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"THE CELLAR"  Page One
APRIL 1956 - FALL, 1963
Story by John Dawe
Page Two


(lt-rt) Jerry Fuller, drums, Freddy Scheiber, bass;
Joe Gordon (trumpet) and Bob Nixon (piano)

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Foreword

       The opening and the following sucess of the Cellar was a unique experience for us and Vancouver jazz fans in general.....there had been nothing like it
       before
and it inspired others to open similar types of clubs in other parts of the city...... such as the "Black Spot" in Dunbar and the "Blue Horn"
       near Broadway
and Alma....followed by others later.....not to forget Howie Bateman's "Inquisition".  For many of us younger musicians with little previous
       jazz
experience, it
was a total gas to be able to sit back a listen and get to know all these great out of town players "doing their thing" it was better than any
       music school
and a hell of a lot more fun.

       The Cellar had no liquor licence and was known as a "bottle club". What we accomplished was phenomenal and it was all done on a "shoe-string" budget
      
and the locals guys who played there made $10 bucks a nite, so none of us were getting rich.... it was a a labour of love.
 


The Story

       The original Cellar club was something just short of a miracle!!...... we took a bare-assed concrete basement and turned it
       into what later became one of the most important jazz clubs on the west coast........ in time it became known as a great
       place to play with jazz players as far south as San Diego. It began as an idea from a small nucleus of non-professional
       muscians out
of the Ken Hole big band and was created mostly to provide a place for muscians to practice, rehearse
       play jazz for ourselves 
and hopefully for those who may wish to drop in to listen and socialize together.

       Getting the place ready was no easy task and involved a lot of hard work and dedication. It was located a half block east of
       Main St. on Broadway beneath some stores on what looked like a back alley at 2514 Watson St. The main group of
       people involved in getting the doors open
and the place up and running were: Ken Hole, Wally Lightbody, Bill Boyle,
       Jim Kilburn, John
Dawe, Jim Johnson, Al Neil, Tony Clitheroe, Dave Quarin, Ed Roop and Barry Cramer. The basic design
      
and decor of the club was left to the very creative abilities of architect John Grinnell, artist/designer Harry Webb, Jim
       Kilburn
and Al Neil.

       Art works were donated or loaned and hung at various spots throughout the club and "other" venues were tried at later dates,
       such as
plays performed on Sundays and poetry & jazz was also introduced. The club was registered under the "non-profit"
       Societies Act 
and the main core group were the " Charter Members" and the others were "Social Members". In order to
       make sure that all our expenses would be covered the Charter
Members paid a yearly fee of about $60 and each had their
       own individual
keys.......after expenses all profits were banked and when enough money was built up we would then
       book in out of town jazz groups, mostly from L.A.
and San Francisco.

        The first opening month was Apr. /56 and we were only renting half the basement and it's a bit hazy, but I think we had
        about 8 or
9 tables and probably about 18 or 20 members and friends showed up and the music was just various guys
        sitting in
and jamming. The following weekend however was an other story....people were lined up to get in from the
        bottom of the stairs
and spilling out into the parking area. We decided then to take a chance and rent the whole
        basement at the exhorbitant fee
of ninety bucks a month!

        This involved more work.......a larger bandstand, more decorating and lighting and new washrooms etc, and the place began
        to look very groovy.....this became the
Cellar most people remember and news of the place was spread mostly by word
        of
mouth and the UBC jazz society .


(lt-rt) Al Neil (piano), Bob Frogge (vibraphone), Freddy Schreiber (bass),
Bill Boyle (drums), John Dawe (trumpet)

        About this time Al Neil and Jim Kilburn formed their own groups. Al's was: Jim Johnson, tenor....John Dawe, trumpet....
        Tony Clitheroe, bass....and Bill Boyle, drms....... this group played the Cellar until about 1961. Jim Kilburn's group. varied
        over
the years, but was mainly.... Jim Johnson or Bill Holmes, tenor sax.....Tony. Clitheroe, bass....Bill Boyle or
        Chuck Logan,drums
and at times Harvey Adams, bassoon and Dorene Williams, jazz vocals. A little later came the
        Bob Frogge quintet with Bob Miller or Freddy
Schrieber, bass. These 3 groups sort of became the regular "house bands"
        for the Cellar
and Dave Quarin also brought in an occasional group.

        The food menu was a gourmet's delight (haha)..... hot dogs, saranwrapped sandwiches, coffee and pizza and NO table
        service...... hell, we were serving jazz, not
food!!  The doors usually opened about 10:30 and the bands started anytime
        after
that......usually about 11pm and finished about 2 am.... sometimes followed by a late nite session, depending on who
        might fall by after
their gigs.....there was really no official closing hour and we often hung around 'till sunup.

        The first really exciting out of town group to be booked in was the "Jazz Messiahs", who had been doing a gig in Seattle and
        
had one free nite before returning to L A ....... this group knocked us all on our asses.....wow!!..... Don Cherry, trumpet...
         George Newman, alto and the great Billy Higgins, drums..... no one can recall the bass or piano player's names.

                 
    (lt.) Don Cherry     (rt.) Billy Higgins (Nov. 1957)

        About the end of /56 a new guy appeared in the Cellar.....BOB FROGGE!!.....trying to describe him is impossible....
        when they made Bobby
they threw away the mold. He was the funniest, grooviest and most laid-back cat you'd ever
        meet.......
and he was totally insane ( in a very groovy way).... I don't know what planet he was from, but it wasn't in this
        galaxy, or the next
....Bob soon put together a quintet with himself on vibes, Al Neil, piano, Freddy Schrieber or
        Bob Miller, bass, myself trumpet
and Bill Boyle, drums ......this group. stayed together until about 1960, when Bob's
        lifestyle finally caught up with him
and he had  to return to his home town of Kansas City.

        The Paul Bley Quartet from L A did an interesting 4 or 5 day gig....... the first 2 days without a bass, as Charlie Haden
         had a serious drug problem and was in no shape to play..... a very young Dave Pike was on vibes...... it was a super group.
        The next out of towners were the newly formed "MASTER-SOUNDS" from San Francisco with MONK, BUDDYand
        WES MONTGOMERY, filled out with Richie Crabtree piano and Benny Barth, drums, a good group but rather a poor
        man's
copy of the MJQ.


Dave Pike, Carla Bley, Paul Bley, Don Franks,  Dave Quarin,
Ken  Hole in the parking area at the entrance to the Cellar


        In early 1957 a real surprise to us was the booking in of a then unknown (to us) alto player from L.A. named SONNY
        REDD.
Besides being an excellent jazz player, he introduced us to a great (new) tune..."GREEN DOLPHIN STREET"
        .....Miles'
recording of this tune had not yet been released and this tune really knocked us out. Sonny laid the "changes"
        to this tune
on us and naturally we all started playing it.....as I remember it, he was backed up by locals Tony Clitheroe,
        bass....
Bill Boyle, drums......and Fred Massey, piano. (Sonny was from Detroit, via New York and last played Vancouver
        in 1974 at
Lucy's Jazz Workshop with drummer Roy Brooks - Gavin Walker)

        The weekend of May 16 /57 brought in the" infamous" L.A. alto player ART PEPPER...he did 2 nites with the Al Neil trio
        and
the 3rd nite with Chris Gage...... the last nite ART was 40 mins. late in showing, making everyone pretty nervous that he
        wasn't going to show....... finally he burst thru the door, sweating profusely and obviously VERY stoned...... ha ha, he
        played
his ass off !! By the summer of /57 Don Cherry's "MESSIAH'S" were back in for 3 days with the VERY
        great JAMES CLAY
on tenor, Don Payne, bass and Billy Higgins, drums.......... we were all somewhat in awe of this
        group.... at this time they
sounded much like a combination of MILES' group and the "Jazz Messengers"....... wow! again!
        .....on the last day we all got together
and went speedboating out to Horseshoe Bay and Bowen Island....fantastic weekend!!

       The next really bigtime player booked in was the marvellous L.A. bebop pianist LOU LEVY.......a big press party was thrown
       at the club beforehand for publicity
and to push Lou's new album.....also to help pay his expenses. It was arranged for Lou to
       do a solo spot on a local TV show called "Club Date"
and the FRED MASSEY quintet also appeared....Fred's group was
      
Fred Masseys group had PAUL PERRY tenor, JOHN DAWE, trpt., TONY CLITHEROE bass & BILL BOYLE , drums.
       On the Cellar gig Lou used
Paul Ruhland, bass, and Ted Owen, drums. Next to appear was the great HAROLD LAND group
       for 3 days. Harold's guys
ate most of their meals at a "greasy-spoon" cafe on Kingsway called (haha) 'UNCLE TOM'S
       CABIN".... those guys loved that place
and went out of their way to "dine" there !!


Harold Land at the Cellar, 1960
  (with Joe Peters, drums and Clarence Jones, bass)

         In the fall of /57 DON CHERRY was back again......this time with a very startling group....... this was the first time
         that these guys had worked together as a group publicly
and ORNETTE COLEMAN was more than a bit of
         a shocker!........ they did a lot of Ornette's tunes, which at that time were still fairly conventional, but Ornette's
         solo style was extremely "unorthodox"....... you either dug them or you hated them, but after the 3rd nite most
         of us were starting to dig what they were putting down.


Ornette Coleman, Ben Tucker (hidden) and Billy Higgins

          Around Jan./58 a management change took place........Wally and Ken moved off to follow other pursuits and they
         opened a very groovy jazz club called "THE SCENE"  in Victoria........at times some of us would trek over there
         to do a weekend.
Alto saxist Dave Quarin took over as the fulltime paid manager and guitarist Jim Kilburn stepped in
         as the new president of the club.

 
         The club was now starting to get onto a high roll
and a steady stream of excellent players were coming in .......some
         as singles working with local rhythm sections ........guys such as HOWARD ROBERTS, who surprised the hell out
         of all of us........he was a stone-assed bebopper
and the whole weekend just cooked..... he was backed by Tony
         Clitheroe bass,
and Bill Boyle drums. ...Howard's wife also sat in on drums occasionally.
 
         Tenor player HERMAN GREEN brought an excellent bebop group in from San Francisco with an marvellous trumpet
         player named Richard "Notes" Williams
and bassist LARRY LEWIS.......the group was filled out with locals FRED
         MASSEY piano
and Bill Boyle........they would do "CHEROKEE" every nite at an outrageous tempo and Boyle would
         come off the stand wringing in sweat
and cursing !!


Dave Quarin
Pl;aying art the cellar, August, 1958

"makin' some steam" with the Al Neil Group, late /59
lt-rt.: Jerry Fuller, (drums, John Dawe (trumpet), Jim Johnson (tenor sax)
unseen is Bob Miller (bass) and, of course, the maestro, Al Neil (piano)

         The club by this time had started to attract a large group of very colorful "regulars".......some real characters like LARRY
         GOON
and "DAN-DAN" ........Danny  was an ex-airline pilot from Peru ........ between the two of them
         their alcohol consumption could have fuelled a 747! 

 
         DON FRANCKS and FRANK LEWIS had become regulars at the club since it's inception.........Francks was an
         extremely talented up and coming actor
and Frank Lewis a very talented modern artist. Frank donated a fantastic floor
         to ceiling self portrait that hung at the bottom of the entrance stairs......... both these guys pulled off some outrageous
         stunts during some of their Cellar visits.

 
        There was a small group of chicks who were always hangin' out at the club and helping to make life a helluva lot more
        pleasant
for us musicians......Carol Hunter...Vivian Cook...Doreen Williams...Lois Scott...Rae Sawyer and others......
        Doreen worked
the door for years and was a good jazz singer to boot and Viv Cook worked the kitchen for a while.
        One nite while working with
Al Neil's group, Al peered out over the crowd, turned back to us, laughed and said,
        "hey man,
where are the bebop girls tonite ?"....... ha ha, after that we usually referred to the chicks as "the bebop girls".
        Some of the other regulars were Sam Toren... Arnie
Chycoski, Don Cumming, Ray Sikora, Birgit, Stan Perry, Bob
        Streeter...a very young Gavin Walker
and a very super couple of great people, artists Lloyd and Mitzi Gibbs.


Bassist Larry Lewis,
bassist with the Herman Green Quintet.


Doreen Williams
 singing with Al Neil (bottom left) and his trio

      Another pretty colorful cat was trumpet player Dick Forrest...... he came to town with Louis Bellson's big band....... he
      came for 1
week and stayed for 2 years!!!........ at that time Dick's whole life swung the whole gamut between the hilarious
      and the absurd.......I think I spent too much time hangin' out with Dick!  Word of the Cellar was getting to be known and
      talked about in other cities and in late July /58 a great young alto player arrived on the Vancouver scene......Dale Hillary.
      Dale already had
quite a bit of playing experience...... he had just done time at the Lennox School of Music and had already
      sat in with some
bigtime players in NYC. He was a solid ball of nervous energy and he NEVER stopped talking, ha ha.
      I did a weekend with him
at the club and we played an original jazz suite he had just written..... even that early on he was
      a pretty good
writer and over the next few years turned out some really good jazz originals..........for the next few
      years. Dale made Vancouver
and San Francisco his home bases.


Dale Hillary on alto sax with Philly Joe Jones in Cuba
(Bill Barron, tenor sax, Mike Downs, trumpet)
 
       Around the summer of /58 a new phenomenom had surfaced.......the "BEAT GENERATION".......... it had started
       in San
Francisco and had now moved northward. It was a good thing for jazz clubs like the Cellar..... the college kids and
       other psuedo hipsters were into it and it brought a whole new group of people into the club........ things like poetry and
       jazz became the latest "scene". Most of us thought it was pretty "jive-assed" crap, but what the hell.....

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