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Frisco, 1942

Strickler was transformational in two contrasting music genres: the San Francisco Traditional jazz sound of Lu Watters’ YBJB and Bob Wills Texas Playboys Western Swing orchestra. 

                        Photo: Taken from the best known photograph of Strickler.

The Benny Strickler Story - San Francisco 1942, explores the legend of a gifted, hardworking trumpet player who developed his own classic-jazz horn style, and had a unique ability to unify a Jazz ensemble.  Though he played for Bob Wills, Joe Venuti, Wingie Manone, Ben Pollock and Seger Ellis, Strickler made very few records, most never issued in his short lifetime.
In late 1942 he arrived in San Francisco to play at the Dawn Club with the wartime Yerba Buena Jazz Band, whose principal players had enlisted.  Benny was well acquainted with the musicians and style of the band, and fell right with his typical unifying leadership.

Within weeks his well advanced tuberculosis was diagnosed and became acute.  He struggled to play, hemorrhaging at times, during his legendary run in San Francisco that may have been only about three weeks. 

Leaving San Francisco he was ill enough to be accompanied on the train by a doctor and nurse.  He was age 25, never played professionally again, and was dead four years later.

His impact on San Francisco jazz was recalled a half century later by his colleges: trombonist Bill Bardin and reed player Bob Helm who was his friend dating back to the mid 1930s.

JAZZ RHYTHM received
The New York Festivals
finalist award for writing on
The Benny Strickler Story.

The BENNY STRICKLER Story - San Francisco, 1942

“The Benny Strickler Story” profiles the brief career of a brilliant young trumpet player from the Southwest.  Colorful interview clips vividly describe Benny’s brief but remarkable role in Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band and tragic demise.

Benny Strickler 1A.mp3
JAZZIN’ BABIES BLUES  --  The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991
JAZZIN’ BABIES BLUES  --  Benny Strickler & Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band (YBJB), 1942
MUSKRAT RAMBLE  --  Benny Strickler with YBJB, 1942
FRIENDLESS BLUES  [excerpt]  --  YBJB (Watters & Scobey tpts), 1946
FRIENDLESS BLUES [excerpt] -- The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991
SOUTH [excerpt]  --  YBJB (Watters & Scobey, tpts), 1946
SOUTH [excerpt] -- Benny Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra, 1928
BUGLE CALL RAG [excerpt]  -- Seger Ellis Choirs of Brass, 1937
CLARINET MARMALADE [excerpt]  --  Seger Ellis Choirs of Brass, 1937
COPENHAGEN [excerpt]  --  Seger Ellis Choirs of Brass, 1937
FIDGETY FEET  --  The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991

Benny Strickler 1B.mp3
AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL [excerpt]  -- YBJB (Watters & Scobey trumpets), 1941
FIDGETY FEET [excerpt]  --  Benny Strickler with YBJB, 1942
DIPPERMOUTH BLUES  --  Benny Strickler with YBJB, 1942
TROMBONE RAG [excerpt]  --  Benny Strickler with YBJB, 1942
TROMBONE RAG [excerpt] --  The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991
KANSAS CITY STOMPS  --  Benny Strickler with YBJB, 1941
RIVERSIDE BLUES [excerpt] --  The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991
DIPPERMOUTH BLUES --  The New Orleans Rover Boys, 1991

The legend long persisted of a young Jazz trumpet player out of Arkansas who in a mere half-decade made a lasting impression on his contemporaries.  For nearly a year he wrangled an 8-piece horn section of the best Bob Wills Texas Playboys orchestra, and in San Francisco briefly led the wartime Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band.  

All the existing recordings by this little-known trumpeter add up to barely two dozen sides, most never issued in his lifetime.  The main argument for Strickler’s greatness is a half-dozen recordings made with Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, but issued only after his death nearly a decade later with little fanfare.

Kansas City Stomps, Strickler with YBJB.mp3
Dippermouth Blues, Strickler with YBJB.mp3
Trombone Rag, Strickler with YBJB.mp3

Benny Strickler’s moving story is told by the music and in the recollections of his fellow musicians -- including Bill Bardin, Bob Helm and Danny Alguire -- a fascinating and largely untold chapter of  Southwestern Jazz history.

Benny quits a Hotel Band.mp3

Benny "came to play" and was Wills' straw boss.mp3
Bob Helm met Ben in 1935, later sat-in with Wills.mp3

Benny Strickler
Los Angeles, c. 1937

                          Special thanks to Hal Smith for use of his text and images.

Hal Smith's extensive research into Benny's music, career and background is found in these articles published by the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation, 1998-2002
Permission Hal Smith & SFTJF.

(Clicking on a .pdf file link below will provide a download of each article.)

Benny Strickler.pdf
The Western Connection.pdf
A Strickler Family Scrapbook.pdf
Strickler Scrapbook Epilogue.pdf

Poor Benny. 
His greatest performances with the Yerba Buena Jazz Band in 1942 were issued on an extended play 45-rpm album in 1953, a half dozen years after his death from tuberculosis.

Don't miss . . .  The Benny Strickler Story - Tulsa, exploring his 11 months in Bob Wills Texas Playboys as told by his friend and fellow trumpet player, Danny Alguire.

The Benny Strickler Story - Tulsa, presents a detailed and intimate portrait of Ben  -- and a thrilling behind-the-scenes peek into a unique musical organization.  He played first trumpet, was "Straw Boss" (informal band director) and starred in a Bobcats-style Dixieland sub-unit.  All the existing recordings of this little-known trumpeter add up to barely two dozen sides, about 1/3 recorded with Wills' large Swing orchestra of 1941-42.


During his tenure in Tulsa Benny was broadcasting with Bob Wills, five days a week at noon from Cain's Dance Academy, the Wills informal HQ.

Benny is the trumpet on the left with mute, Alex Brashear to his left and they’re sitting behind Woodie Wood


Seeger Ellis' Choirs of Brass

The CHOIRS of BRASS recordings contain Benny Strickler’s only known recorded trumpet solos with a ‘30s Swing band.  Featuring 7 or 8 brass instruments and one reed player, Irving Fazola, it was the short-lived orchestra of former crooner, Seger Ellis.  They had some notably good arrangements: some by Spud Murphy, others by pianist Stan Wrightsman, and a few by trombonist King Jackson, an Oklahoma native inspired by Jack Teagarden.

The band had lots of rehearsal time, made some recordings (mostly unissued at the time) and played lots of one-nighters.  But it never got the  ‘residency’ (a regular several-nights-a-week engagement) that large bands needed to survive.  

Nonetheless in 1936-37 CHOIRS of BRASS made a few 78s and numerous transcription recordings in which Strickler was principal trumpet soloist.

Hal Smith's comments on Choirs of Brass.mp3

Choirs of Brass - Copenhagen.mp3
Choirs of Brass - Bugle Call Rag.mp3
Choirs of Brass - Farewell Blues.mp3
Choirs of Brass - I Would Do Anything for You.mp3
Choirs of Brass - Clarinet Marmalade.mp3


Bob Helm Remembers Benny Strickler.mp3
Bill Bardin Remembers Benny Strickler.mp3

An unanswered question?
Did Strickler recover enough to sit-in with Bob Wills band?

Yes, according to this clip from Danny Alguire describing a phone call he had with Benny in late 1945 or early 1946.  Strickler told Alguire that he felt great, was getting his lip back and had sat-in with the Wills band.  Clearly, this good health was short lived as he was gone by the end of 1946.

Danny's post-war chat with Benny.mp3

Danny Alguire wrote a charming and sincere personal tribute to Benny Strickler
Download a pdf of Danny's monograph

Danny refers to a 3-page Floyd Levin article about Ben reproduced in:
Classic Jazz, Floyd Levin, Univ of Calif Press, 2000

Chris Tyle and friends' fine tribute to Benny Strickler:

Tyle, cornet; Bob Helm and Orange Kellin, clarinets; David Sager, trombone; Steve Pistorius, piano; John Gill, banjo; Hal Smith, drums

Available here:
Worlds Records

It seems the artwork is based in part on this place-mat from the Dawn Club


• Alguire, Danny, Beaverton, OR 1977, interviewed by Chris
Tyle and Hal Smith

• Bardin, Bill, San Francisco, CA 1992, interviewed by Dave
Radlauer and Bill Carter

• Bardin, Bill, Belvedere, CA 2003, interviewed by Hal Smith
(joint interview with Helm)

• Helm, Bob, San Francisco, CA 1992, interviewed by Dave

• Helm, Bob, Belvedere, CA 2003 interviewed by Hal Smith
(joint interview with Bardin)

• Smith, Hal, Los Angeles, CA 2012, interviewed by Dave

• Tyle, Chris, Portland, OR 2012, interviewed by Dave Radlauer

• Wills, Bob, I Love People, radio Interview by Ken Hightower,
Western Heritage LP recording WHO-176, c. 1968

Books & articles
• Alguire, Danny “Tribute to Benny Strickler” unpublished
monograph c. early 1970s

• Avakian, George, “Benny Strickler” The Record Changer,
Sept. 1950

• Goggin, Jim, Turk Murphy: Just for the Record, San Francisco
Traditional Jazz Foundation, c. 1982

• Levin, Floyd, Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music
and the Musicians
, University of California Press, 2000

• Smith, Hal, “Benny Strickler - A Legendary Trumpet Stylist,”
Frisco Cricket/SFTJF, 1998

• Smith, Hal, “Western Connection with Traditional Jazz
Benefited Both,” Frisco Circket/SFTJF, 1998

• Smith, Hal, “A Strickler Family Scrapbook,” Pts. I-III Frisco
, 2001-2002

• Townsend, Charles R., San Antonio Rose: The Life and
Music of Bob Wills
, University of Illinois Press, 1976

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