A ten piece horn band with a rhythm section was formed in late 1999 by Bill Walker and his wife Tracy.
Both these alumni of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band wanted to broaden their musical outlets beyond the Beer Barrel Polka and Dance Little Bird (the Chicken Dance.) Between their ties to UW Band alums and Tracy’s access to Edgewood College jazz musicians they were able to form The Average Blues Band, which first performed at the Stadium Bar in February of 2000.
This unique group (composed of two trumpets, a fluegelhorn, two saxophones, trombone, tuba and full rhythm section,) adapted their name from the famous Average White Band. We even played the AWB’s signature tune Pick Up The Pieces.
Not enough band-hiring people made the connection. We found it increasingly tough to get hired with “Average” in our band name, so we came up with five alternatives and a majority vote turned us into The Red Hot Horn Dawgs.
While the Horn Dawgs were developing their “sound” and jelling as a group, the UW Band alums present interjected humor, stage play and showmanship into the act to offset some of the shaky playing of our early shows. As the playing improved, the fun and games simply stayed in the act and became one of our trademarks.
Over time a large band like this will experience turnover of members. Losing a key player in a small band can kill it. But a larger group offers some stability in this regard. A few members rotated in and out during the first few years. We were able to find good replacements and continued playing around Madison; in bars, clubs, weddings and private parties.
Then we faced the biggest challenge to our continued existence. Or, as long-time drummer Todd Thompson might have quoted from Animal House, “Wormer dropped the big one.”
Founders Bill and Tracy Walker were moving to Tennessee to follow Bill’s career path. The others who had left the band prior to this were simply players. Bill and Tracy were the movers and shakers of the group. They handled the business issues. Our practice space and several of our early gigs came through Tracy’s Edgewood College connections. Bill was our lead trumpet, musical director and arranged the majority of the music we played. (Just try finding 70s rock tunes arranged for horn bands on the shelves of your local music store. We were worried.)
The rest of the band stepped up and found a way to move on after the Walkers left. When the dust had settled we had a new permanent rehearsal space and Jamie Sercombe had joined the group. He was a great addition as lead trumpet and took over the arranging/directing duties.
2020 is our 21st season playing together and we’re going strong as ever. Names and faces have changed over the years (trumpet Tom Halstead’s face changes during every show!), but the spirit of playing fun and recognizable music while putting on an entertaining show never dies.