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Pier 23 Tapes

Historic broadcasts and jam sessions from the San Francisco waterfront


Pier 23 was a slightly seedy waterfront dive on the San Francisco waterfront.  Still a jazz joint today, it appealed to “peninsula matrons” and “sailors of all nations.” 

Combos at the Pier were nucleus of an active jamming scene in the early 1960s.

New 4.2015

In Bay Area Jazz Clubs of the 'Fifties (1978), Brett Runkle Recalled Pier 23:

"Directly across the Embarcadero highway and tracks from The Tin Angel was The Pier 23.  The Pier opened to jazz in 1954.  Burt Bales always seemed to be featured and a platoon of brass players led by Robin Hodes always sat in.  Hodes was another Dayton transplant. 

On off nights someone like Bill Erickson or Devon Harkins took over the piano.  Late in the decade, Dick Oxtot fronted a band at the Pier featuring Frank Goudie and Bales. 

The Pier was owned in the fifties by a colorful character named Havelock Jerome.  Except for his singing voice and his nose he was a small man.  The characters who hung out in The Pier 23 seemed to have stepped out of a Steinbeck novel.  In those days bars were supposed to close an hour earlier or later when the time changed.  The Pier always closed later – at whatever time the cops came.  By this time the patrons and musicians were spilling out the back onto the pier itself.  Havelock always convinced the cops that he was merely confused about daylight savings."
   







Pier 23 on the air

L to R:
Suzanne Summers, Hambone Lee Crosby, Burt Bales, Bob Mielke, Bill Erickson (obscured), Dick Oxtot, Frank Goudie


Photo: Oxtot collection

New 9.2015

PIER 23 Stereo Broadcast
KGO 1959


Sound quality is mostly quite good except for some bad speed flutter toward the end.

Bill Erickson (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Burt Bales (piano, vocals)
Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals)
Squire Girsback (string bass)
Bob Osibin (drums)
Suzanne Summers (vocals)


KGO Pier 23 stereo broadcast complete.mp3 45:00

Intro announce
Struttin’ with Some Barbeque
London Blues (piano solo, Bales)
Lucky, Lucky Lindberg, Eagle of the USA (vocal, Oxtot)
San Francisco Bay BluesJesse Fuller, guitar and vocal
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams ( vocal, Susanne Sommers)
Just a Closer Walk with Thee
Mack the Knife (vocal, Burt Bales)
High Society – (featuring Frank Goudie, clarinet)
I’m So Doggone Lonesome - Jesse Fuller, vocal guitar, harmonica)
Maple Leaf Rag (piano solo, Burt Bales)
Someday Sweetheart (vocal, Susanne Sommers)
Saturday Night Function
Should I Reveal? (theme)

Message from Mr. Orrfelt

Compiled by Orrfelt for Mielke
  


Broadcasts from Pier 23

These broadcasts feature everything great about Pier 23.  Most of these swinging dixieland shows featured Burt Bales, then at his peak as an entertainer, clarinetist Frank "Big Boy" Goudie, and the singing of "Uncle Dick" Oxtot.

On-air host and producer 'Hambone Lee' Crosby self-consciously evoked the piquant waterfront atmosphere, "a little slice of old SanFransciscanner."  Occasional local adverts and off the wall comments by Pier owner/host Havelock Jerome added local color.

The fine Estuary Jazz group broadcast band was closely related to Bob Mielke's Bearcats.  Featuring Bill Erickson on horn, it's a rare opportunity to hear his fine, and hard to classify trumpet sound. 

Each show offered a generous serving of Burt Bales "The Old Perfessor" playing ragtime or his incomparable Jelly Roll Morton interpretations.  Some programs  over-emphasized local crooner Susan Sommers a bit much for my taste (not to be confused with a well-known actress with a similar name) or offered the contrasting skiffle blues of "railroad singer" and one-man-band, Jesse Fuller. 

A few of these remotes were heard in 1959, nobody recalls how many.  Some were transmitted as early experiments in stereo radio, simultaneously broadcast on AM and FM mono stations.  It seems the hoped for TV coverage did not develop.


New 5.2.2014

Pier 23 Live KOFY broadcast, c. 1959
"WATERFRONT JAZZ SOCIETY"


This is an amazing live performance and extraordinary audio document.  It has everything: Bill Erickson leading the band in fine form on trumpet, Burt Bales and Bob Mielke at the top of their games, a swashbucking performance by Frank Goudie, a Dick Oxtot vocal, and the electric atmosphere of a jazz broadcast from the San Francisco waterfront with an appearance by owner Havelock Jerome (a world-class weirdo).


L to R: Erickson, Goudie, Oxtot

Photo: Oxtot collection

Despite heroic restoration efforts, this tape contains unavoidable gaps, distortion and musical flaws.


Bill Erickson (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals)
Burt Bales (piano, vocals)
Squire Girsback (string bass)
Bob Osibin (drums)
Suzane Summers (vocals)
Lee Crosby (on-air host)


KOFY Pier 23 broadcast complete.mp3 (38:38)

or selections:

Royal Garden Blues.mp3 (3:37, sound improves after :30)

Mister Joe.mp3 (3:36, fragment)
     fragment featuring Burt Bales, announcement by Havelock Jerome

Chri-Biri-Bim.mp3 (6:00)
    announce with personnel: “Live Jazz on the air nightly”

Up a Lazy River.mp3 (2:59)
    Suzanne Summers vocal duet with Burt Bales, piano

Original Dixieland One-step.mp3 (4:35)

That Certain Party.mp3
(4:26)
    vocal by Oxtot
 
Rose Room.mp3 (3:54)
    featuring Big Boy Goudie, mentions his years in Europe

Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down.mp3  (3:31, contains a brief gap)
    announcing “Jazz As Is” from the Waterfront

I Had Someone Else Before I Had You.mp3 (3:00)
    vocal Suzanne Summers
    closing announcement and personnel
    




Richard Hadlock recalls playing at Pier 23 with
Burt Bales, Bill Erickson, Frank Goudie and others: 

"We had good sessions there, playing with the famous and the less known.  I jammed with Muggsy Spanier, Darnell Howard, Squire Girsback, Ernie Figueroa, Marty Marsala, Joe Dodge, and many now forgotten."



ARCHIVE MUSIC
PIER 23 jam session
[These historic tracks are made available despite being rough or incomplete in places.]

Great thanks to recordist, Dave Greer.

October 1960
Ray Ronnei (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Pete Allen (bass)
Jimmy Carter (drums)

L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-I-A PIER 23.mp3
You Always Hurt the One You Love_PIER 23.mp3
Make Me a Pallet PIER 23.mp3
Lord, Lord, Lord_PIER 23.mp3
Just a Little While to Stay_PIER 23.mp3
Bamboo Tree_PIER 23.mp3

See_See_Rider_PIER_23.mp3
Hot_Time_in_the_Old_Town_PIER_23.mp3
Alexanders_Ragtime_Band_PIER_23.mp3
Eh_la_Bas_PIER_23.mp3
  


At Pier 23

L to R:
Unknown trumpet player, Burt Bales, Jerome Hadlock owner of Pier 23 and Virginia Hodes, who was then married to Robin (Bob) Hodes and a waitress at The Pier.

(Photo courtesy Richard Hadlock)


Cry of the Wolf: Ray Ronnei

Dave Greer was a jazz enthusiast who recorded many of these tapes.  He was a close friend of Bill Erickson, with whom he resided at the "Jazz House" in Berkeley:

Quite a few revival musicians from Los Angeles came here to play, and some to stay.  At one of hour parties I talked with a retiring Angeleno who said he admired and had played with Papa Mutt Carey, the great trumpeter with Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band.

When he joined in, the Ray Ronnei legend was born.  It was instantly apparent he was not just another cornetist.  His conception was from the central core of jazz.  And although his tone then still had something of the crying crackling quality of Carey’s, it was so primal that it was hard to believe it came out of a horn. 

Ronnei made the more sophisticated brass men seem irrelevant; I remember one just stopped playing and looked at him.  It was a as if a wolf had walked into a pack of dogs and howled, reminding them of their original nature and purpose.  To many of us Ronnei became emblematic of the young white players who had brought about a renaissance of an improvised music whose origins were largely black.  It can be thought of as a second Golden Age of jazz.


New 10.2014

ARCHIVE MUSIC

“The Fabulous Byron Berry –
Pier 23 Polecats, April 11, 1960"

"Recording by  Jack Stratford, initiated by Grayson ‘Ken’ Mills.  Recorded on Wollensack tape recorder with stock microphone.  Personnel identified by Jerry Stanton.”


Byron Berry (trumpet)
Bill Napier (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Al Conger (bass)


Isle of Capri.mp3
Joseph, Joseph.mp3
Just a Gigolo.mp3
Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella.mp3
Muskrat Ramble.mp3
Shake That Thing.mp3
Weary Blues.mp3
You're the Cream in my Coffee.mp3

The Oxtot collection.
 


PIER 23 June 25, 1960 Jam
Ray Ronnei (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Jim Leigh (trombone)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Pete Allen (bass)
Jimmy Carter (drums)


SEXTET:
Just a Closer Walk_PIER 23.mp3
Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet_PIER 23.mp3

TRIO (Goudie, Erickson, Carter):
You Took Advantage of Me_PIER 23.mp3
You're Driving Me Crazy_PIER 23.mp3
[Blues at the Pier] PIER 23.mp3

[These historic tracks are made available despite being rough or incomplete in places.]

Great thanks to recordist, Dave Greer.


PIER 23

Spring 1962 Jam session
Amos White, Bob Hodes (trumpets)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Mike Prince (bjo)
Jimmy Carter (drums)
(bass unknown)

Sweet Sue_PIER 23.mp3
Old Fashioned Love PIER 23.mp3
Over the Waves PIER 23.mp3
St. Louis Blues (incomplete) PIER 23.mp3
Has Anybody Seen my Gal PIER 23.mp3
  

Great thanks to recordist, Dave Greer.


PIER 23 May 28, 1963
Swing session (in stereo)


Robin Hodes (trumpet)
Jim Leigh (trombone)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Dave Clarkson (tenor sax)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Squire Girsback (bass)
Jimmy Carter (drums)


It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got that Swing).mp3 (4:23)
Take the "A" Train.mp3 (7:20)
Broadway.mp3 (8:33)
The King.mp3 (6:30)
Sweethearts on Parade.mp3 (10:50)
  
(Special thanks to Mili Rosenblatt-Bardin.)
     


[In the Bay area] were some of the distinguished black musicians who were performing in the late teens and 20s, the Golden Age of jazz. 

Amos White
, who was a bandsman on the Mississippi River paddle-wheelers, played his trumpet and sang “Old Fashioned Love” with such purity of feeling that many of us had need of our handkerchiefs.  (Yes, people still carried them then.)

Clarinetist Frank “Big Boy” Goudie . . . was a regular at these assemblies.  The great Darnell Howard set high standards for the young reed men, as did Clem Raymond.  Aside from being first-rate performers, they were all real gentlemen of jazz.


 -- Dave Greer, "Oxtot Memorial Brings Out the Traditional Jazz Crowd," The Journal, March 15, 2002
    

New 12.7.2013

Bill Erickson plays trumpet at Pier 23

(early 1960s)

Bill Erickson (trumpet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Bill Napier (clarinet)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Pete Allen (bass)
Jimmy Carter (drums)


Love Nest_Erickson, Bill Erickson trumpet, Pier 23.mp3 (5:15)
Original Dixieland One Step, Bill Erickson trumpet, Pier 23.mp3 (5:370
Darktown Strutters Ball, Bill Erickson trumpet, Pier 23.mp3 (3:28)

Bill Erickson (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
(date and other personnel unknown)


Rosetta, Bill Erickson trumpet, Pier 23.mp3 (7:30)

Thanks to Dave Greer for these rare recordings.


Forthcoming: The best and rarest of the archival jazz recordings heard on these pages will soon be available for purchase on CD or downloads (Amazon, i-tunes, etc) from Frisco Jazz Archival Rarities, a partnership between Dave Radlauer and Grammercy Records.

Hot Jazz from Pier 23: Jam sessions from the Frisco Waterfront, early 1960s
Frank Goudie and Bill Napier (clarinets), Ray Ronnei, Robin Hodes and Byron Berry (cornets), Bob Mielke and Jim Leigh (trombones) under the direction of Bill Erickson (piano).

Frisco Jazz Archival Rarities offers unissued historic recordings from live performances, jam sessions and private tapes.  Recorded mostly in the Bay Area 1940-75, this is lost sound from a boisterous musical culture that created an independent jazz style of its own.
   


In San Francisco for some years now the Embarcadero (the dockside road than runs along the Bay waterfront wharves) has been a sort of North Rampart Street with dixieland jazz floating out over the waters of the Bay every night from the Tin Angel and Pier 23, that converted dock wallopers lunchroom where Burt plays.  For the past year the band at the Tin Angel has been led by Marty Marsala, a veteran of the early days of Chicago jazz.  Burt and Marty have worked together before on numerous occasions and there is natural musical meeting of the minds.

 
-- Ralph J. Gleason, 1958 from liner notes to
Jazz From the San Francisco Waterfront
, ABC Paramount


Note on recordings:
The archival recordings heard on these pages are offered as historic artifacts.  They contain many musical and technical flaws, or are incomplete or poorly balanced  in places.  Personnel are listed as available, or as deduced  from educated guesses.
  





ARCHIVE MUSIC


Burt Bales' 1955 LP On the Waterfront was based on his large local popularity. 
He was a draw for both fans and musicians.


King Porter Stomp.mp3
Darkness on the Delta.mp3
Sweet Savannah Sue.mp3
Mr. Jelly Lord.mp3


Jazz piano player, Ray Skjelbred remembers Burt Bales at Pier 23 (right):

"I was 18 the first time I saw Burt Bales playing at Pier 23 in San Francisco. There was a small table just to the left of the piano where I could watch his hands, especially the way his left hand and wrist moved back and forth like a gentle sea wave.

It would be several more years before I started playing, but I was getting the idea. I liked the humming, fat sound of 10ths in his left hand. I listened attentively to discover how he made round sounds by the way he touched the keys.

At first I was interested in the Jelly Roll Morton and ragtime compositions that he played, but the biggest repertoire lesson I learned came from his interest in choosing standard ballads to allow his deepest self expression. I remember in the first days hearing songs like 'The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi' and 'Darkness on the Delta'.”

Note sawdust on the floor.

(Photo: Courtesy Ray Skjelbred)



ARCHIVE MUSIC

Burt Bales at Pier 23 with Frank Big Boy Goudie, clarinet, 1961:


Who's Sorry Now.mp3 (6:55)
Home Grown Blues.mp3 (8:00)
Goudie sings "Basin Street Blues" at Pier 23 with commentary from Bill Bardin
   
add Bob Hodes (trumpet) and Al Conger (bass)

Lady Be Good.mp3 (7:15)
Fidgety Feet.mp3 (6:00)
Struttin' With Some Barbecue.mp3 (6:55)
  

More about Burt Bales, here.




Bill Erickson succeeded Burt Bales in the Pier 23 piano chair.  A gifted jazz piano and trumpet player, he hosted a regular combo and vigorous jazz jams. 

Erickson's piano was anchor for combos and jams that included
Frank Goudie, Robin Hodes, Ray Ronnei, Bob Mielke, Dick Oxtot, Bill Napier, Jim Leigh and others.
    
More about Bill Erickson, here.
  


Jim Leigh captured the significance of Pier 23 for San Francisco jazz in his memoir:

"Pier 23 was enormously popular with local and visiting musicians as a place to drink and, frequently, to sit in.  If such a thing as a session joint exists, the Pier was the main one in the Bay area for musicians of pre-bop sympathies . . . .  Depending on who was sitting in, the music would run a gamut among New Orleans style, Chicago style, and small-band swing; if you sat in you were expected to handle transitions between styles with good grace and a certain adequacy of technique.

The waterfront, the generally exotic mixture of the crowd [at Pier 23], the benignly “tough” tone of the place: along with fans of the music, these attracted all sorts of other people . . .

The crowd of players -- and the customers it attracted -- got so large that a complaint was lodged with the [musician’s] union by Kid Ory. Across the Embarcadero from the Pier, Ory had taken over the
Tin Angel, renamed it On the Levee, and felt his attendance, especially on week nights, suffering from the partly unpaid competition at the Pier."  

[Pier 23 owner] Havelock Jerome doubtless made some money from it, but nobody else did, certainly not Erickson, who was apparently quite comfortable with his hand-to-mouth existence.  It was never a case of the money not mattering: Erickson lived from it, Goudie and [drummer] Carter relied on it, and when I occasionally happened to get paid for a night or two I never turned it down. 

But the music, and the mostly pleasant company of those gathered to play it, were the point, and that’s all there was to it."                                                                                          
--
Jim Leigh, Heaven on the Side, 2000


Download a profile of Vince Cattolica by Richard Hadlock, 1964:

San Francisco Examiner, 11.15.64.pdf

Courtesy of
Richard Hadlock







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