Von Ohlen – How the Blue Wisp Big Band Got Started

John Von Ohlen

SKF NOTE: This exchange is from the full transcript of my 10/12/1984 phone interview with John Von Ohlen. He was at home. I was in my Modern Drummer office in New Jersey.

Scott K Fish: How did the Blue Wisp Big Band get organized?

John Von Ohlen: Well, we’ve got fine players in Cincinnati, and all the guys were doing was playing shows. That’s a drag if that’s all you’re doing.

We all need to make money. So I thought we ought to start a band, play what we like to play and just interest a club owner. You can usually interest a club owner real easy by saying that you’ll play for the door.

We came into the Blue Wisp Jazz Club and played on Wednesday night and got the best players in town for this kind of thing. It’s a real natural band and fun to play with. We’ve been together for about five years with the same guys.

When you start a hometown band, that day of your first rehearsal you might as well figure that those guys are going to be in that band for the rest of your life because they’re your friends. Even if you find out down the road that you don’t like the way they play — you can’t fire your friends. You know, you have to go to dinner with them. So they’re in the band. That’s it.

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