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For the Love of Swing prepares for swan song

October 4, 2013

The original, founding members of For the Love of Swing: (l-r) bassist Stan Ricker, vocalist/percussionist Tammy Kilpatrick, vocalist/guitarist Robert Wagoner, drummer Tommy Clements (now deceased), pianist John Wedberg and trombonist Elliott Thompson. Photo courtesy John Wedberg

After nearly two decades of keeping their fan following delighted and raising funds for local charities at the same time, For the Love of Swing will play its last concert this month.
For the Love of Swing will play their last concert on Sunday, Oct. 13 from 1-3 p.m. at Whiskey Creek restaurant, 524 N. Main St., Bishop, where they played their first gig on New Year’s Eve in 1994, said Robert Wagoner, the dance band’s current leader, vocalist and guitarist and one of its founding members. Concert admission is by donation and this last gig’s proceeds will go to the local chapter of the nationwide Wounded Warrior Project.
Wagoner, vocalist/percussionist Tammy Kilpatrick, bassists Stan Ricker and Jesse McCann, trombonist Elliott Thompson, drummer Steven Thompson and guitarist Don Richardson will be performing on Oct. 13. However, founding member/pianist John Wedberg said he would not be performing due to a previous engagement – the Lone Pine Film Festival parade in which he participates as president of the Eastern Sierra Model A Ford Club.
Wagoner, Ricker and Kilpatrick are also founding members of what Wagoner described as a “tight, close-knit group.” Drummer Tommy Clements, who died in September 2011, was also a founding member.
Thompson and Burgenbaugh are long-time For the Love of Swing members and McCann and Richardson are sitting in as guest musicians.
As far as the band’s farewell performance playlist goes, Wagoner said it might include “Sunny Side of the Street,” one of the band’s favorites. Kilpatrick added that Ricker always asks her to sing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and that the band really enjoys “Lady be Good.” For the Love of Swing may “throw in some country or some western, a waltz” or other ‘40s-era music, Wagoner said, as they occasionally do. Guests are always welcome to make requests, as well.
Perhaps some of the many musicians who have played with For the Love of Swing over the years might drop by to sit in on the farewell concert. Among past guests, Kilpatrick listed McCann, Richardson and Thompson; bassist Russell Reese; guitarist/drummer Dave Koonse; drummers Mary Tannheimer and Robin Thompson; saxophonists Pat Powell and Eddie Evans; fiddlers Charlie Broten and Fiddlin’ Pete Watercott; vocalists Marty Slay and Chuck Kilpatrick; pianist Joe Sample; and “the fabulous trumpet playing of the late Bob Behrendt.”
Tammy Kilpatrick added, “The band has been truly blessed to have played with these folks. We sincerely
regret any omissions of any other musicians.” She also gave a “special thanks,” on behalf of For the Love of Swing, to personal assistant Trish Wedberg, Gloria Roberts and her beau, the late Ed Hoff, who always set up the donation table and piano tuners Dick Dawson and Denny Hillis.
Saying goodbye to so much camaraderie and collaboration, loyal fans and swinging good times doesn’t come easily. “We all feel the same,” Wagoner said of his band mates. “We haven’t let our old customers down. We love the music so much and they did, too, so it hurts to give it up,” but so it must be, for health reasons and other considerations.
The community is not only losing a swinging band, it is also losing successful fundraisers. For the Love of Swing’s first gig on New Year’s Eve 1994 raised funds for the Community Concert Association. It was “a hit,” Kilpatrick said, prompting then-Whiskey Creek manager Vivian Patterson to permanently book the band for the second Sunday of each month. Current Whiskey Creek owner Greg Alexander “graciously” agreed to continue the band’s regular gig, Kilpatrick added.
Over the last 18 years, the requested $5-at-the-door donation has added up to more than $70,000, Kilpatrick said. Local non-profits such as Eastern Sierra Breast Cancer Alliance, MOMS Club, Inyo-Mono County Animal Resources & Education and The Salvation Army have benefited.
“We appreciate all the donations we’ve been given over the years,” Wagoner said, “We are very sorry this is the end. We love all the people who have come out to see us very much.” Wedberg echoed that sentiment, “I think the world of all the audience who have come to hear us all these years. They have really stuck by (us).”
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” Ricker said, “and I’m sorry to see it come to an end but it’s just getting too difficult for the older members to navigate with our instruments. I’m going to miss (performing) very much.”
On behalf of the entire band, Kilpatrick said, “You are not our fans; you are our family and we will always love you and we will never forget how you always made us feel like stars.” She added, “It has been an honor and a privilege to have played with this group and for this family and for this community.”  
For the Love of Swing are looking forward to sharing a fond, if bittersweet, farewell with its “family” at Whiskey Creek on Oct. 13. “We started there and we’re ending there.”

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