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Writing and Essays


Banjo and cornet player, bandleader and singer Dick Oxtot was at the center of revival jazz in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than a half century.  

Dick worked with almost all the significant revival jazz musicians in the area, including Bob Mielke’s Bearcats and innumerable jazz bands, jam sessions, parties, and musical events.

For decades Dick Oxtot’s Golden Age Jazz Band was heard at Northern California venues and regularly in Point Richmond, CA.

Great thanks to Dick’s widow Darylene Oxtot for making available his remarkable personal archive of tapes, photos, clippings and ephemera, which she has
preserved and organized.

b. 3.04.1918 Beaufort, South Carolina –
d. Albany, CA 12.17.2001

Oxtot enjoyed wide popularity for nearly a half-century in the Bay area. 
Prematurely grey in his twenties, he picked up a few informal monikers: The Old Polecat, The Grey Fox, Uncle Dick Oxtot. 

A very popular singer, he was a mainstay in Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, and kept rock steady time in any rhythm section. 

Starting around 1968 Oxtot worked with
Bob Mielke in the Swingin’ A’s Oakland baseball team jazz band for two-and-a-half decades.

Photo: This is one of the most dynamic images of Oxtot, singing with the Bearcats at Reno's Club, Oakland, CA.  
Oxtot and Mielke collections

Early Years and Playing Cornet

During his early years in music, c. 1940-55, Oxtot played cornet.  He had a stint outside the Bay Area for a couple years with the notable Dixieland Rhythm Kings, c. 1950.  After that he played cornet and partnered with piano player K.O. Eckland running a band in the Bay Area called The Polecats, in some ways a precursor to Mielke’s Bearcats.

Thereafter, “Polecats” was a band-name Oxtot used throughout the 1950s.  To some degree the personnel overlapped with the Bearcats, the band-title and lineup depending upon whether it was Mielke or Oxtot who got the gig.


This session recorded at Burp Hollow is typical of Oxtot's stomping little quartet with Ted Butterman and Bunky Coleman 'trading fours.'

Ted Butterman (cornet)
Bunky Coleman (clarinet)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Peter Allen (string bass)

Make Me a Pallet.mp3
Bully of the Town.mp3 (vocal Oxtot)
China Boy.mp3 (inc at 5:33)
Since My Best Gal Turned me Down.mp3
Oxtot collection

A Musician of Diverse Skills

In the 1950s Oxtot’s cornet playing was limited, and eventually curtailed by a case of hepatitis and ongoing discomfort from a childhood finger injury.  And he was having a hard time finding good rhythm-instrument players at the time.  So he switched to banjo in the early 1950s, though he did occasionally blow horn as late as the mid-‘60s.

Dick actually played several instruments including piano, guitar, banjola (4-string wooden banjo), washboard and harmonica, though rarely in public. 

On rare occasions Oxtot played string bass, tuba (seen left), or e-flat alto horn in performance.

Oxtot collection.


George Lewis, P.T. Stanton, Dick Oxtot
Jenny Lind Hall, 1956-57

George Lewis (clarinet)
P.T. Stanton (cornet)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Lelieas Sharpton (string bass)
Barbara Dane (vocals)

Good Morning Blues.mp3 vocal Barbara Dane
The Glory Of Love.mp3 vocal Barbara Dane
Should I?.mp3
Mecca Flat Blues.mp3
Till We Meet Again.mp3

Dick worked quite a bit with Earl Scheelar; after 1965 he was a regular at the parties and sessions in the rumpus room above Earl’s VW repair garage.  Oxtot and bassist Peter Allen were regulars at Scheelar’s jams and music parties throughout the late ‘60s; both were regulars in Earl’s New Orleans House band.  In the 1970s, Oxtot and Allen were Scheelar’s preferred rhythm section for the Funky New Orleans Jazz Band.

Earl Scheelar's Funky New Orleans Jazz Band, c. 1972

L to R:
Pete Allen, Bill Bardin, Dick Oxtot, Earl Scheelar, Don Marchant, Bob Helm

Thanks to Earl Scheelar.

Oxtot playing string bass with the Harbor Lights Orchestra.

Harbor Lights Bandleader,
Peter Allen, center.

Oxtot collection


Give Me Some More, featuring Bob Helm
Original issue 1972

Earl Scheelar (cornet, leader)
Bob Helm (reeds)
Bill Bardin (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals)
Peter Allen (string bass, vocals)
Don Marchant (drums)

Ain’t Nobody Got the Blues Like Me.mp3 vocal and composition by Oxtot
My Lovin’ Imogene.mp3 vocal and composition by Oxtot
Ooh! Looka There, Ain’t She Pretty.mp3 vocal duet Pete Allen and Dick Oxtot
Lady Love.mp3
Make Me a Pallet on the Floor.mp3
My Josephine.mp3


Dick Oxtot
Birthday 1965,
probably Earl Scheelar's rumpus room

P.T. Stanton (cornet)
John Smith (soprano)
Earl Scheelar (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Peter Allen (string bass) or Walter Yost (tuba)
Bill Dart (drums)

My Lovin' Imogene.mp3 vocal Oxtot

Bully of the Town.mp3 vocal Oxtot

Walkin' with the King.mp3 vocal Oxtot

Joseph, Joseph.mp3

Pastel Blue.mp3

“Polecats” personnel at the Rajax, c. 1952:

L to R:
Burt Bales, Vince Cattolica, Dick Oxtot, Bill Dart, Jerry Butzen

Oxtot collection

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.

New 6.2015


Dick Oxtot Birthday & jam session
Winter 1978

PT Stanton (cornet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Pete Allen (string bass)

In places washboard, piano or a second trumpet or trombone player joined in.

Photo (right) is a similar lineup, but with clarinet, probably from the late 1970s. 
Oxtot collection.

This was a rough and ready jam session without clarinet or reed, location unknown.  In places a second horn (possibly Jim Goodwin), washboard, or a piano player may join in.  This historic music was recovered from a cassette in poor condition and is in places incomplete or interrupted.

This session is proof once again that the Bearcats often played better, hotter and looser, during after-hours or when playing for themselves.

Move_the_Body_Over.mp3 (group vocal, add washboard) 5:57
Buddy_Bolden_Blues.mp3  (vocal by PT Stanton, add washboard) 8:43
They Say Si, Si.mp3  7:10
Red_River_Valley.mp3 3:20
Old_Spinning _Wheel.mp3 6:49
Mielke collection

Dick Oxtot's Golden Age Jazz Band
Find more at: Golden Age Jazz Band

For three decades Oxtot ran his Golden Age Jazz Band, the slogan on his business card and letterhead: “Vintage music with style.”  He was noted for often featuring female singers and instrumentalists.  Dick became famous for finding, introducing, and featuring a succession of younger women who sang in his bands: Barbara Dane, Janis Joplin, Terry Garthwaite, Laurie Lewis, among others.

Over the years Golden Age included trumpet players Jim Goodwin, Bob Neighbor, and Jack Minger, reed players Bill Napier, Bob Helm and Jim Rothermill, trombonists Bill Bardin and Bob Mielke (seen together, below), Pete Allen (string bass), Walter Yost (tuba), and pianist Ray Skjelbred.

Dick Oxtot's Golden Age Jazz Band
probably 1970s

L to R:
Bill Bardin, Bob Mielke, Dick Oxtot,
Jim Goodwin,
Jim Cummings,
Bill Napier

Oxtot collection

Richard Hadlock recalls Oxtot:

"He had the drive of a leader, with the help of his wife to keep him well focused.  He had the assertiveness for being a leader.

He had a rock-solid beat that didn’t vary.  You could walk on it, you could rely on it, you could know that it was going to be the same at the end of the tune as it was at the beginning.  That’s worth a lot.  And with Pete Allen on bass they made just a wonderful combination.

When I worked a lot with Oxtot out at The Point, and before that at Hotel Mac . . .  I didn’t like some sides of him: he was a fanatic fan of Lucky Lindy.  Everything to do with Lindberg, and airplanes of the Twenties and bi-planes.  So when he recorded “Lindberg, Eagle of the USA,” or “Lucky Lindy,” and he’d call those.  And I’d say, 'C’mon, Dick, you can call something better.'

'Well, that’s what made me famous, that’s my big number!' and he’d get really defensive about it.  You know he could play a Trad Jazz tune very well, but he had this desire to be a cross-over into the pop world.  And he thought he could do that."

Lucky, Lucky Lindberg, Eagle of the USA.mp3 Mielke's Bearcats mid-1950s, vocal Oxtot

'And it got bizarre at times, ‘cause he’d have crazy singers out to build their little world.  And if you were caught in the middle as a sideman it wasn’t very comfortable.'

Hadlock recalls Oxtot:

Downside of Oxtot_Hadlock.mp3

He had the drive of a leader and a rock-solid beat_Hadlock.mp3

Tunesmith and Singer

Oxtot was a decent tunesmith who penned a couple of songs that enjoyed minor success.  The delightful, Twenties-styled, “My Lovin’ Imogene” and the convincing blues, “Ain’t Nobody Got the Blues Like Me” were successfully performed and recorded by Dick and his contemporaries.

My Lovin’ Imogene.mp3 Oxtot birthday 1965, P.T. Stanton, E. Scheelar, B. Mielke, B. Erickson, P. Allen, Oxtot banjo and vocal

Oxtot was an excellent singer.  While his delivery was not flashy, he had a special talent for selling a song, and was one of the best vocalists of the jazz revival, with a wide-ranging repertoire:

Ain’t Nobody Got the Blues Like Me.mp3 Earl Scheelar's Funky New Orleans Jazz Band, 1972, vocal Oxtot

I’m Satisfied with my Gal.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats
My Baby Don’t Mean Maybe Now.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats

A big enthusiast of 1920s pop music, Dick loved songs about ‘Lucky Lindberg,’ and the kind of varsity cheer typified by his “My Lovin’ Imogene.”  He often managed to bring a salacious leer to otherwise innocent Twenties collegiate fare:

Yes, Sir, That’s my Baby.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats
Lucky Lucky Lindberg, Eagle of the USA.mp3 Bob Mielke's Bearcats, mid-1950s

Oxtot ventured into other music genres, and worked with a range of ensembles in Folk, Western Swing and Old Timey string band styles.  Among his most popular jazz vocals were tunes adapted from the Country and rural string band traditions: 

“Bully of the Town” Oxtot birthday 1965, Earl’s rumpus room
“Corrine, Corrina” Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Larks Club, c. 1955

The Vocal Stylings of Dick Oxtot
Oxtot was a very good singer in several contrasting traditions.
Here is a collection of notable examples in various genres, some unexpected.

Folk and Country:
Born and raised a Southern country boy, Dick retained a lifelong love for rural American music forms.
The Lonesome Traveler.mp3 vocal and piano
Mountain Dew.mp3 vocal and banjo

Jazz and Blues:
Mamie's Blues.mp3 vocal and solo piano
Corrine, Corrina.mp3 (Bearcats, 1955)
Creole Song.mp3 (Bearcats, 1954)
Take Your Tomorrows.mp3 (Dick Oxtot's Stompers: Butterman, Goudie, Bardin, Oxtot, Allen c. 1958)
There's Yes, Yes in Your Eyes.mp3 (Bearcats 1955)
Lucky, Lucky Lindberg, Eagle of the USA.mp3 (Bearcats, late-1950s)
That Certain Party.mp3 (Waterfront Jazz Society, aka Bearcats, 1959 broadcast, Pier 23)
There'll Be Some Changes Made.mp3 (Bob Jackson, Earl Scheelar, Mielke, Oxtot, Yost, 9/65)

Auntie Oxtot's Intermission: Butterman.mp3

With Bob Mielke's Bearcats


Dick Oxtot was engaged with Bob Mielke's Bearcats, its mileu, and related personnel from their auspicious debut in 1954 at Tin Angel until the end of his life.  He was integral to the band at the start, part of the nucleus that grew into Bob Mielke’s Bearcats from its earliest days: jam sessions at a San Pablo club and the Oxtot home in Berkeley.  The band quickly evolved into a tightly knit ensemble of exceptional talents.

Bob Mielke's Bearcats

Saturday Night Function.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Sail ‘N, 1958

Shout ‘em Aunt Tillie.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Sail ‘N, 1958

River Jordan.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, vocal by Barbara Dane, Lark’s Club, c. 1955

Oxtot collection

The Lark's Club

It was at the Lark’s Club in Berkeley where the Bearcats developed their sound and following.  Owned by Bill Nelson, a former trombone player in the Jimmy Lunceford orchestra, it had an integrated clientele; about half were African-American.  Their first steady gig, Lark’s Club nurtured the Bearcats, and seasoned their chops during 1954-55:
Milenberg Joys.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Larks club, c. 1955
Ice Cream.mp3 Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Jenny Lind Hall, 1954

The basic Bearcats lineup was P.T. Stanton (cornet), Bob Mielke (trombone), Bunky Coleman (clarinet), Dick Oxtot (banjo and vocals), Pete Allen (bass), and Don Marchant (drums).  Additions and substitutes included singer Barbara Dane, clarinet players Bill Napier, Ellis Horne and Frank "Big Boy" Goudie, and drummer Don Fay.  When Mielke could not attend Bill Bardin stood in on trombone.  The core group did not include piano, and they didn’t use one at the Lark’s Club, but when a piano player was needed for a gig Bill Erickson or Burt Bales got the call.

High spirits at the
Lark’s Club are apparent in the recordings.  The musicians were having so much fun that according to Oxtot’s memoir:

 “I hardly ever took a night off.  The job was too much fun!  Soon the regular jazz fans began showing up regularly, and they seemed to appreciate the repertoire of the Bearcats, which included numerous tunes not performed by other traditional bands."
L to R: Mielke, Oxtot, Napier, Allen, Stanton

For more live jazz with Oxtot visit:

Berkeley Jazz house
Burp Hollow tapes
Monkey Inn tapes
Pier 23 tapes
The Bagatelle



Oxtot sings at the Lark's Club:

Yes Sir That's My Baby.mp3 (4:43)
My Lovin’ Imogene.mp3 composition by Dick Oxtot
Corrine, Corrina.mp3 (3:19)
That’s my Weakness Now.mp3 3:15
Ain’t Nobody Gotthe Blues Like Me.mp3 5:12
Motherless Chlld.mp3 4:45
Ace in the Hole.mp3 3:11
Yes, We Have no Bananas.mp3 3:34
Sweet Papa Willy.mp3 4:17
Yes Yes in Your Eyes.mp3 (3:37)
Basin Street Blues.mp3 5:36
Sweet Georgia Brown.mp3 (4:57)


Bob Mielke's Bearcats
at the
Lark's Club

Creole Song.mp3 vocal Dick Oxtot

Sweet Georgia Brown.mp3 vocal Oxtot


My Lovin’ Imogene.mp3 vocal Oxtot

Tiger Rag.mp3


Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Visalia, CA, c. 1959

P.T. Stanton (cornet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet
Bob Mielke (trombone, vocal)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
possibly Burt Bales (piano)
Drums - unknown
Bass - unknown

Photo: Bearcats in Visalia at an earlier date with Bunky on clarinet.

Mr. Sandman (3:45)
The Saints (5:09)
Basin Street Blues (3:45) poor balance, vocal by Goudie
Blues (6:33)
When You’re Smiling (4:50) incomplete at start and finish
Them There Eyes (6:11)

Thanks to Dave Greer.

Young Oxtot
and Yerba Buena Jazz Band

Oxtot was among the second-wave of San Francisco Bay Area jazz revival musicians who were inspired by Lu Watters and Yerba Buena.  Dick spent many nights at the Dawn Club on Annie Street and was friends with Watters, Turk Murphy, Bob Helm, and Bill Dart.  An aspiring jazz cornet player he was tutored in the youth band they sponsored during the early 1940s.

The Gold Coast Stompers were the result of instructional Sunday afternoon sessions run by Bob Helm and Burt Bales, c. 1942-43 for aspiring musicians like Oxtot, Bob Mielke and Bill Napier.  And in Oxtot’s memoir he recalls that a good female, Waller-style piano player named Strickland was part of the group.  He was thrilled when they were once joined by Bunk Johnson, the recently rediscovered New Orleans trumpet player.

After World War Two in 1947, Oxtot loaned Turk Murphy his $1300 stake in the co-operative enterprise that built, owned and ran Hambone Kelly’s in the East Bay.  The debt repaid years later by Watters.  Meanwhile Dick collected his interest by hanging around after hours at Hambone’s, getting to know Lu’s pet parrot, and he once sat-in with the band.

A Full Time Professional Musician

Despite all the fun, Oxtot was one of only a handful of full-time professional musicians among the jazz revival crew.  He did occasionally need a day job, working as a US Postal deliveryman for a couple years in the late 1960s.  But Dick was continually either finding music jobs of his own or being hired by others.  

Oxtot employed, or was engaged by, almost every other member of the Bearcats at one time or another.  Between Bob Mielke’s Bearcats, Golden Age Jazz Band, the Swingin’ A’s baseball band, and miscellaneous gigs, Dick Oxtot managed a full-time career as a professional musician for most his life.

Polecats on the Peninsula

Oxtot’s eagerness for gigs took him to the communities of the San Francisco peninsula.  One of his “Polecats” bands had a successful run at Rajax in Millbrae, c. 1952. 

Oxtot Collection

The Polecats band at Rajax consisted of
Burt Bales (piano), Vince Cattolica (clarinet), Jerry Butzen (trombone), and Bill Dart (drums), c. 1952.

Oxtot collection.

The very public Wedding of Darylene and Dick Oxtot was covered by the Berkeley Daily Gazette.

Crossed horns were awaiting the newlyweds as they left.  The Oxtots then began an auto cavalcade through the Civic Center. 

The musicians were seated -- and standing -- in the second car, a convertible, and serenaded the area with "High Society" and "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."  Dixieland jazz flowed freely at the Haste Street reception for several hours.

The caption: . . . As the joyous couple leaves the Berkeley Hall of Justice.  Bandsmen are, left to right, Bill Erickson, Lee Sharpton, Jerry Butzen and Walt Yost.


Dick Oxtot’s Stompers
at The Bagatelle,
c. 1958-59

Ted Butterman (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bill Bardin (trombone)
Pete Allen (string bass)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)

Say Si, Si.mp3
St. Louis Blues.mp3
Should I?.mp3 (dropouts)
Bugle Call Rag_B.mp3
Take Your Tomorrows.mp3

Oxtot tape of acetates from Oxtot collection

Photo: Goudie and Oxtot
broadcast from Pier 23, 1959

Oxtot with Goudie, Erickson, Mielke and associates


The Black Egg was a bar in San Mateo where some of the East Bay revival musicians played briefly.  Probably an Oxtot gig, he mentions this obscure bar in his memoir. 

All the musicians sound very good on this session especially Frank Goudie, though Oxtot’s one vocal is off mic.  In a notable tribute to the origins of the West Coast jazz revival movement, the group closed with the Yerba Buena theme, “Friendless Blues.”

Goudie with Oxtot and Erickson broadcasting from
Pier 23 in 1959.

Oxtot collection

P.T. Stanton (cornet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bill Bardin (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo and vocal)
Pearl Zohn (piano)

Bill Bailey.mp3 (4:06)
Blues.mp3 (7:01)
I Want a Little Girl.mp3 (3:17)
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.mp3 (3:51)
When You and I Were Young, Maggie.mp3 (5:16)
Milenberg Joys.mp3 (5:56)
The Saints.mp3 (4:03)
See See Rider.mp3 (4:28)
Tiger Rag.mp3 (6:34)
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.mp3 (4:02)
Friendless Blues theme.mp3 (3:43)
Thanks to Dave Greer.


NODS BAR, April 6, 1960, Berkeley, CA

Byron Berry (trumpet)
Frank Goudie (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Brett Runkle (washboard)

Milenberg Joys.mp3
Weary Blues.mp3
Do You Ever Think of Me.mp3
Walkin' with the King.mp3
Shake That Thing.mp3
More music from Nods Bar, here.

Frank Goudie with Oxtot and the Bearcats at an East Bay dance hall called Pioneer Village,
c. 1958

L to R:
Goudie, Mielke,
P.T. Stanton,
Allen, Oxtot. 

Pioneer Village,
East Bay, c. 1958.

Recovered contact print

Bob Mielke collection


Ronnei, Horne, Bardin, Oxtot, Girsback sesssion San Francisco, 1959

A copy of this tape first came to me many years ago mislabeled “Oxtot, Goudie, Girsback, 1959.”  But I’ve recently discovered that the clarinet player was NOT Frank Goudie as previously noted, but Ellis Horne.  The trombonist is Jim Leigh not Bill Bardin. 

Ray Ronnei (cornet)
Ellis Horne (clarinet
Jim Leigh (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (guitar)
Squire Girsback (string bass
Carol Leigh (washboard)

Savoy Blues (rough start)
Just A Little While to Stay
Do What Ory Say A
"Do What Ory Say B"
Panama (improves after Horne solo)
Alexander’s Ragtime Band

Thanks to Dave Greer


Burp Hollow was a popular jazz bar at 487 Broadway in San Francisco for a few years around 1960.  Dick Oxtot fronted bands there with various line-ups often including  Erickson, Mielke and others. 

This rare 1959 tape from Burp Hollow is a remarkable manifestation of East Bay revival-jazz players. 

Napier sounds terrific and gets the most solo time, switching occasionally to bass clarinet (visible, right)

Drummer Max Leavitt worked with Erickson, though he was not part of this coterie.

Bill Erickson (trumpet)
Bill Napier (clarinet)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo, vocals)
Peter Allen (string bass)
Max Leavitt (drums)

Mamies Blues.mp3 vocal Oxtot
Back in Your Own Back Yard.mp3
Blues at the Hollow.mp3 unknown vocalist
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.mp3 bass clarinet solo, Napier
Beale St. Blues.mp3
You Can’t Shush Katie.mp3
Song of the Islands.mp3
Darktown Strutter's Ball.mp3
Don't You Leave Me Here.mp3 vocal unknown, good blues trumpet by Erickson
1919 March.mp3
L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-I-A.mp3 vocal Oxtot
Yes, Yes in your Eyes.mp3 vocal Oxtot
Buddy Bolden Blues.mp3
Love Nest.mp3
Original Dixieland One-Step.mp3
Wabash Blues.mp3 featuring Dick Oxtot, banjo
Bugle Boy March.mp3
Tiger Rag.mp3 (incomplete at end)

Thanks to recordist Dave Greer.

Dick Oxtot Dwight Way session

The Oxtot's Dwight Way home was one of several so-called "Jazz houses" in Berkeley where East Bay musicians partied and jammed.  This tape is contemporaneous with Oxtot's Janis Joplin sessions, and in fact is taken from a reel containing her tracks. 

This tape from Oxtot's personal collection was only labeled Dwight Way, and lacked documentation.  Personnel was fluid in Dick Oxtot's bands and is an educated guess for session #1.  However, the presence of Goudie, Leigh and Erickson is confirmed.

Dwight Way session #1
Unknown (cornet)
Earl Scheelar or Bill Napier (clarinet)
Jim Leigh (trombone)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
Bill Erickson (piano)
Walter Yost (tuba) or
Unknown string bass, possibly Pete Allen

The Gold Digger’s Song (We’re in the Money).mp3 5:46
       (trombone out, Napier clarinet?)
Should I Reveal?.mp3 6:04
       (Walt Yost, tuba, Scheelar clarinet?)

Janis Joplin-Dick Oxtot sessions

Janis Joplin was taped in 1963 & '65 with Dick Oxtot jazz bands in the San Francisco area, years before her Rock career.

Oxtot had a unique talent for spotting and hiring good female singers.  As with Joplin, they were often diamonds in the rough, recruited from the Folk music scene, or destined for success in other genres.

After Joplin’s death a tribute album was issued in 1975 containing some of her early folk and blues music.  Selling over a million copies, Janis, Columbia PG 33345, went gold.  The double album included tracks acquired from the Dick Oxtot sessions, but most of the horn solos were edited out.

I’ve recently acquired a copy of Oxtot’s own tape of the sessions that is more complete.  Containing better sound, unedited takes, and unissued tunes, it clarifies details of the sessions and personnel.  
Hear the tapes and read Oxtot's recollection.

Golden Age Jazz Band and related ensembles, 1970s-80s
More exclusive Golden Age music

Oxtot women

A partial list of female performers who played music with Dick Oxtot:

Rita Black
Barbara Dane
Terry Garthwaite
Piper Heisig
Barbara Higbie  (vocal and piano)
Diane Holmes
Janis Joplin
Mellissa LeVesque
Laurie Lewis (vocal and string bass, right)
Jane McGarrigle (vocal and piano)
Pamela Polland
Barbara Rhodes
Linda Wiggins (vocal and piano)
Willow Wray

Instrumentalists and vocalists who played with Oxtot:

Tammy Fassert (bass)
Fay Golden  (piano)
Barbara Higbie  (piano)
Laurie Lewis (string bass and vocals, left)
Melanie Monsour  (piano)
Jane McGarrigle
     (piano and vocal)
Candy Sealy (tuba)
Beth Weil (bass)
Linda Wiggins
     (piano and vocal)

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 swining-est I've ever heard."



Dick Oxtot Golden Age Jazz Band with singer Terry Garthwaite
[date and location unknown probably early 1970s]

Jim Goodwin and
P.T. Stanton (cornets)
Bob Helm (clarinet, soprano)
Bob Mielke (trombone)
Ray Skjelbred (piano)
Dick Oxtot (banjo)
John Moore (tuba)
Terry Garthwaite (vocals)

Dream Blues Golden Age mp3
Ain’t Nobody Got The Blues.mp3

[Stanton out:]
Stand on the Rock.mp3
Walkin’ Blues.mp3
Lookin’ for a Pilot.mp3

Oxtot collection

Singer Barbara Rhodes
with Golden Age
at The Point

L to R: 
Dick Oxtot (bass)
P.T. Stanton (banjo)
Jack Minger (trumpet).

Oxtot collection

New 2.16


Oxtot at The Ordinary, 1975

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 photos have survived from this club.


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)
Terry Garthwaite (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 Terry Garthwaite, Scheelar (clt), Stein (alto)
In the Mood -  vocal Terry Garthwaite, Scheelar (clt), Stein (vln)
Goin' Away Blues - vocal Terry Garthwaite, Scheelar (clt), Stein (vln)

Set #1 complete.mp3 = 30:49

New 2.16


Oxtot at the Ordinary, 1975

Set #2

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

Add: Walt Yost (cornet); Garthwaite out except Cakewalkin’ Babies
Cakewalkin’ Babies (bad channel drop out) - Scheelar (clt & alto), Stein (bari)
Mama’s Gone, Goodbye - Scheelar (alto & clt), Stein (bari)
My Sunday Gal - vocal Oxtot, Scheelar (alto & clt), Stein (bari)
Sunday – Scheelar (clt & alto), Stein (vln)

Set #2 complete.mp3 = 20:03


This tape features a small Oxtot band with singer Terry Garthwaite and the famous Andy Stein.  These two delightful items were recovered from a salvaged tape that was damaged as it was being recorded.  Stein played spectacular jazz violin in the Bay Area for a few years around the time this was taped, June 1973, almost certainly at The Ordinary in Oakland, CA.

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


Oxtot collection

Forthcoming: The best and rarest of the archival jazz recordings heard on these pages will soon be available for purchase on CD or downloads (Amazon, i-tunes, etc) from Frisco Jazz Archival Rarities, a partnership between Dave Radlauer and Grammercy Records.

Frisco Jazz Archival Rarities offers unissued historic recordings from live performances, jam sessions and private tapes.  Recorded mostly in the Bay Area 1940-75, this is lost sound from a boisterous musical culture that created an independent jazz style of its own.

As these titles become available, links to sellers will be provided.

Bill Bardin
recalls Oxtot:

Trombone player Bill Bardin was one of Oxtot’s longest musical associates.  Dick and Bill played together periodically on and off from the 1940s.

They worked together for decades at Oxtot’s longstanding gig in Point Richmond until its termination sometime in the early 1990s.  Though Bill was one of Oxtot’s steadiest hires at The Point, Bardin was easily upset by Dick's casual leadership style and quit frequently.

L to R:
P.T. Stanton, Bill Bardin,
Diane Holmes

Photo: Oxtot collection

“Considering Lu [Watters] and Turk [Murphy] as being first-generation I think all the second-generation guys put in a stint with Oxtot, at one time or another.

Oxtot had something about him that women liked.  Over and over again I’ve seen women just come up and give Oxtot a kiss.  I never figured out what it [was] that women saw in him, but they love him.

 This includes singers and women instrumental players too.  There was always some singer, or piano player, or saxophone player coming up and telling Oxtot that she admired him and would it be OK if she sat-in sometime.  This went on through his entire career.”

Trombone player
Bill Bardin recalls Oxtot

In these interview clips Bardin says he was “one of the lucky few” habitually hired by Oxtot at The Point, possibly because blues singer Barbara Rhodes liked and requested his accompaniment.

Bill Carter assisted in this interview of Bardin, 11.5.94,
at KALW-FM in San Francisco.

First met Oxtot in SF group.mp3
He liked 'pep' & Lindberg.mp3
Oxtot cornet & banjo.mp3
Pt. Richmond & Barbara Rhodes.mp3
The Ordinary.mp3
Women loved him.mp3

Oakland A's Swingers Baseball Band

Oakland A's Swingers page here.

Oakland A's Swingers baseball band

The first season of Bob Mielke's Oakland A's Swingers baseball team band (1968) consisted of a quartet Mileke (trombone) Bob Neighbor (trumpet), Bob Helm (soprano) and Dick Oxtot (banjo). 

After the band complained strenuously about lacking a bass, tuba player John Moore was hired.  In subsequent years Helm was replaced by Bill Napier, later by Richard Hadlock and others.  

Oxtot wrote in his memoir:
"We played the first season, each and every A's home game, with four musicians.  We played in the hallways before the game, on top of the dugouts during each half-inning, and strolled through the bleachers."

". . . the band was dissatisfied with the 4-piece arrangement -- especially me.  It was tough on me to provide an entire rhythm for the three horns . . . I needed a tuba to complete the rhythm for the section.  Also the band would sound much better . . . the following season [team owner Art] Finley went along and agreed to add a fifth musician."  

Sports columnist Ron Fimrite, hardly an incisive music critic, wrote about the band's between-inning concerts in the San Francisco Chronicle, June 8, 1970:

"The band, you say?  Yes, the As's authentically have the best band in baseball. . .  one of the finest traditional jazz bands in the United States . . . essentially Bob Mielke and his Bearcats, a traditional band that has provided Bay Area music lovers with some of the best sounds in their genre for more than 20 years."

The Swingin A's baseball team band
had only four musicians its first season, 1968:

L to R (standing atop the dugout):

Bob Helm
Bob Mielke
Bob Neighbor
Dick Oxtot

Oxtot collection

Back of photo notation:

"Big deal in 1972 after the A's had won their first pennant!  Monte Moore, the A's radio announcer (standing next to Helm) performs the MC duties."

Musicians, L to R: Bob Mielke, Bob Neighbor, Dick Oxtot, Bob Helm.
Oxtot collection


Earl Scheelar recalls playing with the Swingin' A's:
Earl Scheelar_Intv_on_Swingin_A's.mp3

In his memoir
Oxtot recalled the Swingin' A's and the 1973 World Series:

"Life on the road with Finely was a full-time party.  Finley was a genial host.  (In Detroit) he hosted a 7- course lobster dinner for a flock of dignitaries and the band.  After the feast, which must have cost him a bundle, Finley called a cab and invited Mielke to ride back to the hotel with him.   As the cab approached the hotel, Finley asked Mielke, “Have you got five dollars for the cab?”

My last excursion to New York was with the A’s band, and probably the most scary at first: the World Series against the New York Mets.  The band’s troubles began before the opening pitch of the first game, when . . . we began to play on top of the Mets’ dugout.  Immediately we were greeted by a barrage of beer bottles and other miscellaneous debris, thrown at us by the New York fans!

We managed to dodge most of these flying missiles before the unfriendly atmosphere resulted in serious disaster, but the cops came to our rescue, post haste, made us get off of the dugout, and escorted us to some seats in the extreme rear of the grandstand where they instructed the band to ‘play no more’."
[Lodged in the Americana Hotel, the musicians were invited to join jazz trumpet player Bobby Hackett:]  We, of course, were delighted to have one of the tastiest trumpet players in the business play with us.  We were honored, and considered the event to be the highlight of our visit to the ‘Big Apple’.”


Oxtot was key in the Oakland A's Swinger's Baseball Band.

For almost a quarter century the skilled, adventurous and creative Swingin’ A’s Baseball Band brought authentic classic jazz and American music directly to stadium listeners.

New photos and recordings tell the tale.

Dick's Folk, Blues, Gospel, Western Swing,
Bluegrass, Old Timey and Country Music


OXTOT's love for Folk, Country and Bluegrass music

On the first page of his memoir, Jazz Scrapbook, Dick Oxtot confessed a deep passion for country and string band music.  Having been born and raised in South Carolina and Virginia, “And being a good Southern boy, I was a fan of hillbilly and Western music, which I sang constantly.”  It was an enduring love. 

Though Oxtot’s primary interest and source of income was jazz, he loved and played a wide range of rural genres: string band, bluegrass, western swing, old timey and folk music.  He was an excellent lead or harmony singer in all these forms, projecting his voice in a sweet, clear, declarative style, usually playing string bass.

Among Dick’s early ventures in this arena were a series of folk ensembles before about 1960, including a working vocal harmony trio with autoharp/banjo player Jo Wernham and guitarist Ken Ellis, The Enigmas.

The Enigmas garnered modest local success.  They even opened for Bill Cosby at the Hungry i in San Francisco for a couple weeks, and cut an album for Fantasy Records.  But their timing was wrong, the record didn't sell, and their agent’s projected path to success led through Los Angeles, a course none wanted.  

New 9.2015


The Enigmas, aka Dick Oxtot  Trio
Dick Oxtot
(string bass and vocal)
Jo Wernham
(autoharp and vocal)
Ken Ellis
(guitar and vocal):

Three Jolly Rogues.mp3
He Spilled my Red Wine.mp3
Casey Jones.mp3
Mama Goes Where Papa Goes.mp3

Oxtot’s high hopes for success are illustrated by the tapes, photos, publicity headshots, and his own personal style makeover.

The Enigmas II

Dick Oxtot
Jack Andrews
Juanta Oribello

Oxtot collection


(prob.) The Enigmas:

Good News.mp3

Joy, Joy, Joy.mp3

Twelve Gates to the City (t-2).mp3

Photo: Enigmas at the "hungry i"
Oxtot collection

In Oxtot's personal library are copious photos and recordings
illuminating this little-known side of Dick's late Fifties professional music career.

Photo: Enigmas at the "hungry i," North Beach, San Francisco, CA
Oxtot collection


Oxtot sings and plays bass, banjo or guitar; others unidentified:

Texas Plains.mp3
What a Little Moonlight Can Do.mp3
Coal Town Road.mp3
I Didn't Hear Anyone Pray.mp3
Happy Birthday.mp3
The Lonesome Traveler.mp3
Mountain Dew.mp3

My great thanks to Dick’s widow Darylene Oxtot for making available his remarkable personal archive of tapes, photos, clippings and ephemera, which she has preserved and organized.

This chronicle of Oxtot’s story remains a work in progress, and will continue expanding with additional music, images and perspectives.

Oxtot collection

LINKS (this site):

Oxtot's Golden Age JB
The Ordinary tapes

Bagatelle jazz bar
Barbara Dane
Bearcats Archive
Berkeley Jazz house
Burp Hollow tapes
Burt Bales
Bill Bardin
Bill Erickson
Bill Napier
Bob Mielke
Byron Berry
Earl Scheelar
Lark’s Club tapes
Monkey Inn tapes
PT Stanton
Ted Butterman
Vince Cattolica
Photo: At the 1973 Baseball World Series,
A's vs Mets
Oxtot collection

New feature:

A Tip Jar

Primary Sources:
Bardin, Bill: interview, 1994 (with Bill Carter)
Carter, Bill: discussions, 2014
Greer, Dave: interviews and discussions 2013, 2014
Hadlock, Richard: interview and discussions, 2014
Mielke, Bob: interviews and discussions, 1993, 2013, 2014
Oxtot, Darylene: discussion 2014
Scheelar, Earl: interviews and discussions, 2014

Secondary Sources:
Ecklund, K.O., Jazz West 2
Goggin, Jim, Bob Mielke: A Life in Jazz,
Oxtot, Dick and Goggin, Jim, Jazz Scrapbook