By Alex Gallagher
Elks Lodge 2148 in Scottsdale is normally open only to members during the week, but from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, the Oak Street club opens its doors for anyone who wants to dance.
The 11-piece The Havin’ Fun Band draws fans to the ballroom, which also offers room for guests to sit and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.
Many instead hit the dance floor with their spouses to groove to the big band sound, much like they did when they were younger.
“All of our dancers are in their 70s, 80s and 90s and we’re starting to get up there in age,” says Tom Williams, who plays the trumpet in the Havin’ Fun Band and is also its co-leader.
Defying their age, the dancers move effortlessly to the blaring of horns and pounding of drums – much to the delight of the band.
“I’m one of those rare musicians who loves to watch dancers,” Williams says. “We have some really excellent dancers here. It keeps them vital.”
The scene reminds Williams of why he wanted to pick up the trumpet when he was a kid – and why he joined the band.
“I started playing the trumpet in about fourth or fifth grade and played all the way through college and in the Navy in a band,” he recalls.
Williams admits that he did take a break from music for a bit, but he eventually couldn’t fight the urge to return to music.
“After I got out of the Navy, I stopped playing the trumpet for maybe 10 or 15 years,” he shares.
After moving to Scottsdale in the ’80s, Williams was told about a community band.
“I started playing again and have been playing ever since,” he says.
Most of the band members have retired from their day jobs and most are first to admit that money is not the motivator when it comes to playing these shows.
“You’re not going to make a living in the big band business anymore, but we enjoy it,” Williams says.
The reason they still do it is to feel young and – well, have fun.
“The musicians here probably play as well as they did in their teens,” Williams says.
As more and more clubs have begun to shy away from the pioneering sounds of big band and swing music, Williams enjoys the Elks Lodge’s casual atmosphere and reviving the tunes.
While that genre is what gets the crowd moving, it is not the only style of music in The Havin’ Fun Band’s repertoire.
“We play big band stuff from the ’30s and ’40s but we do some rock ‘n’ roll tunes as well,” Williams says. “We know about 350 or 400 songs that cover a lot of genres but they’re all dance genres.”
Dancers will also scale through different styles of dance like the fox trot, cha cha, waltz, polka and line dancing.
All these dances remind Williams of his early jobs in a big band.
“I used to have six-hour jobs about 25 years ago and we would have couples who would dance that entire time,” he says. “There are people here who would do the same thing.”
Even during these uncertain times, one thing has remained.
“These people live for this,” Williams says. “They’ve told me they’d rather die dancing.”
What: Dance the Night Away w/The Havin’ Fun Band
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: Elks Lodge, 6398 E. Oak Street, Scottsdale