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The BENNY STRICKLER Story - Frisco, 1942

Strickler was transformative in two contrasting music genres: the San Francisco Traditional jazz sound of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band and Bob Wills Texas Playboys Western Swing orchestra.  Colorful interview clips vividly describe Benny’s key role in both bands, before his career was ended by tuberculosis at age 25.







Taken from the best known photograph of Strickler.

The Benny Strickler Story 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 few records, most never issued in his short lifetime.
  
Strickler was transformative in two contrasting music genres:  the San Francisco Traditional jazz sound of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band and Bob Wills Texas Playboys Western Swing orchestra.  Colorful interview clips vividly describe Benny’s key role in Wills’ superlative ‘Tulsa Orchestra’ of 1941-42 and his meteoric rise in Los Angeles, Tulsa and San Francisco, before his career was ended by tuberculosis at age 25.


The BENNY STRICKLER Story - San Francisco, 1942

“The Benny Strickler Story” profiles the brief career of a brilliant young trumpet player from the Southwest.  Strickler was transformative in two contrasting music genres:  the San Francisco Traditional jazz sound of Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band and Bob Wills Texas Playboys Western Swing orchestra.  Colorful interview clips vividly describe Benny’s key role in Wills’ superlative ‘Tulsa Orchestra’ of 1941-42 and his meteoric career in Los Angeles, Tulsa and San Francisco before it was ended by tuberculosis at age 25.


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), 1942
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 . . .  before collapsing from tuberculosis at age 25 and soon dying.  

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
Probably
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
 


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.

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
 


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.

Take me to: Benny Strickler Story - Tulsa

Noon broadcasts,
KVOO Tulsa, OK

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

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




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.





ARCHIVE INTERVIEW:


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


RELATED PAGE LINKS (this site):

Benny Strickler: Tulsa
Bob Helm
Burt Bales
Clancy Hayes
YBJB
YBJB: Phil Elwood
Lu Watters
Turk Murphy