PT Stanton Night, Iron Horse Restaurant, December 1972
was a reform in Stanton’s lifestyle in the 1970s. His friends pulled
together a surprise party and benefit concert in December 1972. It
marked the start of about seven years sobriety. During that time he
launched and successfully ran his own P.T. Stanton’s Stone Age Jazz Band.
this rather large and remarkable gathering of Bay Area revival jazz
talent and supporters, a check for several hundred dollars was presented
to PT along with many well wishes. Despite the large size of this
impromptu ensemble, a co-operative spirit prevailed.
P.T. Stanton Night, Iron Duke Restaurant, San Francisco, 1972 Large ensemble jam session, 12.16.72.
Collective personnel includes: P.T. Stanton, Jim Goodwin (cornets) Bill Bardin, Bob Mielke (trombones) Bob Helm, Richard Hadlock (soprano saxophones) Ray Skjelbred (piano), Dick Oxtot, Ed Dickerman (sousaphone and guitar), others.
Photo: P.T. and Bill Bardin, 12.16.72, by Ed Lawless
The Bay Area jazz community came together for "P.T. Stanton Night" in December 1972.
This terrific photo of P.T. shot by Ed Lawless was taken at the Iron Duke that night in San Francisco.
Photo courtesy SFTJF/Hal Smith
The Odd Brilliance of P.T. Stanton Frisco Cricket, Fall 2014 Explore
his music, personality and significant role shaping Bob Mielke's
Bearcats into a powerful, original and independent voice in the West
Coast jazz revival with this interactive article.
PT Stanton Stone Age Jazz Band Berkeley, CA, 10/74 Location formerly Earl's New Orleans House P.T. Stanton (cornet) Earl Scheelar (clarinet) Lisa Pollard (*tenor sax) Bill Bardin (trombone) guitar and banjo Walter Yost (tuba)
Stone Age Artifacts: Two of P.T.’s plunger-mute cups, photos taken
by Ed Lawless at P.T. Stanton Night 12.72 and a wood carving of unknown
provenance that he owned. Courtois cornet
courtesy Earl Scheelar.
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.
Bob Mielke’s Bearcats 7/76, with Bill Carter.
the Bearcats ended as a band by around 1970, Mielke kept the
name and spirit alive for occasional events such as this at the
Blue Dolphin in San Leandro, CA.
Clarinet player Bill Carter fit
comfortably in the ensemble. You can hear why he was a well respected
player, deeply seasoned in the New Orleans tradition and outlook.
P.T. Stanton (cornet) Bill Carter (clarinet) Bob Mielke (trombone) Dick Oxtot (banjo) (bass unknown)
"I worked with
P.T. Stanton's "Stone Age Jazz Band" at the Iron Gate Inn in Berkeley
(or Oakland) in 1979. The band consisted of Bill Bardin (trombone),
Earl Scheelar (clarinet), Paul Boberg (guitar) and Mike Duffy (bass). I
remember Jack Knox substituting for Boberg and Chris Tyle substituting
P.T. was definite concerning the feel he wanted from the
drums on every tune, and his directions were very instructive. He
understood the techniques of drumming, too. One time he told me to tilt
the hi-hat cymbals toward the audience and to "fan" the sound out by
moving the sticks forward and backward. That made a lot of sense, and I
still play hi-hats that way!"
P.T. and Friends Recorded in Berkeley in August, 1972
This unique item was issued on a 33 & 1/3
rpm extended play 7” vinyl disc by Berkeley Rhythm Records (in
conjunction with Asp Records, Seattle).
Adapted from the John Kirby Sextet, Stanton
brought this tune,
written by Charlie Shavers and Artie Shaw, into the repertoire of Bob Mielke’s Bearcats.
PT Stanton (cornet) Dick Adams (soprano) Ray Skjelbred (piano) Mike Duffy (bass) Brett Runkle (washboard)
(The “B side” of this disc is: Brett Runkle and his Starting from Scratch Jazz Band.)
The Old Gang
L to R: Dick Oxtot, Bunky Coleman, Pete Allen, P.T. Stanton, Bob Mielke
(Date and location unknown.)
ARCHIVE MUSIC 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 (above) is a similar lineup, but with clarinet, probably from the late 1970s. Oxtot collection.
This was a rough and ready jam party 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.
Bill Bardin interview, commentary on P.T. Stanton (1994)
One thing he did on the bandstand – not playing – he got directly from Bunk Johnson
and I don’t know how many other New Orleans trumpet players used to do
this. But Bunk at any time might just stop playing, and wipe his mouth
off. I’ve seen this happen with other bands since then. We didn’t know
what on earth to do about that. Even playing with Bunk we didn’t know
what to do.
But in the real New Orleans bands, the other horns
just close in a little bit and make up for it. But we didn’t know what
to do. And it used to be very irritating when P.T. would just stop
playing on the stompy part of the last chorus for instance.
the time I first met him – he was around nineteen then – he always
cultivated a dissipated image. He was an admirer of the Bix Beiderbecke
life cycle I think. He thought Bix had had the right idea.
I think P.T. was a little disappointed to find himself carrying on after the age of thirty. It upset his plans.
you might note that he make short work of it after that. He didn’t
live to the fullness of his life span. When he died he was about sixty I
guess. He hadn’t played for some time, oh, two or three years I
guess. He had been on the wagon for a long time, and he fell off.
"His cornet style was so sparse, so laid
back, but he would punctuate and syncopate and do things that made other
people respond. He was amazing. P.T. was the most understated back-in-the-background player.
he had the ability to goose people and get the best out of them. And
that’s very evident in the Bearcats, in the Stone Age [Jazz Band]. I learned so much about lead cornet from that."
Stone Age Jazz Band at Old St. Hilary Church
L to R: Bill Bardin, P.T. Stanton, Paul Boberg, Pete Allen, Earl Sheelar, Peter Berg
(Photo courtesy Scheelar)
Bill Bardin interview, commentary on P.T. Stanton (1994)
When trombone player Bill Bardin played in his first real jazz band, Stanton was there:
was playing the cornet or trumpet, and every now and then he’d set it
down and pick up the guitar, which added immeasurably to the rhythm
section sound. Later on we had jam sessions at [bassist] Pete Allen’s
mother’s living room in Berkeley.
He sounded much earthier as
time went on. I believe that he was a Rex Stewart fan. Because you
know how Rex Stewart sometimes would play a phrase, or a long phrase of
eighth notes but it didn’t have a be-bop sound. It had a rather dancing
around sound like Bill Coleman
used to get sometimes. And P.T. would get that sound too. He would
play long phrases of eighth notes and it would really dance.
He didn’t sound as jerky earlier. He never did sound smooth, never did sound like Buck Clayton or Harry James, playing legato. He never had a liquid vibrato.
I believe that he was Basie fan, we all were Basie fans, and still are. P.T. used to do a very creditable job of playing Basie-like piano.
his trumpet playing really got more angular as time went on. He was a
fan of Harry Edison and Buck Clayton . . . and Rex Stewart I believe.
time, trying to get a point across to some other player and he said,
“think of it as a series of one.” [Laughs] He was always coming up
with gems like that. He deliberately cultivated his own character.
P.T. Stanton’s Stone Age Jazz Band Old St. Hilary’s Church Tiburon, CA, 1977-78 P.T. Stanton (cornet) Earl Scheelar (clarinet) Bill Bardin (trombone) Peter Berg (guitar) Paul Boberg (banjo) Peter Allen (string bass) Note:
These unissued items were taped 9/77 & 1/78 under favored
conditions -- a minimalist recording of a live but relaxed performance.
Similar material -- and the first track below -- was issued on (LP or
cassette) Stomp Off 1228.
L to R: Paul Boberg, Bill Bardin, Pete Allen, P.T. Stanton, Peter Berg, Earl Sheelar
(Photo courtesy Scheelar)
Mike Duffy (string bass) recalls P.T. Stanton (from 1991 liner notes for P.T. Stanton Stone Age Jazz Band Stomp Off 1228)
Thomas, his back pockets stuffed with old rinsed-out and dried paper
towels with which he would meticulously line the inside of his old,
metal derby mutes: need ‘em to get exactly the right sound, you know.
P.T.: bleats and blats, smears, growls, nanny-goat quavers, elfin
dances, whispers, wheezes, and more than a little Mexican mariachi
music. P.T. died in 1987, something of legend overseas because of a
1955 session with George Lewis, but almost unknown here.
all the chatter you will hear in the background on these live recordings
is from P.T. Stanton, who was forever giving directions and encouraging
his mates. And if you notice clattering metal sounds, that will be
P.T. too, digging around among his mutes for the right one. But he will
find it. He will step forward, cup his hand over the end of the horn
and play a couple of choruses of the blues, and then, perhaps, all will
Several of Stanton's former associates have remarked upon his skill
and sensitivity backing singers, as heard in his accompaniment to
singers on this page.
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, possibly 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)
PT played other instruments besides cornet: decent
Basie-style piano, and guitar in the manner of Basie's rhythm guitarist,
L to R: Barbara Rhodes (vocalist) Dick Oxtot (bass) P.T. Stanton (banjo) Jack Minger (trumpet).
Dick Oxtot Golden Age Jazz Band with singer Terry Garthwaite [date and location unknown probably mid-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)
L to R: Stanton, Larry Stein, Mike Duffy, Earl Scheelar, Ray Skjelbred
Courtesy Earl Scheelar
Occasional Berkeley Band L to R: P.T. Stanton, Mike Duffy, Ray Skjelbred, Larry Stein, Earl Scheelar
Courtesy Earl Scheelar
MIKE DUFFY sought to explain P.T. Stanton’s Stone Age Jazz Band in liner notes to their one album, Stomp Off 1228 “Introducing
the listener to the Stone Age Jazz Band is no easy matter, for they are
so thoroughly odd. One cannot, for instance quite imagine them being
invited to a standard traditional jazz festival. And they weren’t. But
they had their fans (musicians typically, and a collection of the
Bohemians of the diverse, tolerant, notoriously goofy communities
across the Oakland Bay from San Francisco), and for a good stretch they
even had a steady gig at the old Berkeley Square bar a mile or so from
the University of California campus.
The Stones were something
of a reaction from the beginning. Their name, for example, was chosen
as a gentle way of teasing their old pal Dick Oxtot, leader of the
Golden Age Jazz Band. And their book was very small (maybe eighty
tunes) -- in spite of the fact that they rehearsed weekly and could
easily have played hundreds of things. But their motto was “Less Is
More.” They never used a drummer because they wanted neither the
heaviness nor the cluttering of their carefully worked-out colors.
Almost everything they did was deliberate of course, and much of it
gleefully calculated to be appropriate to their ‘Stone Age’ sound.”
PT Stanton Stone Age JB Sacramento Jazz Club 12.76
No personnel data; probably Stanton, Sheelar, Bardin, Allen, others
"There are two of P.T.’s trademarks that I don’t think anybody mentioned. One was the tin hat on a stand into which he blew his horn. A very, very old fashioned device for altering the tone of the cornet that had gone out of use many, many years ago, probably in the early 1930s. But P.T. bore with it as did Papa Mutt Carey.
Another of P.T.’s trademarks was the little old ladies paper shopping bag with handles, like little old ladies used to carry their groceries home from the market. He used to carry it with him just about everywhere. To a gig, the job, or even to social occasions. No one every figured out quite what was in there. But maybe it was kind of like a security blanket or something.
P.T. was unique. He was a complex man. One of the most complicated human beings I’ve ever known, for sure. He was and intellectual and a romantic.
One of the things he was romantic about was the great proletariat, the ordinary workingman. During his various blue-collar jobs he used to love to hang out with the regular guys and pretend he was one of them, even though he was at all times an astute observer.
A good example of this was during the late years. For along period PT used to volunteer his services every weeknight as a custodian at a Berkeley junior high school building, just so he could hang out with the black guys on the night shift. He went just a regularly as if he’d been hired for the gig. Somehow he’d ingratiated himself with them and in return they let him practice his horn in an empty room. But he really dug those guys and called them his buddies.
Several people have mentioned PTs great skill as a linguist, but no one mentioned that his enthusiasm for each language was matched by an enthusiasm for each of the cultures. He knew a lot about them. During the last couple of years of his life PT had renewed his interest in foreign languages with his study of Japanese and of the Japanese characters.
He read a lot of Latin literature and poetry even before . . . the English-speaking literary establishment had taken note of these authors.
He use to get along with kids just wonderfully, kids and young people. They seemed to like him and remember him with great fondness including my own two sons."
Vocalist BARBARA DANE made this comment at P.T. Stanton’s memorial: "The thing about his playing [accompaniment to a singer was] dynamics: which means going from loud to soft. The guy was an absolute master at making the horn do what he wanted it to do, and get the maximum emotional mileage out of the soft, or medium or whatever it was.
His manipulation of time . . . it was something he could hardly help doing, was freshly approaching a phrase in terms of the time . . . y’know like, “I’m gonna do something different than I did last night. I’m going to make it come alive tonight.”
I don’t know anyone I’ve ever heard play a horn who could get you to grasp what potential would be in a melody without actually playing the melody. In other words to lead you to seeing that a melody is not just this line on a piece of paper; that it’s just a guide and that out of that you could get all this other stuff. You could find all these other things.
When you sum it all up what he always seemed to do -- and every time I hear him play on this record and I hear it over and over -- it still makes me think of something new. On the record you can’t change it. But what he makes you see or think about is different each time. What I think he did . . . was synthesize all these things.
He’s got all this intellectual power that’s been going on throughout his musical life. But in that moment of playing what set it all up and made it have the impact it did was pure heart."
DAVE GREER was a music fan and friend of P.T.: "I came out here in 1955, a young fellow from the East Coast who used to follow that Eddie Condon Dixieland kind of thing. I heard the Bearcats at the old Lark’s Club and was absolutely knocked out.
I was amazed at the wonderful band but what a kind of a feeble cornet player. Why don’t they get somebody that sticks it out there.
It took me a while to realize what P.T. was doing, as a young East Coaster raised on Wild Bill Davison and Max Kaminsky and all those people. But it sunk in at the only good New Years Eve celebration I’ve ever had in my entire life when the Bearcats were playing at the old Lark’s Club. It was one of the great experiences of my life.
He was an amazing man and an amazingly oblique man. I believe he told me one time that he could speak seven languages, or someone told me that. And he could speak seven languages in English actually, as all of you have known who’ve talked to Pete.
If you asked him a question which was yes or no, fifteen or twenty minutes later he’d finished up what he was saying, but it was such an amazing statement. And in the years that I’ve heard P.T. play I’ve heard him do things no cornet player in the world could have conceived, let alone executed. And sometimes P.T. couldn’t execute ‘em.
But he did amazing, amazing things. All I can say is I’m deeply grateful that I was privileged to hear P.T. and to know him and to love him as I think we all do."
EARL SCHEELAR Worked alongside P.T. for decades.
"He really was unique and he taught all of us so much about the music I love and you all love. I happened to be in the Bay Area at a very fortunate time in my life and be fortunate to play with people like Mielke, Bill Bardin and Dick Oxtot, and all the people that have made this music popular over the years . . . and obviously P.T. was. We had a great band I think; I really, really enjoyed being able to contribute to it."
ROBIN HODES, trumpet Buddy
"I met P.T. on Broadway. I wasn’t here very long I figured, gee, if I find a gig I can hire who I want. So he dropped in and introduced himself to me. I didn’t call called him the teacher, I called him The Preacher because he had this thing about music that he talked about: form. He was a very graceful guy. He had his paper sack: a bottle, his horn and his shades. I fell in love with him.
The last time I saw him was Danny Klein’s birthday party, we played over at Fort Mason. And I called him up to play guitar. Ellis Horne was on that gig. You couldn’t really hear him, but you could feel him. That’s the kind of guy he was."
PETE ALLEN Bass player Allen was P.T.'s friend since high school:
"I knew P.T. from the time we were sixteen years old or so. In the late Thrities Berkeley high school kids naturally went to Berkeley High School. Parents who were aggressive enough sent their kids to University High School which was in North Oakland and was the demonstration high school for Cal.
I had not been there long when I was getting out of Physical Education by taking archery. I started a conversation with other fellow who was doing the same thing and we got to talking about the relative merits of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. We agreed heartily on this, need I say it was Benny Goodman, of course.
We became fast friends and he was eventually kicked out of University High School and so was I. We wound up in Berkeley High School. I was not a musician then (although some would say I’m not now) but P.T. talked me into taking up the string bass, mainly because the little band he was playing with needed a bass player. They did not need a crooner, so that was the end of my career as a crooner. We worked together a great deal for $5 if we were lucky. We many, many dances at many halls and such like and the typical pay was $5 a man.
Remember the night I met Bill Bardin was at a barn dance in Lafayette and Bill Bardin came out of whatever woodwork he was hiding in and came to play with us. We all explained to him we wanted to play, instructed by P.T. and I about how to play. And then Bill Bardin played his trombone and you know what that’s like.
Anyhow, I’ll give you a couple of P.T. stories. I should say that PT first of all was a marvelous leader as many people have said; very, very different.
The only thing that prevented him from being a professional linguist or a professional ANYTHING is that he was a NUT! When it comes to nuts, I never met anyone who could even touch P.T. I’ll give you an example or two.
When we were still going to Cal, that was back in the days before the Civil War. We formed a band. It was a kind of band that was popular at the time: it consisted of three tenor saxophones and was the king that played in hotels in San Francisco and everywhere in the late Thirties. Bill was in it.
We rehearsed and we rehearsed and we wrote arrangements and we did this and that, and we finally got the band sounding something like a band. And then PT told us he had arranged for us to play the annual whatever it was at his fraternity house. We were tremendously excited by this because this was a real job.
The day before this great event, P.T. called me up and said, 'Oh, by the way I can’t make that, I’m taking the job with [another band].' And it was Stanton’s band!
The other story is entirely personal. In the late Fifties I decided to move to San Francisco, having lived in Berkeley for many years, and I mentioned this to several of my friends including Bill and P.T. told me he would be very hurt if I didn’t ask him to help me move. We discussed this: I had a very small car at the time and he had a fairly large one. After some discussion we agreed that he would provide the car and rent a trailer because his car was much more capable of towing a large load than mine. I didn’t realize at the time, but I should have because I’d already known him a quite a while, I should have realize that I was putting myself into his hands. And I finally after many years learned this was a mistake. Needless to say that at the appointed hour P.T. did not show up with the trailer.
What happened, of course, was that later in the day Bill and I went our and rented a truck and moved the whole thing ourselves. I didn’t see P.T. for three years."
Peter Thomas Stanton and Peter Allen
The Odd Brilliance of PT Stanton, Vol 1-3
Unissued Bearcats Lark's Club, Transcriptions Concerts, Gigs and Jam Sessions, 1955-77
Featuring Bob Mielke, Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, Bill Carter, Bunky Colman, Bill Napier, Pete Allen and Dick Oxtot