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Marshall is music! Remembering Bob James

Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at 8:52 AM

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Editor's note: Virginia Sprigg is a member of the Marshall Cultural Council Board of Directors. The organization is co-sponsoring the first Bob James Jazz Festival May 21 with Missouri Valley College.

From the time of Eddie Eckles, director of Marshall Municipal Band, to Harold Lickey, band director at Marshall High School, to all the great people to follow, Marshall is music.

In addition to the local public school, music groups and the city of Marshall, Missouri Valley College has reinstated a music major. Locally we have other groups performing gospel and country western.

One of the famous persons to come out of Marshall's music scene is Bob James, most recognized for his musical score for the TV sitcom, "Taxi."

How did Alice James pick her son over his sister Katie to study piano? Katie had a great voice that sounded like Karen Carpenter. Seems like we remember Bob and Katie cutting a record together.

We all know the story about Alice taking Bob at age 4 to Mercy Academy to enroll him in piano classes with Sr. Mary Elizabeth. Sister was amazed at his talent and said he had a perfect ear for music and might one day be famous.

During Bob's training under Mr. Lickey, he was placed in a separate room away from the piano and asked to name the key or chord that he would play. Bob never missed calling out the correct key or cord that Mr. Lickey played.

When Bob lived in the neighborhood of Southeast School, Larry Glavin lived about a block away and would sit on the curb and listen to Bob practice the piano.

During high school, Bob played with a band at Osage Beach at the Lake of the Ozarks. Marvin and I would drive down to the lake to listen to him play.

Katie was a lifeguard at the pool where Marvin was head lifeguard, thus Marvin was always planning something around music for the group.

He would drive his shiny red and white 1956 Ford Fairlane to Kansas City to attend the Plamore Ballroom where bands like Les Brown were playing. He would go back stage telling Les or whoever that they should let Bob sit in on piano as he had a perfect ear for music.

Many times he was able to sit in, but his time with Les Brown he wasn't able to due union rules.

Many good memories flood our minds when we think back to the days when life was simple and we enjoyed those trips to the Pla-Mor in Kansas City or 18th and Vine with Mr. and Mrs. Leonard VanDyke and our friend Alice Wittman to listen to some of the greats.

When we married in 1957, Bob was at the reception and informally played the piano. Wonder what he would charge today?

After graduation from Marshall High School in 1957, Bob graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in music, and the rest is history.

Applebee's of Marshall has the southeast corner wall filled with memorabilia about Mr. James. His new CD (with the band Fourplay), released last fall is called "Let's Touch the Sky."

Marshall Cultural Council was formed last August with the thought in mind of honoring Mr. James for his contributions with a Bob James Jazz Festival.

The council also expanded their ideas to include education, enlightenment and entertainment. The council makes it possible for artists and musicians to share their art by providing logistical, financial, physical and emotional support.

The Jazz Festival is a partnership between Marshall Cultural Council and Missouri Valley College and serves to highlight both the city's great music tradition and the college's growing music programs.

Marvin and I were at Missouri Valley College's Jazz Band Concert Sunday evening. The 18 instruments got a good jazz workout. Valley has found something no one could imagine.

Future dreams would put Robert James in a new building on the campus and Valley would go on the map as a new location for world music majors.

Tickets for the Jazz Concert are available at The Marshall Democrat-News, Wellness Adult Health Care on Odell Avenue, The Vox Box, Chad Jaecques at MVC's Baity Hall room 222 and from members of MCC or go to the web site at www.marshallculturalcouncil.org.

Cost of tickets are $25 and $30 at the door. The festival features Bobby Watson; D.J. Sweeney, daughter of Sam Dyer (Dyer the Flyer); Clarence Smith, a Marshall High School graduate and former band director; and Joe Athon, also from Marshall. Will Matthews who plays with the Count Basic Orchestra will also be featured.

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My brother had (perhaps still does) a 45rpm single of Bob on piano, and Elaine Vaseloupolos (sp?) as vocalist covering Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust. Elaine was the daughter of the owner of "Tony's", a restaurant on the west side of the square.

-- Posted by Oklahoma Reader on Tue, May 3, 2011, at 1:20 PM

I met Bob James and turned pages for him in the early 1970's while he performed "The Dream of Olwen", a piece I had just received a "1" from Sate competition for performing.

Mr. James' father, Lampkin, was our family attorney at one time. I played a Fender Rhodes keyboard in Marshall High School Concert band from 1976 to 1980. I purchased the keyboard because it was Bob James primary instrument. Because of his influence, I later graduated from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL, with a recording engineering degree. I also stage managed for Kool & the Gang and the Temptations. I have worked in audio and lighting for bands from Elton John and Billy Joel to Alabama, Tim McGraw to Van Halen, Amy Grant to Rob Zombie. I have enjoyed a successful music business career due to Mr. Bob James musical influence early in my life. I appreciate his style and feel for soul filled melodic masterpieces. You can hear 6 of my own tunes, written, performed and recorded entirely by me at: http:/www.myspace.com/curtisbush.

-- Posted by curtisbush on Wed, May 4, 2011, at 9:55 AM

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