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.
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.
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
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.
NOON BROADCASTS, KVOO Tulsa, OK
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
Sidebar: 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.
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.