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"SUGAR" WILLIE AND THE CUBES

 
"SUGAR" WILLIE AND THE CUBES was originally a nine piece Jazz band named "THE CUDDLERS". They were first introduced in 1962 at Sacramento State University, Sacramento (Little Theater) with the leader Willie Erickson on piano dressed as a tramp clown named "CUDDLES". 

Their very first paid engagement under the band's present name, with Erickson as "Sugar" Willie was held on Sunday May 17th, 1964, at the Lake Bowl in Folsom, California.  From then on, concerts were mainly held on Mondays--the only night when the best musicians in town were available.

The Cubes were expanded to ten pieces in 1968 when Bob Ringwald joined the band. To quote "Sugar" Willie: "This not only topped off the group with a much more powerful piano player. It also gave me the freedom to front the band and generally show off".  

On May 10 and 11, 1968 the "TEN" CUBES were featured at the Monterey Dixieland Festival. Also on the show was The original Dukes of Dixieland, the Firehouse 5 Plus 2, Clancy Hayes, Bob Crosby and the Bobcats, Turk Murphy's San Francisco Jazz Band, Mickie Finn, Louis Armstrong and the All Stars.

In his May 11, 1968 review of the Festival, San Francisco Examiner Music Critic Philip Elwood wrote the following:

"The surprise of the evening was Sugar Willie and the Ten Cubes, playing the intricate arrangements of their Sacramento director, Willie Erickson.  Some of their numbers were more novelty than Dixieland, but when the two trumpet-two trombone-french horn front line sound got going on the New Orleans marching tunes, it was a refreshing contrast to the small band sound which prevailed most of the night". 

In 1969 Erickson moved to Spokane, Washington. He held a few concerts there using local area musicians. During this time, he often returned to Sacramento to present concerts with the original Cubes. The concerts were held at The Straw Hat Pizza, Deebo's, Shakey's Pizza Pub and Capone's Chicago Tea Room. In 1975, the Cubes were also featured at the internationally acclaimed Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.

During the 1960's and 70's, the regular members of the Cubes were: 

"SUGAR" Willie Erickson  director/arranger/Eb tuba
Noel Smelser  trumpet
Jim McDonald  trumpet
Jim Maihack  trombone
Dick Mix  trombone/english horn
Phil Howe  reeds
Allen Herr  french horn
Bob Ringwald  piano
Will Tallacksen  banjo/guitar
Jim Herrilson  bass/tuba
Roger Mendez  drums

Ralph Thompson replaced Tallacksen after his passing.


In the spring of 1978, "Sugar" Willie retired from the music business and became a ship-to- shore radiotelegraph operator at KPH on Point Reyes, California.

In 1997, he retired from KPH and returned to Sacramento to once again play, write and arrange music. He has added a second reed part to the band library. The amount of CUBES are now eleven.

The Cubes repertoire ranges from Lu Watters to Bob Crosby to Count Basie to Spike Jones.  Leader "SUGAR" Willie writes and arranges all the music by hand and refers to it as "CIRCUS JAZZ."  Basically, his intention is to demonstrate what it would be like if a typical "high-powered circus band was called on to put on a Jazz concert and a very high-energy and entertaining show. 

Trumpeter Jim McDonald once said, "The CUBES was the only band I ever played in that I had to woodshed for". 

Note: With musicians, the term "woodshed" means "practice". 

A typical CUBES concert might consist of such varied songs and styles as "The Canal Street Blues", "Miserlou", "South Rampart Street Parade", "My Funny Valentine" and "Beethoven's Fifth Watusi".  It could include a medley of beer-joint sing alongs or a large medley entitled "Say 'Cheese'" where all the songs dealt with smiling.

There is an Erickson original, "Mudduh, Duh Pizza Cudduh", written for Margaret (Mudduh) Korb who worked in the original Shakey's Pizza Parlor on 57th and J Streets, Sacramento, for over 12 years.  The song was first introduced in 1955 by Burt Wilson's SILVER DOLLAR JAZZ BAND, Shakey's house band that Erickson was playing in at the time.

 

For information on hiring the Cubes, contact:
BOB RINGWALD phone 916/806-9551
 e-mail Bob 

To contact William ("Sugar" Willie) Erickson;
 
sugarwillie@gmail.com
916/965-1402