In 1923 Jack Stewart moved with his folks from his native Kansas to the sleepy town of Patterson, CA where at the tender age of 12 he became interested in music. He took 21 saxophone lessons from the wife of a local doctor. Little did he know that this humble beginning, coupled with his childhood dream of having his own band, would lead him into a musical career that began in 1931 with the formation of the Jack Stewart Dance Band.
Working the valley from Fresno to Lodi, the band entertained at dance halls, weddings, annual celebrations, holiday events, numerous high school dances and proms. The band kept more than 150 dates during their busiest year, the highlight of which was an appearance at the prestigious Claremont Hotel in San Francisco.
The initial members of the band were all Patterson High School classmates of Jack including Glenn Hamilton, Neal Smith, Bruce Buchanan and Elta Hurd. Don Keller, a music teacher at Patterson High, tutored them.
"I wanna be happy medley"
Recorded in a San Francisco recording studio in mid '50's
"The object of my affection"
Live performance recorded in the 50's.
Vocal by Roland Lopes.
Jack Stewart Dance Band L_R Seated Bob Torvend, Dick Schell, Jack Stewart, Hank deCoito, Dottie Gardner, Ray Sears, Back row L-R Roland Lopes, Joe Azevedo (Photos courtesy of Jack Stewart Jr.)
Jack Stewart Dance Band
The band's first job came in 1931 when they were hired for a Patterson Fire Department Women's Night for which they earned a total of $10.00...a sum they were glad to get in those days.
Many musicians joined and left the band over the years from 1931 through 1979, but Jack considered the backbone of the band were those members-who were with him nearly from the start. They included Joe Azevedo on bass, Roland Lopes of drums and vocals, Bob Torvend and Dick Schell on saxophone, Hank deCoito on trumpet and Ray Sears of piano. In addition saxophone man Harry Penney and guitarist Bob Robertson played with the band from time to time.
Jack's music was variously described as sweet and low and strictly for dancing. He would not have it any other way. As any of those men and women who worked for Jack will tell you "he ran a tight ship".
Because the band became so popular and in demand they were often booked a year in advance to ensure their availability. Many a wedding date was changed to ensure the band's availability.
Roland Lopes doubled as the band's drummer and the only male vocalist over the years. He was joined from time to time by female singers including Jerri Joslin, Dottie Gardner and Jerri Madsen. Ironically Madsen only sang once with the band when she was recruited by deCoito to join the band in San Francisco for their one and only recording session in the mid 1950's. Two 78 RPM records were cut at that all day session including two instrumentals, "Jealousy" and "I wanna be happy" medley.
The band disbanded in 1968 after Jack suffered a stroke and his health deteriorated. But they got back together for one last time on November 9, 1979 at the stately Del Puerto Hotel ballroom in Patterson. It was a benefit concert for the Patterson Township Historical Society and it was sold out within hours of tickets going on sale.
As if it was destined to be, that evening Jack and his wife Marjorie were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary and the band played the Anniversary waltz one last time just for them. It was a touching and memorable moment. Jack died 3 years later on January 16, 1981.
The Band made appearances on KTRB and performed regularly at the Scenic Club at Scenic and Coffee in Modesto.
Members of the Jack Stewart band having fun in a summertime parade in Patterson. Photo believed to have been taken in the late 40's or early 50's in Patterson. During these type of events the band was variously known as Jack Stewart's "Other Band" or Jack Stewart's "German Band". Jack owned and operated the Patterson Cleaners for many years.
Top to Bottom L-R Roland Lopes, Wayne E. Peace , Middle Row L-R. Dick Schell, Jack Stewart, Joe Azevedo . Bottom Row L-R. Ray Sears and Bob Torvend.