There were Big Bands galore up at the Russian River back in the day. The first was Art Hickman of the Ziegfeld Follies who played at the Palomar Dance Hall on Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg in 1913. But you had other venue choices including the beach ballroom at Mirabel (where Burke’s Canoes is presently), Rio Nido, the Grove in Guerneville, Guernewood Park and Monte Rio. You could listen to the sweet sounds of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Phil Harris, Buddy Rogers, Ted FioRito, Kay Kayser or perhaps Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians. The last musical group of this era to play in Rio Nido was Tex Benecke’s Glenn Miller Band in summer of ’53. One of the more popular Big Bands was the Ozzie Nelson Orchestra.
Ozzie Nelson, Big Bands:
Ozzie was the lead vocalist and sang duets with his backup singer, Harriet Hilliard. They had a couple of #1 hits including “Over Somebody Else’s Shoulder” and “And Then Some”. Ozzie’s easy style and Harriet’s perky vocals were a big hit with the summer vacationers along the Russian River. There are still some old folk around who remember when Ozzie and Harriet got hitched back in 1935. But Ozzie’s soft spoken exterior hid a control-freak underneath. He denied college to his two sons, Ricky and David, saying that they had a family obligation to show business. In fact, all would be present for every episode of the future T.V. series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which aired from 1952 until 1966.
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