Mass Historia
Hints, Tips and Musings on Living History and Vintage Dance
RSS Feed
The Gentleman's Page
About Mass Historia
Social Daunce Irregulars
Art Deco Society
Join the Dance & History mailing list
E-mail Address


« Listing of Southern California Historic Houses and Outdoor Museums | Main | Newport Vintage Dance Week 2008 »

Jazz Age and Ragtime Dance Bands in Southern California

Here is a quick list of the bands I know about that are keeping the flame of early 20th Century Jazz/Ragtime music alive in my Southern California neighborhood.

Note that I am only listing bands of which I have personal knowledge, and which I would recommend to someone putting on a period theme dance. There are others out there which I have not personally heard, or which I would perhaps not recommend for some reason. However, if you want to make a pitch for your favorite Southern California historical style jazz or ragtime band, please add a comment at the end of this post. Be sure to include their website or other contact information.

I will mention a few swing bands, since the swing/jazz age distinction is pretty blurry, but I won't try to list them all. I will leave that to those more deeply involved in the "swing scene".

Ian Whitcomb (aka Ian Whitcomb & His Bungalow Boys, Ian
Whitcomb & His Dance Band & The Musical Murrays & The White Star Orchestra)

Ian is amazingly knowledgeable about early 20th Century music, and is a prolific author on the subject. He is well known for his Ukulele. The Bungalow Boys are great for a lively, friendly atmosphere like a tea dance. He focuses mainly on the Ragtime and early Jazz period (1890 - 1925). They are a good band for dancing of the One-Step, Two-Step, Waltz, Tango variety.

The Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra
They are a brassy (but not exclusively brass) band that focus on the Ragtime and early Jazz period (1900-1929). They have a very nice "Sunday in the Park" feel to them. Even though they have band uniforms, they don't march. They are a very good dance band however.

Jazz Age
Mora's Modern Rhythmists (aka Mora's Modern Swingtet & Dean Mora & His Orchestra).
Dean does a great job at providing a smooth, sophisticated sound--just right for your black tie gala. His different bands have different foci. The Modern Rhythmists focus on the period from 1920 - 1936 and the Swingtet (a small band) and the Orchestra (a big band) focus on the 30s & 40s. They are a good band for dancing and can do a wide variety of ballroom styles in addition to swing.

Janet Kline & Her Parlor Boys
Janet does a very energetic, vaudeville style of music. Her own vocal style is reminiscent of Annette Hanshaw or Helen Kane (boop-boop-be-doop). Her band is great for an intimate event. They aren't really dance oriented, but are usually dancable. Her focus is primarily (but not exclusively) on the novelty songs of the 1920s.

Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five
Excellent musicians (a dirty secret--almost all the good bands in the LA area share the same musicians) with an up-tempo late 30s-1940s sound, reminiscent of Bob Crosby and the Bobcats. This is a strongly swing-focused group.

Jim Ziegler & His Swingsations
A small combo of excellent musicians. Great for an intimate event. I first heard them in the observation bar at the Queen Mary, where they were just right. Jim Ziegler is a cracker jack trumpet player who also has a nice jazz age vocal style. Their focus is also swing.

That's it for the Jazz Age & Ragtime bands that I have personal experience with, that I would recommend for those looking for a good, authentic feel for their dance events. Cheers,