From the May issue of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene

didier ghez disney dust bowl hal smith jazz



            It is a bit of a miracle that this book, Dust Bowl To Disney, exists. Danny Alguire (1912-92) is today mostly remembered as being the trumpeter with the always-popular Firehouse Five Plus Two during 1949-71. He wrote his memoirs in the 1980s, sent the typed manuscript to his friend William McDonald, and then it was forgotten and assumed to be lost. Decades later it was discovered in the McDonald family archives and, after a four-month search trying to locate him, it was sent to Alguire’s son.

            It is a blessing that the book has finally been published. Danny Alguire is a masterful storyteller and he had a lot of stories to tell. Born in Oklahoma, he was originally part of a middle-class family in the 1920s that lived in Kansas City during part of the 1920s where he enjoyed hearing the Bennie Moten Orchestra. He took up the mellophone in 1921, switching to trumpet a few years later and, after his family moved back to Oklahoma, he played with dance bands in the late 1920s. The Depression took its toll with his father losing his government job and many years of struggling took place. Alguire’s tales of surviving the Depression with a variety of day jobs and his freelance life as a trumpeter are fascinating, sometimes humorous, and really give readers a vivid idea of how difficult it was for most Americans during that era. His self-deprecating tone along with his attention to detail are strong assets throughout his memoirs.

            Alguire spent time playing music in Los Angeles later in the decade and had an early break by becoming a member of the short-lived 16-piece Bob Wills big band during 1941-42 where he was influenced and inspired by fellow trumpeter Benny Strickler. He recorded with Wills and took the vocal on the popular “Home In San Antone.” Never quite sure whether to pursue music as his livelihood, he made some mistakes, spending time in the Navy working at potentially dangerous jobs during World War II. when he could have been part of a military band. After his discharge, he had more day jobs in addition to working with T. Texas Tyler’s Western Swing band and freelancing in Los Angeles.

            In 1949, Alguire joined the Firehouse Five Plus Two, a group of mostly amateur Dixieland musicians who had important day jobs as animators for Disney. They held lunch hour jam sessions for years and Alguire’s playing became a permanent part of both the sessions and the band. Although thought of as a novelty group that utilized sound effects (including a siren during their overheated final choruses) and dressed in fireman outfits, the Firehouse Five Plus Two (which caught on big in 1950) was a fine trad jazz band that always had a good time playing the music they loved. Alguire supplied a relaxed and melodic but hot style that held the group together.

            Thanks to its leader trombonist Ward Kimball (a very significant animator), Danny Alguire was employed by Disney starting in the mid-1950s as an assistant director for animated features and shorts. A few chapters discuss in detail the work that he did and the many great animators who he came in contact with, including Walt Disney. After the Firehouse Five disbanded in the early 1970s and Alguire retired from Disney, he and his family moved to Oregon where he played with clarinetist Jim Beatty’s group before ending his music career in the early 1980s.

            In addition to the many colorful and heartwarming stories, Dust Bowl To Disney, which was brought to life and edited by Lucas O. Seastrom, drummer Hal Smith and Didier Ghez,  concludes with articles by Smith, Seastrom, and Chris Tyle that fill in some of the gaps, including an interview with Alguire, his chili recipe, and a list of recommended recordings.

            The 276 book is a gem and available from

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