While its popularity in the mainstream may ebb and flow, it’s never completely gone away, as the band Jukebox Saturday Night can attest.
“Just when marketing people tell us that the fans are gone, we have found audience response loves the music. That is a great feeling,” band co-leader Gregg Parnell said to the Monroe News.
A tribute to America’s swing era, Jukebox Saturday Night pays homage to greats like Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Artie Shaw and Cab Calloway for a night of live, toe-tapping music. It will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Missouri Theater, 717 Edmond St. The show is presented by the St. Joseph Performing Arts Association.
Managed by Glenn Miller Productions, which supervises the use of Glenn Miller pieces, the show goes beyond nostalgia and digs into the conception and thought behind songs like “In the Mood,” “Let’s Dance,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Moonlight Serenade,” among others.
“We take a lot of time to really dig in and to study each piece of music to make sure the notes and sound are delivered properly,” Parnell said.
The show shares DNA with some of those mentioned greats. Parnell toured with the Glenn Miller Orchestra for eight years. In previous performances, it’s featured former members of orchestras led by Miller, Count Basie and Harry James.
There’s a deep love of the genre and time period that Parnell said he wants to get across with every performance.
“My dad loved Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing.’ He would play that all of the time,” Parnell said. “My grandfather was a World War II veteran, and his favorite singer was Rosemary Clooney. When I was a kid, you could still hear a bit of big band music on the radio.”
When the band first started, it might have seemed like a crazy idea to try a revive a classic genre and tour behind it. Then families started showing up in droves.
“People still love this music. It’s an American art form that we should latch on to and be proud of. We’ve had at least three generations of families at our shows. They bring their kids and grandkids. It’s a family-friendly concert that everyone can enjoy,” Parnell said.
Whether people want to get up, clap their hands and dance or sit and tap along to the classic, horn-tinged beats, Parnell said the joy is seeing people enjoying the music and keeping it alive almost 100 years after the fact.
“Whether they’re seated or not, and sometimes people do get up and dance at their seats, they’re always smiling,” he said. “This music gets people clapping and having a great time. They’re feeling it — whether they’ve heard it for the first time or have heard it several times before.
Tickets are $12 to $45 and can purchased by calling 816-279-1225, visiting the office at 719 Edmond St. or online at saintjosephperformingarts.org. The show is appropriate for all ages.