan as well. Pegleg Pete, My mom taught me to dance to Sentimental Journey! Love that song. These are great pics of a great band, thanks Major and Mr X.

Anonymous said...

I'd always hear the bands playing as I would be starting or ending a shift in Frontierland. Sometimes I'd stop for a few minutes to enjoy the music but most of the time would hear it as I just passed by, noting which band was playing. We were not encouraged to be in costume milling around 'on-stage'. And there was a rule that we must clock out within 45 minutes of release. Back then it was possible for a fellow CM to punch your time card and put it back on the rack for the next day so one could bend the rules a bit if your co-worker was willing to take the risk. But in reality no one was standing at the clock checking if that was happening anyway. I understand that's not the case today as it is all computerized with unique ID tags. KS

K. Martinez said...

JC Shannon, my parents were really into the big bands too during the war and they had a lot of records from that era. Me and my sisters used to play their big band and jazz records from time to time so we got to appreciate it at a very young age right along with our rock and roll and heavy metal bands. We just loved all kinds of music.

Oops, Forgot to thank Mr X. too. Thanks, Mr. X.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it’s kind of amazing how Disneyland became a place where the big bands could always come to play, and would seemingly be greeted by enthusiastic crowds. I’ll have to take your word on the mixer!

TokyoMagic!, the funny thing is that my dad was crazy for big band music, but I don’t remember ever even pausing to listen to music. I would have thought that he’d at least listen to one song…

Penna. Andrew, I guess they still have dance bands at Disneyland (from what I’ve read), but not the big-name bands that are so familiar to those older than you!

K. Martinez, you are a weirdo! Who stops and listens to music? Some kind of commie! I have a number of vintage flyers for “Big Band Days” or some such thing, I wonder if they were for the Memorial Day holiday? It was really fun to get the input from Jack Redmond, much thanks to Mr. X and his friend Mark (who played with Woody Herman, by the way).

stu29573, it’s all about cutting costs I guess. And perhaps the demographic changed to the point where younger generations weren’t interested in the big bands - it’s a possibility.

Pegleg Pete, I’ll have to find that one on YouTube. I went through a phase of listening to lots of 1940’s music (back in the Napster days), and had a lot of fun discovering songs and acts that were unfamiliar to me.

JG, even 10 or 15 years ago I remember my date wanting to stop and listen, and I convinced her that we should get in the shorter lines instead. That’s probably why we broke up! :-) I listened to a lot of old records that my mom and dad played when I was a kid, and some still bring back fond memories, even if the music isn’t necessarily my favorite. My grandparents watched the Lawrence Welk show faithfully, but it seemed so square to me! That being said, they continued to go to local venues to dance into their 90’s.

KS, I would guess that at the end of your shift, you mostly just wanted to leave work. Even Disneyland is “work”! And at the beginning of a shift, you probably had limited time for any standing around. Interesting about the time card details, I wonder why it was so vital to get you out of there within 45 minutes? As long as you weren’t in your costume, I’d think they’d be OK with you hanging around.

K. Martinez, after my dad passed away we found a foot locker that had some big band 78 RMP records in their original cardboard sleeves with wonderful mid-century graphics. I seem to remember a lot of Artie Shaw. Luckily we had a record player that could play 78s, it was fun to listen to the same records he enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

Major...they just didn't want to encourage employees to stick around. Of course if we had family in the Park, that was generally OK. It was a reasonably relaxed rule back then. On very busy days it was more enforced. And of course for us, we'd be back the next day so it is a job which had its unique benefits. One being working with others that became lifelong friends. KS

Grant said...

Another big band fan here. I was raised on it (my mom played clarinet and sang with local big bands) and even though the Beatles and Stones on Ed Sullivan inspired me to a pursue life of playing rock and roll, I never lost my love of swing, jazz, etc.

I was fortunate to actually see Les Brown on that stage a couple of times, along with most of the big acts that rolled through.

Being a gearhead one of the coolest things about those photos is the vintage Sure PA system. Amazing that the mixer was right up front on stage. That means Les was mixing the vocals himself. Wow! I wonder if it was Disneyland's gear or the band's?

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thank you, Mr. X, Mark, Mr. Redmond and Major!

The live music performed throughout Disneyland is what made the place extra special - so unique from other parks, especially years ago. When you hear certain styles of music now, it can instantly transport you back to those memorable by-gone days and nights, at The Park. Wonderful, relaxing and enjoyable times!


Melissa said...

Play the drum a little louder
Tell me I can live without her
If I only listen to the band
Listen to the band

Anonymous said...

My dad was with Les Brown for about 25-26 years and one of the highlights as a kid was getting to go to Disneyland when they played there. Usually a week at a time 1-2 times a year. This went into the ‘80’s, Summer of ‘83 was my last visit when they were playing. I would go every night to hang in the park, usually with a friend but always spent the last night just at Carnation Gardens watching and listening to them play. Dad was good and I enjoyed watching him perform, great memories. 3 Finger Jack was one of his best friends even up to his death and Jacks a good man too!!