Ed “Sonny” Kesterke -
(Note the SK and CA on the left and right of
the music stands,
as well as each musician's initials on the front beside the saxophones)
Elsa Lightner (HHS 1945), Bill Dyer (HHS 1946), Larry Blyly (HHS 1946),
Erwin "Sonny" Kesterke (HHS 1945), Dorothy Dyer (HHS 1947), Cleo Ansteth
(HHS 1945), Jackie Calvin (HHS 1945)
Sonny Kesterke organized
a band in 1944 that included Cleo Ansteth, Bill Dyer, Elsa Lightner, Jackie
Calvin, and a little later, Patty Cupp for a short time. When Larry Blyly joined in
1944-1945, the band consisted of members shown in the photo above.
They played for many school functions including the proverbial Music
Prom. Sonny was a born promoter...still is in 2007.
Note that the band is posed in the casket area of Calvin
Funeral Home...beautiful setting!
During that time, Bill Dyer
was already playing professionally with the Melville Brothers. Blyly
didn't go "pro" until after graduation. Not sure when Cleo played at
House of David.
What happened to them:
Elsa graduated from Hartford High School in 1945 where she
excelled in music. She played the Clarinet in band, but was noted for her
piano playing skills. Upon graduating High School, she moved to the Bay
Area (Oakland and San Francisco) in California where she remained for nearly
30 years. While there, Elsa worked for noted photographer, Ansel Adams,
from 1961-1963, who taught her the art of photography. Her worked appeared
in many weekly periodicals throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Elsa had a great
love for all kinds of music, notably Jazz and Opera. She retired to her
native Michigan in 1976, where she lived the remainder of her life. Sadly,
after a long battle with bladder cancer, she passed away on May 3, 2007.
(October 2007 - information contributed by Bob Lightner (brother to Elsa)
and Brian Lightner, nephew)
Since closing our store in 2006, I have been playing
clarinet with the Casco Township Band, weekly rehearsals, and several
concerts throughout the summers.
When Cleo and Sonny
graduated in 1945, I started a totally new band with Gene Ansteth (brother of Cleo
Ansteth), Peggy Haynes,
and Carlton Winch. Bill Dyer was seldom available, since he had "gone
professional" with the Melville Brothers. When Gene died (car-train accident in November, 1945), we enlisted the
services of Dorothy Dyer. After graduating in 1946, I also turned professional and
never looked back. During that summer, I worked 3 nights a week at
South Haven at the Sunnybrook
Resort, as well as at the South Haven Moose, and South Haven Dance
Club. Spent a considerable number of Saturday nights with Carlton or Bill
at the Lakeshore Tavern on Paw Paw Lake. Much later, I played with Cleo's
big band and also with Harry Diffenderfer's big band. With Diffenderfer,
we did many proms and dance clubs, both Berrien Hills and Point of Woods
cotillions. We also played for the Blossomtime Grand Floral Ball and the style show. Wow, and that's just a drop in the bucket!
Was in the MSC Marching and Concert Band in 1949; with the 4 Sharps with Dyer, Herb Mortorff, and
Charlie Shine for quite a few years; with Don (Ellsworth) Smith at
various times, and at many dance clubs in the area. Playing with Lyle
Hover, of Lawrence, on his organ led to my purchase of the keyboard. Places
of entertainment don't have pianos anymore. I sort of became 3
instruments at once.......solo piano, guitar accompaniment, and pedal
bass. Just a lightweight substitute for organ.
During my childhood days, I took
classical piano and organ lessons from Mrs. Weed...many recitals....dueted with her at Methodist Church some. Eventually bought a theater
organ kit and solicited queen contests. Played for the Hartford
from 1975 thru 1981. Haven't played the organ much since the queen contests.
I did sax-clarinet and piano just about equally for many years.
exciting thing I have done in recent years is to play with the so-called
Studebaker Band. At each national meet,
a band is formed of club members. A volunteer director whips them into
shape with one or two rehearsals, then they put on a concert or two for the
membership. Was with them in S. Bend in 1997, 2002 and 2007. At
the 2007 national meet, I played clarinet for the first time in a
concert-type band since 1950 (unfortunately, it showed).
October, 2007 - information contributed by Larry Blyly.
Webmaster note: Larry is a member of the
that performed several times over the years at Hartford's Concerts In The Park and special concerts out at Crosses' Corners.
Every performance draws the largest crowd of the season, year after year....very professional and wonderfully
Other noted members of the Alumni Band are Earl Zaleski (HHS 1954), and Jamie Dyer (HHS 1975). Former
members, Bill Dyer (HHS 1946) and Jim Byers (HHS 1942) passed away in 2005
and 2004, and Billy Vann (HHS 1952) passed away in 2008.
Reminiscing about my musical career, which has spanned over sixty-four years
takes me back to when I first took an interest in playing a musical
instrument. In 1945 at the age of 9 years, I took my first music lessons on
my dad's clarinet. Don Johnson the HHS band director taught the lessons at
the cost of twenty-five cents for a half an hour. A year later in
1946, he invited me to play with the HHS band for a Memorial Day concert in
Keeler, MI. While continuing to play the clarinet with the school band I
learned to play on the sax as well. Playing recitals with Jack Dyer on the
piano and accompanying him on the clarinet brings back many fond memories.
He was a great piano player. In 1953 during his senior year at HHS, he lost
his life in an auto accident.
Bill Dyer, who played drums professionally, helped me get
a playing job at the Lakeshore Tavern on Paw Paw Lake. Since my age was 16,
a permit to play where alcohol was served had to be obtained. My first
New Years Eve job was in 1952 at the Phoenix Inn roadhouse in South
Haven. That was the start of many gigs all over in the area.
In 1955, Jack
Treat playing drums, Ed Pierce on the piano and I started
playing together. We played at the Dutch Mill on Silver Lake near Grand
Junction for four or five summers.
In the mid fifties while playing at a Lawrence dance
club, G Mennen Williams Governor of Michigan stopped in and called some
square dances with us. Among other familiar places I've played was the 12-40
Bar out of Paw Paw, the Whitcomb Hotel in St. Joe, and Crystal Palace on Paw
Lake. In later years, gigs were also played in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and
South Bend, Indiana.
the height of my music career in the early 70's, I started a five-piece band
and played at Bay View Gardens on Gull Lake. We introduced headliners such
as Jerry Murad's Harmonicats, The Peewee Hunt Band, and others. I once
played with the Dukes of Dixieland a New Orleans jazz band, filling in for
their clarinet player. Another point of interest during my playing years was
meeting and talking with Bob Crosby, an American Dixieland bandleader and
vocalist. His brother was the famous crooner Bing Crosby. From 1980-1991, I
lived in Flint MI. and played at the General Motors Executive Club.
Later, Bill Dyer on
drums, Larry Blyly on keyboard, and myself played at the VFW in
Kalamazoo for three years. The many years of playing with the
Alumni Band have been very enjoyable. However, it is now time to end my
music career, as I feel I'm unable to play up to my expectations.
My advice to parents and grandparents is to encourage young people
to take up playing a musical instrument. It can give them a sense of
achievement and a lifetime of enjoyment both mentally and monetarily as it
has given me.
Hartford Alumni Band
was taken August 20, 2009 by Brian Maurig (HHS 1954) at Ely Park during
the last Concert in the Park for the summer. Earl Zaleski
was the MC for the Hartford Alumni Band. During that concert, he
announced that this was to be his last performance as he was retiring from
the music profession.
NOTE: The photo above of the
L-R: Jim Welch-banjo, Jamie Dyer (HHS 1975)-drums, Earl Zaleski (HHS 1954)-sax,
Larry Blyly (HHS 1946)-keyboard.
The Golden Trumpet
Roy "Bud" Davis
Paw Paw River Journal
we lost one of Hartford’s finest musicians (July 14, 2007 in Las Vegas NV)…Cleo
Ansteth. As per his wishes, there was no obituary and no fuss
or ceremony. But we know he is gone, because his wife, the former Alice Lammon, confirmed it and sent some info on to Clyde Colman, who forwarded it
to me. The Ansteths lived in Las Vegas for years, where he did some of his
finest work and Alice had her own business. Hartford friends have confirmed
the news also.
Well known in this area for years, Cleo’s father was a Main Street
businessman. He owned the Chocolate Shop, middle of Hartford’s south side,
just about across from the Heart Theater. Frank Ansteth sold appliances and
had a combination dairy bar and tavern. You may think this an odd
combination, but it worked for him. I can remember that my folks bought a
refrigerator from him back in the day.
Frank and Mildred Ansteth had two boys, Cleo and Gene. Both musicians,
they showed early promise of greatness and played in local groups. Cleo was
older, and he was almost out of high school when younger Brother Gene met
On a snowy winter’s day in 1945 out north of Hartford, Gene Ansteth
drove in front of a Pere Marquette freight train. He was killed instantly,
and his car scattered along the track. Most of Hartford High School
attended his funeral. Friends, Arlene and Fred Ward and Margaret Martens,
knew him well. Arlene says she always remembers him on that day… especially
if it is snowing!
In high school, Cleo was a member of the
Ed “Sonny” Kesterke Band,
which played many local venues. Lois Latus says her husband,
Bud, remembers when Cleo joined the House of David band down in Benton
Harbor. (Did he grow a beard?) The famous Chick Bell gave him trumpet
lessons. He had Cleo hang his trumpet from the ceiling on a cord…then, not
using his hands but only the pressure of his lips, learn to blow and form
the notes. The idea was to teach him not to put pressure against his lips;
because as musicians get older, their lips give out due to years of
After that, he performed with several traveling bands, including Clyde
McCoy. About 1947-48, Larry Blyly recalls that Cleo was with Hank Winder out
of Omaha. He got in touch with Larry to come out and fill in for a week on
the piano until they got a new piano player. Larry remembers traveling by
bus across Iowa and Nebraska for “one-nighters.”
According to Larry, one time Cleo got a call from Dick Jurgens.
Seems his trumpet man was drinking too much and was unpredictable. Cleo
spent an afternoon rehearsing and interviewing with Jurgens. Jurgens
said, “I’m giving him one more chance. If
he doesn’t straighten up, you have the job!”
reformed, and Cleo didn’t get the job.
Cleo took a correspondence course in Engineering, moved to St. Joseph
and worked at Auto Specialties. He played with the Harry Diffenderfer
Orchestra and also did arrangements for his own orchestra. He helped Larry
get into the musicians’ union, so he could join the band. Larry did a lot of
proms and dance jobs, including
Shadowland and Crystal Palace. Larry
mentioned he played Crystal New Year’s Eve the last year before the place
was destroyed by fire… the only time Larry ever played there!
After years on the road, then settling down with Alice, Cleo decided it
was time to try his hand in Las Vegas. He did play trumpet for a while but
found his true calling in becoming an arranger and successful music copyist.
Over the years, he arranged and orchestrated music for many headliners.
They included Paul Anka, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, Neil Sedaka, Tony
Bennett, Vic Damone, Wayne Newton, Debbie Reynolds, and many others. He
also planned opening acts, variety acts, network, cable, PBS, and other
When Cleo and Alice reached their 50th year of marriage, they planned a
6,000-mile trip around the United States, ending up in Sedona, AZ, where
they enjoyed their final evening meal watching the sunset with a candlelight
Now Cleo’s golden trumpet is stilled. He left his mark on the musical
world; and even now, when we listen to some of the great ones, they are
singing and playing arrangements put together by a Hartford kid who has
woven some great music into the tapestry of our lives along the Paw Paw
Calvin HHS 1945