Dirty Old Men and Other Aspen Bands

I played the tuba in a few Aspen bands in the seventies, including HEIDI AND THE BARVARIAN BUSHMEN, ALBERT FLOSSMAN’S BAVARIAN BAND, and the DIRTY OLD MEN JAZZ BAND.  Those were great years, teaching skiing and playing polkas and dixieland and dance tunes. 

But my time with Aspen’s famous Dirty Old Men is a story I share often with my musician friends here in Wisconsin:  Aspen Ski School supervisor, Bob Knight, invited me in December of ’68 to bring my tuba to the next rehearsal of the DOM at Cliff Brelsford’s house.  Upon arrival, I met Cliff, Dr Baxter, Dr Whitcomb, Bill McEachern, and an old fellow whose name I don’t recall – the owner of Aspen Construction.

Each such Wednesday evening rehearsal began in Cliff’s living roof with about forty five minutes of whiskey and talk.  That’s about how long it took to solve the world’s problems and loosen up our musical instincts.  Then down to the basement to gather around the piano and play some jazz.  Great guys, I mean I really enjoyed these fellows, but the music – well, it was a little rough.  As Ulfar would say, rrrather RRRRustic.(roll the r’s)

I took the bandleader, Bill McEachern (director of the Aspen High School band), aside after a couple of Wednesday nights and hinted at my concern for the quality of the music.  “You see”, he said, “I’m rather a pro on the piano, so I play the tenor sax – to fit in with this band. And Bob Knight is a professional trombonist, so he attempts the piano with this band.  Now you, Jerry, is there some other instrument you might play?”  “I’ve always wanted to play the trombone….” I said,  “I think you get the message,” said Bill.

One year in the early seventies, I learned a tough lesson while we were playing for the Annual Hospital Benefit.  I think it was at the Aspen Inn.  Besides gaining trombone experience, I was using my DOM time to sharpen my vocal presentation in front of people. After delivering a (pretty good, I thought) rendition of Pennies From Heaven, I was somewhat hurt by some very lukewarm applause, but attributed it to the chatty atmosphere in the room – they were too busy having a good time.

A few songs later, Dr Whitcomb had the microphone for his favorite: Talk Of The Town. – The last line of which is “Everybody knows you’ve left me, its the Talk Of The Town.”  Now, from the moment he starts croaking it out, the audience is on their feet, clapping and screaming,  it was like Frank Sinatra and his “bobbysoxers”.  Now this was less than ten minutes after I had just poured my heart out with Pennies From Heaven, and my ego was slipping lower by the minute.  This ate away at me the rest of the night, till as we were packing up to go, I mentioned my discomfort to Jay Baxter.  The good Doctor saved my ego and my ulcer with these kind words:  “Look, Jerry, You didn’t have a chance.  You see, that other singer delivered about half the people in the audience, and delivered the babies of the other half!”

I could go on, but……..

Jerry Dunn

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