State College PA, 1967-1988
Early days of the Tarnished 6
In the fall of 1967, Carol and I moved from Honolulu to State College, PA to start our new
jobs as professors at Penn State University.
I soon learned that there was a Dixieland band in town: The Gilded 7, led by trumpet player
Tony Pierce. It was a very polished band with sleek matching outfits and a repertoire ranging
from New Orleans to the Beatles.
The Phyrst was a popular downstairs bar in downtown State College, a block from the
university. The bar decided to host a Dixieland band every Friday night. Roger Munnell, a
trombone player and high school band leader, jumped in and secured the gig. He put a band
together and we played loud and fast from 9 to 12 to the great delight of the crowd who had
enjoyed several beers by the time we started to play. We were a rag-tag group much different
from the Gilded 7 so we named ourselves the Tarnished 6.
We kept that Friday night gig for the next 12 years or so and developed an amazing number
of songs we could play. We occasionally rehearsed on a Thursday nights and then played 2 or 3
new songs on the next Friday night.
The original band was Roger Munnell, trombone; Jim Ressler, cornet; Johnny Thomas,
soprano sax; Chuck Fisher, bass; Fred Crafts, drums; and Phil Cartwright, banjo. Over the next
4 years, there were a number of subs and personnel changes. Bass: George Greenly, Jerry
Tanner and Chuck Neidhart. Reeds: Russ Whitman on clarinet and bass sax (He was on our first
CD). Jack Eggert, clarinet (He was on our second CD).
For the last 15 years or so when I was with the band until 1988, the lineup was: Roger
Munnell, trombone; Jim Ressler, cornet; Jim Chapman, reeds; Dick Greene, drums; John
Kovalchik, tuba; Phil Cartwright, banjo. That was the band on CDs number 3 and 4.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Trad/Dixie bands were quite popular and there were dozens of
jazz clubs, jazz venues and jazz festivals all over the nation. We played in 16-18 different
states primarily in the mid-west but ranging from Connecticut to Colorado and Montana.
We played the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival in Scotland twice.
Some of you may remember a monthly jazz newspaper called the “Mississippi Rag”. In the
July, 1987 issue, the Tarnished 6 was featured in a very long article with lots of pictures. As I
recall, the “Mississippi Rag” morphed into the “West Coast Rag”, then the “American Rag” and is
now the “Syncopated Times”.
By the time I left the in 1988, we had several hundred songs in our tune list. The
repertoire was broad: Turn of the century rags and rag songs; pop music from the 1920’s and
1930’s; blues and New Orleans classics; Armstrong, Oliver and Morton; Yerba Buena JB and
Turk Murphy; show tunes. We even ventured into movie and Broadway classics like Colonel
Bogey March, the 1914 march featured in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai; and King Herod’s
Song from Jesus Christ Superstar.
During my tenure with the band, we produced studio recordings and live recordings for 33
rpm LPs. Later, we transferred those recordings to CDs. Some of them are pictured below.
After I left the band, the T6 produced several more CDs.
Check out below the five CDs the T6 recorded while I was with band.
This photo was taken in 1981. The members are: John Kovalchik, tuba; Phil
Cartwright, banjo; Dick Greene, drums; Roger Munnell, trombone; and Jim Ressler,
cornet. The only moving part in this photo is Jack Eggert, reeds. Other than reeds,
the rest of the band was the same for many years. Other reeds: John Thomas, Russ
Whitman and finally Jim Chapman who was with the band for many years
The St. Louis Ragtime and Jazz Festival was held on the Goldenrod Showboat docked
on the Mississippi river just below the St. Louis Arch.
Some of the nation’s best ragtime pianists and jazz bands played during the five to seven
day festivals. E.g., St. Louis Ragtimers, Turk Murphy, Salty Dogs, Royal Society Jazz
Orchestra, South Frisco JB and many others.
I don’t remember the exact date but sometime in the mid 1980’s the festival moved to
Heritage Square, Golden, CO. The Tarnished 6 played there for several years.
My other favorite festival was the Edinburgh International
Jazz Festival in Scotland. We played there in 1981 and 1988.
There were a dozen countries represented, mostly European.
Only four American bands were invited: Tarnished 6, New
Black Eagle, Golden West Syncopators and High Sierra.
I had played with George “Kid” Tidiman’s New Era JB in
1975. Not only did he help us get invited to Edinburgh, he
arranged some gigs in London before and after the Festival!
In the late summer of 1988, Carol and I moved our family to Davis, California. It was a
big move, but it worked out for our family both socially and financially. We missed all our
friends and contacts in State College but most of all I missed the camaraderie and
musicality of the Tarnished 6.
I am delighted to report that the Tarnished 6 thrived and continued to entertain
thousands of people after I left the band. During those years there were two or three
different drummers and several different banjo players but the core of the band
continued with Roger Munnell on trombone, Jim Ressler on cornet, Jim Chapman on soprano
sax and John Kovalchik for the next 27 years.
At the top of this page check out the Tarnished 6 logo. The astute observer will note a
rubber chicken lying on Roger Munnell's trombone slide. In our early years at the Phyrst,
someone threw a rubber chicken up onto our stage. We adopted it as our mascot and displayed it
on our microphone wherever we played.
During the early 1980's, we played an event at which PA Governor Richard Thornburgh was the
speaker. There he was, speaking from our mic with a rubber chicken dangling in front of him.