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The Ordinary

Dick Oxtot ran a rolling jam session at this rollicking Oakland nite spot in the early 1970s.

Many recordings,
a few recollections,
but very few photographs have survived from this club.

This is the only photo I've seen of The Ordinary, shot by Bill Bardin's wife, Mili Rosenblatt.

L to R:
 
Bill Bardin, P.T. Stanton, Byron Berry, Walter Yost

Not visible:
Dick Oxtot, banjo

(Other photos seen on this page were taken elsewhere.)

Dick’s union contract signed with The Ordinary on April 17, 1975 specified a four-piece band plus vocalist, playing Saturday nights from 9 pm to 1 am.  It lists Oxtot (banjo, leader), Bill Bardin (trombone), Earl Scheelar (reeds), Walter Yost (tuba) and singer Terry Garthwaite, whom it is safe to say were the core of the group.  


On Syncopated Times:
Dick Oxtot at the Ordinary featuring Terry Garthwaite
    


In his memoir, Jazz Scrapbook (1999), Dick Oxtot fondly recalled this club and the clientele:

"The Ordinary was a happy-go-lucky Oakland club which featured a happy-go-lucky clientele, and served New Orleans food, so my four-piece aggregation was selected by the owners to carry on the New Orleans tradition . . . .  the personnel would vary so much from weekend to weekend and was so often graced with excellent sitters-in.”

The band was known as "The Ordinary Band," but it really was a rather "un-ordinary" band, because the personnel would vary so much from weekend to weekend, and was so often graced with excellent sitters-in, such as fiddler-saxophonist Andy Stein, Bob Mielke, Jerry Butzen, Bunky Colman, "Fiddle Ray" Landsberg, Bob Neighbor, and other stalwarts I didn't even know!  Our regulars included Bill Bardin, Earl Scheelar, Walter Yost, tuba and vocals, and yours truly on banjo and vocals."
     

A Rolling Jam Session

The Ordinary gig was the hottest jam session around at the time, certainly in the East Bay.  Among the jammers were trombonists Bob Mielke and Jerry Butzen, clarinetists Bill Napier or Bunky Colman and cornet players P.T Stanton or Bob Neighbor – though on this gig Dick often dispensed with a lead horn.  Often joining the proceedings were jazz violinists “Fiddle Ray” Landsberg or Andy Stein, who also played baritone saxophone.

In the Bay Area during 1970s Andy Stein played fiddle in Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen -- a band fusing Rockabilly, Country and Western Swing – who were just about to break nationwide.  Andy soon became nationally known and was heard for decades in the house bands of Prairie Home Companion and Saturday Night Live.  

Singer Terry Garthwaite

The ensemble was frequently joined by Oxtot’s favorite blues and ballad singers of the moment, like Diane Holmes, Pamela Polland or Terry Garthwaite.  Terry was a former Folk Music associate of Oxtot and one of his main singers in this era, heard on the 1980 Golden Age Jazz Band record album and 1982 cassette release.  She had earlier garnered a broad following via the Rock-Folk-Blues-Jazz band, Joy of Cooking which she co-led (1967-71) singing and playing guitar.

During the mid-1970s, Terry and Dick featuried her interpretation of vintage jazz and blues songs and extended scat-jams. 

Terry performed in Oxtot's revivalist ensembles at Mandrakes in Berkeley, events hosted by the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California or wherever Golden Age deployed. 

A contemporaneous City Magazine column by one Rip Stock favorably reviewed her appearance at the Berkeley nightclub Freight and Salvage backed by Oxtot’s Hot Four.  The description matches the music heard below:

“Terry Garthwaite seems to have assimilated early jazz singing styles even more naturally than she did Rock ‘n Roll (with Joy of Cooking) or Country.  Terry performed her early blues and jazz without a hint of nostalgic posture. . . and all she sang she sang with integrity and spirit.  Especially hot were her scat battles with trumpeter PT Stanton.  If there’s ever a brass shortage, Terry’s trumpet imitations will come in handy.”

The concluding “Pilot” features a three-horn front line similar to P.T. Stanton’s Stone Age Jazz Band, plus Fiddle Ray Landsberg, but with very different results.  Terry’s signature number, the song was constructed around her stage charisma and horn-like scatting.  After a vocal duet with Oxtot and scat-jam with P.T., she swaps ‘fours’ with tuba player, Walter Yost.


ARCHIVE MUSIC

DICK OXTOT “The Ordinary Band”

1970s

Probable personnel:
Bill Napier (clarinet)
Jerry Butzen (trombone)
Fiddle Ray Landsberg (violin in places)
Lisa Polland (tenor sax)
Dick Oxtot (banjo & vocals)
Walter Yost (tuba)
probably Pamela Pollard (vocals, mostly off mic)


Set 1
Ice Cream.mp3  (tape damage)
Why Don’t You Do Right.mp3
Don’t Get Around Much Any More.mp3
Lookin' for my Pilot.mp3
Moten Swing.mp3
I Wished Upon a Star.mp3  (add violin; vocal Oxtot)
Weary Blues.mp3
Just a Closer Walk with Thee.mp3  (Napier clarinet intro and coda; add sax)
Dream Blues.mp3 (tape gap)

Set One complete.mp3 47:03

Set 2
Undecided.mp3  (vocal duet Garthwaite and Oxtot)
The World’s Jazz Crazy, and So am I.mp3
Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.mp3
Cakewalkin’ Babies.mp3
Since I Fell for You.mp3
I Found a New Baby.mp3 (Fiddle Ray Landsberg, violin)

Set Two complete.mp3 34:44

Oxtot collection
  


Most of the surviving performance tapes from The Ordinary contain excellent music but very poor audio quality.  Nevertheless, these satisfying performances feature Walter Yost (cornet) and Bill Bardin (trombone).  Earl Scheelar plays alto sax and clarinet.  Andy Stein’s mad skills on baritone saxophone and hot jazz violin are evident despite the bad sound.
     


Clarinet player Bill Napier was an amazing jazz performer.  Bill was always ready with a tasteful solo or chorus of the blues.  Owlish and self-contained, he was a lifelong friend of Oxtot, Mielke, Bardin, Scheelar and crowd. 

Photo:
Napier, clarinet
with pianist Norma Teagarden       
Oxtot collection

A brilliant and committed musician, Napier’s improvisations often danced at the precipice of disaster, yet never failed.  Note his individualistic introduction, variations, and coda to “Just a Closer Walk.”


ARCHIVE INTERVIEW

Bill Bardin recalled The Ordinary
(I was assisted in this interview by Bill Carter c. 1992, who is heard prompting Bardin:)

Bardin - The Ordinary.mp3

"I played regularly with [Oxtot] at a place in Oakland called, The Ordinary.  That was a nightclub in a former PG & E substation.  It was sort of a, I hesitate to say Hippie, but the audience were young people.  The girls would wear hiking boots and shorts or long skirts.

Oxtot was the leader.  Walter Yost sometimes.  For a while Andy Stein, the guy who's playing violin in New York now, was playing baritone sax and violin there.  He was a character and a great natural player.  He 'had it,' you know; that knack of never letting anyone down.  Sometimes P.T., sometimes Earl Scheelar.

It was the first place I had seen uni-sex bathrooms.  They had two bathrooms but they weren't differentiated by sex.  And you'd knock, of course.  Or, I suppose, sometimes barge in.  About 1972-74, right in there."
   



ARCHIVE MUSIC

Oxtot at The Ordinary 1975 featuring Terry Garthwaite

Probable personnel:     
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Earl Scheelar (clarinet and alto sax)
Fiddle Ray Landsberg (violin)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Probably Walter Yost (tuba)    
Terry Garthwaite (vocals)

Set A
Undecided.mp3 (vocal duet Terry & Dick)
Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.mp3 (clarinet Scheelar and Napier)
All Night Long.mp3 (clarinet Scheelar and Napier?)
Somebody Just Like You.mp3 (Garthwaite)       
     


In his memoir, Dick Oxtot had high praise for singer Terry Garthwaite:

"Terry Garthwaite was our first singer at The Ordinary.  Before she went on to the road with the 'Joy of Cooking,' she was probably the most versatile singer who sang with me for an extended length of time.  She could just about master any type of music -- pop, jazz, folk and rock.  Previously in the Ordinary Club, I did some folk music with her, but even with her wonderful voice, she was too shy to project, tending to gaze at the floor, so we parted company for a while.

Then for some reason, she became a different woman, singing to the audience and developing a fantastic style of scat singing.  I'm don't care much for scat singing . . . but Terry's scatting was the swinging-est I've ever heard."


More of Oxtot's story and music at:

Dick Oxtot
Golden Age Jazz Band
Bearcats Archive
The Lark's Club tapes
  


ARCHIVE MUSIC

Oxtot at The Ordinary 1975


Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals)
Earl Scheelar (clarinet, and in places add Napier)
Bill Bardin (trombone, backup vocal)
Fiddle Ray Landsberg (violin)
Probably Walter Yost (tuba)


Set B
I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me.mp3
[Title?].mp3  (clarinet duet of Napier and Scheelar)
Dallas Blues.mp3 (vocal duet, Oxtot and Bardin)

Terry Garthwaite vocals:
Lookin’ for a Pilot.mp3 (vocal duet with Oxtot; Garthwaite and tuba trade fours)
I’ll be Your Baby Tonight.mp3
Just Like You.mp3 (clarinet duet of Napier and Scheelar)
Cakewalkin’ Babies.mp3 (Garthwaite vocal duet with Oxtot)
Why Don’t You Do Right.mp3 (clarinet duet)
Lookin’ for a Pilot.mp3 (long version 8:52)

The Ordinary 1972 Set B complete.mp3 14:50

Oxtot collection
 


Earl Scheelar was a gifted multi-instrumentalist and bandleader.  His dense and passionate reed parts electrified any ensemble. 


It’s a shame that his sensational alto (and soprano) saxophone chops were little-known and rarely heard, eclipsed by his extraordinary clarinet and cornet virtuosity.
     
Photo: Oxtot collection
 


ARCHIVE MUSIC

Oxtot at the Ordinary, 1975

Stein/Scheelar/Bardin/Garthwaite/Oxtot

Dick Oxtot’s less-than-Ordinary jam sessions rolled on.  There’s so much happening that one barely notices the lack of lead horn in Set #1.  Set #2 includes the rarely heard and little appreciated cornet playing of Walter Yost.

Andy Stein (violin, alto and baritone sax)
Earl Scheelar (clarinet & alto sax)
Bill Bardin (trombone)
Dick Oxtot  (banjo & vocals)
Walt Yost (tuba, cornet)
probably Pamela Polland (vocals)

Andy Stein
Andy Stein became a nationally known musical talent heard for decades on Prairie Home Companion and in the Saturday Night Live house band.  In the Bay Area during 1970s he was fiddler in Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen: a fusion of Rockabilly, Country, and Western Swing. 

Joining Oxtot and crew at The Ordinary in the mid-1970s Stein was playing not only hot and bluesy violin, but baritone and other saxes.  Stein’s violin style here ranges from rough country blues (“Goin' Away Blues,” “Blue and Sentimental,” and “L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-I-A”) to sounds emulating Joe Venuti (“I’ll Always Be in Love with You”) or maybe Stuff Smith.

Earl Scheelar
Talented multi-instrumentalist Earl Scheelar was especially hot in these sessions doubling on clarinet and alto sax.  He joined with Stein and Bardin for riffs and the effervescent ride out choruses.  Special thanks to Earl for help sorting out the tricky personnel details.

Walt Yost
Walt Yost was best known as a yeoman tuba player.  But his fine Beidberbecke-influenced cornet sound is notable in Set #2. 

Set #1
Sweet Jenny Lee (upcut) - vocal Oxtot, Scheelar (clt), Andy Stein (bari)
Blue and Sentimental - Scheelar (clt), Andy Stein (violin)
I’ll Always Be in Love with You - Scheelar (clt), Stein (vln)
L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-I-A - vocal Oxtot, Scheelar (alto), Stein (vln)
Without Your Love - vocal Polland, Scheelar (clt), Stein (alto)
In the Mood -  vocal Polland, Scheelar (clt), Stein (vln)
Goin' Away Blues - vocal Polland, Scheelar (clt), Stein (vln)

Set #1 complete.mp3 = 30:49
  


More on Syncopated Times:

Dick Oxtot at The Ordinary featuring Terry Garthwaite
      


ARCHIVE INTERVIEW

Earl Scheelar recalls playing with Oxtot bands at The Ordinary in downtown Oakland in the early 1970s:

“It was on Manila, Broadway near 40th in Oakland.  It was kind of a little warehouse.   [The band] was a quartet.  A lot of people played there.  It was Oxtot’s band; I played it a lot.   Walter Yost played quite a bit. 

It was kind of a warehouse.  It could have been a PG & E station but I don’t know.  Around 1970, or a little bit later.  It had to be somewhere around ’71-’72 somewhere in there.   I don’t remember who the crowd was; they were young, they were young people.  They weren’t the jazz crowd of today.  And it was fairly well attended.

Andy Stein would come in and sit-in a lot on baritone sax, as a bass instrument.  Yost played tuba a lot in that group, also played cornet sometimes.  But he was the main tuba player.”

Scheelar on The Ordinary.mp3
  



ARCHIVE MUSIC

The Ordinary Band, 1975

This tape contained badly damaged audio.  What could be salvaged is presented with apologies.

Walter Yost (cornet)
Earl Scheelar (alto sax)
Bill Bardin (trombone)
Andy Stein (violin, baritone sax)
Oxtot (banjo, vocal)


 
Cakewalkin’ Babies (bad channel drop out)
Mama’s Gone, Goodbye - Scheelar (alto), Stein (baritone sax)
My Sunday Gal - vocal Oxtot, Scheelar (alto & clt), Stein (baritone sax)
Sunday – Scheelar (clt & alto), Stein (violin)

Set #2 complete.mp3 = 20:03
   


ARCHIVE MUSIC

Oxtot's
Golden Age Jazz Band with vocalist Terry Garthwaite
Location unknown, early 1970s

All these musicians were known to have performed with Dick at The Ordinary.  But this recording was probably made at another East Bay nightclub, perhaps Mandrakes in Berkeley.

Photo: GAJB L to R:
Dick Oxtot, Bill Napier, unknown drummer, Jim Goodwin, Terry Garthwaite, Bob Mielke and Bill Bardin.
NOJCNC early or mid-1970s, Oxtot collection.


Set A:
P.T. Stanton (cornet)
Earl Scheelar (soprano saxophone)

Set B:
Jim Goodwin (trumpet)
Bob Helm (clarinet, soprano sax)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Ray  Skjelbred (piano)
Dick Oxtot (banjo and leader)
John Moore (tuba)
Terry Garthwaite vocals


Set A:
Dream Blues.mp3 (P. T. Stanton)
Ain’t Nobody Got the Blues Like Me.mp3 (P. T. Stanton)

Set B:
Stand On the Rock.mp3 (Goodwin)
Walkin’ Blues.mp3 (Goodwin)
Lookin’ for a Pilot.mp3 (Goodwin)

Courtesy of Earl Scheelar
  


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.  Special thanks to Hal Smith and Earl Scheelar for assistance.


ARCHIVE MUSIC


This is a small Oxtot band with singer Terry Garthwaite and the talented Andy Stein salvaged from a damaged tape.  Stein played spectacular jazz violin in the Bay Area for a few years around this time, June 1973, almost certainly at The Ordinary.

Andy Stein (violin)
P.T. Stanton (cornet)
Dick Oxtot (guitar)
Terry Garthwaite (vocal, "Summertime")
(other personnel unknown)


Sunday.mp3
Summertime.mp3

Oxtot collection
   


     Occasional players of The Ordinary:


Joining Oxtot and crew at The Ordinary in the mid-1970s Andy Stein was playing not only hot and bluesy violin, but baritone and other saxes. 

Stein’s violin style ranges from rough country blues to sounds emulating Joe Venuti or maybe Stuff Smith.




















Bill Bardin was a steady presence at The Ordinary, and in Oxtot bands for decades.












Trombone player
Bob Mielke was welcome at The Ordinary, and an associate of Oxtot for half a century.


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