Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|Personalities -- by Phil Cartwright
been a dominant presence in
the metropolis of Earlville, OH
for more than 50 years. Well,
maybe it’s not a metropolis
but if you have a magnifying
glass and a map from the 1940’
s you might find Earlville
located between Kent and
Now, it is the home of the
Rusty Nail as well as the home
of Don (the Mayor) and Babs
To the point of our interest in
music: Don and his beautiful
bride, Babs, have been staunch
supporters of traditional jazz
in NE Ohio.
The most important venue in
traditional jazz in NE Ohio is
the Rusty Nail. Don and Babs
opened the Nail as a steak
house in September 1967. It
was an instant success. Bob
Paton suggested: “How about
some Dixieland music?” DB
(as Don Bentley is known)
said OK and on Good Friday,
1968, a Dixie band started
playing — and there has been
traditional jazz ever since. DB
says that band nights were not
moneymakers but not money
In addition to being the Mayor of Earlville, DB has the distinction of being the Commodore of the
Earlville Yacht Club. This club was started by DB, Don Joseph, and Charlie Zumkehr. Membership
yacht clubs in the world. Fortunately, none of the members of the other yacht clubs showed up to
take advantage of the facilities of the Earlville Yacht Club.
As a child and young adolescent, DB lived for a few years in Cuyahoga Falls. His Dad was a
milkman; Bill Parthe informs us that Mr. Bentley delivered milk to the Parthe household. DB
wrestled for Cuyahoga Falls for 2 years. At the end of his sophomore year, the Bentley family
moved to Kent whereupon Don played varsity football for two years at Kent’s Roosevelt High
School. In addition to being an athlete, Don was Vice-President of his junior class and president of
his senior class.
Don and Babs met in high school; they’ve been together ever since. They have three daughters and
Don Bentley has been associated with Kent Roosevelt High School (RHS) for over 60 years! In
1945, he was on the football team that played against Ravenna High and he has not missed a game
since! In the interest of full disclosure, he has not actually played against Ravenna all those years.
As a high school wrestler, he showed up at practice for Kent State University’s wrestling team. He
managed to pin a KSU varsity wrestler before it was discovered that he was still in high school!
DB is strong supporter of Kent athletic programs. When Dr. Stanton was Superintendent, he
convened a group of athletic enthusiasts at the Rusty Nail. The superintendent didn’t like the sound
of “Booster Club” so that night the Roosevelt Rough Riders Association was born.
DB has supported both RHS and KSU athletics for many years. A good friend of DB’s was Mike
Ludd, athletic director at Kent State when Don James was football coach. DB told Mike, “I can’t
give you a bunch of money but if you need food for the athletes, beer, or a bus to a game, let me
know.” Mike Ludd cultivated many small supporters rather than only one or two big sponsors. It
turned out to work well in the long run.
When not supporting jazz and athletics and running a restaurant, Don was a builder. He designed
and built over 100 homes in the Portage County area.
Traditional jazz in NE Ohio is deeply indebted to the Bentleys for all their support over the
years. Thank you!!
REFLECTIONS on D.B.
Recalled by Bill Parthe
Don Bentley passed on in December 2011.
As I bring my memory cells back into focus, my first meeting with DB (aka Don Bentley) was brief
and casual-I was just a customer at the Rusty Nail when it was in the house/barn on the front of the
property in the late 60‘s. We talked briefly as was his custom to customers and I decided I’d be back.
The real beginning of our friendship began in 1969 or 1970 when DB had Bob Paton organize
Sunday jam sessions back in the Party Room (now the current restaurant). These were relatively
private jams-some of DB’s friends and the musicians.
Some of those jams had Tom Lough (piano), Tom VandenEyenden (tuba), Harry “Bix” Marshall
(cornet), Al Lindahl (tbone), Bill Kenney (clarinet), Bob Paton (drums) & myself on banjo. Lots of
music and drinking and good camaraderie. A few years later, DB asked Bob to set up a band to play
up front on a semi-regular basis. Musicians included Bob “Pearly” Erdman, piano; Dick Petscher,
cornet; “Jumpin” Judd Pecek, trombone; and Ted ”Noodles” Witt on clarinet.
A couple of years later, the band took the name Earlville Jazz Band and continued on with the
same basic makeup of personnel for the better part of 20 years except for tuba players. Tommy Tuba
moved back to Cincinnati, and was followed by Glenn Redd, Dick Jacoby, Dave Zytowski, and
finally Kyle Snyder. When Judd moved to California, Bruce Lehtinen assumed the trombone spot,
but fortunately the band makeup was stable until Bob Paton’s became ill with Alzheimer's disease.
The drum position was taken over by Prof. Rich Fawcett and at the end by Mark Kinney. When Dick
Petscher retired, Al Kinney was tapped to fill the cornet spot.
The real key to the Earlville Jazz Band and later the Minstrels of Earlville lay in having strong
support from DB, not only by providing a venue to play, but promoting OKOM however and
whenever he could. It wasn’t just limited to these two groups - he loved the music and the people
who played it as well as those who enjoyed it as much as he did.
Many in EARLYJAS are not aware that EARLYJAS was founded at the Rusty Nail. Sister Jean
Huling and her husband Laundry Fat held the first organizational meeting at the Nail. Without the
facility of the Rusty Nail as a venue, and DB’s support, it is doubtful that EARLYJAS would have
survived the early years. Opening the Nail on Sunday for events was frequently a money losing
affair for DB, but he willingly provided the restaurant and it’s resources until he semi-retired and
sold the restaurant to daughter Sherry Joy. After a few months, Sherry decided to discontinue the
Sunday venue and the rest is history.
It is hard to imagine EARLYJAS or Dixieland in this area without DB around. NO OTHER restaurant
owner or person has consistently supported OKOM so enthusiastically and for such a long time as
did DB. His rich and talented history has been covered by the newspaper - but his history of
support of the type of jazz we all love is long and strong. I felt that an additional tribute to his
memory should be set down relating to music. It is by no means entirely complete I’m sure - many
others could add their own additional anecdotes - the many tailgate parties at KSU, hauling the old
Wurlitzer piano in a trailer, the 1988 Bix festival that DB arranged the band to play in and organized
the entourage of friends to join us there - it goes on and on.
The real measure of his stature and respect as a man of all seasons was shown at the calling hours
held on Dec 14. The constant number of callers coming into the restaurant for the 4 hour span was
absolutely the largest gathering of mourners I’ve ever seen for anyone in my life.
I am fortunate & privileged to have known DB for longer than most and be able to have counted
him as a friend who would do anything to help out if needed. I know I will personally miss him - as
will many others and for those that never had the opportunity to meet him - what a shame. There
aren’t many who can take his place.
RIP DB. Hope you’re enjoying the jazz with the great musicians who have gone before.
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization