EVERETT — The school talent show was coming up. Five boys who were in band class together in 1956 at South Junior High wanted to be in it.
So, they formed a jazz combo, calling themselves the Ivy Five. The name was a take on the Ivy League button-down style that was all the vogue in the ’50s. It gave them an image that made them seem older and cooler.
In the talent show, the Ivy Five took to the stage to belt out “Ja-Da,” a simple yet bouncy Dixieland tune. They played from memory, and it wasn’t quite according to the chord book, their band teacher later pointed out.
No matter. They won first place.
“We said, ‘Hey, we’ll just stay together,’ ” said trumpet player Gary Ostlund, now 77.
“Ja-Da” became their theme song.
Other members were Ken Noreen, drums, Bill Carboneau, clarinet, Karner Trethewey, trombone, and Paul Carlson on sax.
The Ivy Five numbered six when guitarist Brian Wallace joined the group about a year later. “We added the guitar player because rock ‘n’ roll was coming in,” Ostlund said.
They didn’t change their name to the Ivy Six. That didn’t have the same ring. If anything, the miscount added to the boy band’s charm.
The gigs picked up when the Ivy Five members entered Everett High School. Their business cards boasted they played the “best of better music.”
The combo became a popular act.
“Two of us got to give up our box-boy jobs at Safeway,” Trethewey said. “It interfered with our dance jobs.”
The cash earned at shows was invested in looking good, not behaving badly.
“It was enough money to buy our clothes, for suits and ties,” Ostlund said. “We wanted to match.”
The Ivy Five was the opening act in 1957 for keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson at the dedication of the annex at Longfellow School.
They stayed humble.
“It was just another gig for us,” Ostlund said.
Unless you were a Brit with bangs, most guys in 1960 didn’t chase music stardom. They got an education, jobs, mates and mortgages.
The six members of the Ivy Five went their separate ways.
End of story?
Well, it was for about 40 years.
Ostlund, after retiring from Kraft Foods in 1996, wondered what became of his combo comrades.
“I said, ‘To heck with this. What’s everybody doing?’ I started rounding up the guys,” he said.
For Ostlund, who lives in Edmonds, Noreen was easy to find. Noreen taught at Shoreline Public Schools and directed the Shoreline Concert Band. He is the only of the six who pursued a music profession.
Wallace is a retired Everett firefighter, living in Marysville. Carboneau, clarinetist turned pharmacist, lives on Whidbey Island. Trethewey moved to California and made a career as a math teacher. Carlson, an artist, resides in Oregon.
With Ostlund and Noreen as the ringleaders, the Ivy Five revived.
After meeting up at their 40th class reunion at Everett High, they started jamming at Ostlund’s house in Edmonds to play old favorites such as “Basin Street Blues” and “Muskrat Ramble.”
The Ivy Five performed at their 50th class reunion and at a few wineries in Eastern Washington. They hope to take the stage at their 60th reunion next year.
The local men try to gather monthly in Edmonds. “These guys are 77. You get health issues that get in the way,” Ostlund said.
Subs fill in for Carlson, who can’t make it anymore, and others who can’t come. Ostlund’s wife, Jan, plays keyboard. Sometimes they are the Ivy seven or eight.
For public shows, all other four core members of the Ivy Five must be present.
“We can’t play without Karner as trombone man. Not for a gig,” Ostlund said.
The living room sessions are what matter the most.
”We’re in it for the friendship and the great sounds,” he said.
Trethewey was back in Edmonds last week to make great sounds with his buds.
“It’s been a real bond that we’ve had since eighth grade,” he said.
The Ivy Five performed, sitting down, for several hours for their wives and family members, but mostly for themselves.
“They are serious about playing,” said Trethewey’s wife, Candy. “There’s not a lot of chatting until afterward.”
It’s like they are 14 again.
Horns blow. Feet tap. Ja Da, Ja Da, Ja Da Ja Da, Jing Jing Jing
“You can just feel it,” Ostlund said. “We’re good friends. Music really brings you together.”