The first time I heard Jack Allday’s name was from my father. The two attended Highland Park High School together in the 1950s. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, on occasion (usually special occasions), we’d go over to Dick’s Last Resort in the West End to watch Jack’s band perform.
Jack Allday was an all-star athlete throughout high school who went on to perform with some of the greatest regional bands during the 1950s and ’60s. He is also a highly regarded media and creative consultant as well as the Department Chair, Advertising and Marketing Studies at Northwood University in Cedar Hill.
On Sunday, I spent the afternoon enjoying Jack Allday’s Swing Shift Band at Lakewood Bar and Grill. The place was filled with fun and enthusiastic fans, and Jack warmly met each one of them at the door.
In a recent e-mail conversation, Jack talks about his musical beginnings, as well as the bands he’s performed with and more in this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Art&Seek: Tell me about how you got started playing the drums, and what led you to perform mostly jazz.
Jack Allday: My mother was a wonderful, self-taught, two-fisted piano player. She was very musical. I was born in 1941, so for the first 10 or so years of my life, we had radio, but no TV. On Sunday nights my parents and I would listen to WWL in New Orleans (a Clear Channel station, so it came in clearly in Shreveport, where we lived at the time) and a two-hour block of jazz. Then, for my 15th birthday, they gave me a set of drums and I quickly taught myself to play, mostly by watching other drummers. Jazz was and is always my first love.
Art&Seek: Who have been you influences over the years?
J.A.: My musical influences would be Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Buddy Rich and a wonderful but not-so-famous drummer named Jack Sperling. There are lots of others – Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Morello. Non-musical influences would be my parents and two of my coaches – Tugboat Jones (football) and Ernie Kennedy (baseball).
A&S: If you could sit in with any band in the world, which one would that be (living or otherwise)?
J.A.: I would love to sit in with the Count Basie band, though I don’t read music and would be way, way over my head.
A&S: Tell me about the days you were in The Nightcaps. Do you still keep in touch with those guys?
J.A.: We had a little band at Highland Park called The Atmospheres that had a record called Fickle Chicken that did fairly well regionally. I remember when I was about 16, The Atmospheres were booked to play a party, and we got paid. It was a life-changing experience. You mean people will pay me to do something I love to do anyway? When I was a senior I joined The Nightcaps, which were just getting started. I decided to go to SMU. It was expensive, but I lived at home and between The Nightcaps, touring summers with dance and show bands and working at the YMCA, I paid every dime of my college education and always had money in my pocket. The Nightcaps was a hell of a band. We sort of invented what came to be called the “Texas Shuffle.” We put a shuffle beat behind many of the songs we did, which made things swing and also made us an easy band to dance to. “Wine Wine Wine” was a big hit, as was “Thunderbird.” Our album still sells today, and the music holds up well. Yes, I still stay in touch with the guys and occasionally will play a gig with Billy Joe Shine and Gene Haufler – the only two original Nightcaps still playing.
A&S: Aside from The Nightcaps and Tommy Loy’s band, what other bands have you performed in?
J.A.: When I was 19, I quit college for one semester and toured with a show that billed itself as Roland Drayer, His Golden Voice and His Orchestra, featuring Kurtis and His Marionettes. We played country clubs, Elks’ clubs, officers’ clubs on military bases, all over the West and Pacific Northwest. I later toured with Big Jim Lawrence and the Treasure Ford Show, and a rhythm and blues band out of Wichita Falls called Kenny & The Volcanoes. Touring was educational, as I saw a lot of the country, and it was tons of fun. But the road is for the young. I wouldn’t want to do it today, though good bands today either fly or travel in fancy buses or motor homes. As a drummer, I backed acts like Jimmy Reed, Lightning Hopkins, the Mamas and the Papas, Sonny & Cher, Ben E. King, the Diamonds, Sid King, the Harmonicats, Brother Dave Gardner and many more.
A&S: Tell me about the band members you play with regularly these days, and how structured are your gigs? If you get together to rehearse, where does that usually happen?
J.A.: We never rehearse (you couldn’t tell?). The band today includes Donnie Gililland (guitar), Dale McFarland (piano) and Mark Wilson (bass). We have all known each other for probably 30 years and played together off and on much of that time. As to the structure question – no structure to speak of whatsoever!
A&S: Are there certain musicians you particularly enjoy performing with?
J.A.: I enjoy all the guys in my band – they are all solid musicians and inventive and always surprise me. Plus they are all really good guys and we get along really well. I enjoy playing with so many of the good players and feel privileged to be able to play with them. I always love to play with Bill Briggs, who you heard yesterday. He is an inspiration – the guy is about to turn 86. Also love a sax player named Chris McGuire, bass player Chris Clarke, so many piano players (Steve Sonday, Dave Zoller) and Sandra Kaye and Drenda Barnett are two of my favorite singers.
A&S: What’s the atmosphere like at a typical show?
J.A.: We try to always make the atmosphere fun, and to get the audience to feel like they are part of the show. When that happens, an energy builds that makes us play better and the audience enjoy themselves more. We feed off of each other. When that all clicks, there isn’t a better place to be in the world than on the bandstand (the kids today call it a stage), playing with good players, for an appreciative audience.