The Troy Street Observer

Perley Breed’s Department Store Dance Band

In the 1920s, when radio was in its infancy, stations took to broadcasting from department stores, and in Boston, the store was the Shepard Stores on Tremont Street, and the station was WNAC. Both were owned by John Shepard, who may have made his money in retail, but beginning with WNAC’s first broadcast in 1922, he went all-in on radio.

label for Gennett 3059A
Honey I’m in Love With You, Gennett 3059A, 1925

Perley Breed was a 1920s saxophonist, probably born in Danvers, who led a hot dance band in Boston in the mid-twenties, joined a Massachusetts delegation of musicians working in London, returned to Boston, and dropped from sight after 1932. In 1923-25, he was active around Boston on the college circuit with the Shepard Colonial Orchestra. The orchestra played tea time and dinner dances in the store’s Tea Room, some of which Shepard obligingly broadcast. George Frazier recalled the Harvard men from New York could never get over dancing in a department store.

Good musicians passed through Breed’s band, with clarinetist Brad Gowans being the best-known today. There was also trumpeter Warren Hookway, who gave up music when he became a podiatrist, and a pair of songwriting piano men, Sid Reinherz and Curley Mahr. Reinherz recorded four sides for Gennett himself in 1923; he’s remembered in ragtime circles for writing “Boston Trot.” Boston-born Mahr worked mainly as a vocalists’ arranger and accompanist in radio and film into the 1950s.

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February 3, 1946: Max Kaminsky Opens Maxie’s

Trumpeter Max Kaminsky opened his nightclub Maxie’s on Huntington Ave on February 3, only to close it two weeks later.

Max Kaminsky, born in Brockton and raised in Dorchester, was 16 when he started gigging with Artie Karle, and 18 when he met Bix Biederbecke. He worshipped Louis Armstrong. He’d been on the 1936 Tommy Dorsey band and the 1937-38 Artie Shaw band, but he was best known as a Chicago-school hot player, a regular at Nick’s in Greenwich Village, and one of Eddie Condon’s merry men.

In October 1945, Kaminsky and Pee Wee Russell commenced a four-month gig at the Copley Terrace nightclub in Boston, near the corner of Huntington and Stuart—an intersection that hasn’t existed for years. The rest of the group consisted of trombonist Brad Gowans, drummer Buzzy Drootin, pianist Teddy Roy, and bassist John Field. When the Copley Terrace job ended, Kaminsky moved down Huntington to Mass Ave, and opened Maxie’s at 220 Huntington, in the basement of the Minerva Hotel. Albert “Sparky” Tomasetti replaced Gowans, but the rest of the band came along with him.

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