Letter to the Editor

Reader recalls history of various area musicians

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To the Editor:

This letter is not about the gloom and doom of health care reform or Anthem or is it about how great Woodstock was back in 1969 or if the movie was good or bad.

This letter is about past musicians of the bygone era.

Claude Thornhill began his career subbing for Leo Baxter. He would play as many as two evenings a week while he was still in high school.

After high school, he attended the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.

He was considered the best band in the states in the early 1900s. He composed his own theme song, "Snowfall."

He traveled in Europe and all of the states. He was a friend of all our orchestra and band leaders.

All of them said his name should be placed in the Hall of Fame.

Johnnie "Scat" Davis formed his own band and went to Hollywood and appeared in many movies.

Leo Baxter was born in Carbon, Clay County. He was raised up in Clinton, all but a short period of time he spent in Terre Haute.

"Cruising Down the Wabash River," was a band's delight, especially if you were on the Reliance in the moonlight with everyone dancing. "One Stolen Kiss," was another favorite.

Some of the places that hosted some of this live entertainment were the Trianon, the Dance Palace, Summer Gardens, Erickson Ballroom, Clinton's Dream Land Hall, Riley's Ray Park, Sanford's Pavilion, The Colliseum, The Hippodrome, the Old Grand, Orpheum, The Indiana, The Terre Haute House Mayflower Room, Capitol, Oriental, Pantage, Ambassador Club, etc.

Some music artists were local favorites with ties to our own communities and some were bid band names.

Some names appearing live according to this document were Leo Baxter, Claude Thornhill, Johnnie "Scat" Davis, Boone Dunbar, Ramon "Red" Ringo, etc. Some famous names were Nat King Cole, Scatman Crothers, etc.

Some with local ties were the Kehoe Sisters and their Rhythm Queens. A 3-year-old talented young lady from Terre Haute was so good at it she went to Hollywood for a screen test and was hired for Hal Roaches' "Our Gang" comedies later known as the "Little Rascals."

She sang and danced. Her name was Christina Mae Nitchoff.

Lodges, clubs and local bars also hosted live entertainment.

A lot of this live entertainment or stage shows, which dates pretty far back, was sponsored by the Tribune, Clabber Girl and other local businesses.

If Vaudeville, Blues, Minstrels, Jazz and Speakeasys, Hash Houses or Road Houses played a part in this history, including river boats, then it's real history.

That's all for now. Until next time, take care.

John Weddle,