Dan began playing trombone in 1954 and went on to Purdue where he played in both the marching and symphonic bands. When he graduated in 1966 with a degree in Engineering, he came to St. Louis to work for McDonnell Aircraft (now Boeing). He was out of music for about ten years then decided to take it up again.
He joined Professor Ron Stilwell's concert band at Meramec Community College, then Bob Waggoner's jazz lab band at Meramec. In the early 1980s the Gateway City Big Band found him, and the rest is history. "I'm just a hobbyist," Dan says. But anyone who has heard his rendition of "Makin' Whoopee" on the band's "Dedication" recording would disagree.
Dan left the GCBB in 2004 to pursue a job transfer in Mesa, Arizona. He played there in a community college jazz lab band. Dan retired in 2007 and he and his wife, Jane, relocated to Sacramento, California to be near one of their sons. With more time on his hands, he's found playing opportunities in three big bands and one concert band. Dan says the training he received in nearly 25 years with the GCBB has made all the new opportunities possible.
He sang, he played, he just about did it all and he was one of the band’s favorite people. When he wasn’t executing a dazzling jazz solo, he was belting out a tune like “Mack the Knife” or crooning with “The Dreamers”, the band’s former vocal quartet.
Phil joined the Gateway City Big Band in 1980. He got his start in Bayonne, New Jersey, at the age of 15, taking community lessons for 15 cents a week. He went on the road when he was 18, playing in the Eddie Rogers band. It was a hotel band that played one-night engagements at hotels all over the east coast, and as far away as Chicago. To pick up extra money, Phil was also the bus driver and male vocalist. “It was weird,” Phil said. “I would drive all night while the guys slept. Then I would play the next day on two hours sleep. You have to be a certain kind of person to live that life. You’re on the road 50 weeks a year. It’s a rough life.”
Phil realized the musician’s lot wasn’t for him and he returned to his love of engineering, moving to the St. Louis area to work for ACF Industries. He was married to his wife, Jo, for 40 years at the time of her death. They had two daughters and a son.
Phil’s rich vocals added a special touch to tunes like “I Can’t Get Started” and his love of music showed in everything he did. Phil retired from the band and passed away in 1999.
Herb came up through kicks bands around St. Louis and played his way through Washington University. He then took a long musical hiatus, focusing on business and family. Brushing up on long-lost skills many years later, in the mid-90s he joined the Gateway City Big Band.
Devoted to Swing, he has toured with the “ghost” bands of Sammy Kay, Jimmy Dorsey, Dick Jurgens, Russ Morgan and Jan Garber around Hawaii, the Caribbean, and the length of the Mississippi. Herb also fronts his own dixieland and swing combos, and has a brass ensemble for church events.
His trumpet icons are Harry James, Louis Armstrong and Bunny Berigan. As editor of the GCBB newsletter for about three years, he enjoyed writing tales of the Swing Era for our many band friends and followers.
Herb retired from the band in December, 2010, and passed away in December of 2013.
The Gateway City Big Band caught up with Bob in 1974. They asked him to join several times and he turned them down because he was too busy. Finally he decided it would be great to play trumpet again and he joined the band.
In 1983 Bob returned to teaching and taught in the St. Louis Public Schools at the magnet school for music. Bob retired from teaching in 1999 and enjoyed his new life as a golf enthusiast. Bob had two sons, Eden and Roman.
Bob enjoyed being a part of the band. “I always felt this band was more than just a band, more like a fraternal group. They get you through the hard times“, Bob said. Bob recruited many of the members of the band, getting names of potential players from his many contacts. With his infectious smile and sense of humor, Bob was a band favorite. It was easy to tell he liked being a member of the Gateway City Big Band.
Bob retired from the band and passed away in 2001.
Don is a native St. Louisan. He received his first saxophone when he was 9, and by age 16 he was performing for pay and helping support his family. After graduating from Cleveland High School, he joined the Army Band and toured with them all over the United States. After returning home from the Army he played with Stan Kenton. In 1975, Don was named "Mr. Tenor Sax of Metro St. Louis" by the Jazz All-Stars Unlimited. He performed with other all-star jazz musicians around the metro area, giving fundraising performances for the promotion of modern jazz.
Don formed his own group, the Checkmates, and appeared with them until 1982, when he decided to join the Gateway City Big Band. But that was not the end of his performing with name bands. Over the years Don has appeared with the Jimmy Dorsey and Sammy Kaye bands on riverboat and ocean cruises several times a year. He has also appeared with other St. Louis groups, and is much in demand as a solo tenor saxophone player.
Don retired from his day job as an accountant with Missouri Pacific Railroad after being there 32 years. These days he can also be seen as a member of the Moolah Band with the Shriners. He is a Mason and member of Scottish Rite.
Don married his wife, Karen, in 1981. Between them they have 6 children, 11 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Don retired from the band in 2012.
Vic studied piano with St. Louis jazz great Herb Drury for most of his years with the band, but we never heard him play. Professionally, he was a chemical engineer at Monsanto. Personally, he had a beautiful wife, Lue, loving children, and was a good friend to us all.
Vic retired from the band in 2009 and passed away in 2010.
Jim joined the band in 1966 and was a big part of what the Gateway City Big Band is today.
Jim began playing the clarinet at the age of 9. When he was in high school, a group of friends formed a band they called the “Metropolitans.” To join the band, Jim paid $107 for a new Conn saxophone and taught himself how to play it. Later he went to Kansas University, paying his expenses by playing the saxophone. He graduated in 1942 with a degree in Chemical Engineering and was immediately sent to Oak Ridge to work on the top secret atom bomb project. He sent his girlfriend a ring and after they were married, she joined him.
Jim put the saxophone away, busy with his career and his two daughters, Marcia and Melissa (Missy). He worked for Monsanto for 35 years.In 1966 a group of his musician friends decided to start their own big band for fun. They called themselves the “Friends of Music” and Jim was back on the sax. In 1975 the group renamed themselves “The Gateway City Big Band”. One by one Jim’s fellow founders left, but he stayed and watched the band grow and evolve.
Jim and his wife, Jacqueline, were married for almost 30 years when she passed away and he has two grandsons, Nathan and Jay. Jim sponsored a jazz scholarship at Meramec Community College and had a large collection of saxophone player figurines that was once displayed at a museum in Kansas.
Jim loved to travel but his greatest loves were family and the Gateway City Big Band. He was hugely responsible for the accumulation and organization of hundreds of tunes in the band’s library and served as its librarian until 2001. He also did a fair amount of arranging of tunes to fit the band’s instrumentation and directed the vocal quartet formed within the group, “The Dreamers”.
Jim retired from the band in 2000 and passed away in 2006.
When our nightly band breaks came the other musicians would scurry to do what musicians do on breaks, but Jim would head straight for the audience, walking from table to table meeting the crowd and, of course, telling jokes. Often they were the same jokes on every gig, but they were new to the crowd, and they loved them. Mainly, the crowd enjoyed seeing how much fun Jim had telling the jokes – as he just loves to tell jokes.
The GCBB was part of Jim’s life almost every day. Jim was the band’s business manager and handled the booking of the band for most of the years he was with the band. Included in that commitment was the promotion of the band – another job he loved. He talked about the band constantly, and was on the phone so frequently that the Moore family added a second phone line so that Jim’s beloved wife Pat (an extremely patient person) could have access to a phone too. At each gig it was guaranteed that as I walked away from the bandstand someone in the crowd would approach me to ask, “Could you point out Jim Moore for me?”
Jim honed his wonderful people skills selling Stetson Hats door to door; Fuller Brushes would have been far too easy for Jim. He was a gunner in a B-17 during the war and played in the 521st Army Air Force Jazz Band throughout the U.S. He attended Westminster College and built a successful business, Moore Research, which continues to this day.
Although Jim is no longer active in the band we still see him at an occasional gig or private band function. He and Pat continue to travel, entertain and do the things they love. Jim gave the Gateway City Big Band his best, and he was a major force in making the band what it is. If you see him be sure to go up and say “hi”. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled if you do, and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll tell you a joke or two.
PHIL VONDER HAAR
Phil graduated from Southside Catholic High, now St. Mary's. He joined the army, attended the Army Band School and played in the 24th Division Band in occupied Japan. Feeling that his career was to be in music, he took courses at the Ludwig College of Music. The urge became great enough that he left school to "go on the road". One of his first jobs was with Nick Stuart, a 20’s era movie star who was labeled “The Man with the Band from Movieland”. He was with this group for about 18 months, during which time they broadcast, appeared on television and recorded. After leaving the band, he went to work in data processing and spent most of his working years in that profession.
Phil was a versatile musician. He played tenor saxophone and clarinet in GCBB (and flute with Nick Stuart), and has sung in and arranged music for vocal groups. He's enjoyed backing performers like Lena Horne at the Chase Hotel and Victor Borge and Liberace in Las Vegas; playing the Trianon Ballroom, the Blue Room, in Gaslight Square, on the streets of New Orleans; and the Casa Loma Ballroom close to 200 times!
One of Phil's fondest memories was easily refreshed - he had a tape of the band’s broadcast from the Chase Club on the day he asked his wife Jane to marry him. They married in October, 1949, and had four children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, at last count.
As an entertainer, Phil was a natural. He loved to perform and "would go out of my tree" if he didn't have the opportunity to play. There'd been more bands than he could remember during his teens, places he wouldn't have gotten to, people and experiences he couldn't forget. He felt very lucky to have been on the road during the end of the big band era and eventually with the Gateway City Big Band.
Phil retired from the band in December, 2010 and passed away in March of 2011.