There is a myth that creative people tend to have an addictive personality.Tony didn’t just experiment with drugs and alcohol but had a true addiction to drinking and also suffered from diabetes left uncontrolled which affected his physical and mental health. I imagine that losing both parents when he was 21 had an impact on his adulthood as well. Couple this with a musician’s traveling lifestyle, plus an ego-driven personality, you have a recipe for disaster. After 10 years of marriage and 3 young daughters his wife finally got fed up and filed for divorce in 1951.
The University of Chicago has a scrapbook by Jimmy Granato in their jazz archives that I found during my research. It matches the one I had from my family archives that was published in the Chicago Tribune in 1950. The Dixielanders band members pictured from below from left: Ernie Kolstad (trombone), Al Reed (cornet), Jim Granato (clarinet), Joe Pep (drums),Tony Camarata (accordion). Normally, Paul Benzedian was the pianist with this band, but since he couldn’t bring the piano to the train station, they probably hired Tony to fill in.
After Tony’s divorce in 1951, he headed south to Galveston, sin city on the Gulf Coast and traveled the circuit playing with various bands. He was hired as a teacher of accordion at Phillip Nevelow’s Music Store and Recording Studio in Galveston and also attempted his hand at writing music and possibly recording.
A SELECTION OF GULF COAST GIGS:
–Minor Quartette, Penguin Supper Club, Alexandria, LA – 1951
–Philip L. Royale, Birmingham, AL – 1951
–Organtime Trio, William & Frank Reneau, Waco, TX – 1952
–Turf Athletic Club (Balinese Room), Galveston, TX – 1953 – The Turf was headquarters of the Maceo syndicate and the Fertitta family
–Tony Martin Music Agency (jobbing band), Houston, TX – 1953-4-5-7
–James V. Mongiardo, South Houston, TX – 1953
–Raymond Russo Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1953
–Albert Pliner Entertainment Service, Houston, TX – 1953
–Bobby Tinterow Enterprises, Shamrock Hotel, Houston, TX – 1953-4-5-7
–Glen Boyd Orchestra, Bellaire, TX – 1953
–Larry Lambert Orchestra – Houston, TX – 1953, 1957
–Maxims, Houston, TX – 1953
–Earl Dantin Orchestra, Old Dutch Inn – 1954
–Cheds Lounge Kenner, LA – 1954
–The Esquire Orchestra, Earl Dantin – New Orleans, LA – 1954
–Officers Club, Earl Dantin, Pensacola, FL – 1955
–Jack Tar Charcoal Lounge in Galveston, TX – 1955
–Lees Lounge, Houston, TX – 1955
–Albino Torres Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1955, 57
–Bob Smith Orchestra, Houston, TX 1955
–Nevelow Music Box, Galveston, TX – 1956
–Balinese Room – Victor & Anthony Fertitta Galveston, TX – 1955, 56
–Richard Bovio Orchestra, Jack Tar Hotel – Charcoal Galley, Galveston, TX 1956
–Henry Frank Hlavaty, Houston, TX 1956, 57
–Jesse L. Webb Musical Services, Houston, TX – 1956
–Dorothy Dragoo Davis, Houston, TX – 1956
–Larry Lambert Orchestra, Houston, TX – 1957
–Il Sorrento, Inc. Dallas, TX – 1960
Many thanks to Bert Hepler, Bandleader of Merrymakers for the nice chat we had about the Texas music scene in the 1950s.
The Balinese Room was, like many other clubs in Galveston at the time, a place to gamble illegally, but the “B-Room” was able to fend off numerous stings by Texas Rangers. Because the Rangers had to walk the long pier, their arrival was tipped off well in advance, giving players plenty of time to hide their chips and workers plenty of time to drop cloths over the tables. But, in 1957, an undercover operation finally shut down the Balinese Room, changing the Galveston scene forever. In 2001, Scott Arnold purchased the property, reopening a piece of history, but seven years later, Hurricane Ike obliterated the nightclub. (item courtesy of Michael Callahan, Houston Chronicle)
Gulf Coast 1950’s era continues next post……….