Editor, Webmaster:  Phil Cartwright       Editor@earlyjas.org
Personalities -- by Phil Cartwright

Use your 'Back' button or the Navigation Bars to return to the Personalities index page.
Personalities                               March 2005
Bob Erdman:  The Adventures of Pearly Bob

monthly meetings to the Hudson American Legion.  It’s barely a mile
from the house he’s owned for 30+ years.  The house is an historic
site because it was in that very basement that the Sorta Forties band
was born.  (More on that later.)
Some years ago, Bill Parthe and Ralph Grugel started calling Bob Erdman ‘Pearly Bob’.  Why?  ‘Cuz Bob liked
to play that Jelly Roll Morton masterpiece, “The Pearls”.  Bob likes Morton‘s music but he really likes the West
Coast genre of Turk Murphy and the South Frisco Jazz Band.  That rompin’ stompin’ style is Bob’s forte and he
is known privately among his fellow musicians as that “Left Handed Monster” of the
piano.  Read on.

On the one hand classical music is an important part of his past. He started piano at age seven and continued
with lessons through high school.  He especially loved Brahms, Chopin, and Beethoven sonatas.  He stopped
lessons for awhile – maybe 40 years!  Then he resumed lessons at the Cleveland Institute of Music; his teacher
was James Tannebaum.  When James died Bob continued with Arlene
Bailey-Enflo of Kent.  I’ve heard Bob many times as he played classical music with subtlety, finesse, and a light
touch when the music called for it.

On the other hand, he is known for his two fisted powerhouse piano style with jazz bands.  He never uses
amplified piano – he doesn’t need it! He never uses the sustain  pedal.  And, don’t put your beer on the top of
the piano; it will soon be vibrated to the floor!

Bob grew up on the edge of the Ohio State campus and graduated from OSU with a degree in Electrical
Engineering.  Later he got an MS in Physics from John Carroll.He moved to the Cleveland area in 1962 to work
with Keithley Instruments. Retired from Keithley in 2000, he formed Erdman Measurements Consulting in
2001.  Bob’s years with Keithley were exciting from a jazz point of view.  From the early 80’s Bob was in
International Marketing with Keithley.  That job took him all over the world. (He’s still trying to use up his
Frequent Traveler miles!)  He found and sat in with traditional jazz bands in a dozen countries or more.  Bob,
in spite of being a shy, retiring sort of guy, was able to strike up acquaintances with musicians all over the

While at OSU, Bob stumbled into the North Heidleberg Bar near the campus.  There were a bunch of college
kids drinking and singing frat songs accompanied by a piano player.  Bob talked to the piano player, sat in, and
was hired.  Terrible piano: out of tune, only 66 keys, no ivory.  Avoid Middle E, there’s a nail sticking up!  
While in Columbus, Bob got to play music with John  Arimond, Joe Cavalier, Terry Waldo.  Also heard John
Ulrich and Doc Evans.  His first band:  The Fungus 5+ 2 (Our Music Grows on You).  

Shortly after arriving in the Cleveland area, Bob went out exploring and sat in with Ralph Grugel at the
Friendly Tavern on Euclid Avenue.  Bob subbed on piano when Ralph opened up the Flats playing at Fagan’s.
Pressures of job and family forced Bob to back off the jazz/bar scene for a few years. Then in the mid 70’s he
got a call from Bill Moorhead, a banjo player.  Bill enticed Bob back to jazz.  Not long thereafter, Ralph Grugel
called Bob to play at the Monticello Bar with John Bittence, bass; Ted Witt, clarinet; Dick Petcher, cornet. At
various times, Bob played at the Lobster Pot, Cleveland Crate and Trucking, and the Market Street Exchange.
Bob’s most significant, long term jazz relationship has been with the Earlville Jazz Band.  In the 1970’s Don
Bentley opened the Rusty Nail to musicians and jam sessions.  From those sessions emerged the Earlville JB.  
Still going strong after 30+ years, Bob was the first and only regular piano player.

1987.  Ted Witt and Bob go to New York to attend Turk Murphy’s one and only Carnegie Hall concert. (Editor’
s note: I was there, too.)  The night before there was a big party at the Grand Hyatt hotel.  Turk played, as did
Vinnie Giordano’s Night Hawks.  Ted came back and started the Night Owls, a ten piece 1920’s dance band.  
Bob was the original pianist.  (Note:  Night Owls play the 2nd Sunday at the Barking Spider.)
Plug from the Shameless Commerce Division:  Bob and I recently released a CD called ‘Original Rags’ which
showcases his wonderful playing.  Check out www.philcartwright.info for details.
What’s next for Bob?  He plans to continue improving his classical playing, which helps the jazz, and have all
the fun he can playing jazz.
Jim Emert – From Green Dolphin Street to Old Green River?

Each month we try and feature two EARLYJAS personalities: a musician and
an officer or fan.  This personality interview is a ‘twofer’ – Jim Emert is VP of
EARLYJAS and a musician!

his family lived in many different places including California, Nebraska, New
his family lived in many different places including California, Nebraska, New
York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.   Dad played with Harry James, the
Dorseys, traveled with Hal McIntire, recorded with Will Bradley, played
Dixie with Doc Cheatham.Dixie with Doc Cheatham.
afternoons and the only Class A job in the Pittsburgh area, the Holiday House in Monroeville.  When Jim’s Dad It
was in Pittsburgh that the Emert family settled down for while Dad played the Casino Burlesque house retired, it
became clear that he had a wardrobe of band uniforms, all tuxedos!  Consequently, that became Mr. Emert’s
regular dress even when mowing the yard!

At age 10 or 11, Jim took piano lessons for six months or so and was invited to play a particularly difficult
arrangement of ‘Sleigh Ride’ at a recital.  He was nervous but played it flawlessly and was rewarded with a
standing ovation and many accolades.  Jim’s response was “I quit”.  He didn’t like the pressure.  (Those of you
who know Jim say that he is a shy, retiring kind of guy.)

invited to participate in a newly formed band called the Sorta Forties.  The first rehearsal was in Bob Erdman’s
stop playing while Jim looked up a chord formation in a chord book!
Their first gig was a parade riding on a float through downtown Hudson. Occasionally the band would have to
stop playing while Jim looked up a chord formation in a chord book!

Jim started playing with the Eagle Jazz Band with Ralph Grugel in 1978 at the Lobster Pot on Mayfield Rd.  The
band included Dick Petcher, Joe Richard, and Bob Peyton.  Later they played the Cleveland Crate and Trucking
and the Market St. Exchange.

In the mid 80’s Jim was transferred to Colorado and stopped playing with bands. From Colorado he moved to
Syracuse and then to Columbus.  All the while he continued to play the piano, primarily for his own amazement.
In 2001, after retiring from his day gig, he finally started getting his priorities straight.  He returned to Hudson
and immediately became active on the jazz scene.  He has been an EARLYJAS Trustee and currently serves as Vice
President.  He also plays with several bands in the area.

When asked about the future of OKOM Jim had some interesting observations.  He said there must be a demand
for the music.  Witness all the traditional jazz festivals and jazz clubs all over the nation.  We are experiencing a
difference in venues.  I.e., there is not such a demand for the older restaurant/bar we grew up with but there are
many more festivals and clubs than there were 30 or 40 years ago.

Jim believes that there is a distinct trend in the contemporary music being played and listened to by younger
audiences. They enjoy more lyrical, melodic music and are becoming less engaged with heavy metal, rap, etc.  Is
that a good sign?  Is it a forerunner to change?  Are music tastes cyclical?  Stay tuned.

Here’s one final anecdote that I think encapsulates Jim retiring soul and sense of humor.  Jim tells it this way:
“It was at the Lobster Pot that another trombone player sat in, and before the first tune he told the waitress to
"Give the front line a drink".  This left out the back line which seemed a bit dismissive of our contribution. On the
first tune, which was in B flat, he took a solo, at which time I put the banjo next to his ear and changed the key to
B natural.  He couldn't hear the rest of the band, and had a great deal of trouble with his solo. As soon as he
finished I moved away and back to the correct key while he examined his horn and tried to figure out what
happened.  We never told him, but we still laugh about it.”
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization