Lake City – “Home for Wayward Musicans” aka “Lake City Jam Sessions”
Jazz Jam Sessions were held four times a year, from Friday afternoons thru closing time at 2 am on Monday nights, non-stop in-between.
Below are pictures how the property looks on 8-29-2012 where the Williard House once stood.
Pelts and Company – Paula “Rains” Pelts YouTube (:29)
Pelts and Company – YouTube (:55) Watch these ladies kick it out. One is even in her nineties.
From the Webmaster – Doug Taylor
I’m posting names in a list of people I’ve talked to, or need to talk to, was brought up in conversation, or name came up in a story. If anybody knows any of these people, or can add to the list of people that went to the Jam Sessions, please do so, by leaving a comment with their name in it below.
- Bob Williard (RIP) – Original Owner of “The Williard House”
- Chris Kauffold – (Musician, piano)
- Bob Garner – Dug Out Bar, Lake City
- John Crawford – Musician (Guitar) Traverse City Area
- Paula (Stothard) Pelts – (Very fine vocalist, Dinah Washington vein – Stage name Paula Rains)
- Don (RIP) & Amy Jones – Don was a Musician (Pianist, Erroll Garner style) Frankfort
- Emily Laura – (Greater Jazz Society of Detroit) Great lady
- Claude (RIP) & Margaret (Marge) (RIP) Taylor – Grand Rapids (Dancers)
- The Stewards (RIP) – Reed City (Dancers)
- Larry Mooney (RIP) – (Musician Clarinet)
- Hugh (RIP) & Jean Pollock – Hugh was a soundman – Allen Park
- Bill & Sally Bolle – (Greater Jazz Society of Detroit – editor)
- Dick & Jeanie Mason – (3rd, last?) owner of the Williard House
- Pete & Joe Hebert (Brothers)(Customers)
- Glen & Gerry Olmstead – Glens a pianist and he and his wife owned The Williard House along with business partner Betty Presley
- John Burns – Ferris State College – (Sax player)
- Kenny Smith – (House Band Drummer)
- Don Grundell – (House Band Clarinetist)
- Bobby Jay – (Sax player)
- Frank Matthews (RIP) (Bass guitar, drums)
- “Betty O” Opdenhoff (RIP) (Dancer)
- Bud Stecker (Paula Rains father, dancer)
- John Burns (ex Detroit Cop) (Sax)
- Tom Renauld (Sax, piano, vocals)
- Owen ? (RIP) Prof of Art U of M from Traverse City (Drums)
- Betty Ekstorm (Dancer)
- Trudy ? (Dancer
- Gene ?, female (Dancer
- Bill Flanders aka “The Silver Fox” (Upright Bass)
April 17, 2002
Couple to return music to Lake City
The Williard House in Lake City was once a fixture in the city.
By TOM CARR
Record-Eagle staff writer
LAKE CITY — A downstate couple wants to resurrect the Williard House, a 114-year-old hotel that was once a Mecca for jazz musicians and fans from across the state.
Lucy and Tim Galvin, who have homes in Lake City and the Lansing area, have received the city’s blessing for a liquor license application and are currently negotiating the purchase of the building, which dates to 1888.
“I’m one of those people who likes to save things,” Lucy Galvin said. “I don’t like old buildings to disappear.”
Besides, the Williard House was the first and last place she ever danced with her father-in-law, Edsel Galvin, she said.
The hotel, which was a well-known site of jazz jam sessions in the 1970s but is now closed and neglected, also has sentimental and historical significance to the city.
“It was quite a hopping place in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” said city councilman Larry Ingleright.
The city voted to recommend the state give the Galvins a liquor license over another applicant who may have been able to open a business sooner than the spring 2003 date foreseen by the Galvins.
Ingleright voted in favor of the other business, but said he understands the importance of the Williard to the downtown’s past and future.
“It’s another business sitting there idle and it’s kind of an eyesore right now,” he said of the building, which greets visitors at the south end of the business district.
The hotel is not the first one on that site on Main Street overlooking Lake Missaukee. Originally named the Grand Central, it was built after its predecessor burned on July 4, 1887.
Like other hotels in dozens of northern Michigan downtowns before the advent of the automobile, expressways and chain motels, the Williard House had a restaurant and bar on the main floor.
Unlike most other century-old hotels in the north, though, its busiest time probably came about 80 years after it was built.
Bob Williard, a jazz musician and former owner of the Baby Grand nightclub in Detroit, bought the hotel in 1963 and gave it its current name.
Then in the late ’60s or early ’70s, he declared it the “Home for Wayward Musicians,” and offered a free room for the weekend to any musician who came by to perform for bar and restaurant patrons, according to Gerry Seger, whose late husband Glen Olmstead co-owned the hotel at one time and who wrote a history of the building.
With Williard’s musical connections and irresistible boarding offer, the hotel attracted artists by the score, including instrumentalists who had played with the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton and Jimmy Durante.
The response from the public was also overwhelming at times, with people lined up halfway down the block waiting for the doors to open at noon, Seger said.
The sessions became legendary and in 1981, Gov. William Milliken recognized the hotel’s cultural contribution, resulting in it being dubbed the “Jazz Preservation Hall of the North.”
The Galvins now want to return its original name — the Grand Central — and some of its Williard House glory. They hope to have theme nights featuring blues, jazz, rock and country music.
They hope to open the bar first and then prepare the 32 hotel rooms for occupancy. They also hope to get it listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Galvins have declined to reveal the purchase price. The venture is new ground for Lucy, a former bartender, and Tim, a factory worker.
With the city behind them, however, Lucy said they will restore it to what it looked like in the 1880s and what it sounded like in the 1970s.
“We really just want to have live music in Lake City again,” she said.