After years of wanting to be a professional musician, I finally found myself deeply rooted in the full-time music business. The year was 1972. I was 36 years old. After getting discharged from the Navy in 1958 and the playing part time in my home town of Rock Island, Illinois for quite a few years, I had finally realized my wish of becoming a full-time musician. I was among the 2500 who had auditioned for the Disney Company in Orlando and was one of the 250 who got the job. I was a full-time staff Disney musician. I did it!
I moved to Orlando and joined Disney in 1971, played in the big band, the Marching World Band, the Dixieland group, and did quite an assortment of music jobs around the new Disney property. To me all this was musical heaven. When the incoming act at the Top Of the World dinner show required multiple trombones, I got to sub in the band there. The Hotel band was full of former pros from the big band era, Ray McKinley, then Don Lamond, Gene Traxler, Sam Marowitz and a special guy that was to make a major impact on my musical career, Deane Kincade. Deane had an incredible career with Ray Noble, Tommy Dorsey, Bob Crosby and was staff Orchestrator for the Jackie Gleason Shows.
Dean was great reed player, he played baritone sax in the show band there. He also used his fantastic arranging talents to help Disney with some of their shows. One night after work he said to me: “Man, I sure like the way you play. Have you ever done a jazz festival?” I told him no. I hadn’t. He then said that he had been doing the Manassas Jazz Festival near Washington DC and was sure he could get me on it. I was quite excited and was more excited when I got the call that fall to be on the bill at Manassas. Oh My god, I was thrilled but scared at the same time. I was able to get some time off from my regular Disney job and headed for Manassas. A then huge festival organized by an eccentric CPA and amateur jazz vocalist, Fat Cat McCree.
Playing the Manassas festival was the step that really put me in the jazz business. Without a doubt, I met everyone in the early trad and Swing business and got to play with them. Deane, of course and Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Erwin, Bud Freeman, Kenny Davern, Wallace Davenport (whom I later recorded with) Max Kaminski, Bob Wilber, Eddie Condon, Cliff Leeman, Bob Haggart, Yank Lawson…I could go on and on. These were jazz stars I had only read about. And after my first appearance there, I returned to Manassas for quite a few successive years, got a lot of recording work and was invited to more and more festivals. All of this happened because of a recommendation from the great Deane Kincade. As a matter of fact, when wild Bill Davision later hired me to go on my first European tour with his band in 1979, it was a direct result of my playing a set with him at Manassas that got me the job. I was with Wild Bill for over 10 years.
Years later when Deane’s Kincade’s health took a tragic turn and he was in the hospital, I spent quite a bit of time with him and I always reminded him that it was his recommendation that got me introduced to the real jazz business. He always said that I would have done the same on my own. Believe me, I wouldn’t have. Deane died in 1992. But to this day, I owe him my Jazz career.
by Bill Allred
Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band