"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".
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.
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
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,
Louis Armstrong and the All Stars.
his May 11, 1968 review of the Festival, San Francisco Examiner
Music Critic Philip Elwood wrote the following:
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".
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.
the 1960's and 70's, the regular members of the Cubes were:
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
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.
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.
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.
Jim McDonald once said, "The CUBES was the only band I ever
played in that I had to woodshed for".
With musicians, the term "woodshed" means
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
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.
information on hiring the Cubes, contact:
BOB RINGWALD phone 916/806-9551
contact William ("Sugar" Willie) Erickson;