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Buck Creek Disbands - “Say It Isn’t So, Guys”
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By Don Farwell, past president of PRJC and former editor, Tailgate Ramblings.

News that the Buck Creek Jazz Band has closed up shop is being greeted with shock and dismay from one coast to the other. The band has told the world that January’s cruise in the Caribbean was it.

    To leave us all with fond memories of the band,
below are some photos sent in by
Bob Bernstein who joined the band on the cruise.

BUCK Creek Jazz Band    BUCK Creek Jazz Band
   BUCK Creek Jazz Band

    This will leave a hole in the local traditional jazz scene. How big a hole? Try Grand Canyon-size. Ever since Buck Creek debuted at the 1977 PRJC jazz picnic, we’ve been privileged to hear one of the very best bands playing anywhere, a band with its own distinctive sound. We’re blessed with many fine jazz bands in the Washington-Baltimore area, but Buck Creek stands apart from them all in its popularity and its impact on jazz in this country.

    Long time PRJC members will remember that in the early days of the club we brought in bands from other parts of the country and overseas for just about all of our jazz concerts. Then Buck Creek came into being through the efforts of Fred and Anna Wahler, and all at once we had a band that everybody wanted to hear. There followed the Jazz and Crab Feast in the Wahlers’ back yard, a 20-year run at the Springfield Hilton, the jazz festivals at the Hilton, jazz cruises to everywhere, and appearances at jazz festivals all over the country and abroad. Wherever its travels have taken it, Buck Creek has been one of the most popular bands.

    The impact of the band has been felt in many other ways. Buck Creek is as esteemed in California as it is in its home territory. There was, and for all I know may still be, a West Coast Buck Creek Fan Club that always sent a big contingent of fans to the festivals at the Hilton. These provided the model for jazz festivals in Fresno, CA, as well as in Chattanooga, TN. Buck Creek has been the anchor band at every one of the Chattanooga festivals, and Jim Ritter has been the organizer of the music at the jazz barbeques that wind up each one. A measure of the band’s standing and influence is the fact that its impending shutdown is front-page news in The American Rag.

    The distinctive sound of Buck Creek owes much to the fact that its front line - Jim Ritter on cornet, Frank Mesich on trombone, and John Skillman on clarinet - is the same today as it was 31 years ago. The three play off one another as if they were Siamese triplets. There have been changes in the rhythm section, but Jerry Addicott (banjo) and Gil Brown (drums) are veterans of the Wahler basement, and pianist Rick Cordrey still comes down from Wilmington, DE, occasionally to join in. This is continuity that few jazz bands can match.

    It’s sad to contemplate a jazz world without Buck Creek. Fortunately, we have a great many CDs documenting the band’s performances through the years, with more likely to come from Frank Mesick’s vault. Jazz fans everywhere owe the Buck Creek a rousing thank-you for all the pleasure they’ve given us in the past 31 years, and I’ll be right there leading the chorus.
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