Seems Like Old Times
Once upon a time, four guys in Atlanta formed a band. Then they added a female vocalist. Being fans of the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Lo's, they formed a vocal group. It was 1966, so they named the band The Singers and Swingers. It was a '60s name, and it also reflected what they did: sing and play swing-type music. They sang and played for country club dances, wedding receptions, fashion shows, corporate conventions and company parties from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. So it is with the story of The Singers and Swingers. The beginning has been beautifully documented by the band's "founding fathers," John Williams and Gordon Gienow (see The Singers and Swingers: Early Edition, a self-produced CD, 2001). The end eventually came despite the herculean efforts of Jack Egger to keep the band together. The middle of the story is what this CD is all about. As personal and professional demands caused members of the original band to leave the group, new musicians were asked to join. A six-member group eventually formed and stayed together for about 10 years: Jack Egger (keyboards), Dannie Bell (rhythm instruments/lead singer), Rick Bell (drums/first tenor), Allen Stone (electric bass/second tenor), Bill Csuka (flute, clarinet and soprano, alto and tenor saxophones/ baritone) and Herb Kraft (trumpet and flugelhorn/bass). Rick's and Allen's special arrangements gave the group it's distinctive sound-unique in the Atlanta market. The band played songs from Tin Pan Alley to the current pop tunes, engaging their entire audience with a mixture of swing, country, jazz, pop and rock and bringing all ages to the dance floor. Years after they had all left the band, they began having dinner together, first at Mary Mac's, then at Herb's house in Big Canoe. Later, the singers began getting together to read through old charts. Then new charts. One thing led to another, and after working together on Herb's CD (see Dear God: You Love Us We Love You Amen, Herb Kraft Music, 2007), the singers decided to record a CD of their own. It became important to document-and share-both their music and their longtime friendship. They chose Seems Like Old Times for the title because singing together again really did seem like old times. DANNIE BELL has been singing since her childhood in Decatur, Ga. She toured with the Miss Atlanta Show, performing in USO shows at military bases overseas. She sang professionally in college and spent three years as vocalist with the Auburn Knights Orchestra. After marrying Rick Bell, she toured with the Al Belletto Sextet, singing lead in the vocal group and soloing with the band. In Atlanta she has sung radio and television commercials, worked as a back-up singer for recording sessions at Bill Lowery's studio and others and has been a member of Harold Bradley's Atlanta Singers and Rod Henley's Hotlanta Jazz Singers. Now retired from teaching/training, Dannie sings in a church choir and enjoys friends and family-particularly her 12 grandchildren. RICK BELL became a professional saxophonist while still in high school in Birmingham, Ala., and played in college with the Auburn Knights Orchestra. He subsequently worked with the Don Reitan Quintet and the Al Belletto Sextet, playing sax and singing. In Atlanta he has worked for the CDC as a graphic artist/animator, served as a church choir director and arranged and sung for the Hotlanta Jazz Singers, radio and television commercials and various instrumental and vocal ensembles. He has played sax with major Atlanta jazz groups and in local and regional jazz festivals, performed with Red Rodney at the Atlanta premiere of Clint Eastwood's movie Bird and was honored to sit in with jazz greats Milt Jackson, Urbie Green, Clark Terry and Zoot Sims when they worked in Atlanta. The Rick Bell Quintet (see War Horse and Other Stories, Consolidated Artists, 1997) was a longtime feature with the Atlanta Jazz Festival. In retirement, Rick has returned to art, exhibiting his work in local galleries and enjoying his family, especially his 12 grandchildren. BILL CSUKA grew up in Connecticut always listening to music. While earning a bachelor's degree in music education he sang in church, with three men's groups and also played sax professionally with regional dance bands. Drafted into the Army and stationed in Atlanta with Fort McPherson's Third Army Headquarters Band, he organized a 16-piece jazz band sponsored by Emory University. After military service Bill moved to New York state to teach instrumental music, where his band competed and received honors at the New York State Fair. Back in Atlanta, he earned a master's degree in music from Georgia State University while teaching private woodwind lessons and instrumental music with the DeKalb County School System. Booked frequently by Albert Coleman, he played for the Band of Atlanta, conventions, Broadway musicals and shows including celebrities such as Les Elgart, Anita Bryant and Andy Williams. Bill has sung with the Hotlanta Jazz Singers, for radio and television commercials and with a men's quartet and choir at church. Currently he arranges for church instrumentalists and has served as clarinet section leader since the inception of the semi-professional Peachtree Symphony Winds. Now retired, Bill enjoys traveling, musical performances, church activities and his three grandchildren. HERB KRAFT came from a family of musicians. An Atlanta native, he played trumpet in both elementary and high school bands, soloed with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra when he was 14 years old, and while in college played with Florida State University's Marching Chiefs. Once an on-stage herald trumpet player in a Metropolitan Opera production of Aida, he played for two seasons with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, during which time Maria Callas and Van Cliburn were guest performers and Arthur Fiedler was a guest conductor. Herb has played in the pit for Broadway shows and for shows starring Liberace, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Henny Youngman and Engelbert Humperdinck. He played with the Mary Sue Taylor Quartet and toured briefly with James Brown. Herb credits his teachers Roy M. Lee, William Hill and John Dilliard for preparing him to play both classical and popular music. He played for 20 years with the First Baptist Atlanta Sanctuary Orchestra and the Atlanta Passion Play. He is currently a member of the Sentimental Journey Orchestra, Beverly Minor and Prayz and the Athens-based rock band 3 Foot Swagger. Retired as Vice President of Human Resources after a 35-year career with Oxford Industries, Herb is enjoying his music and his five grandchildren. ALLEN STONE, an Atlanta native, decided at the age of 11 he wanted to play the trumpet like Harry James. He played trumpet through the rest of elementary and all of high school, studying at one time with John Dilliard. A professional at 15, he worked with local big bands led by Albert Coleman, Bob Axtell and Paul Cooper, and while a student at Georgia Tech, toured summers with Jimmy Weist. After two years' active duty as an Army artillery officer, Allen began working in Information Systems at The Coca-Cola Company but kept playing trumpet and doubling on flute with Atlanta musicians. While working with Mary Sue Taylor, he began playing electric bass and never looked back at the trumpet. As a bassist he has played for five years with the Atlanta Passion Play, worked with the legendary Billy Butterfield, with Atlanta's top dance bands, with the Wits' End Players, and has backed such celebrity acts as Henny Youngman, Charlie Callas, Professor Backwards, Anita Bryant and Helen O'Connell. He sang and arranged for the Hotlanta Jazz Singers and has sung with church choirs, on radio and television commercials and for The Cartoon Network. For more than 15 years Allen has studied acoustic bass with Lyn DeRamus, Principal Bass with the Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Opera. Retired from The Coca-Cola Company, Allen enjoys flying, sailing and keeping up with his four grandchildren. GUEST ARTISTS performing on this CD are longtime friends and first-call Atlanta musicians Mary Sue Taylor and Bob Lewis. MARY SUE TAYLOR was playing piano by ear when she was five years old. A native of Toccoa, Ga., she studied piano all through school and formed her own band in high school, playing for dances and weddings. She moved to Atlanta, joined the Atlanta Federation of Musicians and began playing professionally. She became staff pianist for the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and played with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in concert. She has performed with many famous artists such as Judy Garland, Red Skelton, Count Basie and Buddy Rich. Mary Sue, somewhat of a living legend in Atlanta, plays every type of music with style and imagination. She is also a published author (see Teach Yourself VISUALLY Piano, Wiley, 2006). BOB LEWIS began playing trombone in the fifth grade at Pepperell Schools in Lindale, Ga. Becoming serious about music after hearing Urbie Green and J. J. Johnson on the album J. J. In Person, he began studying trombone with Harry Maddox, at that time Principal Trombone with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Bob was soon working with Atlanta-based bands such as those led by Duke Pearson, Mary Sue Taylor and Rick Bell. An outstanding jazz player, he has played in local and regional jazz festivals and backed such musicians as Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Sarah Vaughan. Bob is a one-of-a-kind, in-demand trombonist and a real gentleman. Musicians who work with Bob are awed by both his understanding and his execution of the music.