National Orchestra Service

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The National Orchestra Service, Inc. (NOS), was the most important booking and management agency for territory bands across the Great Plains and other regions from the early 1930s through 1960.[1] NOS managed black, white and integrated orchestras and was headquartered in Omaha.


National Orchestra Service specialized in booking ballroom dance orchestras known as territory bands. The company's reputation as the premier booking agent in that genre helped them dominate their industry for almost 20 years. Bands that NOS represented were typically smaller than the Glenn Miller-type orchestras, usually featuring about 12 pieces, sometimes 15; though ensemble sizes tended to wax and wane with the economy.


NOS handled bookings in:

  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Montana
  • Wyoming
  • Nebraska
  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Military bases


February 1930 — National Orchestra Service was founded in Omaha.[2] Serl Frank Hutton was its founder and sole proprietor until 1952, when Lee Williams joined as a partner.

By way of merger with Music Management Service in January 1954, Royce Stoenner and David Wenrich, who formed Music Management Service, joined NOS as salaried employees.[3][4] In September 1959, Royce Stoenner left the NOS agency to join as a 50% partner with the Dave Brumitt Agency, a territory band booking agency in Atlanta.

In 1939, the NOS headquarters at located at 709 World-Herald Building, Omaha, NE.[notes 1] Later, NOS moved to the eleventh floor — the top floor — of the Omaha National Bank Building in Downtown Omaha. The top floor was actually the sixteenth and the address was 1611 City National Bank Bldg.[5]

In February 1960, National Orchestra Service, Inc., folded.[6]

World War II[edit]

In August 1943, Lee Williams was the only band working for National Orchestra Service due to war rationing (gasoline, tires, and the like) and shortage of musicians (the draft).[7]

Business model[edit]

A booking contract consisted of an agency fee, typically 10% for "on location" dates (a week or greater) and 20% for one nighters. One nighters paid more than "on location" dates. In the 1950s, a one nighter could range from $750 to $1,000 for a Monday or Tuesday and $15,000 to $20,000 for a Friday or Saturday for some of the top bands. "On location" bookings could range from $15,000 to $20,000 a week. NOS required the hiring party to make a 50% deposit to solidify the contract. The musicians, in theory, belonged to the Musicians Union through their local. A component of a union contract required a rate to be paid to each musician based on traveling distance to the engagement. The union also collected a fee from the ballroom operator (or employer), typically $10 per musician for an engagement.

Sleeper buses & trailers[edit]

Many territory bands from NOS traveled in sleeper trailers connected to tractor-trailer trucks. The most popular sleeper was manufactured by Wilson Body Company in Sioux City, IA. They were purchased, owned, and maintained by the orchestras. Lawrence Welk is thought to have been the first to design and use a sleeper.[8]

Bands under management[edit]

Bands Managed by
National Orchestra Service, Inc.
Name Notes
Verne Byers Herbert Daly Phillips played with this band in the early 1950s
"Chan" Chandler
and His Orchestra
According to Royce Stoenner, Chandler had the best band ever at NOS and was one of the reasons he was lured to work for NOS.[notes 2] Former musicians: David F. Barnett (1926–2009); Marjorie King, singer. Chandler, a saxophonist, was known in some quarters as "America's most handsome orchestra leader." Before NOS, Chandler's orchestra had been managed and booked by McConkey Orchestra Company.[9]
Jerry Mosher [10]
Preston H. Love NOS became the booking agent for Preston Love in January 1954 by way of merger with Music Management Service, a booking agency founded by Royce Stoenner and David Wenrich.[11]
Del Clayton Musicians: Harry Bernard Risvold, drummer (1932–2001) — traveled with Clayton for 3 years; Glenna Fraser, singer; John Walter Nelson, Jr., drummer (1930—2006)
Wayne Chapman Chapman was an organist who once played with Lee Williams
John Paul Jones
Al Hudson Hudson was a trumpet player who once played with Lee Williams. His band, essentially, was the former Lee Williams orchestra.
Red Perkins
& His Dixie Ramblers
Larry Elliott
Carl Colby
Klif Riggs
Lee Williams ( William Brammer Leacox; 1918–1995) Several new bands were launched by Lee Williams. While touring for a half year, he would book the next half, then sell the band and take time off. In 1952, he became a partner with National Orchestra Service (see comments below, under "Principals, employees").
Mickey Bride The Little Man With a Big Band. Bride was a drummer who once played with Lee Williams
Oklahoma City Blue Devils NOS launched the Blue Devils[12] on a tour of the Northern Territories in 1930.[13]
Nat Towles
and his Quintet
Towels, an African American, played trumpet. His band was one of the best territory bands managed by NOS. Many well-known musicians are alumni of Towels' band.
Sammy Stevens Stevens was a drummer
Little John Beecher Beecher, a trumpeter and valve trombonist who once played with Lee Williams, became a singer of novelty songs, leading his own band called "Little John Beecher and his Orchestra" throughout the 1950s. The band finished 1959 using NOS as its booking agent. When Royce Stoenner left NOS and moved to Georgia, Beecher followed and started working there through his agency. Beecher donated his music library to Auburn University before his death.
Jimmy Thomas
Tommy Allan An excellent band, Allen played trumpet
Leo Peiper This band was likely not with NOS (reviewing - Oct 2009) This band was with the McConkey Music Corporation in July 1947.[14] Former musicians: Lauren Brown, trombone (1915–1994)
Jack Russell
and His Sweet Rhythmic Orchestra
Roy Turk wrote the words and Fred E. Ahlert wrote the music to Into My Heart, which became the theme song for the Jack Russell's Orchestra.[15]
Billy Thompson
and His Melody Cowboys
Not sure whether this band was with NOS (reviewing - Oct 2009)
Tillie Newell
and His Orchestra
Not sure whether this band was with NOS (reviewing - Oct 2009)
Walter J. Martie (b. 1923; d. 1994) Not sure whether this band was with NOS (reviewing - Oct 2009) Former musicians include Art Delaney, Gordon Boore (drummer), and Delores Morgan (singer; née Dolores Helen Morgan; b. 1923; d. 2009). Delores married Walter in the 1940s.
Earl Gardner
and His Orchestra
The Band With a Million Friends
Bob Calame
and his Music
Robert Marvin Calame (15 Jan 1911 Grand Island, Nebraska – 3 Sep 1967 Omaha, Nebraska) wrote the music for Lawrence Welk's theme song, "Bubbles in the Wine." Calame's band played a sweet style, similar to Lawrence Welk. His daughter lives in Omaha.[5]

Principals, employees[edit]

Serl Frank
(6 November 1901 Nebraska – November 1965 Omaha) — Hutton was founder and sole owner of NOS until 1952, when began sharing ownership with Lee Williams, who he recruited as a partner.

Serl's father, Frank Hutton, was born March 8, 1872 in Iowa and his mother, Adelaide Searles, was born in Iowa too. Serl married to Fern Marguerite Butler (maiden) on November 29, 1924, in Gregory County, South Dakota.[16] Fern was born December 1898, in Omaha. Fern died February 1985. Fern's father, George W. Butler, was born in Ohio and her mother, Amy Ann Davis (maiden), was born June 15, 1876 in Horton, Nova Scotia.

Lee Williams ( William Brammer Leacox, 9 March 1918 – 4 September 1995), a territory bandleader himself, joined NOS as a partner in 1952. Laura Beth Barr (née Mahorner),[17] Lee's widow, resides in Omaha. Several territory bandleaders and well-known musicians were alumni of Williams' Orchestras.
Claude Orr (24 July 1899 – October 1967 Omaha, Nebraska) Orr, a piano player, had been on the NOS booking staff from 1935 until it folded in 1960. He was a salaried employee and the company's only traveling salesman. His territories were the Dakotas and Minnesota. He also had accounts in northern Iowa and northern Nebraska. Orr's son, as of 2009, lives in Omaha.
Dave Wenrich Wenrich was on the booking staff.
Royce Harold
(born 26 March 1919 Independence, MO) Stoenner, an ex-territory bandleader and trumpeter, joined NOS as a salaried employee in 1954. At NOS, Stoenner managed the booking staff. Stoenner left NOS in 1959 to become a partner with the Dave Brumitt Agency, a territory band booking agency in Atlanta. At the age of 98, Stoenner resides in Iowa.

Before the war, Stoenner directed his own Orchestra and owned Music Management Service in Omaha. When Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941, Stoenner wound-down the operations of both his orchestra and booking agency. In 1942, Stoenner joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving as a bombardier. In 1943, while in the service, Stoenner, stationed at Maxwell Field, directed a marching band of 90 to 100 musicians and a 19 piece stage band featuring a 36 voice glee club that had a Fred Waring sound. Upon discharge from the service in 1945, Stoenner joined Frederick Brothers in Chicago, a territory booking agency. In 1947, he joined the Allsbrook-Pumphrey Agency in Richmond, Virginia, and reformed his orchestra, performing and working as a booking agent.

Robert Leroy
(3 April 1926 Gann Valley, South Dakota – 23 December 1995 Gillette, Wyoming), employee
Johnny Sanna ( Giovanni Maria Sanna; 11 November 1901 Sardinia – December 1965 Omaha) Sanna was a former vaudevillian comedian and dancer. At NOS, he handled bookings for acts, or music featuring acts. He had been a member of the American Guild of Variety Artists.[18]
Frederick William
(10 June 1922 Yankton, South Dakota – 3 August 2002 Casper, Wyoming) Burgi was a member of the booking staff and worked under Stoenner.
Thorne Dillon Dillon was a member of the booking staff.
Jim Fuhs ( James John Fuhs; born 6 April 1929 Portsmouth, Iowa) Fuhs handled accounting and advertising. He worked with NOS from 1952 to 1957. He landed his position at NOS upon completion of studies at Commercial Extension School of Commerce in Omaha. At the age of 88, Jim Fuhs, and his wife, Geraldine Ann (née Feller), reside in Milwaukee.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Omaha World-Herald Building, during this era was the building designed by Thomas Rogers Kimball and built in 1915.
  2. ^ This claim has no written reference. Stoenner made this statement in during a phone conversation with the editor Oct 30, 2009. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Stoenner.27s_view" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Stoenner.27s_view" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).

Inline citations

  1. ^ A Thousand Honey Creeks Later: My Life in Music from Basie to Motown and Beyond, by Preston H. Love, Wesleyan University Press (1997), p 151; OCLC 882590696
  2. ^ "Chicago," Billboard, March 4, 1950, pg. 22
  3. ^ "Booking Agents Merge," World-Herald (Omaha), January 24, 1954, col. 1, pg. 7C
  4. ^ "Merge Firms of NOS, MMS in Ork Field," Billboard, February 13, 1954, col. 4, pg. 19,
  5. ^ a b Bandleaders' datebooks and other NOS materials, Omaha: Private collection of Kay Calamé Dalstrom (née Evelyn Kay Calamé; born 1942), daughter of NOS bandleader Bob Calame, July 31, 2014
  6. ^ Profiles of Nationally Distinguished Nebraskans: "Preston H. Love: Internationally Renowned Band Leader, Musical Manager and Author," by Jean Sanders, Nebraska State Education Association (2005), pg. 100; OCLC 653244384
  7. ^ "Midwest Territorial Band Biz Limping Along; May Collapse After October Call for Fathers," Billboard, August 21, 1943, pg. 13
  8. ^ Mister Music Maker, Lawrence Welk (1st ed.), by Mary Lewis Coakley (1907–1995), Doubleday (1958), pg. 151; OCLC 493799
  9. ^ "Chan Candler and His Orchestra," The Billboard 1943 Music Year Book (5th annual ed.), Billboard, pg. 154
  10. ^ "Jerry Mosher: Accordion stylist." Retrieved 10/26/07.
  11. ^ Preston Love, A Thousand Honey Creeks Later; My Life in Music from Basie to Motown, Wesleyan University Press (1997)
  12. ^ One O'Clock Jump: The Unforgettable History of the Oklahoma City Blue Devils, Douglas Henry Daniels, Beacon Press (2006), pg. 131; OCLC 55800901
  13. ^ Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop — A History, by Frank Driggs & Chuck Haddix, Oxford University Press (2005); OCLC 57002870
  14. ^ "2 Midwest Orks Hit Payola After Move to Major Agencies," Billboard, July 26, 1947, pg. 37
  15. ^ The Big Band Reader – Songs Favored by Swing Era Orchestras and Other Popular Ensembles, by William Emmett Studwell & Mark Baldin, Haworth Press (2000), pg. 163; OCLC 43168237
  16. ^ Gregory County, SD, Marriage Certificate # 102622.
  17. ^ "Methodist Church Scene of Mahorner Ceremony," World-Herald (Omaha), August 30, 1953, pg. 10E
  18. ^ "AGVA Convention Delegates Names for June 9 Meet," Billboard, May 14, 1952, pg. 15

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