The Original Salty Dogs

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Just as the '80s saw a hard bop/post-bop revival that was unofficially led by Wynton Marsalis, the '40s and '50s saw a Dixieland revival. As a rule, the artists who came out of the Dixieland revival movement…
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Just as the '80s saw a hard bop/post-bop revival that was unofficially led by Wynton Marsalis, the '40s and '50s saw a Dixieland revival. As a rule, the artists who came out of the Dixieland revival movement of the '40s and '50s had no interest in playing bebop, which was new and cutting-edge at the time. They were unapologetically retro, and their playing was a throwback to the New Orleans and Chicago jazz of the '10s and '20s. One of the Midwestern bands that came out of that Dixieland revival movement was the Original Salty Dogs, which was formed at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, in 1947. At the time, bebop was the new kid on the jazz block, and Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk were as controversial as John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman would be in the '60s. But the Original Salty Dogs (not to be confused with a traditional bluegrass band called the Salty Dogs) had no interest in playing bop or even swing; their influences included King Oliver, Louis Armstrong (his pre-swing material), Jelly Roll Morton, and Bix Beiderbecke (among others). Whether they were playing standards or original material, the Midwesterners were consistently mindful of the Dixieland artists of the '10s and '20s (although they do have their own sound).

In the late '40s, the Original Salty Dogs were primarily a campus band at Purdue, but after graduating, members of the band became increasingly active on the Dixieland revival circuit; not only in the Midwest, but also, in other regions of the United States. Being from Indiana, the band often took advantage of the jazz scene in nearby Chicago (which is about 125 miles from West Lafayette) in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Unfortunately, the Original Salty Dogs' recordings have been sporadic, and their catalog isn't nearly as large as it deserves to be. Nonetheless, they have provided some noteworthy albums here and there. It was in the '60s that the Original Salty Dogs started recording for Delmark; in addition to playing on Delmark dates by Franz Jackson and Clancy Hayes, they recorded New Orleans Shuffle for the Chicago-based jazz/blues label in 1966. The Midwesterners also recorded a few LPs for the GBH label in the '60s.

Over the years, the Original Salty Dogs have had different lineups; the '60s lineup included Lew Green on cornet, Jim Snyder on trombone, Kim Cusack on clarinet and alto saxophone, John Cooper on acoustic piano, Bob Sundstrom on banjo, Mike Waldbridge on tuba, and Wayne Jones on drums. Subsequently, Jack Kuncl replaced Sundstrom, and Tom Barlett took over the trombone chair when Snyder retired from the band. In 2001, Delmark reissued New Orleans Shuffle on CD and added six bonus tracks (all of them from a 1969 gig at Sloppy Joe's in Chicago). And, in 2002, the Original Salty Dogs celebrated their 55th anniversary.