Photo circa 1979 Paramount Theatre hallway.
Rear: Helen Simmen (B.M.), Bob McCall, Dick Cusack, M.C., Hank Sherman (Dir.), Leo McCann, (Capt.), George Catrambone, (drums),
Ed Walling, (drums), Betty Dahlhaus, (Uniforms/banjo).
3rd row: Craig Harvey, (sax), Sharon Heine, (sax), Frank Ratti, (sax), Jim Orsini, (sax), Wally Bertholf, (sax), Bob Cramer, (S. bass), Wes Peters, (S. bass),
John Jankowski, Sr. (Guitar), Marvin Truex, (Guitar), Carl Baron, (Drums), Helen Ingraham, (Bells)
2nd row: Jackie Schubert, (sax), Herb Porter, Mary Daly, (sax), John Schenone, (violin/asst director, music arranger)
Virginia Langendorf, (violin), Alice Wasson, (accordion) Alice Norton, (accordion) John Jankowski, Jr. (accordion).
Front row: L to R: Banjo's - Ed Dahlhaus, Chad Irons, Cliff Simmen, Jack Chamberlain, Stan Jones, Jeff Peckerman?
(If anyone is incorrectly identified please contact me for changes).
I had attended an exciting New Years Mummers parade and was standing at the curb as the bands went by playing and chanting and was so taken by the music and strutters. I thought, I want to do that... Shortly afterwards, The Happy Days String Band started circa 1976 with an ad in the Asbury Park Press classified section. About 4 or 5 people responded and we met in the Shark River Yacht club where I was a member. At the start we had a temp music teacher to lead the band, which didn’t work out so I was pressured into leading with 1-2-3 and that’s how we started. Some of the “Charter members were Virginia Langendorf, Art Ardolino, Cliff Simmen and Helen his wife who would later become our business manager. Fred Lehotay was playing alto sax and arranged a few songs for us to get started & myself. (There may have been a couple of other members that I cannot remember at the moment). Our first concert was at the Band shell in Bradley Beach (1976?) in late summer, according to Thomas Chew one of the charter members who was in high school at the time.
Meanwhile I was contacting every Mummers band I could for music and visiting them every chance I could. We started to purchase strutters uniforms from the mummers and some bought their own. More new members were starting to come in and many had played with the big bands. Later we moved to a larger room at the NJB telephone building across from the Jersey Shore hospital in Neptune and then to a smaller room in the same building. I had tried to get a room for rehearsals in the Neptune Municipal building but could not. Our Captain & MC, Don Irons was able some how to procure space for us at the Neptune Municipal building and we started meeting every Tuesday till I left the band in about 1982/3. Dick Cusack took over for Don as MC later on.
During this time I was able to procure a Ford van from the NJB telephone company for one dollar. Cliff Simmen and I went to Pleasantville to pick up the vehicle. Later I modified the vehicle, for a third seat, PA, rear exterior and interior lights and oxygen, if needed and a rack holder for the strutters back pieces. We had it painted blue. John Jankowski, our guitar player offered to paint the sides of the van with our new logo. I had no idea what he would do or what it would look like. Later, I went over to see it at his home. He was not around but the van was parked in the driveway so I went to look at it and WOW! Was I surprised at what he had done. It was an exact likeness of our new logo. The artwork was large enough to cover both sides of the van. Also front and back. Virginia took the van home and was the driver for the jobs we did for years. John also painted 4 circular signs about 48 inches in diameter that members of the band posted at each entrance/exit to Neptune with the HDSB name & emblem. They stayed for years. In the photo Cliff Simmen and another member are installing one of them. We advertised everywhere. Radio, TV stations and newspapers; then, ads in the papers were free to NP organizations. We also made a TV video tape of the band that was played on on a local TV channel.
The band was created as a Non-Profit Corporation, out of Delaware, as it was faster and a lot more reasonable than NJ and members were recruited to form a board along with Treasurer and Business manager. John Schenone did some of the arrangements for us but a lot was from other bands such as Quaker, Broomall, Polish American, and from Jay D. Brower, a local arranger who did parts for us, gratis, and provided background for the vocals. Some Mummers music I got from Ray Mallach who wrote & still writes much of the Mummers music for the bands in Philly. His arrangements were & are terrific. Beer Barrel Polka (from Polish American) is one that we still play now. Our first band stands were made of cardboard from a local box factory. I bought one commercial cardboard music band stand and copied it, cut it out, painted it, took a photo of some letters I saw and projected them onto the front of the stands and painted them on and sprinkled them with golden glitter. That was done to save money as we did not bring anything in till we had a decent amount of players. We played a couple of jobs for about $25.00 a job just to get out in front of the people. The first few ads were out of pocket also to get members. Bob Paddock used to fill his van up with players each week to bring them to each rehearsal from Atlantic Highlands to Neptune. A couple of saxes, Jackie and Mary, a trombonist, Carl, a String Bass, and his son on drums, once in a while, and many others. Bob was a good member, humorous and dependable. He played a terrific alto sax. Bob passed away recently in about 2011..
Somewhere in all this, we purchased the gold jackets and blue pants with gold stripes and our blue vests.
Joe Moran was our first Strutter & his wife Marie was a helper.
Leo McCann was our first Capt.
We made one recording in Sound Arts Studio in Wanamassa called "Happiness in Music". Today I am surprised by the great sound. It was really good for a new band. The band was recorded on 9 tape tracks and in edit was blended together. The glock and drums were put into a separate room with the doors shut so as to not overpower the rest of the band and we communicated with the use of a mike and headphones. I wish now we had adjusted the banjos and glock a bit louder.
Our motto "Happiness in Music", was from a lot of looking and searching in music books till I found something that would go with our type of music. We had a contest within the band for a logo and one of the members (I believe Carl Baron) came up with the basic idea that I took to a Belmar art shop where they refined it and made our logo and large decals for the front of the band stands. We purchased commercial stands later and had boxes made to hold them and they are still being used today.
The band consisted of saxes including Bari's and a Bass, (Had trouble getting players for the bass sax), bass guitar, banjos, plectrum and tenor, accordions and a violinist who was still with the band 28 years later and retired about 2010, and complete drum set. We also had a glockenspiel. At our best we had 50 plus members with at least 20, at rehearsals. Most of the melody music was written in C, F, G, Bb, Eb. Biggest problem with the band was keeping the tempo down & getting the banjos to strum together. The band tended to go faster and on some melodies the harmony would get lost if you speeded it up. We had all ages of members, male and female. Photo of Chad Irons and Cliff Simmen playing a duet. Chad's father Don was ourM.C. >>>
We rented busses for some jobs like Atlantic city and Beach Haven and would stop for dinner somewhere along the way. We did very well (for that time) with donations for the jobs with 20-25 members. (NP = non-paid members). We played in all the local Malls like East Brunswick, Ocean, Seaview, Monmouth, Manalapan and on the boardwalks and Parks. (Spring Lake by the water was a regular). We also played in the Ocean Grove auditorium and Howard Johnson's on the boardwalk next to the Convention Hall. And most of the local Fairs, Trenton, Wall, Freehold, and many Senior Citizens Retirement Homes. We would play at a block party each year near one of the members homes. We were also sponsored by "The Chubb group" for several jobs. Bob Pollock was our first manager till Helen Simmen took over and she really did an outstanding job getting the jobs and taking care of the business side for the band. Bob had to bow out due to job commitments so I asked Helen if she would consider taking on the business manager position (before the board started) and she said she had no experience, where to start, etc but agreed, Boy! Did she ever take off with the band. We had in 1 year, over 50 jobs... and the band stayed together too, for all those jobs. I would call most members to see if they were coming before a job so I could figure what songs we could do. No accordions meant we could not do "Small World" or "Beer Barrel Polka", for instance. Accordions played the counter melody and parts. Ky Reed, a friend, from Salaam Temple Shriners came down once and led us in drilling.... We did not parade and only had male strutters.... and that, has since changed.
Some money from jobs would go for scholarships for younger band members. We awarded them about a thousand dollars which helped to attract them into the band. We had many younger band members and their parents would transport them to rehearsals and jobs and help within the band also. The parents would help with refreshments at rehearsals and the uniforms & misc. on jobs.
After I left the band there were several Directors, Mike Bresner, John Schenone, Russ Coyne, and presently Bernie Miles.
Some members in the 70/80’s were Sax: John Schenone, Ed Dahlhaus, Fred Lehotay (Alto), Ellen Perry, Mike Sajor III, Sandy Wooley, Frank Ratti, Craig Harvey, Herb Porter, Mary Daly, Jerry Kamber, Robert Wilson, Art Combs, Bob Paddock, Bob Clausing, Sharon Heine, Jim Orsini, Jackie Schubert, Wally ??? & John Williams (Bari) . Banjos were: Cliff Simmen, Art Ardolino, Jack Chamberlain, Chad Irons, John Jankowski, Vince Zarati, Stan Jones, Jeff Peckerman & Gary Porter and his son. Accordions were: Claire Burgstaker, Dick Houtman, Walt Stepien, Joan Harar, Alice Wasson & Alice Norton. Bass were Lee Jamison, Chuck Hull, Pat Sciarappa, Howard Hammer and Wes Peters. Glock was Barbara Mead, Helen Graham and Mary Lynn Wasson. Drums: Tom Gallagher, Carl Baron, George Catrambone & Ed Walling, Guitars: John Jankowski Sr., & Jr. & Marvin Truex. We had an accordionist who sang for the band named Joan Harar. And many others.
Our Band phone was HDSB or 775-HDSB or 4372 & was listed in the Yellow pages as of 1980.
1st Officers were:
Director: Hank Sherman
Bus mgr: Helen Simmen
Treasurer: John Jankowski, Sr.
Captain: Leo McCann/ Don Irons earlier.
Trustees: Cliff Simmen, Marvin Truex & Leo McCann. We had a legal advisor: James E. Heine
We used radio stations for ads: WADB, WOBM, WJLK, WRLB & WHTG.
Strutters I remember were Joe Moran, Leo McCann & Don Irons.
Please consider coming out of retirement, if not for playing with the band, then simply to show your support for this hobby we all love. Stop by your old rehearsal hall next week, Wednesdays, 7:30 PM @ The Shark River Firehouse on Brighton Ave, Neptune and tell them Hank sent you.
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For HDSB contact information call Bernie @ 732-233-2230
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