The Retrobates - West Coast Swing

Swing Band from Larkspur, CA - Will travel up to 100 miles
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$350 - $1000 per hour
Country Fairs, TV and radio appearances, weddings and wine tastings, Folk Festivals from Seattle to San Diego, California State Fair, Street Fairs, joints ranging from the Fairmont and St. Francis Hotels to the South-of-Market skuzz bars and everything in between.

Description: [roots-based] West Coast Swing, Barnyard Boogie, Juke Joint Jump, Rockabilly and Roadhouse Swing, with 5-part harmony, twin guitars, pedal steel, trumpet, tenor sax, standup bass, drums, and twin fiddles. The LSRs draw from Bob Wills, and from Louis Jordan to Johnny Mercer, from Ella to Ella Maeā€”from Billy Jack to the Great American Songbook.

There is really no difference between what we do and a "regular" swing band, except for the slide guitar. All the other instruments, as well as most of our repertoire, is straight out of the jazz book. We have all played in swing bands, and indeed most of us currently play in other swing band configurations ranging from gypsy-style Django Reinhardt bands to big bands. Our trumpet and sax player and I play regularly with the 17-piece Ray Simpson Big Band. I was for many years in a jump-vocal Mills Brothers style group called On the Air, and other current Retrobates have played with the likes of Freddie Martin, Alvino Rey, Tex Beneke (Glenn Miller's bandleader), and Louis Bellson. Our tenor sax man toured with Ray Price and has played for many name acts such as Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Steve Allen.

Even in the heyday of dance band jazz, the players regularly cross-pollinated between the Hollywood Western Swing bands and the Big Bands, especially in California. One friend of mine played with the Spade Cooley western outfit in L.A. as well as with Benny Goodman.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is little rhythmic difference between a Ray Price shuffle and a Louis Prima shuffle, except for the [steel guitar and] cowboy boots. Even the term "country and western" was a ham-handed attempt by record companies in the 1940s to upgrade Southern "hillbilly" music by lumping it together in the record bins with the hugely popular big band western swing dance music that was packing the kids into the Santa Monica Ballroom. The Nashville bands of the day even tried to eschew the cornpone image of southern music by wearing Hollywood cowboy outfits. When Rhythm and Blues morphed into Rock n Roll and and sucked all the oxygen out of the ballroom, the big bands on both coasts lost their youth bases and went dormant until the West Coast Swing/Rhythm/Rockabilly retro revivals came along-- which were really swing dance revivals. All this time the hillbilly or mainstream country outfits kept their cowboy outfits, even though it was the southwest and west coast bands that originally adopted them--after experimenting with suits and ties like other jazzmen of the day. It's an ironic twist of history that when this music sprang up in the thirties, the southwestern swing bands were dressing in suits and ties, and took up the western look like Hollywood props to sell their product.

This has all resulted in a lot of confusion, and until people hear what we do they might understandably think our western garb means "hillbilly" or "country and western." It is a problem of perception that we really have not figured out how to approach. I sometimes think we should just get pictures taken in tuxes ("From Texas to Tuxes") or retro-style zooty outfits and just market ourselves to the Wineries and jazz festivals as a straight ahead swing dance band. Since we've already been thinking along these lines, we'd certainly have no problem with de-emphasizing the western look for your event.

And speaking of rhythm, our drummer has played with Lowell Fulsom, the Coasters, Jimmy Witherspoon and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Rhythm and Blues is just another branch of jazz.

Jazz has roots that go out in all directions, and I think that the reason we have such a good following is the wide variety of material we draw on. As long as a song is interesting to us and above all danceable, we will consider doing it. There really isn't any other band around that swings as wide as we do-- and very few that swing as hard.
End of the Line
Johnny Gimble
Bei Meir Bis du Schoen
Andrews Sisters
Boogie Blues
Anita O'Day / Gene Krupa Orch.
Miles of Texas
Asleep at the Wheel
New Orleans
Billy Holiday
Bottle Baby Boogie
Billy Jack Wills
Faded Love
Bob & BIlly Jack Wills
Corrina Corrina
Bob Wills
Hang Your Head in Shame
Bob Wills
Maiden's Prayer
Bob Wills
Jazz Band
Swing Band
Variety Band
Americana Band
40s Band
Wedding Band
Baby Showers
Bar Mitzvahs
Happy Hours
Bachelorette Parties
Bat Mitzvahs
Bridal Showers
Bachelor Parties
Halloween Parties
Birthday Parties (Kids)
Birthday Parties (Adult)
First Communions
Luau Parties
Wedding Ceremonies
Wedding Receptions
Engagement Parties
Family Reunions
Rehearsal Dinners
Please note The Retrobates - West Coast Swing will also travel to Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, San Quentin, San Rafael, Tamal, Fairfax, Kentfield, Sausalito, Tiburon, Stinson Beach, Woodacre, Bolinas, Novato, Richmond, San Geronimo, Forest Knolls, San Francisco.
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