Doc Evans Finally Rates
As A Hometown Hero
By Will Jones
Downbeat Magazine, November 18, 1953
Minneapolis, Minn.— Suddenly it’s most fashionable to be a Doc Evans Fan in the Twin Cities. And since Minneapolis is home to Evans, he couldn’t be happier. He never liked the idea of leaving home to go to Chicago or New York to make a buck at the thing he knows best.
The hometown’s Love-That-Evans craze has been a long time coming. Now that it’s here, Evans may never again have to head for the filthy big cities to blow his cornet in smoky cellars. That isn’t to say he doesn’t blow in a pretty smoky place (the Saddle Bar) in Minneapolis. But his new-found fans like him best out-of-doors, under the stars.
The current wave of success of Evans and his locally recruited Dixieland six is keyed to a series of highly successful outdoor summer concerts at Walker Art Center, a privately-endowed repository of modern art.
He was booked by the Center Arts council for a summer series in an open-air courtyard. His Dixieland evenings were part of a summer-long series that included things like symphonic woodwinds and contemporary chamber music.
Evans, a quiet-spoken former teacher of English, provided program commentary that suited the setting. The art group cautiously printed 300 tickets for the first concert and set up 300 chairs. They ended up with as many overflow customers sprawled on the grass as there were sitting.
Next they tried 700 tickets and chairs. The second crowd overflowed that. They filled up all the available grass at the third one. Three concerts was to have been all. But the customers insisted on more. So the art group booked a fourth all-request program. They’re going to have Evans’ group back for more.
Meanwhile, the more conservative Minneapolis Institute of Arts has Evans scheduled for a Dixieland concert in February as part of its winter concert series. The Minneapolis Institute now claims that it had booked Evans before the other art museum dreamed up the summer concert series.
Walker Center has Evans pretty well sewed up as its own discovery, however. His final concert of the summer was recorded by SOMA Records, a local outfit, under auspices of the art group. The album-in a cover designed by an artist on the art center staff-is on sale in the museum lobby.
The belated discovery that Evans is Art with a capital A (he has been playing his horn around here since the late ’20s, when he was a student at Carleton college in Northfield, Minn.) has made him the most sought-after character in Twin Cities night life.
Subbed For Strippers
Until Evans moved in, the Saddle bar was a strip joint, situated on a street full of strip joints. They hired him in a fit of doubt and desperation, because the strippers weren’t doing so well.
The art center concerts always had to start early in the evening and end early to allow Evans’ boys to get to their regular job.
“I’m sorry,” Evans told the howling highbrows who yelled for encores at the concerts. “We’re already late at the joint where we play for a living.”
The management of the former strip joint got the surprise of its life when the place began to fill up with strangers in Brooks Brothers suits. Evans’ concert fans were following him from the concerts to the saloon. The place has been prospering ever since.
From the concerts, one thing had led to another. Evans was invited to make a guest appearance on KSTP-TV. The band stirred up so much mail and telephone comment that the station gave them a weekly spot.
Evans is now in the midst of deciding between a long-term TV contract with a beer company (the TV show would also be taped for distribution around the territory as a radio program) and making a series of films for TV syndication.
Some colorful promotion has helped Evans into the enviable position he holds today. But the promotion is something that has happened to him. He’s not a promoting type, himself.
Doc is a non-drinker and a non-smoker. But now that the beer company is interested in sponsoring him, he’s been seen sipping some beer between sets. Even this can’t be construed as a sign that he’s going commercial, however. He doesn’t sip the brand that wants to sign him up.