(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.
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
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.
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)
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
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.”
Bill Bardin recalled The Ordinary (I was assisted in this interview by Bill Carter c. 1992, who is heard prompting Bardin:)
"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."
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)
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.
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
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
Oxtot at the Ordinary, 1975
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.
Earl Scheelar recalls playing with Oxtot bands at The Ordinary in downtown Oakland in the early 1970s:
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
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.
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.”
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)
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.
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)