Here’s a brief listing of some of the bands with which I have played over the last 60+ years:
1957-60 University of Illinois Fraternity band with Mike Denny
1960-61 Danville, IL Dixieland Saints with Bill Barry & Whip Williams
1962-64 Chicago Windy City Banjo Band, Steamboat Stompers
Chuck Hillstrom's Red Garter Banjo Band with Dave Marty
1964-66 Pittsburgh Gaslight Club, Shadyside
1966-67 Honolulu Shakey's Pizza w/ Ernie Carson & Dave Wierbach
1967-74 State College, PA Tarnished 6, Night Bloomin' Jazzmen
1974-75 London, England Kid Tidiman’s New Era JB; Bee Minter’s Gothic JB
1975-88 State College, PA Tarnished 6
1988-92 San Francisco area Jerry Kaehele’s Levee Stompers, Jubilee JB, Ted Shafer's
Jelly Roll JB, Cell Block 7, Zenith JB
1993-2019 Cleveland New Orleans Jazz Ensemble, Classic JB, Night Owls, Minstrels of
Earlville, Original Ragtimers, Hot Jazz 7, Hymns of Dixieland Six Flags/Sea World
I have played in over 80 jazz festivals and jazz club events from California to Edinburgh to
Hungary with a bunch of different bands.
In 1966, I played for a dancing elephant at the Hawaii state Republican
In the mid-70's there was pub in London's Chelsea area called the
Stanhope. It featured trad jazz 7 nights a week. I played 2 nights a week
there with Bee Minter's Gothic Jazz Band. The Stanhope encouraged
foreign musicians to sit in with band. One night when I was playing the 7
piece band was populated with musicians from 7 different countries. The
only common language was the music and a few words in English to identify
the songs. I have a photo of that event.
In 1981 and 1988, I played at the Edinburgh, Scotland Jazz Festival --
part of the greater arts event held each August.
One event was a 24 hour jazz marathon. 12 Trad Jazz bands each played
2 sets 12 hours apart.
We played one set at 300 pm in the marathon, then played a
2 hour concert in a pub from 7-9.
At 300 am we dragged ourselves back to the marathon to play our 300AM
In Chicago in the 60's, the standard weekend evening job was 900PM until
300AM. I was hired not because I was a particularly good banjo player.
It was because I knew the lyrics to lots of songs. Horn men were
desperate to get some relief.
Ditto in Pittsburgh in the 60's. I played with a trio at the Gaslight Club,
an after hours private club in Shadyside. There, the band's hours were
900PM to 400AM on Fridays and 1000 PM to 500AM Saturdays. I learned
a lot more vocals and did a lot of banjo solos playing with just a trio for 7
We played some marathon gigs in the 70's and 80's when I was with the
Tarnished Six in State College, PA. We had a regular Friday night
gig at a downtown bar called the Phyrst. During football season, we would
play parties on Friday before our Phyrst gig. Then Saturday we would play
pre-game pep rallies at the stadium. Following the game, we played from
400PM - 8PM on the campus and then played from 9-12 at a restaurant.
In the 60's in Chicago, I was with a band of young white guys -- all 22-24
years old. For 12 months we played opposite a "mature" band of
African-American musicians. We played the 1st, 3rd, & 5th sets; they
played the 2nd and 4th sets. We thought we were hot stuff and thought
they were old tired guys over the hill in their 60's and 70's.
We soon learned differently. The leader, Franz Jackson, had played with
Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson, and many others. The trumpeter, Bob
Shoffner, replaced Louie Armstrong in King Oliver's Band when Louie
struck out on his own around 1925. He also played with Earl Hines. Piano:
Little Brother Montgomery or Lil Hardin Armstrong; Trombone: Al Wynn
or Preston Jackson. Equally distinguished drums and tuba.
We learned a great deal from these guys. They were extremely kind to us
and very generous with their time. They helped us understand the music
and even wrote a song that mentioned each of us young guys.
We sat in with them and even subbed when one of their guys was late to
Franz Jackson encouraged us to record, produced our first LP, and sold it
on his Pinnacle label in Chicago. The LP was given 3 stars in "DownBeat"
Some high points in playing in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 80's
and early 90's. There were 6 jazz clubs within 100 miles of San
Francisco. I played with several bands and played each club on several
occasions. There were lots of jazz festivals in California. Playing with
several bands, I played at least one festival a month during the summer
My favorite Bay Area job: The annual antique boat regatta put on by
the San Francisco Yacht Club. We played a half our on one boat, then
moved to another, etc., and cruised the San Francisco Bay.
In 1963 in Chicago, we played at a joint on Chicago Ave, between State &
Wabash. We had just finished playing the Saints as our closing number. It
was just 300AM and a guy with a beret walked in and wanted us to play the
Saints. Persuaded by the $50 tip, we played it again. Sometimes on
Fridays (Saturday morning!) we would go down State St. and play for tips
at a gin mill that was open until 500AM. We asked Freddy the Frenchmen
(as we quickly named the big tipper) to go with us.
We were driving down State and one of our guys asked Freddy what he did
for a living. He said "I'm a professional thief" and pulled a pistol out from
under his jacket! We told him we had changed our minds about playing
more and dropped him off on a corner. We went on down to the club and
A little while later Freddy came in. He hung around while we nervously
began to pack up. He said he didn't like the piano player (not one of our
guys) and if he didn't stop playing he would shoot him! Our guys rapidly
packed up and started to leave. I was the first one out the door! Freddy
started shooting up the joint, grazed the piano player, and robbed the
bartender. Two of our guys, Jack Meilahn and Craig Elvidge, tackled
Freddy as he left the bar and held him until the police arrived.
About Phil Cartwright
Josie & Grandpa 2003
Chicago Red Garter, 1964
Backing up Abbie, 2004
With Buck Creek JB
Sea World/Six Flags