Volume 4-2011



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Top 15 MP3 recordings requested by RARWRITER visitors between June 17-July 16, 2011:

1. The Essential Me - RAR

2. Exodus Honey - Honeycut

3. Satisfied - Rebecca Folsom

4. Quiet Inside (acoustic) - The Jane Doe's

5. Suffocated - Sabrina Korva

6. Lies - The Black Keys

7. One-Two-Three - The Indulgers

8. Its Me - Eddie Turner

9. Come A Little Bit Closer - RAR

10. On A Bus To St Cloud - Gretchen Peters

11. Why (Acoustic Demo) - Sabrina Korva

12. I Will Love You - Rebecca Folsom

13. Unglued - Barbee Killed Ken

14. Soul Shaker - Tommy Castro

15. Easier Said Than Done - Steve Conn









Special FeatureRARWRITER.COM



The Dream Bowl
















Among the artifacts that one can find of The Dream Bowl are these bootleg Grateful Dead albums from February 1969, unauthorized recordings of the band live at the storied venue.



In Part I of "The Dream Bowl", Vallejo writer Mike Amen introduced us to a place "where Benny Goodman meets The Grateful Dead". Now gone as a performance venue - the building now houses a cabinet shop - the Solano County landmark provided a communal center for generations of Bay Area/Napa Valley residents for whom the celebration of music was vital to their survival through America's most tumultuous decades, the 1940s through the 1960s. In Part II, Amen dives more deeply into The Dream Bowl.



Dream Bowl - Part Two

by Mike Amen

There may be no accounting for taste, but the same may not be said for interest. I was lucky enough to have a nurturing environment firmly in place for a life of music appreciation, and I think this was helped by other factors as well. I was born in Napa at Parks Victory Memorial Hospital. I have two memories of that place. The first is of the ether mask approaching my face before I went down for the count in which I was asked to engage, for what was then the near-automatic tonsillectomy that children of 1950s vintage experienced. The other memory, reinforced as I grew older, was the ghastly architecture of the building. But this was, after all, a building of function (whose existence was the result of generous efforts by doctors and concerned citizens), and its less than cheerful facade was more than offset by the good works happening inside; the stilling of pain for patients in general, and in particular; assistance administered to a young mother, my mother, giving birth that fourth day of February, 1947.

With respect to the mystery of why something effects us deeply, the capacity for enjoyment, and their link to the “...other factors...” in my own case, I offer the following: I consider myself a fortunate individual who was twice favored by circumstance. In my embryonic state, I represented the yet-to-arrive other gender that families often hope for, in this case the first boy after two girls. More important, I was the outcome of what must have been, at least for a time, the happiest of occasions; couples re-uniting after World War II. And in my father’s case, not only was he happy to be home, but he was happy to be alive at all. He had fought in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. That battle, longest in the Army’s history, lasted from September, 1944 until February, 1945. A web site dedicated to soldiers who were killed or injured there, gave this description: “There was no more deadly fire, from the viewpoint of the infantry, than that which burst in treetops and exploded with all its hot steel fury downward to the ground...” which was exactly how my father was “hit,” and “burst” was the word he used when he described the event. He suffered serious injury from that shrapnel, and told me years later that he felt death upon him, and was certain that had he not fought (digging his fingers into the ground, he said), he would not have survived. Making matters worse, my mother would tell me many years later, was the fact that after he received medical assistance, due to the limited care that was possible, he was not given a catheter to ward off infection, despite the seriousness of his stomach injuries, because they just didn’t think he had a chance, and there were other more compelling injuries on other soldiers needing attention. Yes, yes, he was happy to be home. To honor his toughness that made life possible for me, I make a conscious effort to cultivate an appreciation of life, and while I am a firm believer in personal responsibility for the development of your own good fortune, I salute with reverence and humility these facts of formation that lent themselves, I’m convinced, to cheerful outlook and disposition. I think these bits of fate add good measure to the psychological endowments and physical apparatus conducive to music appreciation with which nearly all of us are hard-wired, and by birthright granted, and which we make use of much of our lives.

So from this beginning of life for me, if we go five years and ten months to the previous, and on the map, seven miles to the south, we pinpoint the birthplace of the Dream Bowl. World War II was uppermost on the minds of Americans during those years. Hitler’s invasions began in March of 1939. No one knew what the outcome of the war would be, and there was little cause for optimism for the nation as a whole, or for individuals. A justifiable reluctance to involve ourselves in the war, after the tremendous loss of life in World War I, was removed after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and unfortunately, regardless of the circumstances bringing it about, the reality of our involvement could no longer be ignored.

The urgency of the war years brought people together in a mix of suppressed fear, a desire to keep hope alive, and a real need to courageously hold one another up. Couples were looking for something romantic to do with their time because a loved one might be shipped out the next day, and it might be the last time ever, for them to be together.

So the initial irony, an uncomfortable one, that a night club for entertainment and pleasure begins after bombs fall on Pearl Harbor, is adjusted in our minds because, as time went on, the value, we could even say the necessity of such an establishment became more clearly realized. And now we are seeing renewed interest, dramatically so, in dance. The importance of such an outlet during the war years (and perhaps now too with economic and other woes) where one could come; to hear music, to dance, to congregate with friends, to have our minds taken off the horror of war, cannot be overstated. For that we owe a debt of gratitude to Gene Traverso, and John Zanardi. To this can be added the dollar and cents realities. The partners intended to make money, but this was bargain entertainment at its best. The History of Vallejo Musicians tell us that: “Admission was $1.10 with ladies and servicemen admitted for 55 cents...” It should be added that this is before TV had become the entertainment fixture we now know it to be.

The building is still standing, is still in use, and I find this to be a very satisfying state of affairs. The fact that it still stands, speaks to the stability of its original construction. Gene Traverso, the son, would tell me that, so solid was the foundation and flooring, that years later, tradesmen would observe that it was sufficient in strength to support a second story, if one was wanted. With ease then, did the floor support the step and stomp of dancers, and its smooth wood finish, allowed for, if you had it in you, the graceful sliding of feet, and the swaying of bodies. The music propelled dancers of every sort, in this acceptable means by which young men and women could touch one another, and so the gliding of couples, the sliding of soles on maple, would last, in one dance form to another, from 1941 until 1970.

And “standing” is an important operative word as I recall the beginnings of what turned out to be a deep-seated curiosity. As I mentioned, because of our frequent trips to Vallejo, I had many opportunities to notice the Dream Bowl standing in that field. The stretch of land where it is located is roughly a right triangle. Think Frank Ghery rather than Euclid. It has a base 1/5 of a mile at its southern end, its long side along Kelly Road and is exactly one mile, and the remaining side along Hwy. 29 is .7 miles. As a ten year old with the not-yet-clogged avenues of youthful consideration, I was free to absorb all that came through a passing car’s window, and with each passing, the impression became more firmly impacted in my mind. If something had gone on, what had that been? Why had it stopped? The Napa Register article by Pam Hunter refers to a (nine year) “lull” between the close of the Swing era, and the country/western beginning. For me, that would have been ages 7 thru 16 (an eternity) during which there was not a lot of events scheduled.

All these sightings from the car happened during the day however, and not available was any concept of a night life during which the club would come alive. John Zanardi’s daughter Louise told me she remembers helping her father as a young girl, hang posters to advertise upcoming shows, and I do recall two rare sightings of such posters: one for Fats Domino, and another for Johnny Cash hung on telephone poles near the venue. Still, long stretches went by with no name on the marquee, whose vacancy sadly dramatized the inactivity of this one-building ghost town. And this building, this big white building with no neighboring structures, and not even much in the way of vegetation to compete with its presence, dominated the landscape and begged a lot of questions. Pick your sentiment; the building these days is no longer alone in the field or it has lost its singular status as some sixteen other structures now fill up the triangle. As for the structure itself, it has been remodeled inside and out so that its recognition requires the eyes of an archeologist. The changes outside call to mind a face lift worn uncomfortably. More troubling are the sensible renovations inside going from dance floor to a series of office cubicles of low ceiling. New flooring covers the old, which I assume with hope remains just beneath the surface, and except for a small maintenance section at its southern end (where bands once set up) its impressive high ceiling is hidden from view.

About the time of my graduating from high school (1965), my mother remarried. My stepfather, George, a very decent and generous man, had lived in a house where Kelly Road intersected with Hwy. 29. As their marriage approached, he had a new home built on that same property which was very close to the Dream Bowl. Because of its closeness to both a major road and a highway, it was not uncommon for motorists needing direction or experiencing car problems, to pull off near the house and ask for help. On many occasions, George would give someone a helping hand, and get them back on the road. In other cases, the needs of motorists were more unusual, such as the time impatient inebriants needed soft lawn for a position of compromise. A safe guess is that they were heading to Napa and all of a sudden it seemed too far away, and when they had pulled over in their compact car it more than lived up to its description. George got them back on the road too, shooing them away like intruding strays.

And so it was, from this eventful intersection near the Dream Bowl, by which I had passed as a youngster, and to which my family was now in permanent proximity, that a few more pages might be gleaned for its story. And if the mystery of its existence was not intriguing enough, then how about the name itself?

The name is so captivating, such an inviting enchantment. Who wouldn’t want to go to the Dream Bowl? Who knows, if you just go to this dance, maybe some magic would actually take place, and you would in fact meet that girl or boy of your dreams. My own mother recalled a bittersweet story of an elderly couple who came to the house inquiring about the Dream Bowl. They were dressed very nicely, and my mother’s sense of it was that they had come to recapture a lovely evening shared there many years ago, and they were quite disappointed to find it closed. Louise (Zanardi) told me that it was true for many a serviceman from all over the country (but now stationed in the region), that they would meet girls at the Dream Bowl and for that reason would wind up settling down here to begin a life with their sweetheart. If the notion of meeting someone at a dance was not already a standard feature in the psyche of most people, there was no shortage of effort in moviemaking or songwriting to place it there permanently during the 30s and 40s, and it didn’t end there.

In the 1942 movie Orchestra Wives, Paula Kelly and the Modernaires ask Tex Beneke, the musical question in the verse to I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, lyrics by Mack Gordon, music by Harry Warren :

                            Hey there Tex, how’s your new romance

                            The one you met at the campus dance

In the 1953 musical, My Fair Lady, Julie Andrews sings, from I Could Have Danced All Night, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Frederick Loewe:

                                         I could have spread my wings

                                         And done a thousand things

From the 1960 hit, Save The Last Dance For Me, lyrics by Doc Pomus, music by Mort Shuman,

The Drifter’s (who did Up On The Roof) sing:

                                         But don’t forget who’s taking you home

                                         And in whose arms you’re going to be

                                         So darlin’

                                         Save the last dance for me

And from the first track of their December 1963 debut album, Please, Please Me, music and lyrics collaborated on by McCartney and Lennon, the Beatles sing:

                                          Now I’ll never dance with another

                                          Since I saw her standing there

             Each of these songs became extremely popular. Kalamazoo was a #1 hit, My Fair Lady was successful on Broadway, and later as a film, and I Could Have Danced All Night, was recorded by many artists. Save The Last Dance, also recorded by many singers, was recognized as being in the top 25 of all time popular songs, and one of many written by the great Doc Pomus. And the placement of I Saw Her Standing There, at the very beginning of the Beatles’ recorded legacy, speaks for itself.

            From the PBS documentary Ken Burns Jazz, a woman, a dancer, recounts a uniquely exciting and life-changing moment, one of many uplifting stories in that series, when she was swept off her feet literally, as she stood eagerly outside a ballroom, by an adult who snuck her in as it were, because she was too young to be admitted by the normal means. She was then provided a breathtaking look at the experience in full swing as she was quickly transported around the room in dance, and escorted, aloft practically, in her now elated state back out to the front of the ballroom, and to the world outside. And very little of the excitement was lost in its re-telling, because you could see the animation, the excitement in her beatific smile, as palpable now, as it must have been then. What a wonderful thrill. What do you say? Come on, let’s go dancing. Let’s go to the Dream Bowl.

It had always been the case at the Dream Bowl that it was a venue where you could see local bands along with those of national prominence. Love of music, and its appreciation, brought together a wide variety of individual band members and fans all circling around one another in a weave of living stories.

Babe Pallotta Band performing (circa 1950) from www.smythesaccordioncenter.com

            One such local musician was Babe Pallotta. He was the first musician I spoke with who had performed there during the Swing era. I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Babe about his musical career, shortly before his passing in May of 2006. When I met him, he had respiratory problems, and had to use oxygen, but otherwise seemed perfectly fit, with lively, intelligent eyes, good cheer, and gentlemanly manner. Later I would see pictures of Babe when he was in his twenties, and it could be seen that he was a handsome man, who had preserved those handsome features and pride in appearance. He dressed sharp, and still had some dark strands of what must have been, when younger, a head full of jet-black hair. He told me he began playing accordion when he was eight years old. Several relatives helped him learn music, including his father who also played accordion. He would eventually join his older brother Joe, a drummer, who had formed his own band. According to the History of Vallejo Musician’s, Joe tried to earn a spot in the Al Chester Band from his home town of Crockett. “Trying out for this group, Joe was told he played too loud, and being miffed, decided to organize his own band, using his relatives to form a combo.” Over time, this grew to a twelve piece orchestra, for whom, “Work was sporadic at first, but by 1941 the orchestra started a 25-year run of steady work, an incredible record for a local band.” An interesting tie-in to Napa and Vallejo histories is the fact that Babe, as reported in the Times Herald, played baseball for the Napa Merchants in 1942 before being drafted into the army. He also played at the Turf Club at Candlestick Park during the eighties. Babe told me that playing in the Joe Pallotta Band for a time was the unique guitarist Roy Rogers, who played with Blues great John Lee Hooker, who, towards the end of his career, made his home in Vallejo. Also spending time in the Pallotta band was trumpeter Marvin McFadden, another Vallejoan who has played with Huey Lewis and the News.

In the quest for this story, and the finding of facts, I was first led to Guido and Rosey Colla. Mr. and Mrs. Colla and my mother were friends. They ran into one another at a restaurant, and by mysterious chance, the Dream Bowl came up in conversation. My mother knew I was interested in writing on its history, and she arranged a meeting at her home, and we got together for an enjoyable talk about their recollections. I shall be forever grateful for this circumstance as it generated much that would follow in the unfolding of events. Mythologist Joseph Campbell often quoted the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer, and from an interview with Michael Toms recounted in the book An Open Life, Campbell says:

There’s a wonderful paper by Schopenhauer, called “An Apparent Intention of the Fate of  the Individual,” in which he points out that when you are at a certain age - the age I am now (his 80s) - and look back over your life, it seems to be almost as orderly as a composed novel. And just as in Dickens’ novels, little accidental meetings and so forth turn out to be main features in the plot, so in your life... And then he asks: “Who wrote this novel?”

           So, continuing in this regard, here we go. The night we met, Guido and Rosey told me they went to the Dream Bowl during their courtship, and they suggested I contact Babe, whose name we found in the phone book on the spot. Their son, Johnny Colla, was an original member of Huey Lewis and the News. On Feb. 7, 2008, my wife Sylvia and I attended a Vintage High production of Miss Saigon, in which our granddaughter Caylie sang and danced. In the pit orchestra was none other than Marvin McFadden on trumpet and flugelhorn. Caylie’s father, Mike Soon, is a chemist working for Caltest, an environmental testing company who house their offices in a building where, once upon a time, music and dance took place. They called that place the Dream Bowl. Now ain’t that an amazing little swirl of people and places?


           Jimmy Lunceford and his Orchestra.

            Babe told me, that at some point, the band won a competition, and became the “house band” for the Dream Bowl. I asked him about his own recollections as a listener. Were there bands that performed at the Dream Bowl that stood out? The band that impressed him the most was Jimmy Lunceford and his Orchestra. His face became more animated as he thought back. He mentioned that the musicianship was of very high quality, as was the presentation.

In an essay by critic and author Ralph J. Gleason, he had this to say about Lunceford: “The songs were all played, regardless of their simplicity or complexity, for dancers, basically. After all, these were dance bands and, except for its one brief tour of Europe just before World War II broke out, I doubt if the Lunceford band ever played a concert. They played dances and they played stage shows; the concert era for big bands came a good deal later.” It was a great pleasure to discover that Gleason, a man whose work and person I greatly admired, had written about Lunceford in Celebrating the Duke an excerpt of which was included in Reading Jazz. As a college student, a fellow student had played him a Lunceford recording, and he flipped, becoming an instant fan. The passion for the music, so strong at that age, comes right off the page:

They used to appear on blue-label 35-cent discs every couple of weeks at the bookstore on the Columbia campus – two sides, 78 rpm, and you had to be there right on time or the small allotment would be gone and you’d have missed the new Jimmie Lunceford record. If you were lucky you got one, ran back to your room in John Jay or Hartley Hall, sharpened your cactus needle on a Red Top needle sharpener, the little sandpaper disc buzzing as you spun it, and then sat back in ecstasy to listen to the sound coming out over your raunchy, beat-up Magnavox.

 Ah, that sense of urgency is such a wonderful thing. For that reason I want to say some more about Gleason and why I respected him so much. Gleason’s work would be of considerable importance as he seemed to be on the vanguard, and able to tap into and accurately report valuable changes as they unfolded. For me he was a reliable guide for those things that proved to be worth while, and was exemplary in the appreciation and celebration of music. I started subscribing to the jazz magazine down beat, in 1964, and before that was buying it off the rack. Gleason was a regular contributor to the magazine, and I always found his work worth reading. In the early 60s, he hosted a quality TV show called Jazz Casual on PBS, and later in his career was co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine. Especially endearing for me, was the fact that he was one of the first, if not the first jazz critic to take seriously the things that Rock bands were doing, and there was many an aspiring musician, particularly in the Bay Area, who deeply appreciated Ralph’s influence in bringing respectful consideration to what they were doing. I was still interested in jazz, but was becoming equally interested in Rock, and I can assure you, there was considerable snobbery in evidence in the jazz press.

You could gather from Gleason’s reviews, that he was a careful listener, and this was further evident in the respect he had earned in the musical fraternity. A footnote lends yet more evidence from an experience talked about by Steve Allen during his on-camera musings as he was bidding farewell to his pioneering place on late night TV. More than any other host of his time, Allen, a musician himself, was interested in and supportive of musicians, and his show was always a haven for unique musical presentation. I recall, for example, a show on which Henry Mancini was a guest for the entire night, and on that same show, the very talented Cannonball Adderley Quintet performed, after which Mancini gave great praise. I thought to myself at the time, we sure could use more shows like this. I say this because that sort of public validation for jazz musicians from a respected member of the music mainstream, seldom occurred. Despite Allen’s own skills as musician (he could play anything), he was still known as a funny-man, and because of that had always been automatically, and unfairly snubbed by the critics. To prove a point, he contrived a hoax he fully intended to reveal, and made a recording of jazz piano pieces, overdubbing as it were, a third hand. For the liner notes, he invented a person with an intriguing biography: a reclusive black pianist just recently discovered, and here now, for the first time, were the recordings. The record received splendid reviews, and the wool had been successfully pulled until Ralph J. Gleason listened to it, and heard a few too many notes happening for two hands, saving Allen the trouble of revealing it himself.

As for my own youthful urgency, when my interests shifted from my baseball card collection to down beat magazine, it was with great anticipation and hope that I went to the corner of  First and Coombs in downtown Napa, where a magazine rack was located in front of the drugstore, one of the few places in town the magazine was available, and where they too had a small allotment. I clearly remember my steps quickening with greed as I neared the corner. Let me not be late; just one more issue for yours truly, if you please.

As can be seen, it was modest equipment for Ralph J. Gleason too, and this is a decade and a half further back in the dark ages of sound reproduction. Still the ideas were sufficiently conveyed so that the “ecstasy,” was experienced. Enthusiasm for the essence of the musical message is useful in hearing past the scratchiness of a poor recording. I’m reminded of comments (during an interview with Grateful Dead Almanac editor Gary Lambert) by mandolin virtuoso David Grissman, who along with Jerry Garcia (who would become the lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead) immersed themselves in bluegrass one season, going to music festivals, and always seeking that rare recording that captured something great. Grissman described some of those rare recordings as “...sounding like frying eggs.” If you grew up in the fifties, you know that sound.

Recording technology was not an issue however, where live performance was concerned. With respect to the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra, the theatrics were impressive, choreographed in precise manner, and delivered with great flair, but the music never suffered as a result. No matter what acrobatic feat the musicians were up to, the music still cooked madly. Lunceford himself was a man who seemed perfectly suited to be a band leader. A large man of fairly serious comportment, he was the calm center against the sometimes frenzied activity that surrounded him. The baton he used to lead the band was oversized and caught one’s eye as did much of what went on with this band. The drummer was up front, in the center, and on a raised stand, which was equipped with what was, for its day, an extravagant drum kit.  Every bit of it got used with crossover moves and stick tosses that added punctuation to the musical statements being made by the band, and yet the drummer’s contribution was a show all by itself. There was so much going on that it wasn’t until a third or fourth look at a You-Tube video clip that I saw the amazing things the drummer was doing. Gleason goes on to say, “…maybe they would do ‘For Dancers Only’ for half an hour…making the whole audience meld together into one homogenous mass extension of the music.” Sounds like the stuff of a memorable evening.

Horace Silver

Pianist Horace Silver who successfully blended blues and Latin rhythms in his unique and varied compositions which pleased both musicians and audiences alike, credits The Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra with helping to cement his decision to be a musician. Silver writes about this in his autobiography,  Let’s Get To The Nitty Gritty, but I first heard an account of it, from Silver himself, on KCSM’s Jazz Profiles which is hosted by Nancy Wilson. He said his father took him to Rowayton, Connecticut “...almost every Sunday to Rowton Point.” His mother had passed away when he was nine and now he was eleven. It was an amusement park and they’d eat hot dogs, and ride the rides. On one of these occasions, “Jimmy Lunceford and His Orchestra come up on a Greyhound bus. (It said so on the side of the bus) I said, ‘Dad could we please stay to hear one number.’ “We waited half an hour or forty minutes just waiting for them to get set up at the dance pavilion.” He goes on to say that “...blacks were not allowed inside at this time.” The pavilion was not totally enclosed, so you could stand nearby, hear them and see a little. “They started playing, and the music sounded so good. The Jimmy Lunceford band was so together, they were hitting it so precisely, and the music was swingin’ and it sounded so good. I begged and pleaded with my Dad to stay for one more tune, and we stayed for three or four tunes.” “It was when I heard that Lunceford band, that’s when I said to myself that’s what I want to be: a musician. They were dressed nice, the singing was good, the playing was good. It was just one hell of an outfit, and that’s when I made my commitment to be a musician.” As he was recounting this, I could hear the excitement in his voice echoing the impression they had made, which reminded me of the enthusiasm I witnessed in Babe Pallota’s face when he talked about how great they had been. For Horace Silver the depth of that impression was reflected in the serious tone of his voice at that moment, and borne out by his compelling compositions, energetic soloing, and the successful and influential career that followed.

There are many stories about individual musicians, and bands of all types, big and small, who play all manner of music, that for one reason or another, never got the recognition they deserved. The Jimmy Lunceford Band, although well-known, probably should have been more celebrated than it was. 

 As regards the Lunceford band, and the performing style of the time, Ralph Gleason added this:

 True big band freaks, of whom I was one, were absolutely dedicated to the    Lunceford band. It had – and still has – a very special place in the memories of those who date back to the Era of Good Feeling of the 30s, when the big bands symbolized a kind of romance and glamour and exotic beauty long gone from the world of entertainment...and when I got to the Big Apple and found that you could actually get to see a band like this in person at the Apollo or the Savoy Ballroom or the Renaissance or the Strand or Paramount theaters, I simply couldn’t believe it. It was just too good to be true.

 And for people from Napa, and Solano counties, the Bay Area and beyond, the Dream Bowl was that place where those same bands and performances could be experienced, and where one could be part of what was “just too good to be true.”


© Mike Amen 2010

Yours truly and sister Lynda dancing, circa 1959. Out of the frame is big sister Paula offering instruction. Note “Hi-Fi” unit between chairs.









©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), October, 2011