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TTJS Remembrances

We pay tribute to some of the Triangle-area traditional jazz musicians that graced us with their talent, spirit and friendship over the years.


John Ely

We at TTJS would like to take a moment to remember Mr. John Ely. One of John's favorite passions was playing Dixieland music with his Salty Dog Jazz Band.

Having played with a similar band at Purdue, he started the Salty Dog Jazz Band in 1965 right here in Raleigh, NC. The band played throughout the area as recently as 2015.

John was the band leader, story teller, trumpet player and sometimes vocalist. John passed away in February, 2016. His presence on the local Traditional Jazz scene will be sorely missed.




Dick Gable

Dick was a professional trumpet player from the age of 15 who toured with a number of big bands, most notably those of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman.

Locally, he played with the Ambassadors Jazz Band while at Duke University and later formed a Dixieland band in Raleigh, NC called the Dick Gable All Stars. The band played at jazz festivals in the US and was featured regularly in the Wake County area for over 25 years.

Richard E. (Dick) Gable, 82, of Raleigh, died May 30, 2011.


You can find CDs of his band at


Bob Nery

Bob Nery was one of North Carolina's finest traditional jazz clarinetists. Classically trained in his native Massachusetts, Bob moved to Raleigh in the mid-1960s to get an engineering degree from NCSU, and was instantly the freelance clarinetist everybody wanted to hire.

In the ensuing half century Bob played untold thousands of gigs as a member of dozens of NC jazz bands, including those of Dick Gable, Tom Shea, Paul Bowman, Tom Martin, Greg Cagle, Howard Rockett, Chip Riedeburg, Dave McAllister, John Ely, Frank Mesich, Russ Wilson, and Dave Wright. As a freelancer, he appeared with such jazz legends as Ralph Sutton, Art Hodes, Spencer Clark, and Maxine Sullivan, and was a featured performer at jazz festivals throughout the Carolinas and West Virginia.

Always happiest as a sideman, Bob was the consummate team player: reliable, unflappable, supremely flexible -- the anti-diva. He was a witty and gentle soul who loved squirrels and hand tools, and was known to give away clarinets to any kid who expressed an interest. Stylistically unique and personally unforgettable, Bob passed away in December 2012 at the age of 64. He is missed not only by his family and many friends but the NC jazz community as a whole. Samples of his playing are available at


John M. Kennedy

John M. Kennedy, a life-long resident of Raleigh, died on July 31, 2008, at the age of 53. John practiced law in Raleigh before serving as a magistrate and as a judge in Wake County's Small Claims Court. After his appointment, in 1985, to complete an unfinished term as Wake County Clerk of Superior Court, the citizens of the county elected him to four terms in that office.

Retirement from the court system enabled John to focus on music. As a jazz trombonist, he performed regularly throughout the southeast and in international venues from France and Spain to Chile and Canada. He played with many groups and artists, including Skeeter Brandon, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Katharine Wahlen's Jazz Squad, Hobex, the North Carolina Pops Orchestra, and the Dick Gable All Stars. He can be heard on several CDs available at



Tom Shea

Pianist Tom Shea has been gone a long time, but is still fondly remembered by those who played traditional jazz with him in Raleigh in the 1970s and early 80s. Tom was born in Illinois in 1931 and learned piano as a child, but his discovery of Scott Joplin's masterpiece "Maple Leaf Rag" as an adult motivated him to become a superior ragtime pianist and composer during the minor ragtime renaissance of the 1960s and 70s (remember "The Entertainer" from "The Sting"?).

Tom was a regular solo performer at the St. Louis Ragtime Festival for years, often playing his own distinctive compositions. Famed jazz historian Rudi Blesh honored Tom by profiling him and one of his compositions ("Brun Campbell Express") in the 1966 edition of "They All Played Ragtime," still the go-to resource book for ragtime historians.

When Tom and his wife Marguerite moved from Detroit to Raleigh in 1970 Tom wasted no time assembling what came to be known as the Okeh Jazz Band ("Okeh" was a 1920s jazz record label specializing in African-American jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, and Duke Ellington). The OJB played weekly at the NCSU Faculty Club for years, using the likes of Bob Nery on clarinet, Paul Bowman on trumpet, and Dr. Bob Corder on trombone.

Tom was an inspiring musician to work with, an outgoing man with an endless supply of jokes (many unprintable), and a zest for life that infected all who knew him. Sadly, his life was cut short by a heart attack at age 50 in March 1982, but I'm sure Tom would be happy to know that his Okeh Jazz Band survived him by several decades.



Bob Corder

Bob Corder (trumpet and trombone) was born in 1923 in Salisbury, Missouri. During World War II he served in the Coast Guard (as a bandsman) and covered sports for the armed forces newspaper The Stars & Stripes. After the war he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morgantown University, got a master's degree from Duke, and his doctorate at Purdue in industrial and experimental psychology. After a professorial stint at the University of Richmond he spent the last 30 years of his career with IBM, much of that in Raleigh. But when the sun went down, Bob lent his musical talents to numerous Triangle bands for more than four decades beginning in the 1960s, including John Ely’s Salty Dogs and the Okeh Jazz Band. In the late 1970s he was playing trumpet with the Raleigh-based Okeh Jazz Band when their trombone player quit—so Bob ceded the trumpet chair to Paul Bowman and reinvented himself as a trombone player for the rest of his musical career.

Bob was a man of many interests who loved dogs and vintage British sports cars, but traditional jazz was his overriding lifelong passion. He was a witty, unassuming, humble, and imminently likeable man who made many friends in the jazz community. After he passed away at age 84 on July 22, 2007, many of those musician friends performed in his honor at his memorial service. Dr. Billie Corder, his wife of 46 years, passed away not long afterward.


Rose Marie Kleinspehn, spiritual founder of TTJS (1927 – 2016)

On July 25, 2014, Dave McAllister’s Capital Jazz played a one-hour dixieland concert for residents of the Searstone retirement center in Cary, where Dave and his wife Nancy were in the process of moving. After the concert an amazing human dynamo named Rose Marie Kleinspehn collared Dave and asked why there wasn’t more of this music being played in the Triangle area, and why there wasn’t a local organization dedicated to informing traditional jazz fans of upcoming public gigs, promoting trad-jazz concerts, providing awareness and education to the general public, and a sense of community to the fans of this music. It wasn’t an idle question, it was a verbal kick in Dave’s pants, a shame-on-you for the fact that nothing of the kind existed in our area—then. It didn’t happen overnight, but Rose Marie’s challenge eventually coalesced into the Triangle Traditional Jazz Society in early 2016. At our third concert (August 21, 2016), appropriately featuring Capital Jazz, Rose Marie was in attendance and was recognized by Rollin Glazer for her role in jumpstarting the organization. She stood and said a few words of appreciation and encouragement. Sadly, that was the last time most of us saw her. A little over 8 weeks later, on October 26, 2016, Rose Marie passed away peacefully, in Cary. She was 89.

Rose Marie Luppino Kleinspehn was born in the Finger Lakes region of New York. She received a Bachelor of Science in Education from the State University of New York-Cortland in 1949 and a Master's in Education from the University of North Carolina in 1954. The passion and enthusiasm she displayed after that concert two years ago was obviously nothing new. During her long career as an elementary school teacher she often petitioned the New York Legislature on behalf of numerous causes, including education for the handicapped, and school health and safety. She was a tireless advocate for the Arts, particularly music and dance. And of course she was a dedicated traditional jazz fan. Fortunately she lived to see her last cause come to fruition. We were privileged to know her, if only for a short time.


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750 Weaver Dairy Road #258
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
Phone: (919) 608-8943
The Triangle Traditional Jazz Society is a membership organization sponsored by Carolina Classic Jazz, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Chapel Hill, NC, the purpose of which is the preservation and promotion of traditional jazz.
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