Remembering Memorial Day Weekend Big Bands at Disneyland...

dcrigger

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I posted earlier today on my Facebook page about realizing that it was 50 years ago this weekend that I first saw the Don Ellis Band live at Disneyland ( A real "that's what I want to be when I grow up" moment for me).

Does anyone else have memories of seeing big bands at Disneyland? For a number of years, it was just a Memorial Day Weekend thing - where 4 or 5 national level bands would be playing all over the park each evening. In '69, besides Don's band, I remember the Count Basie and Harry James bands were also playing (there were probably others) - the year before I remember seeing the Stan Kenton band and I think, Duke Ellington.

IIRC, later this changed from a bunch of bands on Memorial Day - to having a different band play for a week each week throughout the summer. Like 13 weeks, 13 different bands. And back them the park was so inexpensive to go to - I think it was like $5-$6 to just go for the evening. What a godsend for parents of a young (minor) player dying to see these bands! For my parents to take me to a jazz club required going to the first set and having dinner - an expensive proposition at most clubs (the one's that even offered it that is). Where at Disneyland for like $30-40 - a family of four could go to park, eat a light dinner, see some great big band, then take in Pirates of the Caribbean before the park closed.

Obviously growing up in Orange County, I did that a lot - but inspiration of this walk down memory lane was this 50 year anniversary of that night in '69. Oh that band just slayed 13 year old me. :)
 

Topsy Turvy

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I really wish they had live bands around the park like they used to have. You can see a band play in New Orleans Square once in a while, but that's about it. I really miss it.

I also grew up in Southern California and I also remember seeing big bands playing around the park. I remember being in awe of how so many people could be playing "together" to create music. My parents were not musical people, so I would stand and watch the band play until they dragged me away.
 

bkny110

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DC, what struck me about your post was that I am your age and my moment of knowing I wanted to play drums was Santana at Woodstock and Michael Shrieve's amazing drum solo. Big bands were what my parents listened to. Two very different moments leading to the same result, a passion for drums. I am impressed by your obvious maturity at that age.
 

blikum

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Yes, I absolutely remember seeing the big bands at the Carnation Plaza at Disneyland. Saw Buddy play there twice. Sadly, I kind of took it for granted, I thought that it would always be like this. We would go to the park fairly often, it was just one of those things you did growing up in that area. On a semi relate note, I always wanted to play on the Tomorrorland Terrace stage that rises up out of the ground. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
 
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crash

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Grew up in Buena Park. Spent many an hour at Carnation Plaza listening to big bands. Buddy Rich many times. Don Ellis. Louis Bellson.
 

piccupstix

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Count me in. First time I saw BR he was playing on some stage in Tomorrowland (not the one that went up and down). After that it was always the Carnation Plaza. Also at the Plaza I saw Ellington, Harry James, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Stan Kenton, Freddie Hubbard...Strangely, I remember seeing Don Ellis on that Tomorrowland Terrace stage, also Lionel Hampton. I think I annoyed everybody I went with to Disneyland because I loved standing behind the Tomorrowland Terrace stage to watch the everyday drummers do their thing, the heck with the rides :)
 

ARGuy

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I had one shot at seeing the Don Ellis band here in Minnesota. The band was appearing at the local community college on the Wednesday before Palm Sunday that year - 1972, I think. That same night was a rehearsal for the Palm Sunday services at the church that our band director belonged to. Some of the brass players skipped the rehearsal without telling our band director to go see Don Ellis. I remember being surprised that they did that, but looking back on it, I'm not sure I blame them.
 

ChrisBabbitt

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My lifelong love for big bands and big band drumming began at age 12, when my dad took me to Disneyland to see Count Basie with Sonny Payne. He said, "You have to see this drummer." I sat there for three sets, and even went over and stood behind Sonny. Since then, I saw Harry James with BR, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Basie many times, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Bill Watrous, Xavier Cugat with Charo, and even Nelson Riddle and one of the rare times he fronted a band. Also, the smaller groups of Louis Armstrong, Teddy Buckner and Seawind. Eventually, I played on the Plaza Gardens Stage with the Ansell Hill Big Band. Here is a photo of the brochure from Memorial Day in 1970 and two photos of Buddy at Plaza Gardens in 1967. Buddy is playing Vox drums.
Disneyland01.jpg
Disneyland02.jpg
Disneyland03.jpg
 

dcrigger

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DC, what struck me about your post was that I am your age and my moment of knowing I wanted to play drums was Santana at Woodstock and Michael Shrieve's amazing drum solo. Big bands were what my parents listened to. Two very different moments leading to the same result, a passion for drums. I am impressed by your obvious maturity at that age.
Thanks - but not sure my "maturity" was all that obvious. :) It sounds like a may have gotten bitten by the "bug" a few years before you. And explaining what ends up "biting" a person seems quite the mystery. Though obviously exposure seems a part of it. I think I was blessed with having a mom and grandmother that just open to new music. So like with my Mom, she dug big bands - but her tastes were way more into Stan Kenton than say, Glen Miller. One of the earliest albums I remember having around the house - as I was just getting into The Beatles and the Dave Clark 5 was "Stan Kenton's West Side Story" (anyone who knows that record with Johnny Richard's absurdly intense and bombastic arrangements can only imagine the effect such music could have on an eight year old.) :) Grandma - then a member of the Columbia Record Club - always had new stuff... lots I could less about... like Jerry Vale, Streisand, etc... but The Ventures??? Well now you were talking. And comet think of it, the time I laid hands on a copy of "Meet The Beatles" was my grandmother's copy.

Anyway by that night 50 years ago, I had already been bitten - but seeing Don's band live that first time was a red later day as a young 12 year old musician. I remember it being my second Memorial Day festival... we missed Don's first set while catching Count Basie - then caught the second set and then Mom wanted to move on in order to see Harry James. And somehow or another I was able to convince her that "no, I really wanted stay for Don's second set and that the family should go ahead and see James. With me promising I would not move an inch from the chair I was sitting in until they returned." It was odd in that it wasn't the first time I'd been off on my own at Disneyland (I was 12) but it was just a big departure from how we normally did things.

Anyway - big night musically for me. I knew it at the time - and still remember it vividly today.
 

dcrigger

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Yes, I absolutely remember seeing the big bands at the Carnation Plaza at Disneyland. Saw Buddy play there twice. Sadly, I kind of took it for granted, I thought that it would always be like this. We would go to the park fairly often, it was just one of those things you did growing up in that area. On a semi relate note, I always wanted to play on the Tomorrorland Terrace stage that rises up out of the ground. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
Years later I subbed with a band playing on that stage - and all I can say is it was way cooler to see/imagine than to do. Basically the stage sits in a giant concrete round-ish elevator shaft with a small opening at the back of the stage. And if you recall, bands always start playing as they ascend. Which is LOUDER than anything you can imagine - like playing in a giant sewer pipe with both ends closed off. Plus it's a bit wobbly - which I never dig.
 

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Growing up I was exposed to big band jazz at a young age as my dad had a big band in Orange County. When I was big enough to lift the music book he'd bring me along to roadie.

I remember seeing Buddy's band, and Basie's band at Carnation Plaza with my dad. He, and most of the guys that were in his big band (Chris knows them all - he and my dad were close) also played in various bands at Disneyland. All union guys who all got paid and were incredibly talented. I miss those days and I miss hearing great big band music.
 

dcrigger

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Count me in. First time I saw BR he was playing on some stage in Tomorrowland (not the one that went up and down). After that it was always the Carnation Plaza. Also at the Plaza I saw Ellington, Harry James, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Stan Kenton, Freddie Hubbard...Strangely, I remember seeing Don Ellis on that Tomorrowland Terrace stage, also Lionel Hampton. I think I annoyed everybody I went with to Disneyland because I loved standing behind the Tomorrowland Terrace stage to watch the everyday drummers do their thing, the heck with the rides :)
Can totally relate to standing behind that stage watching whatever drummer that was playing from behind. In fact, early on, one of those drummers was my drum teacher. :)

I think you might have seen me with Ellis on the Tomorrowland Terrace stage - which I think would've been 1973? (we didn't go up and down - the band spilled too far off the stage.)
 

dcrigger

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Growing up I was exposed to big band jazz at a young age as my dad had a big band in Orange County. When I was big enough to lift the music book he'd bring me along to roadie.

I remember seeing Buddy's band, and Basie's band at Carnation Plaza with my dad. He, and most of the guys that were in his big band (Chris knows them all - he and my dad were close) also played in various bands at Disneyland. All union guys who all got paid and were incredibly talented. I miss those days and I miss hearing great big band music.
Paradiddle - can I ask your dad's name? PM me if you wish.
 

Paradiddle

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Bob Cassens. His band was The Orange County Rhythm Machine and Wind Ensemble.

I suspect I've seen you play before.
 

dcrigger

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Bob Cassens. His band was The Orange County Rhythm Machine and Wind Ensemble.

I suspect I've seen you play before.
Wow - I was wondering if that might be the case. Yes I did an extended stint with your dad's band in the early 70's. And played dozens of casuals with him and Gerry Schroeder as a trio. I'm sorry to say I haven't spoken with your dad in ages and ages. So please send him my best regards.
 

studrum

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This thread is way cool. You Disneyland guys (I guess I'll call you) were SO lucky to see so many great big bands and their drummers up so close. I can imagine how life-changing that must have been. I had no idea about this aspect of So. Cal culture.
 


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