Meet the Band

Don Edwards Leader Southern Fried Jazz Band


Don Edwards, Leader

“Jazz is the only original art form America has given the world.” Thus states Don Edwards, veteran trumpet player and leader of the Southern Fried Jazz Band based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Edwards first played Dixieland jazz and blues while on tour with the name bands during the Big Band era. He later backed some of the Dixieland jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong and the World’s Greatest Jazz Band. Following that rich period when jazz music was king, Edwards began to dream of finding a way to keep and increase the public’s love of live jazz. The road from that dream to creating the Southern Fried Jazz Band and producing its first CD has had many detours along the way.

Following his formal education at the Cincinnati Conservatory, Edwards joined Hal McIntyre and his orchestra where he served as both lead trumpet and road manager. He made many of the band’s recordings, including “The Glow Worm” with the Mills Brothers which topped the charts for them in the ‘50’s. He eventually left Hal McIntyre to join Ray Anthony who then had the number one big band in the country. During his tenure with Ray, Edwards did the Chesterfield Show which was the summer replacement show for Perry Como on NBC TV. He also appeared with Ray’s band in the movie “Daddy Long Legs” with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, and made numerous recordings with the band. He also enjoyed brief stints with the bands of Billy May, Buddy Morrow, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Charlie Spivak, Les Elgart and Ralph Marterie.

At the end of Big Band era, Edwards spend fifteen years in Vegas, performing in stage shows with Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and numerous other artists. During the five years he played lead trumpet in the show band at the Sands Hotel, he performed with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra on the Nat King Cole show on NBC TV. He remained at the Sands throughout the reign of the Rat Pack, and made the sound track for the original movie version of “Oceans Eleven.” He also performed with Frank on his album “Sinatra at the Sands.”

Upon leaving Vegas, Edwards moved east where he went on tour with various name acts, Broadway shows and Motown groups. During that transition, he also worked in the studios, making commercials and recordings, including the soundtrack and album for the “Shaft” movie with Isaac Hayes in Memphis. He eventually accepted two steady gigs in Greenville, South Carolina, performing in a jazz combo led by Victor Lombardo (Guy’s brother) at night, and serving as trumpet instructor at Furman University during the day. While at Furman, he started the first stage band which still exists there today.

Through his ties in Vegas, Edwards accepted a position as music contractor and lead trumpet player with the show band at the new Fairmont Hotel at Colony Square in Atlanta in 1974. While there he engaged all orchestra personnel for acts that included Tony Bennett, Jack Jones, Phyllis Diller, Mel Torme, Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee and others. In advance of the selling of the Fairmont, Edwards accepted an offer from an associate at Walt Disney World where he remained for three years, backing many of the same stars with whom he had performed in both Vegas and Atlanta, as a member of the Top of the World show band at the Contemporary Hotel.

Edwards eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where he continued traveling with name acts and bands, along with teaching and giving clinics in high schools and colleges throughout the Carolinas. He eventually started his own big band called Ovations, which he operates along the lines of Lester Lanin and Marshall Grant for special events. He later organized, directed and narrated a big band show called “When Swing Was King” that features the hits and theme songs of the all the great name bands, their leaders and singers..

One day the agent booking “When Swing Was King” suggested that Edwards put together a good Dixieland show band. Realizing this could be the vehicle he needed to promote live jazz across the country, Edwards selected top-of-the-line jazz artists to join him in forming the Southern Fried Jazz Band.

After its first CD and showcase, the Southern Fried Jazz Band began performing its show nationally. Realizing the positive results of his efforts, Edwards continues to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of live jazz through his Southern Fried Jazz Band.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Clarinet


A man of many talents, clarinetist Jim Ruth is a widely respected musician and educator who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Along with the clarinet, Jim plays all the reed instruments as well as the trombone, drums, bass and banjo.

Jim began his professional career as a member of the Canadian Forces Big Band and was also a member of the Canadian Forces Dixieland band. After his discharge, he worked as a per service player with symphonies in both Canada and Minnesota. During that time he also performed with many Dixieland bands on the river boats in Minneapolis.

After joining the Southern Fried Jazz Band, Jim gave Don a Dixieland CD and asked him to “check it out” and let him know what he thought of it. After listening to it, Don complimented the band and asked who else was on the CD – to which Jim replied, “No one – that was all me.” When not working with the Southern Fried Jazz Band, Jim continues to perform with name acts and bands in the Southeast. He has also managed to build a large teaching practice, and is one of the most respected reed teachers throughout the greater Charlotte area.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Piano


Bill French is a jazz pianist – and jazz drummer extraordinaire. He is also a Renaissance man of sorts who dabbles in other art forms, and has spent his life studying the history and techniques of many different genres of music. Over the years, Bill has performed with a number of Dixieland bands and has been a member of several name bands that include, among others, the New Orleans Jazz Machine, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Jazz Quintet (bebop) and Bass Case (avante garde). He is also a popular accompanist for jazz singers such as Vicki Capo and Rachael Lee.

Several years ago while on tour with the Southern Fried Jazz Band, Bill fell in love with the Northwest. After returning home, he and his wife made several trips to the area. Upon finding a house they liked, they moved from Champaign, IL to Hillsboro, Oregon, just west of Portland.

Since moving to Portland, Frenchy, as he is known to his friends, has built a sizable practice, teaching both classical and jazz piano, jazz drums and improvisation on a variety of musical instruments. In addition to touring and teaching, his exceptional talents and flexibility have helped him get established as a solo pianist and sideman with a wide variety of local bands and combos in and around the Portland area.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Trombone


Trombonist Joey Lee’s first encounter with Don Edwards was as a member of the stage band Don founded at Furman University in the 1970’s. He traveled with Don as a member of the big bands and with name acts and shows that performed in the southeast. After college, Joey settled in Anderson, South Carolina, where he currently serves as resident trombonist with the GAMAC (Greater Anderson Musical Consortium) Symphony. He is also a member of the Palmetto Posaunen, a prestigious trombone choir made up of university professors, symphony members and full time freelance trombonists who perform music from Renaissance to jazz throughout the eastern United States. He has been a featured soloist with this choir, and has backed such greats as renowned trombonist, conductor and composer Wycliff Gordon.

Having watched Joey develop into a fine jazz player, who had mastered the art of playing tailgate trombone, Don Edwards wasted no time asking him to join the Southern Fried Jazz Band.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Bass


Bassist Joe Corne is the comedian of the band. He is also a seasoned musician whose background is as varied as the instruments he plays, which include the bass, violin, cello and piano.

Following his formal education at Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, Joe served for 30 years as string teacher and orchestra director in the public school systems of Burlington, North Carolina, and Roanoke, Virginia. While in Burlington, Joe worked as a per-service player with the symphonies of Duke University, the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Symphony at Chapel Hill. After moving to Roanoke, he organized a jazz trio for the Hotel Roanoke that played seven days a week for 18 years.

Since returning to his hometown of Charlotte, Joe has worked with local bands and shows in the area. He has also formed his own string quartet that performs for wedding ceremonies and receptions in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Drums


Rick Hodges is an exceptionally fine drummer who puts the icing on the cake for the Southern Fried Jazz Band.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Rick has a natural talent and finesse for playing the drums that he inherited from his father and teacher, who played drums with the Ben Bernie Big Band.

Unlike many contemporary drummers, Rick is as proficient with wire brushes as he is with drum sticks. His exceptional timing and flexibility make him one of the most sought-after drummers in the Carolinas. He knows exactly when and how to include the extra “bells and whistles” that add pizzazz to any band, which is why Don Edwards chose him to be the drummer for the Southern Fried Jazz Band.

When available, Rick continues to work with a variety of local bands in and around the Charlotte area.

Southern Fried Jazz Band Vocals


Allie Hutsell, formerly known as Allison Moore, has been singing professionally since the age of seven. She served as soloist and background vocalist with the Grapevine Opry Kids, who opened for The Judds, Vern Gosdin, Porter Wagoner, Charlie McLain. Little Jimmy DIckens, Box Car Willie and many more. Allie left the Opry Kids to join Johnny High’s Country Music Review. It was during one of her appearances with the show that she was spotted by Shoji Tabuchi, the amazing Japanese violinist and singer who has his own theater and variety show in Branson, MO, who asked Allie to join his show. Though only seventeen at the time, Allie joined the show in Branson the last half of her senior year, and her parents relocated in Springfield, Missouri, less than an hour’s drive from Branson. Along with serving as backup vocalist, she soon became the lead female vocalist with show, and eventually served as vocal director and assistant production manager with the Shoji Tabuchi Show which traveled all over the world.

After being with the show for ten years, Allie married and moved to Springfield, where she was soon discovered by Mark Steiner (Steiner Talent Agency). Impressed with her voice and stage presence, Mark continues to book her as the opening act for name entertainment throughout the Midwest. He also books her six piece cover band called the “Allie Katz” in and around Missouri, along with her single act which includes vocals and guitar. In addition to public performances, Allie has her own recording studio at home. Under her “Doozie Productions” label, she records vocals, and makes voiceovers and commercials for a wide variety of clients throughout the country.

With her love of jazz and blues and a strong desire to sing with seasoned professionals, Allie was delighted when Don Edwards asked her to join the Southern Fried Jazz Band. From the moment she walks on stage, she captures the audience with her contagious enthusiasm, exceptional voice and improvisational skills.