History of the Jack Normand Orchestra

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Early 1941, the owner of the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama, heard Jack and his band in New Orleans, and asked him to play the upcoming grand opening of the hotel in April and for some time after. Jack’s group was known as the “biggest little band in town” because each member played 2 or 3 instruments, and was in demand in the New Orleans upscale lounges. Of course, they had to consult a map to figure out where Point Clear was...and when they saw the resort in the relatively desolate area at the time, the musicians almost turned around. They were used to the non‐stop raucous lifestyle of New Orleans, and the sleepy Eastern Shore area was quite a shock. They had trouble finding things to do during the days while waiting to play music in the dining room. When their six week contract was up, the band couldn’t wait to get back to civilization and party time in the “Big Easy”. Jack and his band bounced back and forth from the Grand Hotel to New Orleans for 10 years. In 1951, the owner, Ed Roberts, persuaded Jack to move the family to Fairhope, and be the resident bandleader. This engagement began a 50+ year history of the Normand family playing at Point Clear.
 
Early 1950’s: The bandstand was to the left of the entrance and is now a wine cellar. In those days, when hotel guests entered the dining room, the band greeted them and chatted until a table was available. This allowed the band to learn names and favorite songs, which was very useful the next time the guests came in. It also helped sell a lot of record albums since they had developed the initial warm relationship. Jack also earned a reputation of knowing everybody’s favorite songs. Truth be known, he was terrible at names, other band members helped him with that, but when he saw a face, he had a knack for matching a song to it. Many a child was delighted to come sit in the pianist’s lap and play a tune, or sit at the drums to make some noise. Later, as they grew up, those kids brought their new spouses and children to repeat the process. By the time the band left the hotel, they were playing for grandchildren and some great grandchildren of original guests.
 

About 1955, television was still new to the area.
Phillip Gabriel, who owned several jewelry stores in
the Mobile area, was the sponsor of a show that
featured the Jack Normand Orchestra, live, every
Tuesday afternoon. This exposure on the new
medium persuaded many viewers of the show to go
to the Grand Hotel for dinner and dancing.
L-R: Von Gammon, formerly of the Dukes of Dixieland
and Sharky Bonano Band; Pat Cook; Jack Normand;
Phil Gabriel
This picture was taken on the set at WKRG

 
 

 

 

 

Jack Normand with Pete Fountain

Although he knew many musicians from all around the country, Jack was very proud of
his friendships with old New Orleans greats Pete Fountain and Al Hirt. They played in many of the same clubs while beginning their careers. Jack and Al started their families at the same time. When one would come into a nightclub where the other was playing, he would hold up fingers to indicate how many children that man had fathered. Jack only had to use one hand to signal his 5 little ones, but Al needed two hands to signal his ten.

This photo was taken as Pete was on his way to Florida for a gig. He had stopped to drop off some home made crackling for Jack. Glenn Normand remembers a Sunday when he was asked to help prepare the guest table for boiled seafood, and watched as Al Hirt and his band sat down for lunch. Al’s pianist’s father was Jack’s bass player at the time. Afterwards, there was a jam session in the living room, and Al’s guys were especially happy about their latest release “Java”.

A couple of years later, Joni Mitchell stayed at the Grand Hotel, and met the Normand band. David talked her into coming to the house, and they stayed up all night talking about music and jamming on the instruments.