The Grove Street Stompers have been performing Dixieland and traditional jazz every Monday night at Arthur’s Tavern since 1962. 2022 marks the band’s 60th anniversary since its inception. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal wrote “It’s a 50-year feat of endurance and consistency virtually unmatched in the city’s musical history, and for good reason: Few venues or bands remain viable over that length of time. But the Grove Street Stompers have kept it going for five decades, and Arthur’s Tavern in the West Village has kept the group on its calendar every Monday since 1962.” Before the article, the only Monday they skipped was November 25th 1963 when Arthur’s Tavern was closed to mark the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. “For jazz hands, the Stompers’ consistency is both a marvel and an inspiration.”
The band was started by its pianist and leader, Bill Dunham, who was the last standing original member before he passed away in 2016. The current leader, Peter Ballance, who is a self-taught trombonist and a banker by day has been with the band since the 1970’s. He describes the band’s music as a mix of Dixieland and swing, “sort of the Eddie Condon style.” The bassist/vocalist Mike Weatherly has been with the band for about 14 years. The clarinetist, Joe Licari joined the band in August 2004. He received the NJ Jazz Society’s Distinguished Musician Award at the Pee Wee Russell Memorial Stomp. John Halsey replaced the late Bill Dunham and other current members include Barry Bryson on trumpet and Giampoalo Biaggi on drums.
The band always had a sit-in policy, welcoming professional and amateur musicians to join in. In 1986, New York Times wrote “The playing combined the loose, relaxed swing of jamming group with ensemble playing that was surprisingly crisp for combos that always included some visitors.” They were loved by both locals and tourists alike and deeply missed during the lock down for Covid-19. It is exciting to welcome them back to Arthur’s Tavern for the beginning of their next decade.