Retired pediatrician Richard Paul, 77, believes music must be enjoyed, shared and preserved. That's why he was at a trumpet store this morning buying an instrument for his grandson.
It's also why he -- in the persona of Dixie Doc -- will be playing with his Pittsburgh Dixieland All-Stars tonight at the Allegheny Elks Lodge on the North Side.
It's the perfect soundtrack for your Mardi Gras celebration.
"Bring a girlfriend or a boyfriend or you can dance with anyone you want," he said. "It's a great time."
It's hard not to have a good time when there's a Dixieland band playing.
Dr. Paul has known that since he was young. A graduate of Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, he studied medicine at Harvard in the mid-1950s.
"I was walking around campus one day and somebody was selling a bunch of 33 [rpm] records," he recalled. "I played in the Harvard band and I always loved music. Well, I bought a Bix Beiderbecke record, and I decided this is what I like."
OK, pardon my ignorance, but I'm not familiar with Bix. Let's see what Wikipedia says about him.
"Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 -- Aug. 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist and composer. With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. ... [He] helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz."
Even though he had never been to the South, Dr. Paul was hooked on the music.
"I had a roommate and we would go to Dixieland clubs in New York City," he said. "Nick's and Eddie Condon's. Places that played this old-style music.
"I love it because it's alive, man. It's fun. You can't sit still. You dance."
His medical practice, however, took him to the U.S. Public Health Service, and in 1966 he was stationed at a hospital in Alaska.
"A notice appeared on the hospital bulletin board saying they were trying to put together a band to play at the hospital Christmas party," he said. "So I and some other physicians and others got together and played. It was fun and I decided to keep playing."
He returned to Pittsburgh in 1967, but he was always playing music. In 1993, he decided Pittsburgh could use a good Dixieland band.
Dixie Doc and the Pittsburgh Dixieland All-Stars is a fairly traditional group, though the members vary. Tonight's lineup includes Kevin Clarke on trombone, Denny Kurzawski on clarinet and soprano sax, Bob Patterson on tuba, Ron Bickle on keyboards and Bob Balawajter on drums. Chris Fennimore, who you might know from WQED, will be playing banjo and singing with fellow vocalist Linda Nehrer.
"Anytime anyone hires us, we play," Dr. Paul said. "We do private parties. We played at a Mardi Gras party at the Brentwood VFW. And we have gigs scheduled in April, May and June."
But not March. Dr. Paul is spending March skiing in Aspen.
The music you will hear tonight includes some classics of the genre. And even some newer stuff.
"We mix it up," Dr. Paul said. "In fact, we had a rehearsal a week ago -- which is something we never do -- in order to bring a number of new tunes to our repertoire."
It's important to Dr. Paul that this music is played, heard and appreciated. You don't hear a lot of Dixieland on the radio.
"I don't know if it's in danger of fading away, but it is out of favor," he said. "There are places in this country where it's still very popular. California, Florida and, of course, in New Orleans."
And at the Allegheny Elks Lodge #339 located at 400 Cedar Ave. on the North Side. Five dollars gets you in the door, and a packed house is expected when the show starts at 8. Doors open at 7.
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we???ll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/