*Updated dates and times*
Bookmans Speedway is the new practice space for Tucson Open Band. The ‘Band’ plays from 7 to 9 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month. In an attempt to write a simple piece on this utterly amazing group of extremely talented musicians, musicians who have graced us with their exquisite works, we unearthed the early history of Tucson music and many of its traditions. Little did we know how rich and complex this history is and how intertwined to a multitude of Tucson organizations. Through learning the origins and development of the Tucson Open Band we learn of early Tucson itself, with deep roots that produced many of the events we enjoy today.
Tucson Open Band

A fella named Big Jim Griffith created a local folklore event he called Tucson Meet Yourself in 1974. Big Jim began hunting for local musicians to play the event and he found them from the folklore repository of Tucson. By 1976 two groups had formed from these musicians, Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association (TKMA) and the Tucson Friends of Traditional Music (TFTM). The Kitchen Musicians were the more contemporary of the two, while TFTM focused on traditional concerts, Irish groups and traditional music jams.
In 1980 the Friends, along with Big Jim, Craig Tinney and Jacquie Wohl, began to play local dances. These dances were of the Traditional American variety such as square dances and contra dances. These are partnered folk dances sometimes termed “New England Folk” and “English Country Dances”. The Tucson Tune Book resulted from these performances. This was the common song repertoire for the players and had been compiled by a number of the local musicians from a variety of sources. These dances were open to any musician who wanted to play and much of the music was provided by whomever wanted to sit in. Here we see the first hint of what was to come.
The Tucson Open Band was not yet in existence but its seeds were planted. As one member so aptly put it, “Players want to play and dancers want to dance.” These folks came together as naturally as peanut butter and chocolate. They didn’t need a schedule or too many rules but they did have a future. In 1980 that future was still unseen but shining, to discover what came later. Check back here as we will soon share what did come later.