North Texan welcomes letters from alumni and friends.
If you are a UNT graduate, please include your graduation
year(s) and degree(s). Letters may be edited for length and
Mail: University of North Texas, The North Texan P.O.
Box 311070, Denton, Texas 76203-1070
a letter using the online
1943, 22-year-old 2nd Lt. W. James Davidson arrived in Denton to
begin pilot training for the military. His task was to learn to
fly L-5s, among other types of airplanes, to observe bursts of fire
from the enemy and send the exact locations back to headquarters.
in training took their ground lessons in classrooms on the North
Texas campus, took their flight training at Hartlee Field and lived
in Chilton Hall. In Jim’s case, he also took piano lessons from
Walter Roberts, the very distinguished pianist on the North Texas
In the courtyard
area behind Chilton Hall was a statue titled “The Student,” which
was a favorite of the service men. Jim liked it so much that he
had a snapshot taken of him sitting almost in the statue’s lap.
The photo went with him everywhere after that, to Hawaii, to the
Philippines and back to San Francisco General Hospital where Capt.
James Davidson was taken to recover from a plane crash that nearly
later, with a wife and a Ph.D. in English literature from New York
University, Dr. Davidson applied for a position, and was accepted,
as a teacher in the English department at North Texas. He repeatedly
said that this was his dream job. He loved Texas, loved the university
and wanted to show his wife the real statue instead of just a picture.
the mysterious disappearance of the statue and its partial resurrection
(fall 2000 issue), it is nice to remember what a part Denton, the
University of North Texas and the statue played in the lives of
many service men in World War II.
Lewis Davidson (Mrs. W. James Davidson)
I do appreciate
your masthead stating, “A University of North Texas Publication
for Alumni and Friends.” I am a proud alumnus and do not like the
term “ex.” I'm a judge, and the term has very negative connotations
for me. Please continue to serve the alumni and the friends (be
they former students or not) with this excellent publication.
shown in the picture of "'Fessor Graham and the Aces of Collegeland
in 1938" are, from left, Floyd Graham, director; Ralph Daniel (seated),
piano; front row: Willard Crew, violin; Guy Bush, violin; Kenneth
Keathley, guitar; J.B. Woodrum, drums; J.W. Jones, alto sax; R.L.
Marquis Jr., alto sax; Gene Hall, tenor sax; Rex Shelton, tenor
sax; back row: Chester Parks, violin; Judson Custer, violin; John
Brown, bass; Edward Brewer, trumpet; Bill Collins, trumpet; Henry
Parker, trumpet; Johnny Lawhon, trombone.
As you probably
know, the picture with the caption "'Fessor Floyd Graham and his
Aces of Collegeland in 1938" in the summer 2000 edition was featured
in full color as a two-page spread in the 1938 Yucca, along
with small black-and-white pictures of the Eagle Band and North
Texas Salon Orchestra.
Texas alumni remember the Saturday Night Stage Shows, but the role
of this entertainment in saving North Texas from extinction is not
L. Marquis became president of North Texas State Teachers College
in 1923, he inherited serious problems, including poor legislative
support, closure or merger threats and low student morale. In addressing
these problems, he made student morale a top priority with innovations
headed by on-campus dances and weekend entertainment. By authorization
of President Marquis, the first on-campus dances were held in the
1924-25 school year. Soon thereafter, equipment was installed in
the auditorium for silent movies, and a pit orchestra to provide
accompanying music was organized during the 1927-28 school year.
This group was augmented during the 1928-29 school year to form
a "Stage Band" for the variety/talent shows. The 1938 Yucca
is the first North Texas yearbook in which the Stage Band is called
the "Aces of Collegeland."
Marquis hired Floyd Graham in 1927, then director of the Denton
High School Band, as North Texas band director, with collateral
duties to conduct the new pit orchestra and to produce the variety/talent
shows, known as "Saturday Night Stage Shows." Members of the popular
Tom Rose Orchestra that played for on-campus dances formed the "core
group" for both the pit orchestra and the Stage Band.
initiated by President Marquis to improve student morale and to
gain favorable publicity for North Texas no doubt contributed very
significantly to increased enrollment at the school, stronger legislative
support and abatement of closure or merger threats. Better public
relations were generated not only by the new administration's attitudes
toward on- campus entertainment, but by frequent Stage Band performances
at high schools and conventions, by Marching/Concert Band appearances
at fairs and other public events, and by Salon Orchestra weekly
radio broadcasts from campus studios. Members of the Stage Band
(Aces of Collegeland) were the principal players in all of these
musical organizations. They deserve much credit for their part in
saving North Texas from extinction and for helping the institution
achieve its current prominence. Floyd Graham especially deserves
appropriate recognition for carrying out so well the assignments
given to him by President Marquis.
R.L. Marquis Jr. (Bob) was a son of the president and probably had
considerable influence on his father's decision to establish the
Stage Shows. He directed all North Texas instrumental music organizations
during Graham's frequent absences due to health.
Jones provided the first "special" arrangement (chart) ever played
by a dance or jazz orchestra at North Texas, copying it from a Benny
Goodman recording of Bugle Call Rag. The addition of a third
trumpet and fourth sax to the Stage Band (Aces) instrumentation
was required to play this chart.
(M.E.) Hall is well known as the founder of the North Texas jazz
degree program, which, under his guidance, gained national and international
recognition, bringing immense favorable publicity to North Texas.
He conceived the idea for dance band (jazz) training at the college
level while playing with a five-piece group at a dance hall near
Sherman in 1931, just after graduation from high school. With a
strong desire to be a dance-band musician, he searched for a college
or university that offered training in this field but, finding none,
decided that educational institutions were grossly derelict by not
recognizing the growing importance of this type of music. Gene gained
valuable practical experience by continuing to play with professional
dance bands, learning the hard way. He joined the North Texas Stage
Band (Aces) in the fall of 1936, and thereafter alternated between
school at North Texas and playing with "semi-name" dance bands until
earning his bachelor's degree. In 1944, he returned to North Texas
to begin work on his master's. By that time, still no college or
university had recognized the need for dance band training, so Gene,
who had continued to think about methods for teaching it (13 years),
decided to address the deficiency by using as a thesis topic "The
Development of a Curriculum for the Teaching of Dance Music at a
College Level." After many objections and much controversy, he persuaded
Wilford Bain, dean of the School of Music, to approve the thesis
topic. Walter Hodgson, who succeeded Bain as dean, agreed to let
Gene use the thesis in developing a dance band degree program to
be added to the curriculum in the fall of 1947, and that was the
beginning of the now famous North Texas jazz studies program. Gene
was a founder and the first president of the National Association
of Jazz Educators (now the International Association of Jazz Educators)
and was a North Texas Distinguished Alumnus.
John Brown, J.B. Woodrum and Johnny Lawhon were members of the original
Stage Band (1929), and all members of the pictured Aces of Collegeland
(Stage Band) were students at North Texas except Bob Marquis, who
was a faculty member, John Brown and J.B. Woodrum.
I have had
the privilege and pleasure of following developments in the North
Texas dance/stage bands and the North Texas dance band/jazz degree
program for many years, due in no small way to my close association
with Gene Hall since 1931, when we both played in the five-piece
band that started him thinking about being a professional dance-band
musician. We often discussed the non-existence of suitable college
training programs and possible methods for teaching dance-band performance.
as a founder and the first formally elected president of the Floyd
Graham Society, I reorganized the Aces of Collegeland, using only
former members. Under my direction, this group played for every
semi-annual meeting of the society until 1993, when we could no
longer assemble a sufficient number of former members to make up
a band that would be truly representative of the original Aces.
I am a UNT
Distinguished Alumnus, and, in 1998, I received the first annual
Dean's Award for "Outstanding and Continuing Contributions to the
Musical Life of the College Since 1934," presented by David Shrader,
then dean of the College of Music.
my long association with "musical life" at North Texas, I wrote
a booklet in 1996 titled "Early Jazz at North Texas
1901-1947," in which the origins of the Aces of Collegeland and
the North Texas jazz studies program are discussed.
Margaret, and I are life members of the UNT President's Council
and were general chairpersons for the 1988 Homecoming.
our son, William Wheat Collins III, also known as "Bill," played
trumpet in the One O'Clock Lab Band during the mid '70s, making
ours the only family in which a father played lead trumpet in the
Aces of Collegeland and his son played the same position in a One
O'Clock Lab Band. At age 87 plus, I still play in a six-piece Dixieland
Band, the Delta Kings, in Fort Worth.
W. “Bill” Collins Jr. ('37, '38 M.A.)