For years we could gather scarce information on this group other than what was on the album sleeve. We knew that Sonny Anderson arranged the music, that the group was conducted by Johnny Smith, and that the recording was produced by Lee Gillette for Capitol Records. Outside of that we didn't have much else.
All of that changed when we received an e-mail from a fine gentleman who not only informed us that he had studied with one of the members of the group, but that he could also supply us with much more detailed information. Without him we wouldn't have the information on this page! Here's what he supplied:
"Saxophobia - Clancy's Clowns" was an album concept produced in 1961 by Lee Gillette for Capitol Records. Sonny did the arrangements and Johnny Smith conducted the group. The players were Johnny Schmidt-soprano, Ralph Gary (sic) -alto, George Smith-tenor, Arthur Smith-baritone, and Bill Gross-bass sax. The guys did work at Disneyland (or at least subbed there) and the park did occasionally feature a sax quintet, CLANCY'S CLOWNS only existed on that recording. The clowns on the cover were NOT the real players!
Since then we've gathered more information on most of the players.
Johnny Schmidt — soprano saxophone; Schmidt performed, wrote, and arranged music with Sonny Anderson with whom he worked in the group Kay and the Spacemen. He is conncected with Disneyland as a performer since at least 1957. See the press release from Disneyland below which talks about their work: (and visit BellSisters.com for more info and press releases from Disneyland in that era)
NEWS FROM DISNEYLAND
Public Relations Division, Anaheim, California
June 22, 1962 - Immediate Release
THE SPACEMEN (Biography)
For a new jazz combo that has hardly been on the boards for a year, the Spacemen in Disneyland have launched themselves into a kind of musical orbit.
For more than five years Sonny Anderson and Johnny Schmidt have been members of the Disneyland Band. Last summer they wrote some unique arrangements, gathered four more artists for a small band and took over the Disneyland Space Bar as the Spacemen.
At summer's end, they found bookings during the winter in supper clubs, found time to write "Surfer's Stomp" a twister's delight, and record it for an album.
Now they're back in Disneyland for the summer as part of the bitg cast that appears every night in Disneyland After Dark, biggest nighttime show in the Southland. Cast includes five dance bands, Tahitian shows, singing groups, guest vocalists, fireworks show, and special guest bands like Harry James set to appear July 26, 27 and 28.
With all their nighttime work, Johnny and Sonny maintain their day work with the Disneyland Band. "Sure it's long hours," says Johnny, "but who cares as long as we're making music."
Sonny plays the vibes for the Spacemen, while Johnny lips anything with a reed from sax to clarinet. Eddie Erickson handles bass; Gary Howland, drums; Waltz Malzahn, trombone; and Jimmy Seitzinger, trumpet.
This year Kay Bell, formerly one of the Bell Sisters, joined the Spacemen. When this red headed bombshell rips out "Kansas City Here I Come," the rocket in Tomorrowland starts steaming and thumping on its launching pad.
Setting some kind of a show business record for a first year, the Spacemen round it out June 30, 7:30 P.M. they appear with the Four Freshmen, and Dick and DeeDee on "Meet Me At Disneyland," the hour long TV show direct from Disneyland over KTTV - Channel 11.
Ralph Gari — alto saxophone; According to our source Mr. Gari was a woodwind instructor in the Los Angeles area. He was a prolific player who lived in the instrumental pop world more so than the jazz. He played with Eddie Rogers, Frankie Carle, lived in Las Vegas and then moved to New York in the early 1950s. There he performed in several concert and jazz ensembles. He also performed with his own saxophone quartet, The Ralph Gari Saxophone Quartet. He was also a featured performer on film soundtracks composed by Miklós Rózsa.
George Smith — tenor saxophone; Mr. Smith was another studio/session woodwind guy in L.A. who can be heard is recordings from Verve with artists such as Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra. There he performed side by side with other saxophonists such as Plas Johnson and Ted Nash (one such recording can be found on the compilation album Love Songs: The Best of the Verve Songbooks). He also taught classical saxophone privately.
Arthur Smith — baritone saxophone; This Mr. Smith was another great studio/session performer who can be heard on recordings as early as that late 1940s/early 1950s and played in ensemble and trio work (The Arthur Smith Trio featuring Joe Siracusa on drums and Don Anderson on trumpet) and was credited with having backed up Frank Sinatra in some of his Columbia recordings.
Bill Gross — bass saxophone; We're still trying to piece together information about Mr. Gross.
Some of the members of Clancy's Clowns ran around in the same circles musically as the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet, especially in scoring sessions, and may have known each other.