Elks Lodge 2148 in Scottsdale is normally open only to members during the week, but every Wednesday 7-9 p.m., the Oak Street club opens its doors for anyone who wants to dance.
An 11-piece dance band called “The Havin’ Fun Band” draws a crowd of fans to the ballroom, which also offers room for guests to sit and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.
Many instead hit the dance floor with their spouses to groove to the big band sound, much like they did when they were younger.
“All of our dancers are in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and we’re starting to get up there in age,” said Tom Williams, who plays the trumpet in the Havin’ Fun Band and is also its co-leader.
Belying their age, the dancers move effortlessly to the blaring of horns and pounding of drums – much to the band's delight.
“I’m one of those rare musicians who loves to watch dancers,” said Williams. “We have some really excellent dancers here. It keeps them vital.”
The scene reminds Williams of why he wanted to pick up the trumpet when he was a kid – and why he joined the band.
“I started playing the trumpet in about fourth or fifth grade and played all the way through college and in the Navy in a band,” he recalled.
Williams took a long break from music for a bit, but he eventually couldn’t fight the urge to return to music.
“After I got out of the Navy, I stopped playing the trumpet for maybe 10 or 15 years,”
After moving to Scottsdale in the 80s, Williams was informed of a community band and hasn’t been able to put his trumpet down since.
“I moved out here in the early 80s and my brother told me about a community band,” he said. “I started playing again and have been playing ever since.”
Most of the band members have retired from their day jobs and most are first to admit that money is not the motivator when it comes to playing these shows.
“You’re not going to make a living in the big band business anymore, but we enjoy it,” Williams said.
The reason they still do it is to feel young and – well, have fun.
“The musicians here probably play as well as they did in their teens,” said Williams.
As more and more clubs have begun to shy away from the pioneering sounds of big band and swing music, Williams enjoys the casual atmosphere of playing Elks Lodge every Wednesday and giving the fans a chance to hear the music they seldom get to hear.
“It’s strictly a dance band and it’s very casual,” he said. “The shows are casual, and we play music that people can dance to that they can’t hear everywhere.”
While that type of music is what gets the crowd moving, it is not the only style of music in the repertoire of The Havin Fun Band.
“We play big band stuff from the 30’s and 40’s but we do some Rock N’ Roll tunes as well,” Williams said. “We know about 350 or 400 songs that cover a lot of genres but they’re all dance genres.”
Dancers will also scale through different styles of dance like the fox trot, cha cha, waltz, polka and line dancing.
All these dances remind Williams of his early jobs in a big band.
“I used to have six-hour jobs about 25 years ago and we would have couples who would dance that entire time,” he said. “There are people here who would do the same thing.”
Even during these uncertain times, one thing has remained certain about the fans who dance at Elks Lodge to The Havin’ Fun Band every Wednesday night.
“These people live for this,” Williams said. “They’ve told me they’d rather die dancing.”
“After I got out of the Navy, I stopped playing the trumpet for maybe 10 or 15 years. I moved out here in the early 80s and my brother told me about a community band. I started playing again and have been playing ever since.”