The Harlem Ramblers Story
The name «Harlem Ramblers» may seem to many to be a very strange choice for a Dixieland band that originated in Switzerland. But, the founding of the orchestra in 1955, in a turbulent period of the Swiss jazz scene, was the result of many musicians «wandering» from band to band. As you will see from the family tree in this website, there has been no less than 34 members in the formation. From the original band, founded by Michel Robert (Cornet) and Heinz Fritz (Clarinet) and the Banjo player Vali Meyer, no one is now a member. In 1958, Heinz Fritz was replaced by Tabis Bachmann, and drummer Gerry Ceccaroni appears for the first time in the list of musicians. This was further cemented when Trombone player Thedy Schuetz and Bassist John Treichler were asked to join. Tabis Bachmann became leader, and under his strong leadership, the band steadly became popular in Switzerland and neighbouring countries.
1969 was a year of crisis. The band split, Tabis Bachmann, Thedy Schütz and John Treichler reformed the band with Günter Sellenath (Trumpet), Chris Mitchell (Banjo) and once again, old faithfull, Gerry Ceccaroni (Drums). This led to a period of stability, with no personnel changes for 20 years. The Ramblers began to discover their strength, and, thanks to Chris Mitchell, their vocal qualities. From this time on, the Ramblers were different from other bands, they were nearly all vocalist!! Not only American and English songs, they introduced Swiss German dialect into the programme. Traditional songs and Swiss dialect lyrics from Gerry Ceccaroni and Franz Hohler resulted in a entry into the Swiss hit parade, and with jokes and humorous introductions, resulting in gathering a large following of fans.
In 1965, the first LP was released, «The Harlem Ramblers – From New Orleans to Europe», followed by 18 other productions, one with the great English trumpeter, Humphrey Lyttelton and Scottish pianist Ian Armit. (Good Old Dixieland, on Polygram). Concerts and TV shows with many stars from the jazz scene, including Red Nichols, Wild Bill Davidson, Chris Barber, Acker Bilk, Benny Waters, Mighty Flea Connors, Albert Nicholas, Maxim Saury, Hazy Osterwald, Roy Williams, John Crocker, Rod Mason, Roy Pellett, Beryl Bryden, Pat Halxox, Enrico Tomasso and John Defferary has led to the band becoming internationally known.
But fate has been unkind to the Harlem Ramblers. In 1989, Bassist John Treichler died, his replacement was Hans Jörg Schaltenbrand, and in the summer of 1994, Tabis Bachmann lost his fight with cancer. A decision not to carry on was never a theme for discussion, with Gerry Ceccaroni taking over the management. The new man on Clarinet was Fritz Steiner, who brought several Saxophones with him, leading to a broadening of the musical palette. 1999 Hans Jörg Schaltenbrand left the band amicably, Pavel Molnar filled the gap.
2002 was a terrible year. Both, Fritz Steiner and Pavel Molnar, after very serious illness, left the band for ever. The new clarinet and saxophone was Hazy Frischknecht and on the Bass Hans Schlaepfer brought solid sound to the back line. Fate struck again, when in 2005 Hazy Frischknecht became victim to cancer of the Pancreas. Since September 2005, Wastl Berger is the Clarinet and Saxophone section of the band. Hans Schläpfer left in summer 2010. The new members on Bass is Jimmy Wettach. Gerry Ceccaroni, drums, left the Band in Juli 2011 after 42 years for personal reasons. The drummer seat is filled now by Geni Weber. Chris Mitchell, banjo, 48 years in the band, passed away after a long illness in May 2017. In his place now plays Edy Kieser