By CJ Woodring
Read Part I Here
PUBLISHERS + COMPOSERS + COLLECTORS
As home to Packard Piano, Fort Wayne's music industry role extended to include sheet music publishers: Will A. Young, Franklin, Dickerson & Friedman, Elsie Birt Byers, C.C. Powell – Old Dominion Co., and The Baier-Slagle Pub. Co., among them. The city also boasted a female composer, Lenora Searls Hawes, who contributed early turn-of-the-century ditties such as "In the Heart of Dixie" and "Arkansaw Two Step."
One of the city's –– and the nation's –– foremost sheet music collectors was Sam DeVincent who, along with his wife and two other members, performed as Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers. The vocal group was featured regularly on local radio station WOWO, where DeVincent later became music director, and on Chicago's WLS. For a history of the station's role in national rock'n'roll history, visit wowo.com.
DeVincent (1918-1997) amassed about 130,000 pieces of sheet music, spanning from ca. 1790 to 1987, in the family's Webster Street home, according to an article by John Edward Haase, Curator of American Music, Cultural History Division, National Museum of American History. The Sam DeVincent Collection of Illustrated American Sheet Music was donated by the family and delivered to the Smithsonian Institution in 1988 via three truckoads, "evidently the largest American sheet music collection in private hands," Haase wrote.
In 1998 Indiana University's Lilly Library acquired the Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music, containing about 24,000 pieces of sheet music, songbooks and folios. A July 8, 2014 article by Journal-Gazette writer Steve Warden recounted the story. Thanks to this Fort Wayne family's generosity, America's history, presented in musical and illustrated form, continues to inform, educate and inspire music lovers.
Dick Hickman, a former W. Oakdale Drive resident, was a musician and teacher employed by downtown-based Tom Berry Music Company. A member of several bands, Hickman gained local notoriety by writing "Summit City March" and "Foellinger March," which the Fort Wayne Area Community Band played each year to open Franke Park's summer concerts at the Foellinger Theatre.
Indiana figured prominently in the New Orleans jazz scene at a time when few states recognized the music genre. Fort Wayne musicians were represented in the Ross Franklin Band and the Henry Lanage Orchestra, which performed in Texas. Indiana venues hosted out-of-state musicians such as the Joe Thomas Band, which performed at Lake James in the summer of 1923; the Fort Wayne-based Club Chatterbox Band was active in 1933.
Formed on an Arcadia farm in the early 1920s, the Trietsch family band left vaudeville during the Great Depression, as did many national performers. The group ultimately landed a job with WOWO radio. After they arrived late for a performance, the announcer greeted them with "Hey, you Hoosier hot shots, get in here!" The name stuck.
While touring with Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band, the Hoosier Hot Shots met Charles Otto Ward, a Hoosier known as Gabriel Hawkins. "Gabe" became the third Hot Shot along with Kenneth and Paul Trietsch. In 1933 the group moved to Chicago's WLS and the following year added Frank Delaney to complete the quartet that performed until the 1960s.
"The Jazz State of Indiana," written in 1977 by Duncan Schiedt and reprinted in 1999 by the Indiana Historical Society, is a wealth of information about the state's role in the jazz age and Fort Wayne's contributions. Also see "The Hoosier Hot Shots" (2007) and "Cornstars: Rube Music in Swing Time"(2020 eBook).
From the early 1920s, all-girl bands and orchestras were popular nationwide.
One such gal was Marvel Maxwell, an Iowa native who worked as an usher at the S. Calhoun Street Rialto Theater. A Central High School drop-out, Marvel joined an Indianapois band as singer, later signing with MGM and, using her middle name, emerging as Marilyn Maxwell. Maxwell entertained troops during WWII and appeared in films throughout the 1940s and '50s.
The most renowned mid-century Fort Wayne band was Checkmates, Ltd., a five-member integrated male group that began performing R&B and soul in the 1950s. The group consisted of South Side, Concordia and Central High School students.
The Checkmates advanced from local venues to performing at nightclubs and casinos, including Caesars Palace and Madison Square Garden, and on TV programs such as the Ed Sullivan Show and "Playboy after Dark." The band was inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame in 2000.
CJ Woodring has been affiliated with the 46807 district since growing up on W. Oakdale Drive. She graduated from South Side High School and reared her sons on Kinnaird Avenue, where she served as a former HSWNA newsletter editor. She has lived in –– and loved — historic places and spaces for more than 30 years. She currently resides in her sixth historic home.