The Bourbon Street Stompers
Watertown, WI Watertown Daily Times, August 3, 2007 -- The Bourbon Street Stompers will be making their first stop at Riverfest on Aug. 3 with their award-winning mixture of Dixieland jazz and ragtime and novelty tunes. But the Bourbon Street Stompers won't be playing their instruments from the band shell - they will be strolling around the Taste of Watertown area from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Organized as a Dixieland band in the fall of 1988, the Bourbon Street Stompers do their own vocals and play dance tunes if the occasion demands.
Members of the Bourbon Street Stompers are Dave Welnak, trumpet and band leader; Al Anderson, trombone; Don Shesky, drums and washboard; Gene Leshner, clarinet; Pat Keating, banjo, guitar and vocals; and Bob Schamber, tuba.
Over the years, the Bourbon Street Stompers have played at such venues as the Circus Train in Baraboo, Richfield Chalet, Milwaukee County parks, parade floats, private parties, restaurants and lounges, jazz festivals and state fairs. The band also played at Bastille Days in Milwaukee this year.
Anderson, a Watertown resident who has played the trombone for 47 years, said his fondest memories of playing with the Bourbon Street Stompers are performing on the circus train. "We started playing at 9 o'clock in the morning and played on and off until 6 or 7 o'clock at night," Anderson said. "So it was a long day but it was really, really exciting."
Welnak said the Bourbon Street Stompers are unique because the band members are used to playing onstage and strolling through audiences. Although Welnak said the crowds are more interactive when the band walks while playing the instruments, he prefers to perform onstage because of the sound quality. "You get a better sound system when you are onstage," Welnak said. "When you play without a sound system and you are moving around you don't project as well."
Anderson, a member of the Bourbon Street Stompers for about four years, said it does not matter to him if the band plays onstage or strolls through the crowd. "I just enjoy playing," Anderson said. "It doesn't matter to me whether we are moving or still. I just really enjoy playing." In his experiences, Anderson said crowds seem to have the same positive reaction whether the band performs onstage or strolls through the audience because of the type of music it plays.
"It seems like Dixieland music is such happy, joyous music that pretty much no matter where we are people seem to react nicely to it," Anderson said.
Anderson has performed at Riverfest a couple times in the past with other bands, but this will be the first time he will play at the annual event as a member of the Bourbon Street Stompers. Anderson said he is looking forward to playing at Riverfest because of all the familiar faces that will be in the crowd.
"To me it will almost feel like playing out in my back yard because I will know almost all of the people there," Anderson said. "It's really fun to do that because you know you are sharing the music you love with people that appreciate it because they know who you are.
"Dave always puts out a really fine product," he added. "He's very entertaining and he always gets good musicians so I am confident this is going to be a great time."
Adam Tobias of the Watertown Daily Times staff