Carbon County's home grown Music Man
|Jim Dart still has (and uses) the drum he won in a competition he went to in Los Angeles just after Pearl Harbor was bombed. His band, with members coming and going, will be performing at the 1956 Carbon class reunion on August 19. |
He may not have an advanced degree in music.
He probably never taught a music class at either the College of Eastern Utah, Carbon High or any other school in the area.
But Jim (Jimmy) Dart, has probably had more influence in terms of listening, and particularly dancing music in Carbon County than any other single person since he formed his first band in 1940.
For some the big band era of music, which Dart's 15 piece band played is long gone. But for many from that era, and today many new younger musicians who are picking up the music of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey. Artie Shaw and others, it is very much alive.
In fact on August 19, Dart will reassemble the band to play for the Carbon High graduating class of 1956.
Dart who was born on April Fools Day in 1924, was never anyones fool. He knew how to put together bands and his musical talents had been evident from a very young age.
"My sister Lillian was an extremely talented pianist," said Dart seated in a comfortable chair at his daughter Diane's home in Salt Lake City. "She played the music between shows at theaters in town. I saw what she did when I was small and decided that is what I wanted to do."
Dart, who was born in Helper started messing around with various kinds of musical instruments and by the sixth grade he had picked up the drums, which to this day is his trademark.
|Whether the 1941 yearbook staff knew what might happen or not, Jim Dart and his future wife Ruth Redd appeared next to each other in the Carbon High School/Carbon College yearbook of that year. |
"During that time I started to take lessons from Dr. Edelman but I only had two lessons from him and didn't learn too much," states Dart. "Then I started working with a high school student named Jimmy Jouflous who was very good but he got in a car accident and was down for awhile. Finally I started going to Salt Lake and got lessons from Delbert Beasley (Beasley Music) and he was a marvelous teacher. I learned the most from him."
During that time Dart got involved in the school band at Helper Junior High and by the time he was to enter high school he had formed the first version of the Jimmy Dart Orchestra.
"Instrumental music was very big at that time," said Dart as he began to pick up a yearbook from 1941. "All the coal camps had bands and there was a lot of competition and contests."
Dart says that the high school and junior high's had some great bands during that time. He remembered that at Helper the band had gone to Pocatello, Idaho for a competition and received the highest grades at the contest.
"When I was in high school we all went to Grand Junction (Colo.) for a competition," he stated. "It was a national contest and we did very, very, well."
But his love became his own ensemble, which played the modern music of the time. Another love was also Ruth Redd, the daughter of the owner of the Chevrolet dealer in Price.
|Jim Dart as freshman class president at Carbon College in 1947. |
"When we got married, she became Ruth Redd Dart and there was some teasing that went on about that name," he said with a smile but also some tears in his eyes.
Ruth passed away in December of 2003 after 60 years of marriage.
When Dart formed his band the great sound that his band would later be known for was not instantaneous.
"You should have heard us," he exclaimed. "We were a sorry sounding bunch."
They played their first gig at a Helper Junior High dance.
They also got better and better. So good in fact, that they were in such demand that they almost couldn't keep up with what people wanted them to do.
In December of 1941 Dart went to Los Angeles, Calif. to compete in a national drumming contest. In that contest he won a drum which he still uses when he plays today.
"They didn't know if they were going to have the contest or not, because after Pearl Harbor was bombed (Dec. 7) everything was so confused," he said. "But lucky for me they still held it."
Dart graduated from Carbon High in 1942 a time when every boy who got out of high school knew where he was headed.
Dart went in the Army in 1943 and immediately found himself involved in music once again. He got involved in a dance band in Fort Lewis, Wassh. and then went into the War Department's Dance Band until he was discharged in 1946.
|Dart stands at the back of his band in this 1942 photo, the earliest image of his band. Included in this version of the band were Langley Barnes, Carlos Giacoletto, Henry Mathis, Fred Gardner, Mickett Treat, Roy Rinehart, Joe Lopez, Junior Jewkes, Clinton Ostler, and Joel Wilde. Later Ruth Redd would also play piano with them.|
It was during that time that he married Ruth, who then stayed Washington to be near him.
"My sister Catherine decided to come to Seattle to get her Registered Nurse degree and Ruth caught a ride up with her," said Dart with a smile. "That's when we got married."
But the fortunes of a war time Army don't usually cater to young love.
"There was a point when it appeared I would be going overseas," said Dart. "Ruth went back home for about five months. It was the only time in our marriage that we were apart."
When Dart came home he knew the responsibilities of married life might take away some of what he had been doing with music, but things seemed to start up where they left off.
"I came home and a lot of people dared me to start up the dance band again, so I did," he said. "But the band was never much of a business. It was always more a hobby."
Despite his job of working full time at Ruth's dads car dealership in the parts department, his reorganized band was busy, busy, busy. They found themselves playing for most of the dances and some parties throughout the area and into other counties as well.
"When I first got back and we put the band back together, we had two to three jobs a week playing for various kinds of things," he said. "Sometimes we would play for matinee dances that were set up as well. Besides in Carbon County we worked in Emery County and played in other places like Moab and Monticello too."
Dart also completed an associate degree at Carbon College after the war, graduating in 1948.
That hectic schedule lasted up through the early 1950's and then things started to change as many young people became interested in a different kind of music. However the band played on and still had a number of jobs through those years as well.
In 1960 a pared down Jimmy Dart Band auditioned to play at the Carbon Country Club and the management gave them a job playing every Saturday night for two years.
"We loved doing that and I remember doing that fondly," he said.
The day job of working in the auto parts business lasted most of Jim's career. He worked for his father-in-law until 1968 when the dealership was sold and then for five years for the new owner. For a number of years he worked at the College of Eastern Utah bookstore and then in July of 1980 he started an AM radio station (KRPX) which he ran until 1989.
Dart's band has reassembled a few times over the years to play for various functions. Many of the original members have either passed away or can't get together to play anymore.
"There have been many versions of the band," said Dart. "We have had a lot of people come and go over the years."
|A 1948 version of the Jimmy Dart Band shows Dart standing in the back with those seated including Bill Sompppi, Pete Simonetti, Dave Colten, Henry Mathis, Sam Salazar, Bruce Anderson, Dan Morgan, Joe Wilde, Dan Colzani, Howard Wallace, Bill Rhead and Tad Funakoshi. Around this time Dart graduated from Carbon College and was working at Redd Motor Company in Price. |
In recent years when they get together many of the players weren't even born when he put the original band together or even when they were playing after World War II.
Probably one of the most memorable times they have gotten together in the past 20 years was when the College of Eastern Utah was getting ready to tear down the old gymnasium that used to stand where the Leavitt Student Center is today. On Oct. 14, 1995 the college and alumni held a commemorative "last dance" in the gym.
When the gym was finished in 1938 the first event in that building was a dance, so everyone felt it was fitting that the last event also be a dance. And who better to play at it than Jim Dart and his band.
In actuality, Dart's band had played for various functions over 100 times in that very building, with the very first one being for the "Arctic Frolic" in 1940. The "Frolic" was an annual event at the college for years.
In an article in the Salt Lake Tribune at the time of the "Last Dance" Dart said that the pay in those days was not very good.
"Back then times were so tight we used to play for practically nothing," he told reporter Brandon Griggs. "In high school we were lucky to get a dollar a piece for a job."
Today Dart is retired from both work and in some respects music, but he has mustered up the energy and courage to do one more program for the 1956 class reunion next week.
"We had one band member in the 1950's that came from that class, Mario Lopez," said Dart. " He wanted to do it and so do I."
And other band members have agreed to return as well.
Some are saying it will be the last time Dart's band will play together.
But who knows.
Many thought that playing at the last dance in the old CEU gym 11 years ago would be the final performance too.
Yet here it is, another millennium, and the Jimmy Dart Band is still playing on.