Band History

The Early Years

The Toll House Jazz Band was formed in Columbus, Ohio during December of 1990 with the following musicians: Mike Evans – Banjo, Don Fulkerson – Tuba, Jim Gary – Trombone, Tom George – Drums, Pete Kerns – Cornet, Larry Nusser – Piano. The name “Toll House Jazz Band” was one of several options, so our leader exercised his “power” and chose “The Toll House Jazz Band.” It is derived from a historic Ohio canal toll house near the home of our tuba player, Don Fulkerson.

Toll House Building

Above: The old Toll House building on the Ohio Canal.

Our first gig was at the American Legion in Pickerington, Ohio on Sunday, January 20th of 1991. We charged $3 admission and the American Legion took the meager profits from the bar. To close the deal we had to agree to rearrange the tables after the concert and also sweep the floor! But we had a great time and a wonderful core of faithful fans.

Original Toll House Band

Above: The original configuration of the TOLL HOUSE JAZZ BAND at the American Legion. Larry is holding a giant Toll House Cookie presented to us by the “Toll House Cookies” (see below)

The Toll House Cookies

Among the fans, who showed up starting on day one, was a great group of ladies from the surrounding area who attended faithfully and soon began giving singing and dancing performances during each concert. They included Ginny Wise, Joy Cunningham, Linda Evans, and Dottie Moorhead with Ginny Wise the organizer and choreographer. Later they were joined by Jean Hilkowski. The biggest laugh we ever got from the stage was when the ladies suggested they needed a name for their performances. We tried to come up with one on the spot and the ladies reminded us that a group of women who sing with the Blue Chip Jazz Band in Cincinnati were called the “Chipettes.” Jim Gary, our trombone player then suggested (without thinking it through) that we call them the “Tollettes!” It took several minutes for the laughter to subside.

As hard as we tried to link the name “Toll House” to the Ohio Canal toll house image, everyone began assuming it had something to do with Toll House cookies. This led to renaming our wonderful group of performing ladies “The Toll House Cookies.” The connection also held when we began making CDs as you will note from the names of the CDs included on this website.

The Cookies

Above: “The Cookies”: GINNY – DOTTIE- JOY- LINDA

Moving On Up

After a year at the American Legion, we tired of sweeping the floors and in 1992 landed a gig at Oley’s Lounge in the Olentangy Inn on Olentangy River Road near Ohio State University. This was much more conveniently located for our fans and the crowds swelled from 27 to 37. By this time a terrific local trombone player, Bob Butters from the Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band had taken over trombone duties and we had added a clarinet player (Don Seelbach). After many great times at the Olentangy Inn we moved (in 1993) to a larger location, a large new party house in the Columbus suburb of Hilliard called the Makoy Center.

We had a very large room with a large stage. It was a great place but it made our crowd of 37 look rather small. Eventually, Bob Butters’ busy playing schedule took him from us and we were very fortunate to add trombonist, Jim Masters, to the band. He had recently moved to Columbus from New York City.

The Makoy Center


Also, soon after we started playing at the Makoy Center we invited Richard Burkart to assume trumpet duties with the band. I was especially nervous about asking him to join the band because he has such great musical credentials. He was born in New Orleans and earned a Ph.D. in music before joining the faculty at Ohio State University. I did not realize his international reputation as a classical trumpet player until after I invited him to join the band or I may not have got up the nerve to ask him. You can click HERE to listen to his astounding classical expertise. You must listen to the entire piece! When increased bookings at the Makoy Center displaced us we moved on to the Jade Kirin Lounge in the suburb of Grove City (Dixieland in a Chinese Restaurant?) and by 1994 we had relocated to one of Columbus’ most popular restaurants, the Jai Lai on Olentangy River Road.

Shortly after Rich joined the band we added clarinetist, Joe Lord, to the band. What a find! Up until that time we had only occasional clarinetists playing with the band on an irregular basis. Joe had classical training. He toured with the Tex Beneke orchestra and was 1st clarinetist with the Columbus Symphony for 12 years. In addition, Joe served as principal clarinetist for the Longines Symphonette. He was a multi-instrumentalist. He was the principal flute player with the Leningrad Ballet Company and in addition to clarinet and flute, Joe played tenor saxophone and trumpet!

The Makoy Center

Above: An early configuration of the Toll House Jazz Band with Jim Masters on trombone, Don Seelbach on clarinet and Pete Kerns on trumpet.

The Makoy Center

Above: The Jai Lai restaurant in Columbus, OH


But one step forward and one step back. About this time Jim Masters, our great trombone player, was getting discovered in Columbus and had so many gigs he had to drop the band. What to do? Larry Nusser, our piano guy recommended a guy named Phil Stone who lived a ways from Columbus in Centerburg, Ohio. So we invited Phil to play trombone with us. Another stroke of luck. Phil has formal music training as a euphonium soloist at the Armed Forces Academy of Music and as a trombonist at Pikeville College and Marshall University. And he has Dixieland in his blood having performed professionally with Dixieland bands, big bands, and pit orchestras throughout Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and South Carolina. And, like Joe, Phil is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays trombone, banjo, tuba, drums and guitar. If you’ve been reading carefully you will notice that the entire front line at this point can play trumpet. This gave us the opportunity to perform the three trumpet harmony arrangements you can hear on the CDs on this web site.

Three Trumpets In Action

Above: The 3 trumpet front line in action.

Adjusting To Challenges

Soon after Phil joined the band, the Jai Lai restaurant closed its doors and we landed another musical home, this time at Ashley’s Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Lane Avenue at Ohio State University where we began playing on September 3, 1996 and continued for the next twelve and a half years. Toward the end of our tenure there our wonderful clarinetist, Joe Lord, died suddenly. It was a big blow to the band. We had occasional substitute clarinetists for a while but then got lucky enough to convince Dave Pfeiffer from way down in Cincinnati to join us on clarinet. He made the 100 mile trip from Cincinnati every Tuesday to play with the band and we were swinging again.

Pfeiffer w/THJB

Above: At the Holiday Inn (Ashley's) with Dave Pfeiffer on clarinet.

The aging of the band dealt us another setback when Rich Burkart’s wife, Janet, became ill and he was unable to travel to our “away” gigs. Our solution was to ask our trombone guy, Phil Stone to move to cornet. We then invited our good friend, trombonist Gordon Moore from Dayton, Ohio to play with us on our out-of-town gigs. Gordon is a terrific trombone player who frequently sat in with the band at the Holiday Inn. He is well known for his performances as a regular member of the Classic Jazz Stompers of Dayton. So with this adjustment, our out-of-town front line was now Phil Stone on cornet, Gordon Moore on trombone, and Dave Pfeiffer on clarinet. Although we could no longer do our 3 trumpet shtick, we could still swing and we kept swinging at Ashley’s Lounge in the Holiday Inn until March 10, 2009 when the building was sold to Ohio State University to be used as a dormitory. The 12 years at the Holiday Inn was a formative time for the band. It was 12 years of great music but also 12 years of social gatherings since our fans became our close friends. On the day after our last gig there, I sent an [click back arrow on your browser to return here] email to our fans expressing the band’s appreciation for their support.

Travel Band

Above: The “travel band” with Gordon Moore on trombone, Dave Pfeiffer on clarinet, and Phil Stone on cornet. (At the West Shore Jazz Society in Muskegon, MI)

The Recording Years

Once the band was established with a strong front line, we decided to record. On March 12, 1994 we did our first tape (no CDs back then!) at MusiCol Studios in Columbus. We continued to make recordings every two years including 1996 (March 11), 1998 (March 12), and 2000 (May 25 & 26). Click Jazz Recordings to go to the jazz recordings page of the website. Because we were not able to shake off the “cookie theme” attached to the band name, we waved the white flag and named our recordings after a "cookie" theme: “First Batch,”, “Still Hot,” and “Baker’s Dozen.” When it came time to make a CD in 2000, we were rehearsing songs to play on an upcoming trip to Munich, Germany (see below). We wanted to work Munich into the title but still keep the cookie theme, a seemingly impossible task. Phil Stone solved the problem by suggesting the name Münchin’ (a cross between the German city name, München, and munchin’ on cookies). The guy is not just another pretty face!

Recording "First Batch" at MusiCol Studios

Above: Recording “First Batch” at MusiCol Studios in Columbus, OH on March 12, 1994.


In the spring of 1997 I was sitting at my computer at home in Columbus when I got an “instant message” (kind of a new thing at that time and I was surprised by it). It was from a guy by the name of Christian Döring from Munich, Germany (actually Gauting, a suburb of Munich). I had recently joined AOL and on a whim had filled out an AOL profile. Under the category of “interests” I mentioned that I was interested in learning German and playing Dixieland jazz. Christian happened to be perusing those profiles and noticed my interests. He said hello and explained that he was the leader of a Dixieland band called The Charivari Jazz Band and he thought we should get to know each other since we had common interests. During our instant message correspondence I mentioned that I had posted a website for The Toll House Jazz Band where he could learn more about our band. Websites were a rather new thing at the time. Christian visited the site and it turns out that the first music sample I had placed on the site was the tune "Kansas City Stomps." That tune happened to be one of his favorite tunes and he tells me that is one of the things that led him to invite the band by email to come to Munich to play at a special event he was organizing in late October! I was so surprised that I asked him to send the message again but in English so I could be sure I was not misunderstanding what he was saying. He repeated the invitation and I immediately called the band members (we were barely known in the Columbus area and now I was asking them to do a gig in Munich). They were equally surprised but all jumped at the chance. Since that time, whenever the band played the tune “Kansas City Stomps” I announced that we had renamed the tune “Ticket to Munich.”

Airport to Germany

Above: Some of the travelers waiting to depart for Germany.
Back: Eddie Fay, Ginny Barber, Howard Barber, Joy Cunningham
Front: Sandy Nusser, Larry Nusser, Ginny Wise

On Stage @ Gasthof Bock

Above: The THJB on stage at the Gasthöf Böck

We began rehearsing for the big trip and when we announced to the fans that we would be going, there were a number of fans who expressed an interest in going along with us. So, much to Christian’s surprise, we ended up going as a rather large group. Christian was entirely supportive of this plan and did the extra work to make hotel reservations for all of us and help us rent a tour bus so we could do some sight-seeing while we were there. In November of 1997 the following group flew to Munich for the fun: the 7 band members, band wives Sandy Nusser, Nancy George, Eleanor Fulkerson, Diana Lord, Janet Burkart, and Linda Evans and band fans Marilyn Stratmeyer, Helen Johnson, Howard and Ginny Barber and their grandson Eddie Fay, Joy Cunningham, Ginny Wise, Bob and Dottie Moorhead, and Belva Handley. So on October 21 we had an entourage of 23 people getting off the plane in Munich where we met our hosts Christian Döring and his wife Ulla for the very first time! It was love at first sight. .

While in Germany we hired a private tour bus and saw such sites as Oberammergau, Neuschwanstein, Königsee, the salt mines at Berchtesgaden, the Nymphenburg Palace, and the castle Herrenchiemsee.

At the Salt Mines

Above: The gang at the salt mines, Berchtesgaden.

Favorite Bus Driver

Above: Our favorite bus driver, Horst Schilling


While on stage at the Gasthöf Böck in Unterbrunn near Munich, we extended an invitation to the Charivari Jazz Band (and fans!) to come to the U.S. in October of 1998 for a jazz tour to be arranged by the THJB. They accepted! And when they arrived the following October, they were accompanied by band wives, Ulla Döring and Birgit Von Ingersleben along with Charivari fans Bodo and Gunny Gerth, Hans-Werner and Elizabeth Przybilka, Renate Vorberg, Reinhard Pade, Katrin Möhle, and Britta Kürten. The band gave concerts for the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society, the Columbus Männerchor, the Heritage Country Club of Hilliard, the Indianapolis Jazz Club, and the Potomac River Jazz Club in Washington DC. A highlight of their visit was a great party at the Buckeye Lake home of Ginny Wise including a jam concert at the Buckeye Lake Country Club.

Charivari Jazz Tour

Above: At the Hilliard concert Charivari band members were presented Charivari Jazz Tour T-shirts with their Itinerary on the back.

Buckeye Lake Party

Above: The party at Buckeye Lake.

Potomac River Jazz Club

Above: The Charivari Jazz Band at the Potomac River Jazz Club.

At the COHJS concert

Above: The Charivari Jazz band at a concert for the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society.

1999: Our Second Tour in Germany/Italy

The success or our “band exchange program” left us wanting more. And in July of 1999 the Charivari hosted a more extensive tour by the Toll House Jazz Band in Germany, this time with participation in the Jazz Festival in Brunico, Italy on July 10 and 11 of 1999. On this tour we were accompanied by band wives Carol Stone, Linda Evans, Diana Lord, and Janet Burkart along with fans Mary Thompson and Marilyn Stratmeyer. In addition to the festival in Brunico, the band gave concerts at a Biergarten in Freising, in a giant beer tent in Gilching on the 4th of July, at the Gasthöf Böck in Unterbrunn, at the German Space Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, and on a jazz cruise on Lake Starnberg aboard the tour boat Seeshaupt. A highlight of our stay in Brunico was when Rich Burkart gave a wonderful performance on piccolo trumpet on Sunday morning at the local catholic church. Bus tours during this visit included trips to Regensburg and to Salzburg with a visit to the Water Palace there.

Dolomites, Italy

Above: Dolomites area of Italy.

Linda Evans, Marilyn Stratmever at the Dolomites

Above: Linda Evans, Marilyn Stratmeyer on tour in the Dolomites

2001:An Encore for the Charivari Jazz Band in the U.S.

We arranged a second U.S. tour for Charivari in the fall of 2001. The schedule was all set and was to include their arrival on Thursday, September 13, attendance at an Ohio State football game on September 15, a concert for the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society on September 16, a party at Ginny Wise’s lake house on September 17, a concert at the Holiday Inn on September 18, a joint concert with the Toll House Jazz Band at the Hilliard Country Club on September 20 and a performance by Charivari at the Early Jazz Festival in Strongsville on the weekend of September 21. Then 9-11 happened! Like everyone else in the country our plans were disrupted by the tragedy. There were no flights from Germany to the U.S. in the days following 9-11. We still have copies of dozens of emails exchanged between Christian and Mike looking for a solution. Some of the Charivari band members and wives (understandably) were afraid to fly. Finally Christian was able to arrange a flight which would arrive in Cincinnati late on the evening of September 19, almost a week after the originally scheduled arrival.

In spite of the setback, we were able to salvage the joint concert/party at the Hilliard Country Club on the 20th and also the participation of Charivari at the Early Jazz Festival that weekend. The fans at Strongsville were especially proud of Charivari for making the effort to come under such trying circumstances. Charivari received a standing ovation. On Sunday night after the festival we had a joint band and fans party at the Evans’ household in Dublin, OH. On the next day Charivari band members set out on their own sight- seeing tours. The Evans along with Christian and Ulla and their best friend Katrin Möhle set out on a driving tour on the way to some vacation time at the Evans' condo in Florida.

The 2003 International Jazz Festival In Dresden

In 2003 Christian Döring organized another Germany tour for the Toll House Jazz band including participation at the world’s largest traditional jazz festival in Dresden. It was the experience of a life time for us. We had to make some adjustments in band personnel because the wives of both our tuba player and clarinet player had some health problems so Don Fulkerson (tuba) and Joe Lord (clarinet) were unable to make the trip. We adjusted by asking Phil Stone to switch from trombone to tuba to replace Don. We then invited Dave Pfeiffer (clarinet) and Gordon Moore (trombone) to fill out the front line and we were in business again, with our "travel" band's front line. The highlight of this tour, of course, was participation in the 2003 International Jazz Festival in Dresden. Attendance at this festival ranges from 500,000 to 750,000 fans! During the festival the band played in a large auditorium in the Kulturpalast to a vast audience. A highlight (for me) at this performance was when the band played a very popular German song called "Hallo kleines Fraeulein" (Hello Little Lady) and I had a chance to sing a couple choruses in German. Click HERE to listen to the song and the audience reaction upon hearing this American jazz band from Ohio playing and singing a popular German tune. Other highlights of this tour included a side trip to Prague and performing at the Gewandhaus (Germany’s version of Carnegie Hall) in Leipzig. This performance was hosted by the American Consulate in Dresden and they honored us with a reception after the concert. Among the highlights of the performance were Larry Nusser's performance of "Ripples on the Allegheny," and the band's performances of "Alte Kamaraden" (Old Comrades) and "Carnival of Venice." Alte Kamaraden is a very popular German march dating back to about 1889. You can listen to the Gewandhaus live performances of Ripples on the Allegheny by clicking HERE. You can listen to the Gewandhaus live performances of Alte Kamaraden by clicking HERE. (Carnival of Venice is featured elsewhere on this site). During this 2003 tour, we also played in Unterbrunn (near Munich), Regensburg (at a pub called Der Leerer Beutel) and on a jazz cruise aboard the MS-Seeshaupt on Lake Starnberg.

Once again we had a large contingent accompanying us. In addition to the seven THJB musicians our traveling group included: Ginny Barber, Howard Barber, Joy Cunningham, Linda Evans, Nancy George, Barbara LeBlond, Charlie LeBlond, Jim Loeffler, Lucille Loeffler, Kimberly LeBlond, Cindy Moore, Bob Moorhead, Dotti Moorhead, Sandy Nusser, David Pfeiffer Jr, Tilly Pfeiffer, Marilyn Stratmeyer, Joan Tuller, and Ginny Wise.

Main Stage @ Dresden

Above: Main outdoor stage at Dresden.

On stage @ Gewandhaus, Leipzig

Above: On stage at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig. (concert sponsored by the U.S. Consulate of Leipzig)

St. Thomas Church in Leipzig

Above: Most of our gang on the steps of St. Thomas church in Leipzig, the resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach.



In 2004 Christian invited the Toll House Jazz Band to play once again in Unterbrunn for the 25th anniversary celebration of the Charivari Jazz Band at Gasthof Böck. Several THJB musicians were unable to make the trip so we adjusted by inviting my good friend and outstanding clarinet player, John Skillman from the Buck Creek Jazz Band to take over the duties on clarinet. We invited his good friend and outstanding trombonist/vocalist Jim Armstrong from the Grand Dominion Jazz Band to take over duties on trombone. The rest of the band was Phil Stone on cornet, Mike Evans on banjo, Christoph Möhle (from the Munich opera!) on tuba, and Michael Stips (from Germany) on drums.
The mix of musicians playing in Germany in 2004 was so different from that of the Toll House Jazz Band that we decided we needed a different name. Because we had a mix of musicians from Canada (Jim Armstrong), America (Mike Evans, John Skillman, Phil Stone) and Germany (Christoph Möhle, Michael Stipps) we decided on the name CanAmGer (the Canadian-American-German Jazz Band). It was a hot band and we were well received at the Gasthöf Böck in Unterbrunn. Afterward the Skillmans and Evans did a tour including visits to Munich, Dresden and Berlin (where we visited Toll House Jazz Band fans, Günther and Charlotte Grosche).

Canamger on stage at Gasthof Bock

Above: Canamger on stage at Gasthöf Böck.

At Grosche's home in Berlin

Above: At Grosche's home in Berlin.

2006: A U.S. tour for Canamger

The success of CanAmGer in Germany gave us the incentive to arrange a U.S. tour in February and March of 2006. This time the musicians consisted of Larry Nusser on piano, Mike Evans on banjo, Phil Stone on tuba, John Skillman on clarinet, Jim Armstrong on trombone, and Christian Döring on trumpet. We did not have a regular drummer but managed to acquire one at each of our stops. We traveled by car (3 cars) driving first from Columbus (the assembly point) to Dekalb (picking up Jim Armstrong at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on the way). In Dekalb (John Skillman’s home town) we performed in the beautiful Egyptian theater and at a local senior home. We then drove to Indianpolis for a performance at the Indianapolis Jazz Club and then back to Columbus for a concert for the Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society at the Makoy Center. Being on stage at the Makoy Center was like completing a circle since the Makoy Center was one of the early venues for the Toll House Jazz Band.

Following some relaxation time in Columbus we set out for Florida where we enjoyed warm sunny weather while completing the Florida portion of our tour. This included concerts in Ocala at “Top of the World”, in Bradenton (Bayshore on the Lake), in Venice (Bay Indies) and in Lake Wales (South Shore Resort). You can see a 1 hr 45 min video of our performance in Venice by clicking HERE. Our local drummer for these gigs was the great Ray Cooper from Ocala. The Florida concerts proved to be so successful and so much fun that they have become an annual affair. CanAmGer has done repeat tours in Florida every March since then up through the time of this writing (2016).

Egyptian Theater in DeKalb

Above: On stage at the Egyptian Theater in DeKalb.

Makoy Center

Above: On stage at the Makoy Center for the COHJS in Columbus with local drummer, Tom Swisher


The festival in Dresden bills itself as an international jazz festival. Christian Döring seized on this wording to convince them to hire a truly international jazz band, CANAMGER. When the festival accepted and invited the band, Christian then invited Vittorio Sicbaldi, a great drummer from Cagliari, Sardinia to play drums with us. This made us an even MORE international jazz band, with musicians from four countries. To emphasize this, we modified the band name from CANAMGER to “CANAMGER-IT” where “IT” emphasized the Italian component of the band. The band now consisted of Christian Döring (trumpet), John Skillman (clarinet), Jim Armstrong (trombone), Phil Stone (tuba), Mike Evans (banjo) Larry Nusser (piano) and Vittorio Sicbaldi (drums). We could announce tunes in German, English, French (Jim Armstrong) and Italian. After wonderfully successful performances in Dresden, the band did a tour of Germany. We played in Augsburg where we shared the stage with a local band, the Lechtown Knee Oilers. Then we were off to Seehausen on Staffelsee where we shared the stage with a local band called the Highland Land Dixie Train. Then we traveled to Gauting where we played at the Bosco Theater. Our last gig was the next day at a beer garden in Utting on the Ammersee.

On a tour of Dresden

Above: On a tour of Dresden with our host, Jochen. (brown jacket)

Biergarten in Utting

Above: At the Biergarten in Utting.


In June/July of 2012, Christian coordinated another tour for CanAmGer in Germany. This time the band was composed of Christian Döring (trumpet), John Skillman (clarinet), Gordon Moore (trombone), Sid Townsend (bass) Mike Evans (banjo), Vinnie Armstrong (piano) and Stan Mulder (drums). Others traveling with us included: Linda Evans, Bonnie Townsend, Diana Skillman, Cindy Moore, Stew and Cindy Smith, Melody Pott, Marilyn Stratmeyer, Linda Elliott, Ron and Barbara Reetz, and Charlie and Barbara LeBlond. We presented concerts at the Plaza Hotel in Magdeburg as well as on a riverboat cruise on the Elbe. We then traveled by bus to the quaint town of Quedlinburg for a weekend festival. From there we traveled to Leipzig where we played in the Moritz Bastei, an underground former ammunitions cache during WWII. We shared the stage there with the local band, “Jetzt Erst Recht.” And the next evening we had a wild jam session with many local musicians in the lobby of the Commerce Bank downtown. From there it was back to Unterbrunn for a joint performance with the Charivari Jazz Band and then on to Markt-Schönberg for a weekend festival. Following that festival we traveled once more to Seeshaupt on Lake Starnberg where we did our final concert at the Seeresidenz Alte Post. What a great tour!

The music life has been a great gig and the Toll House Jazz Band in all its iterations has been a special privilege for all involved.

Jazz cruise in Magdeburg, Leipzig

Above: The jazz cruise on the Elbe in Magdeburg.

Jazz in Leipzig

Above: Jazzin' in the Moritz Bastei in Leipzig.


Above: Quedlinburg.

Jammin' in Schonberg

Above: Jammin’ in the streets of Schönberg.

Other Bands

Although my focus has been on the Toll House Jazz Band and its offshoots, I have also been a member of a number of other bands, both in Ohio and here in Florida. The first band I played with was the Sounds of Dixie from Circleville, Ohio led by Andre Keller.

Later I played for a number of years with the Louisiana Purchase Jazz Band from Columbus, OH, led by Glen Kimmel.

The Sounds of Dixie Jazz Band

Above: The Sounds of Dixie Jazz Band, Circleville, OH
Don Fulkerson (tuba), Larry Nusser (piano), Tom George (drums), Jim Gary (trombone), Andre Keller (trumpet), Mike Evans (banjo).

The Louisiana Purchase Jazz Band

Above: The Louisiana Purchase Jazz Band, Columbus, OH
Mike Grimes (tuba), Mike Evans (banjo), Glen Kimmel (drums), Mark Greenwood (subbing on trumpet), Jim Gary (trombone).

One of my favorite musical experiences was playing with the Tom Battenberg trio for many years in Columbus. The trio was led by Tom Battenberg and included Sid Townsend on bass. Tom is an outstanding trumpet player who is as comfortable with classical music as he is with jazz. You can listen to his jazz expertise on "The 12th Street Rag" (you must listen to the last chorus) by clicking HERE. This is a cut from a recent CD produced by The High Street Stompers a Dixieland band led by Tom. Among other gigs, the Tom Battenberg Trio played regularly for a Sunday jazz brunch at Lindey’s restaurant in German Village in Columbus, OH. To hear a CD recorded live during one of the trio's gigs click HERE.

In addition to the Battenberg trio, I played regularly with the “Illegal Parkers” jazz trio in Columbus. The name derives not from our parking habits but from the fact that we often went (uninvited) to city parks and played jazz on a weekend afternoon. It helped us get “discovered.” The trio was led by Dave Weltner on cornet and Steve Samuelson on tuba. Later the trio changed its name to "Sounds Pretty Good Strollers." You can listen to a recording of the trio with Phil Stone playing cornet and trombone by clicking HERE.

The Tom Battenberg Trio

Above: The Tom Battenberg Trio at Lindey’s. Sid Townsend (bass), Mike Evans (banjo).

Illegal Parkers

Above: The “Illegal Parkers.” Dave Weltner (cornet), Steve Samuelson (tuba), Mike Evans (banjo). Phil Stone sometimes subbed for Dave Weltner in this band.

When the Toll House Jazz Band was disbanded due to health problems of some band members, the band was reformed under the name “The North Side Jazz Band.” I played with this band until retiring and moving to Florida. This band is flourishing and has become a popular group in Central Ohio.

After moving to Bradenton, Florida following retirement, I met many more musicians and began playing with several jazz bands and as a jazz duo consisting of piano and banjo. The first band I began playing with was the Tom Barrett Dixie Allstars from Bradenton, FL, led by Tom Barrett on the piano. One night while playing with this band I met a local (Sarasota) piano player/singer by the name of Betty Comora and we began playing together as a duo called “Two Much Fun.”We have performed at many venues in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. In 2010 we did a featured show aboard the Celebrity Cruise Ship, Equinox. Ronald Eckardt, a freelance videographer from Portland, Orgeon happened to be on board and taped the show. You can view the one hour video by clicking HERE.

The North Side Jazz Band

Above: The North Side Jazz Band, Columbus, OH. Dave Pfeiffer (clarinet), Phil Stone (cornet), Mike Evans (banjo), Dave Steele (tuba), Tom Swisher (drums), Larry Nusser (piano), Bob Butters (trombone).

Two Much Fun

Above: Two Much Fun with Betty Comora on piano and Mike Evans on banjo.

Not long after moving to Bradenton, my good friend and outstanding clarinetist John Skillman, who had retired to Lake Wales, about 100 miles away, formed a local band called the New Orleans Nighthawks and invited me to play banjo. The band is unique in that the front line consists of clarinet as lead and two trombone players. This band has begun to attract some attention and we played on jazz cruises in 2015 and 2016. Also, we formed and performed with another new band called the Coast to Coast Jazz Band. The front line in this band consisted of Al Smith (of High Sierra Jazz Band fame) on cornet, John Skillman on clarinet, Gordon Moore on trombone, Stan Mulder on drums, Sid Townsend on bass, Larry Nusser on piano and myself on banjo. We played at a number of major festivals and had a great time while it lasted. You can listen to a live recording of this band playing at the Suncoast Jazz Society by clicking HERE.

My association with the New Orleans Nighthawks led eventually to an invitation to join the Buck Creek Jazz Band, a nationally known jazz band that plays at many well-known jazz festivals and on jazz cruises.

For the past four or five years I have been playing on a regular basis with a band of talented musicians that performs free of charge at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, FL. This gig draws a large crowd that enjoys a beautiful dance floor and a wonderful time of socializing. The band is led by drummer, Skip Conkling, who has retired to this area from Syracuse, NY. The band is called Skip’s Dixie Mix. The band also performs regularly for the Jazz Club of Sarasota.

The New Orleans Nighthawks

Above: The New Orleans Nighthawks. Gordon Moore (trombone), Glen Carlton (trombone), Mike Evans (banjo), Diana Skillman (vocals), Bob Hudgins (bass), John Skillman (clarinet), Stan Mulder (drums).

The Coast to Coast Jazz Band

Above: The Coast to Coast Jazz Band. Mike Evans (banjo), Larry Nusser (piano), Stan Mulder (drums), Sid Townsend (bass), Al Smith (cornet), John Skillman (clarinet), Gordon Moore (trombone). Picture taken aboard the Celebrity Equinox during a jazz cruise in 2010.

The Buck Creek Jazz Band

Above: The Buck Creek Jazz Band at the Redwood Coast Jazz Festival in Eureka, CA. Chuck Stewart (tuba), Pam Pameijer (drums), Frank Mesich (trombone), Jim Ritter (cornet), John Skillman (clarinet), Mike Evans (banjo), David McAllister (piano).

Skip's Dixie Mix

Above: Skip’s Dixie Mix. Mike Evans (banjo), Marvin Luckett (trombone), Skip Conkling (drums), Jack Nevins (piano), Bill Carmichael (clarinet), Joe Bruno (trumpet), Fred Dintz (tuba). The personnel in this band fluctuates. The current regular piano player is Keith Carmine and Skip has added a second trombonist (Gordon Moore). The bass duties are most often handled now by John DeWitt or Bruce Wallace.