Vince Cattolica (b. 1923-d. 2004) was a clarinet player with a love for
the Swing clarinet sounds of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw
popular in the San Francisco jazz scene.
blind to an Italian-immigrant family in San Francisco where he spent his
life, Vince became one of the Bay Area's best-loved and most respected
(Photo: San Francisco Examiner, 1964)
In the 1940s, '50s and ‘60s Cattolica played, worked or recorded with pianist Burt Bales, trombone player and bandleader, Jack Sheedy, Earl 'Fatha' Hines (piano), pianists Wally Rose, Joe Sullivan and Ralph Sutton, Buddy De Franco (clarinet), Marty Marsala (trumpet) and vocalist Lizzie Miles to mention a few. During the 1970s and ‘80s Vince worked with piano player Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, and with Larry Vukovich.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen loved Cattolica’s music and made reference to him in his columns. Caen helped arrange Vince’s audience with Benny Goodman. When they hit it off, Goodman gave him free lessons and a gift clarinet.
His long partnership and gig with mainstream jazz pianist Larry Vukovich provided Vince’s last regular venue in San Francisco during the 1990s. Said Vukovich: If he was in New York, he would have been playing all the time . . . He just had the natural talent . . . He had a beautiful tone. He had great rhythm and a wonderful ear and a talent for melodic lines and ideas.
Pt. 1 - Saluting Vince Cattolica
Vince recalls his early days, visits to the jazz
clubs of San Francisco, performing with Jack Sheedy (1949). Exclusive unissued recordings with Jimmy Diamond’s band (1984) and the
Molasses Brothers (1993) are featured. Vince Cattolica Pt 1A.mp3 SIX APPEAL -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993 DOWN IN JUNGLE TOWN -- Jack Sheedy Dixieland Jazz, Cornet 78 rpm, 1949 GAMBLER’S BLUES -- Jack Sheedy Dixieland’s Jazz, Cornet 78 rpm, 1949 BLUES IN THE NIGHT -- Jack Sheedy Dixieland Jazz, Cornet 78 rpm, 1949 OLD GREEN RIVER -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, Live, San Francisc,o 1984 ALLEY CAT -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, Live, San Francisco 1984 I’M IN ANOTHER WORLD -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993
Vince Cattolica Pt 1B.mp3 8, 9 & 10 -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993 WASHINGTON & LEE SWING -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, live, San Francisco 1984 GEORGIA ON MY MIND -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, live, San Francisco 1984 DAYDREAM -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993
San Francisco newspaper man Herb Caen was a good friend of both Cattolica and Benny Goodman. This item from his chatty and popular column was included in The Best of Herb Caen: 1960-1975, Chronicle Books, 1991 p. 237:
“Let’s go say hello to Vince,” BG [Benny Goodman] suggested, so we went into the New Orleans Room, where Vince Cattolica, the blind clarinetist pays nightly homage to Goodman as part of Jimmy Diamond’s band. (Vince recently visited Benny in New York and returned to report solemnly “I have met God.”) The crowd roared for BG to play, but Jimmy interrupted “he just flew in from Australia and he’s tired.” “I am not,” grinned Goodman. “I feel great.”
With that he grabbed Vince’s beatup old clarinet and swang “Jada,” followed by “Georgia Brown,” while I sat in on Johnny Markham’s drums, playing impeccable triplets on the ride cymbal at the wrong tempo. Vince Cattolica sat in the audience , tears streaming down his cheeks. Later, Benny confided “I played awful, but that’s one awful clarinet. Still, Vince makes it sound pretty good and that makes me feel even worse.
Before he left town yesterday, Benny was on the phone, arranging with a clarinet manufacturer to provide Vince with a new one.
Pt. 2 - Saluting Vince Cattolica
Vince spins more tales of playing jazz in San Francisco during the
1940s '50s and '60s with Burt Bales, Marty Marsala and others. More of his
rare and unissued recordings with The Molasses Brothers,
Jimmy Diamond and Clancy Hayes.
Vince Cattolica Pt 2A.mp3 CLARINET DUET -- Cattolica, Steward & Marham, private tape GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND -- Jack Sheedy Dixieland Jazz, 78 rpm, 1949 HINDUSTAN -- Marty Marsala’s Band, Jazz on the San Francisco Waterfront, 1958 TIN ROOF BLUES -- Marty Marsala’s Band, 1958 CHARLIE’S DREAM -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993 AC-DC CURRENT -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993
Vince Cattolica Pt 2B.mp3 ACE IN THE HOLE -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, Live, San Francisco, 1984 BLUES FOR YOUSE -- Larry Vukovich and his San Francisco Jazz All-Stars BALLIN’ THE JACK -- Wally Rose and Clancy Hayes, c. 1955 DOIN’ THE RACCOON -- Wally Rose and Clancy Hayes, c. 1955 E-FLAT BLUES -- Jimmy Diamond’s Nob Hill Gang, live, San Francisco 1984 A LULL AT DAWN -- Molasses Brothers, private studio session, 1993
Download profile of Vince Cattolica by Richard Hadlock, 1964:
Cattolica is as pure a San Franciscan as anyone in this culturally variegated city can be. His father came here from Palermo and worked as a 'bow man' in the fishing fleet. Vince was born in 1923, handicapped by congenital eye cataracts . . .
A list of clubs where Vince has played here over the years reads like an obituary of Bay area night spots . . . Some of the names still remembered are the Down Beat, the Crystal Bowl, the Chinese Cellar, the Say When, the 316 Club, the Italian Village ("we played there for eleven nights and then it burned down"), the Tin Angel, the Jazz Showcase and the Kewpie Doll.
Vince married Barbara Cattolica in 1968 after the two met at Pier 23 on the Embarcadero. Her brother, Jack Wiard, who also plays the clarinet, had seen him on a local television show and took her to see him play. She said: "He sat at our table, and I swear it was love at first sight, and I started going every week with my brother."
After his death in 2004, his ashes were scattered on San Francisco Bay, where his father was a fisherman: "Some of his happiest days were spent just going fishing with his dad," she said. "He just laid on his back and listened to the water and the seagulls and to them casting out."
Vince Cattolica was a superb and highly talented clarinet player though he remained little-known outside the West Coast Dixieland scene.
I’ve always loved the sound
of Jack Sheedy's Dixeland Band.
Vince was with this swinging Dixieland outfit
when it was the first to play San Francisco's famed Club Hangover in
Jack Sheedy's Dixeland Band, c. 1950
Jack Minger (trumpet) Vince Cattolica
(clarinet) Jack Sheedy (trombone, vocal) Paul Miller (guitar) Bill Erickson (piano) Vernon Alley (bass) Bill Dart (drums)
Vince with a Dick Oxtot band, playing at the Rajax in San Mateo, 1950s
L to R: Burt Bales, Cattolica, Oxtot trumpet, Bill Dart, Jerry Butzen
Polecats on the Peninsula
Oxtot’s eagerness for gigs
took him to the communities of the San Francisco peninsula. One of his
“Polecats” bands had a successful run at Rajax in Millbrae, c. 1952.
The Polecats band at Rajax consisted of Burt Bales (piano), Vince Cattolica (clarinet), Jerry Butzen (trombone), and Bill Dart (drums), c. 1952.
ARCHIVE MUSIC Piano Player Joe Sullivan's band at the Tin Angel, 1961
Sullivan was dwelling in besotted obscurity in San Francisco during the
1950s and ‘60s. But he still ‘had it’ when playing a residency at the
Tin Angel on the Frisco waterfront in 1961 or ‘62.
previously published or posted, these tracks seem to have been recorded
at the Tin Angel. Bob Mielke told
biographer Jim Goggin that working with him in “a red-hot band . . . was a delight.”
Vince's bold and luminous clarinet lines of are thrilling. Backing Joe’s magnificent keyboard artistry were
cats he was associated with at the time -- the elusive trumpet
player Byron Berry, Pete Allen (bass) and drummer Bob Osibin who worked
there when Kid Ory ran that club as On the Levee.
The Molasses Brothers was a collaboration between Cattolica and the Siebert brothers: Chris (piano) and Charlie (guitar). This unissued session was done just prior to Vince's retirement from professional music in 1993. He'd had always wanted to play this kind of combo swing and Benny Goodman Sextet tunes.
In this interview clip Vince tells of working with clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, trumpet player Marty Marsala, Burt Bales, and how the 1958 LP, Jazz from the San Francisco Waterfront was recorded. Plus his fine solos on “Hindustan” & “Tin Roof Blues.”