[JPL] Bill Fetsch, jazz drummer and radio personality, died Monday
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Sat Mar 10 13:54:42 EST 2007
Bill Fetsch, jazz drummer and radio personality, died Monday
The Regal Courier, Mar 9, 2007, Updated 19.3 hours ago
Bill Fetsch, who went by the stage name Dr. Jazz playing in the jazz band he
led and as a radio show host on KMHD, died Monday evening, March 5, after
battling cancer for the past year.
Fetsch enjoyed an immense following with the band he played in, Dr. Jazz and
the Interns, and for the music they played, known as Dixieland jazz or
traditional jazz, music performed by American bands in the years before and
after World War I. He was also well known for his two hour radio program
featured on the jazz and blues oriented radio station that broadcasts out of
In an interview recorded in 2005, the station manager of KMHD, Calvin Walker
said of Fetsch, ³As he is a musician, there is a different passion when he
plays the music on his program, he understands the music.²
Fetsch¹s passion for music, especially American jazz, began as a young boy
staying at his grandparent¹s house in Spokane. His uncle, ³Duke,² was
singing in the city¹s night clubs with a group that included ³Bing² Crosby
at a time before the famed singer and actor went on to find fame in
Fetsch liked to tell the story that his parents, who both shared a love of
music, played a recording of By By Blackbird so often in the first two years
of his life that one day, while his mother was giving young Bill a bath, he
stood up and burst out in song singing By By Blackbird in its entirety.
Living in Portland with his parents, Fetsch attended Central Catholic High
The young teenage Fetsch began collecting records and singing with the
school¹s band, but after one too many high jinks, said Fetsch in relating
his life story in a 2005 interview, he was assigned to playing a snare drum
rather than singing with the glee club.
By the 1950s Fetsch had settled down a bit and was singing regularly in
church choirs, glee clubs and barber shop quartets. He also bought a used
drum set with money he earned working at his father¹s business selling
printer¹s supplies and equipment.
The business soon was sending him to cities in other parts of the country
and whenever he could, Fetsch went to jazz clubs and concerts. Many times he
was asked to sit in and play with the band.
He continued in the printer supply business until he retired and then played
part-time with jazz bands. In the early 1990s he volunteered to be a disc
jockey at KMHD one of the few jazz stations left on the West Coast.
In 1997 Fetsch got together with fellow musicians that had come to play
Dixieland jazz in a regular evening jam session at a Milwaukie restaurant
weekends. He and Blake Maddox, Ken Oschsner, Jerry Heermans and Barry Benson
started Dr. Jazz and the Interns and they often featured Ethel Smith singing
as Nurse Ethel. Later the band added Larry Burnett and Hank Dougherty.
Bill played a washboard hung around his neck and provided the comedic patter
between songs. The band played up to 25 venues a year, including regular
twice-a-year dates in King City at the KCCA Town Hall. The room was always
standing room only to hear the band play.
It was after retirement from his business that got him more into jazz music
than ever before, and he said, he was egged on by his wife to get up and do
³I feared that even though this is a lot of hard work,² Fetsch said in 2005,
³if I didn¹t have (music) I could easily have become a reclusive.²
He said that he performs the music to bring somethingof it to people¹s life
as best as he can.
³I want to bring happiness to those that are sad. I don¹t want people to
give up. I¹m a lucky man, I feel living everyday has been a bonus.²
A funeral mass has been schedule at St. Mary Magdalene Church, 3123 N.E.
24th in Portland at noon, March 14.
Westside Swing, a group that meets to dance to jazz music from before the
1950s, is booking the Puddin River jazz band for Saturday, March 17 at the
Tigard Grange in honor of Bill "Dr. Jazz" Fetsch.
Admission is free for Dixieland Society members of Portland, Salem, Medford,
and Eugene. Paid submission is $12 for adults and $10 for students and
Westside Swing Members. Dancing begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Tigard Grange
Hall, 13770 S.W. Pacific Highway, Tigard.
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