firehouse five plus 2

history of the firehouse five plus 2


1. Brief history of the Firehouse Five Plus Two (updated)

2. My visits and conversations with Ward Kimball story for the Frisco Cricket jazz publication, Fall of 2002 (updated)

3. Photos of my visits with Ward Kimball at his home plus more

4. FH5+2 L.P. records listed in the order that they were released

5. FH5+2 personnel throughout the years for each record

6. Additional FH5+2 material and information (L.P.’s, Video, DVD, publications, etc)

7. Additional FH5+2 photos and such

By Robert Butler of the Firehouse Stompers
Originally made for the Firehouse Five Plus Two’s 50th anniversary, in 1999.
This has been updated several times since then and this is the latest version, September of 2011.

After WW11 ended, at Walt Disney Studios, a group of animators, writers and technicians (who loved jazz) would gather into Ward Kimball’s office at lunch time and play along with the phonograph. One day it broke down and they played without it. So, they started playing at weekly get togethers in living rooms. Word got out about them and they began playing for friends’ parties and public dances.

At about that time the band consisted of animator and producer Ward Kimball (trombone), animation director Frank Thomas (piano), animator Clarke Mallory (clarinet), sound effects and voice of Mickey Mouse Jim MacDonald (drums) and screenwriter Ed Penner (bass sax, and later, the tuba). The next two to join were writer John Lucas (trumpet) and animator and art director Harper Goff (banjo).

First the band was called “The Hugageedy 8” and then “The San Gabriel Valley Blue Blowers”. The Kimballs belonged to the So. Ca. Horseless Carriage Club and decided to bring the band to one of their next events but what would the band ride in? Ward purchased a 1914 American La France fire truck from the city of Venice for $225. and spent six months having it fully restored. Red fire shirts, white suspenders and fire helmets were purchased. They rode in the fire truck for the clubs parade and they became the Firehouse Five. At one of there events Ward introduced the band as the Firehouse Five and John Lucas yelled out, “plus two.” Ward said that he liked it... and kept it.

They were a big hit and began recording for the new “Good Time Jazz” label. John is on the first few tracks and for various reasons assistant director Danny Alguire (cornet) replaced John and the head of the sound effects department Monty Mountjoy (drums) took over for Jim MacDonald. They became famous, playing at the Beverly Cavern,the Macambo in Hollywood where movie stars such as Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball and Judy Garland came for the Charleston dance contest, for Hollywood and high society parties, Bing Crosby’s Golf Tournament, the Kraft T.V. Show and CBS Chesterfield radio program, T.V. shows and two movies: Republic’s 1951 “Hit Parade” and MGM’s “Grounds For Marriage”. They decided to take a hiatus for a while.
Dick Roberts (banjo), star of Good Time Jazz’s Banjo Kings and Disney musician replaced Harper Goff because he wanted more time for illustration work. Tom Sharpsteen (clarinet), who's father was a Disney executive, briefly replaced Clarke before the FH5+2 hiatus. In 1954 music editor George Probert (soprano sax) began playing with the FH5+2. Jerry Hamm and Monte went back and forth on drums and Jim returned later, However,it was sound effects artist Eddie Forrest who took over on the
drums and remained until the end.

The FH5+2’s success soared playing several times for the Mickey Mouse T.V. Show, for the grand opening of Disneyland, the New Orleans stage, the Golden Horseshoe Theater and throughout Disneyland, dixieland jazz jubilees, fireman’s balls, charities, benefits, T.V. shows: Lawrence Welk, Milton Berle, Ed Wynn and ABC’s “Stars of Jazz” ...they were everywhere! By 1957 they had turned down an estimated one million dollars dollars worth of bookings and they had a standing offer to play Las Vegas for $12,000. a week.Well, that’s what the liner notes said but Probert says it was $15,000. Their success continued, converting the general public (in the U.S. and overseas) into new dixieland jazz fans, collectors and musicians, young and old.

Other personnel included Don Kinch (of the Castle Jazz Band fame) on both trumpet and tuba. George Bruns, who wrote the Daniel Boone theme song, among others, joined on tuba and remained. Dick Roberts passed away and was replaced by Bill Newman on banjo and remained. By about 1962 K.O. Eckland replaced Frank Thomas on piano and remained. By the mid 1950’s and again in the late 1960’s they used both Danny (cornet) and Don (trumpet) in their front line making it FH5+3. Considering that they played for 21 years they had very few personnel changes: one trombone, three different trumpets, reeds, banjos and basses, four drummers and two pianist. They were a unique bunch. Their “Lets have a grand ol’ time” onstage personalities were 100% natural. The music was great and they were extremely entertaining and spontaneous.

They made 12 albums: Vol. 1, 2, 3, Plays For Lovers, Goes South, Goes To Sea, Crashes a Party. Dixieland Favorites, Around The World, Live at Disneyland, Goes To a Fire and Twenty Years Later. They also made footage for Snader Telescriptions 1951. They hung up their fire helmets in 1971.

For their album covers they used Ward’s backyard (a.k.a. Grizzily Flats Railroad), his antique fire engines, a Disney movie set, Malibu Beach (in the ocean), Disneyland’s teacup ride and some creative artwork and photos. Ward Kimball was a genius!

Ward Kimball Passed away on July 8, 2002. Our Firehouse Stompers played for the Train Association that Ward belonged to for their auction and banquet in memory of Ward Kimball where we re-created the FH5+2’s Firehouse Stomp. One of his paintings went for $12,000. In the last number of years we’ve lost most of the remaining FH5+2 alumni; Frank Thomas (piano) in 2004, Tom Sharpsteen (clarinet) in 2007, K.O. Eckland (piano) in 2009 and Don Kinch (trumpet and helicon), who passed away in June of 2011. There is now only one surviving FH5+2 alumni, the incredible George Probert (soprano sax), who is 84 years old and is still performing.

The above information is from the liner notes on a few of the albums as well as my conversations with Ward Kimball and others as well.
Robert Butler


Frisco Cricket • Fall of 2002
San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation

This is the original story sent before editing and printing back in 2002.
In 2009 K.O.Eckland passed away. For a memorial in his honor, at the 2009
Pismo Beach Jazz Festival, I included additional FH5+2 information and made
this newsletter for K.O. Eckland’s memorial (which also included the separate
“Brief History Of The FH5+2 article” that I originally made back in 1999 for
their 50th Anniversary). I have also updated this again, on November 9, 2011,
with more details on a few existing stories.

By Robert Butler

Hal Smith and Marty Eggers asked me if would like to write an article about my visits, phone conversations and friendship with Ward Kimball and I am honored. Back in my college days all it took was an album cover with fireman holding various instruments, sitting in a giant teacup at Disneyland and listening to the album itself to get me addicted to the Firehouse Five Plus Two. I’ve spent many years collecting FH5+2 everything: all of their recorded material, videos, artwork, photos, movie prop, magazines, flyers, etc. Ward also gave me many items over the last few years.

All of the information that I have acquired is from the following sources but they are not listed in any specific order. I’ve had conversations with Ward Kimball, George Probert, Hal Smith, Frank Thomas, Floyd Levin, John Lucas, Eddie Forest, K.O. Eckland, Russ Mallery (Clarke’s nephew), Ted Thomas, John Smith, Larry Wright, Dee Trent, Zulu Ball and many other people who saw the FH5+2 in person. I have collected written material from the album covers, The E Ticket magazines, various and numerous other publications and newspapers. Most of this information, however, will be from my three visits with Ward at his home and our many informative and humorous conversations over the phone.

It was Ward’s freshman year in high school and the school wanted more students to take up music. So one day they filled the gymnasium full of students with a bunch of various instruments spread out (on chairs) across the stage. This person was demonstrating them and Ward was so bored he was falling asleep. Then he heard this blaring sound and opened his eyes. He thought, Hey, I can have fun with that. So he took up the trombone.

After college he had a job doing artwork: posters, flyers, cartoons and such and someone told him about Disney Studios. It was the depression with gas rations so his mother told him she could take him this one time. Without an appointment (nor were they advertising for artist) he walked in and asked if they would look at his portfolio. The receptionist looked at him as if he were nuts. “What’s a portfolio?,” she asked. Ward responded, “Well, don’t they want to see what I can do?” Someone came down and took his portfolio and after awhile somebody else brought it down and gave it to the receptionist. She then told Ward, “You start Monday morning at 8 AM.” He was the first person to show a portfolio at Disney Studios. He never intended to remain at Disney. He wanted to go to New York and become a magazine illustrator. As he told me, “I just wanted to pick up some quick loot.” As a matter of fact, years later a sequence of a film that he had been working on for many months was edited out. He figured that Walt didn’t like his work so he walked in Walt’s office to give him his two week notice but walked out with the Jiminy Cricket assignment. He told me that the other artist had made the cricket look too much like a real cricket.

Ward was part of the music troupe that Walt sent out to entertain the soldiers at the USO shows during WW2. For the opener (Ward’s idea) the band would be hiding behind the curtain and Ward would come out and start playing a violin (really awful) and the soldiers were mad and said things like, “Aw man, do we have to listen to this?” and at the right moment (it was a break away violin) the violin fell apart and the curtains opened up and the band, with Ward on trombone started playing lively jazz. it was a vaudeville type of show. I visited the FH5+2’s original trumpeter, John Lucas in 2000 and he told me that when they began the lunch jazz sessions, he was the unofficial leader because he was the one that was getting the bookings for the band for local dance jobs and such. On the gigs, however, Ward did the emceeing between tunes so the people just assumed that Ward was the leader. The word spread about the band and people started calling Ward at the Disney Studios and hiring the band through Ward. So, Ward sort of became became the leader.

Ward purchased and restored that 1914 fire engine and he painted the gold leaf lettering as well.. He then he came to one of their sessions and said that he had a new name and attire for the group. It was the Firehouse Five and they’d wear fireman attire (black pants, long sleeve red shirts, white suspenders and fireman helmets). The thing is, their name was simply the Firehouse Five. That’s it! Ward told me that at one of their gigs, when he announced them as the FH5, John Lucas yelled out, “Plus Two,” because there were seven of them. Ward liked that and kept it for their full name. George Probert told me that when they did the Mickey Mouse Show it was the studio’s wardrobe department that had the fancier fireman shirts with the “bibs and larger white buttons” so they switched to that version from their plain red shirts. Their wives took turns making the new shirts.

When trying to find out just how long the FH5+2’s hiatus lasted, between Ward, Frank Thomas and others, I’ve heard a time span that ranges from six months to over one year, so who knows? The FH5’s Volume 2 L.P. indicates that their May of 1952 recording session was their last band endeavor, that their hiatus began and lasted until, in the Fall of 1953, when they got the urge start playing again somewhere down the road. Clarke Mallery loved the FH5+2 and the stardom of it all so much that during the hiatus he attempted to start his own FH5+2 but Lester Koenig (producer) told him that if he tried it, that he would take him to court and that was the forever demise of Clarke. Ward told me that he had no intentions of starting the band up again because it was just too much work and he was the one who ended up doing it all.

Eventually some of the band members wanted to start playing again and he said, “No!” Well, let’s just say they worked it all out to fire chief Ward’s satisfaction. However, MCA was their agent but once the FH5+2 had become so popular the jobs just rolled in without MCA. Though still on hiatus the FH5+2’s contract with MCA was still valid so Ward told me that he wasn’t going to start the band up until the contract was void.

At one gig the band noticed, through the window, that the building next door was on fire so they stopped and everybody went outside to see it all. People started getting angry and began yelling at the band, “What are you doing just standing there? Why don’t you put out the fire?” When the fire truck finally showed up the people were confused.

I’m very hesitant in telling the story of John Lucas’ exit from the FH5, as John told me the story in detail the day that Ward came to his house to talk about it. I will just say that with the growing popularity of the FH5+2 Ward had to have anticipated the numerous strolling and mobile type of events that they would soon be playing for. And, that’s just what happened. John was the nicest person you could ever meet and he was a real gentleman. I visited with him at his house that day for two hours and had several phone conversations with him after that and I keep in contact with Debbie, a very good friend of his who took care of him. She gave me his two metal derby mutes, valve trombone and many rare photos, including photos of John Lucas playing in his San Gabriel Blue Blowers Jazz Band, him playing in the FH5+2 and a wonderful photo, at Ward’s house, with some early FH5+2 members and their family members, some New Orleans musicians and some Disney big wigs. Jeanette Thomas told me it was taken in 1947.

Ward said that during the revival of early jazz the FH5 was the only band that stood up. He said the FH5 played to, for and with the audience, played songs the audience recognized and wasn’t above throwing in some ballads, waltzes and such. They played in such a manner that the audience realized that they themselves could learn to play this kind of jazz. This, in turn, converted thousands of non jazz fans into dixieland jazz listeners and musicians. He liked that Danny played a simply jazzy melody to let them hear the tune.He told me several times that, “The success of the FH5 was that we played because we wanted to, not because we had to.” He told me that a number of times throughout those years because it meant a lot to him. With that premise they could do whatever they wanted to do because they didn’t have to rely on it as career income. Rather, it was just a hobby and they could quit whenever they wanted to, as they once did.

I asked how he felt about the FH5 having so much fun with all the antics and such and being criticized for it as well and he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, isn’t having fun the whole idea of the music?” I came to the conclusion that that’s what he mean’t by that statement on their success. They (he) did what they wanted to do and if anybody didn’t like it - too bad. They we’re so busy with bookings that he turned down a lot of bookings each month. I asked him how many bookings he turned down a month and he said, “I don’t know... a lot” As an album cover reads, they turned down an estimated excess of $1,000,000. during those years and had a ten year standing offer to play Las Vegas for $12,000. a week. Probert said that was a misprint - it was $15.000. That was nearly 40 years ago. Ward told me that he never accepted the offer because he belonged to Disney Monday through Friday.

Ward loved doing concerts and dances but he disliked playing in nightclubs with all of the cigarette smoke until two in morning. It was at one of these gigs that he told the band that part of them would stay in one key and the others would play in another key. A lot of the people didn’t notice it that much and some didn’t notice it at all. So, they did something similar to it with “Nobody’s Sweetheart” on the “Goes To a Party” L.P. Listen to it. It’s funny. Ward loved “Fireman’s Lament “ as he and Clarke wrote it. His favorite FH5 L.P. was the “Dixieland Favorites” and he regretted that the FH5 never did an album all about trains. He didn’t hate recording (as I was told) but recording at the recording studios was an inconvenience for him because he was busy with other things that he was involved with. I asked him about his influences and how he got his unique style. He said that at first he played almost like a tuba did but his style evolved after listening to Jelly Roll Morton, The Hot Fives & Sevens and King Oliver.

It was mostly the Kid Ory gang of musicians that came and visited their jam sessions but Ward thought it was Jim Robinson (though he wasn’t sure) that had a bag of secret green ingredients (he kept it secret) that he put into his homemade gumbo that Ward thought was the best ever.Ward gave me a 1966 poster, which turned out to be his 1966 Christmas card, the last year that he sent out those holiday cards because people collected them. The problem was that every year he got so many, many calls asking for various past years of those Christmas cards because either the wife or husband won or lost them in divorce court.

Walt was trying to find a model or picture of a specific cat to use as an example for the Cheshire cat. He was at Wards one day and belted out, “There’s our Cheshire cat.” It was Ward’s chubby cat. When Walt wanted something very important from Ward he’d call him on a Sunday morning at 7AM when he knew Ward was sound asleep. One such early morning Ward picked up the phone and heard a, “This is Walt.” Ward replied, “Walt who?” “Disney for Christ sakes,” shouted Walt. Ward said, “Well, I know several Walts.” One of those mornings Walt asked Ward if he could use a specific train of Wards at Disneyland. it was to be the one that powered the people around Disneyland. He told Ward that he could get off work early on the day that Disneyland was closed and he’d give Ward the keys and he could ride it around Disneyland for hours on end. Ward answered, “No!”

Ward would put on a realistic Gorilla head mask and get in his sports car. Another person sat in the back seat holding on to a chain wrapped around Wards neck and they drove around town like this in and around traffic. Quite a sight way back then. When I walked into Ward’s home, there in the front room was a calliope, a huge model ship and hanging from the ceiling were colorful umbrellas hanging upside down. It was great! In the hallway was a framed picture taken of Michael Jackson and Ward. As Ward said with a big grin, “He came to visit with me before the big mess.”

I took the complete Grizzly Flats Railroad tour, which is his backyard with 650 feet of train track and includes the huge train barn (only the Chloe train was left), fire engines, FH5+2 stuff, toy trains, toys the depot and more. It was then that he showed me the big original FH5 advertising photo and he pointed out (still steamed about it well after over 40 years) how Harper Goff showed up in tan pants when everybody else came in black, as instructed. When he was showing me the FH5 gizmos he grabbed the boombass and played it, really having fun, then stopped and said in disgust, “Lester wouldn’t let me play this on the live recording.” I just died laughing.

He bought the property in the mid 1930’s when nobody was there yet. Not long after the house was built came 650 feet of real train track and a locomotive, henceforth fun riding the train back and forth. After WW2 was over came new tracks of homes with neighboring wives complaining of his train soot getting into their drapes and curtains. His reply was simple and firm, “Well, I was here first,” and he continued running his locomotives for many, many years on into the late 1970’s and maybe beyond that. I don’t know when he stopped running the train at GFRR. Back in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s they had many parties at G.F.R.R. with very important people of the day, sometimes dressed in turn of the century attire. One specific GFRR party brought Hollywood’s Dave Garroway and his crew there. Everybody was in period attire and the FH5+2 performed. Those were the days. Eventually Ward Kimball wrote a check so that the Perris, Ca. train museum could build a building that houses most of Ward’s and Betty’s trains and passenger cars. He showed me these little passenger cars that he was building for people to ride in at the Perris train museum. There were three: First class with cushions, carpets and such; second class that weren’t quite as nice and third class which were all wood and very uncomfortable. Betty didn’t like it but Ward thought it was hilarious. He said that he didn’t have any more room and couldn’t buy any more toy trains without getting rid of another. He built a wooden toy thing with him holding a brand new toy train and when you turned the handle Betty would hit him over the head with a mallet. He turned it once and it was just so funny!

By the 1990’s he’d answer the door and there would be a mother with a child and the mother would end up nudging the child, who would then ask, “Are you Jiminiy Cricket’s father?” Ward would smile and say, “No, I’m his grandfather.” His favorite show was the Simpsons (because Bart was just like him when he was a little varmint) and I used Bart to get my second visit with Ward. I sent a card from Bart speaking on my behalf so Ward sent me a Christmas card with a funny photo of himself posing for the visiting BBC who were interviewing all remaining Disney artist who worked on the “Silly Symphonies”. It was another invitation.

He showed me an early sketch book of his and he had a very slick and realistic illustration style that was different from his cartoons. One of them was a sketch he did of Kid Ory’s band. Once he went to hear Kid Ory and he requested Muskrat Ramble and Ory looked at him like he was crazy. He said that since Ory wrote the tune he thought he’d play it. As it turns out that’s when Ory was playing the bass fiddle with a trio or quartet. At the end of my first visit I brought my Ward Kimball (George Burns style) glasses and we mugged for a funny photo. On my last visit, February 2000, I drove my sports car in his driveway. When the visit was over he walked me out as we were still talking. Then, he said, “I used to drive a Porsche myself,” then he said in sadness, “Then I had to get a family car.” He walked back to his door as I stood there laughing.

About a year ago or so when we were talking about the fact that everywhere our band plays there’s always a lot of people in the audience that remembers the FH5+2 and that their recorded material still sells a lot Ward said, “Yes, and I still get royalties off of all the FH5+2 C.D. sales.”

I remember as we were walking down his train tracks I asked him if he ever missed the FH5. He said, firmly, “No!” I can’t quote him word for word here but he told me that it was too much work, he had gotten tired of it all, that being leader got to be like (sorry George) being a Mother hen to a bunch of baby chicks and that the band kept him from traveling abroad. But there had to more to it than that. George Probert told me that Danny was in bad health and that Don Kinch had to be flown in for the FH5’s last Anaheim performance. That mean’t that the FH5, maybe, was going to be without a permanent cornetist. Also, by about 1971, a few of the FH5 guys were busy at Disney Studios starting to work on a new T.V. show called the Mouse Factory.

Ward told me that he left Disney in 1971 and taught life drawing and storyboards at Art center, College of Design from about 1971 to 1973. I must mention that in the “Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and The Art of Animation”, it reads that Ward’s departure from Disney was August 31, 1973. So go figure. With all of this going on, for any or all of these reasons, Ward retired the FH5+2. Nobody else in the band wanted to quit. I won’t get into Ward’s departure from Disney Studios but if anybody would like to read about it and other very informative and surprising things about Ward and about the other “old men”, it’s all in a wonderful John Canemaker book, “Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation”. Ted Thomas made a superb documentary film about two of Disney’s Nine Old men, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, called “Frank and Ollie.” They are the two remaining Nine Old men.

My latter conversations with Ward were regarding his artwork and producing at the studios. He told me to finish reading the Nine Old Men book, that it would answer many of my questions and then call him to tell him what I thought of the book and then we’d take it from there. I was sure I would be able to visit with him again in person to talk about his art and producing and to see some more of his original art, his art studio and things like that. Before I finished the book he came down with pneumonia. That dreadful early morning I got a call from George Probert and an email from Ward’s grand daughter in law, Alice, and his daughter Chloe on his passing. He was always very nice to me. When I asked him for permission to use the name Firehouse Stompers, he grinned and said, “Ahhh, go ahead, it’s o.k.” I will always miss Ward Kimball, whom Walt Disney called a genius, who's band spent six hours going in and out of Malibu Beach for that perfect “Goes To Sea” L.P. cover photo.

George Probert told me that another stop sign regarding the FH5+2 performing at Las Vegas was that they would have had to re- sign with MCA and Ward would never agree to that. It had to do with the person getting them the Las vegas gig and MCA and something else or other. Ask George. Right after the FH5+2 signed on with MCA the band became famous over night after appearing on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Radio Show so, as Ward told me, “the band sold itself.” From then on MCA didn’t have to do a thing but still received royalties on all of the FH5+2’s gigs.

They played a reunion performance for the 1979 or 1980 Rose Parade. Their sponsor (an airlines big wig) wanted as many of the original members as possible but that was out of the question. Ward would have never let Clarke do it and Clarke would not have been able to do it anyway with his “illness.” They ended up playing the Rose Parade and the next day at the Wrigley mansion on Catalina Island. They hadn’t played together since May of 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center and Ward didn’t have any chops.

The story behind the 1957 “Goes To Sea” album cover is that they spent several hours going in and out of the ocean at Malibu Beach. Every time the photographer went to push the camera button Dick Roberts would look right at the camera even though he was told not to do that. Finally, after several hours, they got one good useable photo. All of the band members brought their second rate instruments that day because of the damage that the sea water could do. However, Dick Roberts brought along his $1,500. banjo. Also, during this photo shoot day, a group of Japanese tourist were scuba diving. They entered the ocean a mile down the way but when they came to surface they ended up coming out of the water seeing a group of fireman with various musical instruments marching into the sea.

You can see some of this day’s shooting (including other FH5+2 home movie footage) on the DVD movie, FRANK and OLLIE, who were two of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men” and two of his top animators. The movie/documentary was made by Frank Thomas’ son, film maker and jazz cornetist, Theodore Thomas. The DVD version has bonus material, including FH5+2 fun home footage (including at malibu Beach and fire engine stuff) and the FH5+2 on the Steve Allen Show performing “Panama” which Ted’s film company paid a fortune for.

Disney made a cartoon series called “The Adventures of Goofy: Goofy learns to Swim,” etc. For the 1953 “Goofy learns to DANCE episode” they used the FH5 as the dance band for Goofy’s dancing debut at an elegant dinner and dance. For this cartoon Joseph Dublin wrote the song called, “Southern Comfort.” The FH5 recorded this short version for it. In 1954, with George Probert., they recorded a longer version, which is on their Volume 3 LP. So, Goofy, dressed in tuxedo, grabs his dance partner, expecting to dance to a classic tango or waltz (but leave it to the gag writers at Disney) the FH5+2 breaks into the barn burning “Southern Comfort.” Ward told me that since Jerry Hamm always wanted to be an official FH5 band member (drums) but never was... as an inside joke... Ward drew Jerry in as the drummer in the cartoon instead of Jim or Monte. On December 7, 2011 George Probert told me that that was actually director Jack Kinney and not Jerry Hamm for the cartoon. Jerry Hamm is on (3) 1951 tracks, on their Volume 3 L.P. Hmmm? Ward told me he was asked... but he didn’t have time to animate the FH5’s sequence... so he drew a sketch of the band members to show the animator how he wanted them each to look. He didn’t like that the animator just had them jumping up and down. Ward expected more lively movement but it’s still funny to watch. By the way... at the beginning of the cartoon it’s the FH5 playing a blues as background music and most people that watch it do not realize it.

The FH5+2 was the first dixieland band ever play in the Rose Parade. It’s a good thing that Frank Thomas got there an hour early. They thought that the piano was a “prop” and they glued flowers all over the piano, including the piano keys. Frank just happened to have his pocket knife with him and spent the hour undoing the glue between all of the keys so that he could play it.

For the “Live at Disneyland” photo shoot the teacup ride was shut down for two hours and they kept starting and stopping (over and over) the ride to get the teacups to stop and end up in a specific angle for the photo. The kids were mad waiting to get on the ride. For the “Crashes a Party” L.P. they used a Disney movie set (that was about to be torn down) and they made a big hole in the wall and it appears that they go marching through the wall and interrupt a romantic couple. Classic!

In 2007, the Jasmine Label put out a 2 CD FH5+2 set, which includes the FH5+2’s three appearances on the Bing Crosby Kraft Radio Show (Bing and Ella Fitzgerald sing with them),the FH5+2 on the 1957-58 “Stars of Jazz” TV Show and other tunes.The CD first pressing run SOLD OUT on the internet and they had to run a second pressing.

By 1954 Ward, an animation supervisor, began directing and producing the Disney TV space shows, other films and by 1970 was producing Disney’s version of the Laugh-In, called, the Mouse Factory, making nearly (ha ha) movie star pay. I hope you enjoyed this trip down my Firehouse Five Plus Two memory lane.

Illustration ©2011 Robert Butler
of Ward Kimball

This sign was used every time the FH5+2 performed at the, then famous, Beverly Cavern. John Smith, who subbed for George Probert in the FH5, took the sign when they were about to pull the plug on jazz there at the Beverly Cavern. It’s a good thing too or who knows what would have happened to it. After keeping it in his garage for about 40 years he gave it to me a number of years ago. It’s in pretty rough shape and needs to be mounted and put into a frame for preservation. It’s a little over two feet by about five feet.

This “canvas” sign was used every time the FH5+2 performed at the, then famous, Earthquake McGoons. The same artwork is on the reverse side with different dates on it. The reverse side is in worst condition. A big thanks to Katie Cavera for bringing me this from the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Society. It’s about two feet by a little over five feet.

This roughly made metal sign was used in the 1951 MGM Pictures movie “Grounds For Marriage” starring Van Johnson. It was on the stage, behind the FH5+2, hanging on the back wall as they played. I bought it from Pam Wyley who found it, if I remember correctly, in a pawn shop

This fireman’s helmet was made and presented to the legendary jazz
cornetist, Wild Bill Davidson, by the City of Defiance, Ohio’s fire
department, which was his home town. After Wild Bill passed away
the family gave it to jazz writer, Floyd Levin. Years later Floyd Levin
presented it to me and I will always cherish it. My father is posing
with the helmet in this photo.

To see my more of my collection of fireman
props, sound gizmos and FH5+2 stuff,
go to the Firehouse Stompers link
and scroll down to the section called:



My FIRST visit with Ward, March 1994

robert & ward with glasses

Ward & I with “the glasses.”

building entrance

Entrance to the building where he kept his (3) fire engines.

Ward with fire engine

Ward is standing in the back rear where he kept all of the FH5 stuff.

Ward playing boom bass

Ward playing his “boom bass.”

grizzly flats rr

GFRR looking from the train house towards the front of the property.

metal toys

Building of his metal toys from the 1800’s with moving parts. Fun!

trains 1800s

Building of his toy trains. These are in the 1800’s.

more trains

More trains . . .

more trains 1900s

And more trains!


My SECOND visit with Ward, March 1995

robert & ward with glasses

The glasses again.

building entrance

Ward’s collection of “Snow White” and “The Simpsons” families.


My THIRD visit with Ward, February 2000

close up of ward

Close up of Ward.

robert wearing ward's helmet

Me wearing Ward’s fire helmet.

ward at grizzly flats railroad

Ward looking back at me... on the way to see the fire engines again.


Ward at Firehouse

Where Ward kept the fire engines & FH5+2 stuff.

robert & ward with glasses

The “fire sticks.”

Ward playing boom bass

Ward playing his “boom bass.”

Ward with fire engine

Ward by his other collection of fire helmets & the HUGE FH5+2 photo where Harper wore tan pants but was suppose to wear black. Ward was still a bit irked about it..

A Ward Kimball memorial set at the L.A. Sweet & Hot Jazz Festival, September, 2002.

Several of the Kimball’s attended (including Betty, John, Chloe and others) and they brought the FH5+2 banner and some of the FH5+2 helmets. They presented George Probert with his #2 FH5+2 helmet. Disney Studios sent a videographer to film the memorial. During the event the room was filled to capacity (needed a larger room) and many people were turned away. George Probert: soprano sax, John Kimball: trumpet, Larry Wright: soprano sax, Hal Smith: drums, Paul Reid: piano, the tuba player (sorry, I don’t recall his name) was from the Hot Antic Jazz Band and myself on trombone.

robert & ward with glasses

Getting ready. Notice the FH5+2 banner in the back.

building entrance

I’m playing my Ward Kimball style white trombone, with flowers.

Ward with fire engine

Chloe (Ward’s daughter) and I.

robert & ward with glasses

George Probert is standing and playing while wearing the helmet .



George Probert's Monrovia Old Style Jazz Band at the Palm Springs Jazz Festival, 1994

This was a great driving band and it was a lot of fun too. A real party! It included FH5+2 alumni, George Probert (soprano sax) and Frank Thomas (piano), along with Frank’s son, Ted, Wayne Allwine (who was the voice of Mickey Mouse), Russi Taylor (voice of Minnie Mouse), June Barnes, Alan Adams, myself (cornet) and others.

robert & ward with glasses

I’m in the white pants (sitting) on cornet. Probert is standing.

robert & ward with glasses

Me, Russi Taylor, Wayne Alwine and my parents.


robert & ward with glasses

My father (Hawaiian shirt) and
the legendary Frank Thomas.

My visit with John Lucas, the original trumpet player in the FH5+2

robert & ward with glasses

John with his custom made trumpet. At his memorial his family gave me his custom made valve trombone, metal derby mutes and rare FH5 photos.

building entrance

John wearing one of my fire helmets.



Ward with fire engine

Performing with his own band. At his memorial his family gave me this metal derby. Monte Mountjoy is on drums.





Once the FH5+2 began selling their recorded material on L.P. vinyl records, here they are, in order, from 1949 to 1971. The years given are the years in which they recorded the tunes that are on that L.P. For instance, the tunes for “Let’s Have A Party” were recorded in 1958 and 1959 but the L.P. itself didn’t come out until 1960. However, the tunes for “Live At Disneyland” were recorded at the Golden Horseshoe, at Disneyland, in 1962 and the L.P. came out in 1962.


1949 & 1950


1950 & 1951


1951, 52 & 54


1954 & 1956


1955 & 1956




1957, 58 AND 61


1957 and 1958






1958 to 1969


1966 AND 1969

VOL 1 2 3


1949 TO 1954

NOTE: The CD versions for VOLUMES ONE, TWO and THREE are available on this (2) CD set with VOLUMES ONE, TWO and THREE on it. For the CD cover art they used the album cover artwork that was used on the VOLUME TWO L.P. with slight changes. Can you spot them? All of the other L.P.’s are available on CD using their original L.P. artwork.


5. PERSONNEL 1949 to 1971

May 13, 1949 (first four tracks)
Ward Kimball: trombone, John Lucas: trumpet, Clarke Mallery: clarinet, Frank Thomas: piano, Harper Goff: banjo, Ed Penner: bass sax and Jim Mac Donald: drums.
October 1949 (remaining tracks)
Ed Penner switches to tuba... Danny Alguire becomes their new cornet player (replacing John Lucas) and Monte Mountjoy replaces Jim Mac Donald. Actually, for a number of years Monte Mountjoy and Jim Mac Donald (who were, both, sound effects artist at Disney Studios) alternated back and forth on drums in the FH5+2.

The same personnel as their October 1949 recording session.

March 1951: Same as Volume Two.
June 1951: Dick Roberts fills in for Harper Goff.
November 1951: Harper Goff is back on banjo and Jerry Hamm fills in for Monte Mountjoy.
May 1952: Tom Sharpsteen, son of Disney top executive Ben Sharpsteen, replaces Clarke Mallery.
January 1954: George Probert replaces Tom Sharpsteen and Monte is back on drums.

Note: At one point the FH5+2 called it quits and Ward had no intentions of starting it up again. But, of course, he did, and this” time off” was labeled as their “hiatus” period. The exact duration of the hiatus is unknown but I do know, for fact, that it was during the hiatus that Clarke tried to start his own FH5+2 and Lester Koenig put a stop to it. When the FH5+2 started up again Tom Sharpsteen was their new reed player, briefly, and then Ward brought in George Probert to replace him in 1954. Probert didn’t officially join the FH5+2 until 1955.

Ward Kimball: trombone, Danny Alguire: cornet, George Probert: soprano sax, Frank Thomas: piano, Ed Penner: tuba, Harper Goff (some tracks) and Dick Roberts (the other tracks) on banjo and Monty Mountjoy and Jim Mac Donald splitting up the tracks on drums.

Same personnel as “Goes South” but Dick Roberts plays all of the banjo tracks and Jim Mac Donald plays all of the drum tracks.

Note: Ed Penner passed away in November 1956 and they brought in George Bruns to replace him and they used Ralph “Zulu” Ball as a sub for a while. Also, in the late 1950’s and again, in the late 1960’s, they used a two cornet line up with both Danny Alguire and Don Kinch.

Mostly the same personnel as “For Lovers” except George Bruns is on tuba (Zulu Ball filled in for a few of the tracks) and Eddie Forest is their new drummer. Album cover was done at (in) Malibu Beach.

Same personnel as “Goes To Sea” except that Don Kinch filled in on tuba for a few of the tracks.

Same personnel as “Around The World” except that Don Kinch played all of the tuba tracks for this L.P. and he was probably the main tuba player at this time. He also used his helicon with the FH5+2. The album cover is a movie set that Disney was finished with so the FH5+2 altered (destroyed) it to their needs.

Same personnel as “Crashes A Party.”

Note: Dick Roberts passed away in November 1966 and George Probert suggested Bill Newman as Dick’s replacement. Frank Thomas’ departure from the band was a gradual one during the early to mid 1960’s. He had K.O. Eckland filling in for him a lot and as time went on K.O. Eckland was their permanent pianist.

I have the CD version but I do not have the L.P. version. My CD information indicates that the tracks recorded on this CD were tracks that were recorded between 1958 and 1969 and previously issued on those various L.P.’s. The CD liner notes were written by Ward Kimball in June 1986 and the release date shows that my CD was released by Fantasy Records in 1986 as well.

Ward Kimball: trombone, George Probert: soprano sax, Danny Alguire and Don Kinch for the two cornet sound,
George Bruns: tuba, Eddie Forest: drums... with K.O. Eckland on piano and Bill Newman on banjo. The background is Ward’s backyard, a.k.a.Grizzily Flats Railroad.





stoking the fire

earthquake mcgoons setting the world 'E' ticket


Snader Telescriptions


Snader Telescriptions, produced for television in 1951 and 1952, were film versions of popular and classical music performances. Singers, dancers, orchestras, and novelty acts appeared in the Snader musicals. They were produced by Louis D. Snader, a Southern California theater owner who branched out into television and then real estate. The FH5+2 did these single tune shorts, about three minutes each, which were intended for using in the short lived video juke boxes found in diners and by television stations as “fillers” between programs. These FH5+2 (S.T.) shorts have been released on VHS and on DVD as trio package with the Firehouse Five Plus Two, Pete Daily and Red Nichols. The name "telescriptions" is a portmanteau of "television" and "transcriptions" (recordings intended for broadcast).

stars of jazz

STARS OF JAZZ, 1957 and 1958, on ABC, T.V.

Host Bobby Troup introduced and narrated as the FH5+2 performed several songs for this T.V. Show. They did it in 1957 and again in 1958. Years later, I don’t know exactly when, this material was transferred to vinyl. Ward told me that when Lester Koenig, owner of the Good Time Jazz label, found out about it, he put a stop to the “pirated” L.P. Here is the L.P. information given on the album cover and back side.

Side One: 5/12/58, with Barbara Dane, guest vocalist
Side Two: 10/14/57, with Jean Gayle, guest vocalist
Calliope label • Distributed by Festival Records, Inc. • 1976 Platinum Voices, LTD


This is a Walt Disney Pictures movie/documentary that was made by Theodore Thomas, son of Frank Thomas.
This film is about the life and close friendship between these two Disney animation supervisors, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, who were best friends and worked side by side at Disney Studios. It was made in the early 1990’s. The DVD version includes wonderful bonus footage: the FH5+2 performing “Panama” on the Steve Allen Concert Series and some home video footage of the FH5+2 at various locations, including their photo shoot at Malibu beach for their “Goes To Sea” album cover. It also includes the full version of the FH5+2 playing in a scene from the television special “One Hour To Wonderland” which was promoting the, in the future, grand opening of Disneyland. In the scene, the FH5+2 was pretending to be busy animating. Then, without Walt knowing, they grabbed their instruments and broke into Jingle Bells. All the while, Walt, along with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and others were watching through the magic mirror on the wall.Ted Thomas told me that it was actually a sound stage built to look like an animator’s room. I’m not including a color image of this DVD’s packaging art because I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to.

stoking the fire


Released in 2007 by the Jasmine label this (2) CD set includes the FH5+2 on the Bing Crosby Kraft Radio Show. They were on the show (3) times (twice in 1950 and once in 1951) and performed a total of (7) tunes. Bing sang several songs with them and both Bing and Ella Fitzgerald sang “Memphis Blues” with them. All (7) tunes and the hilarious banter between Bing and Ward are included on this CD. Also included are the tunes that they performed on the “Stars Of Jazz, 1957 and 1958” and these are legal now. Also included are the (6) songs that they recorded for the Snader Telescriptions and some songs that are on some of their other L.P.’s. I had to wait for the second pressing because the first pressing on the CD sold out. Wow!

live at earthquake mcgoons


This was not intended to ever make it to a record or CD. I believe it was recorded by Leon Oakley, with a reel to reel recorder with one microphone. With the age of the reel to reel tape and that fact that only one microphone was used, the sound quality is not the caliber as today’s high tech portable recorders. The tuba is hard to hear during ensembles. As K.O. Eckland wrote in his liner notes for this CD, “This was before serious portable recorders, so sound quality waxes and wanes somewhat during the performance, which might have something to do with the moon or tides, but it’s like an old family photo - a reasonably good image is better than no image.” This was released in 2005 by GHB records. K.O. Eckland wrote the humorous liner notes.


At the very beginning of this animation short the FH5+2 plays background music. Then, for Goofy’s debut dance the FH5+2 was animated for this sequence and played “Southern Comfort,” a tune that was written by Sam Dublin for them to record for this sequence. The sound track is on their Volume Three L.P. The cartoon itself is on DVD and on youtube as well. I’m also not including a color image of this DVD packaging.

E ticket magazine


This wonderful magazine was made between 1986 and 2009 and it was all about the vintage era of Disneyland. It was published between three and four times a year (yes, it varied) by brothers Leon and Jack Janzen. Every publication had a theme such as: Ward Kimball at Disneyland, Peter Pan and Captain Hook - Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston - Santa Fe Disneyland Railroad, Ward Kimball - Man In Space, Mine Train - Imagineer Bob Sewell, Pirates Of The Caribbean - Marc Davis... just to name a few. Each publication was full of vintage photographs, amazing stories and many included priceless conversations with these legends of yesteryear. Leon passed away in September of 2003. Jack kept the publication going but it just wasn’t fun anymore without Leon and he called it quits in 2009.

settin' the world on fire


This CD, released in 2006 by the Jasmine label, is virtually all previously released material. The real “BONUS” on this CD are the two songs that were never released before on L.P. or CD. They are Jingle Bells and There’s a Tavern On The Town.


Just about everything mentioned in this “additional FH5+2 material section” can be found to purchase by using different sources: Google, Amazon, Ebay, maybe Barnes & Noble bookstore and so on. As you have already guessed, on YOUTUBE there is a lot of footage of the FH5+2, Grizzly Flats Railroad, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, George Probert, Ollie Johnston and the list goes on and on.



The building that housed Walt Disney’s steamer train, at his Holmby Hills home, on Carolwood, is at the Carolwood Pacific in Griffith Park. There is so much to see there that you just have to go for a visit. A section of the barn is dedicated to Ward Kimball (one of his FH5+2 fire helmets is there on display) and they also have the building that housed Ollie Johnston’s train as well. The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society’s website is: Right next to that is the Los Angeles Live Steamers at:


If you obtain all of their albums (or CD’s) then you’ll have a WEALTH of information, just by reading all of the liner notes.

Here is one example, which is just a “portion” of their liner notes from“THE FH5 STORY, PART TWO” 1955 L.P. L-12011, written by Lester Koenig.

They kept their enthusiasm high through a series of strenuous professional engagements which found them playing for almost every imaginable audience. The year began with a New Year’s dance for the Carson City (Nevada) Volunteer Fire Department. Back in Hollywood, their Monday nights at the Macombo, on the Sunset Strip, became nationally famous, partly because of the many movie stars (Ginger Rogers, Ann Miler, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwyck, etc.) who danced at their Charleston contest. These Monday nights continued for the better part of the year, with almost everyone in show business coming to hear them.

Among their first and best friends was Bing Crosby, who had known them from their Beverly Cavern days. Bing invited them to play for his Pebble Beach Golf Tournment in January, and then asked them to his CBS Chesterfield radio program in February. They were responsible for an avalanche of fan mail, and came back for four more guest appearances during the year.

The movie colony took them up, Louella Parsons had them on her Sunday broadcast, they played at swank Ocean House in Santa Monica, and Charlie Farrell’s exclusive Racquet Club in Palm Springs. Ed Wynn invited to be guest stars on his Camel TV show in April. Through the summer they packed the Macombo Monday nights; reservations had to be made two weeks in advance. In June and July they did two movies: Republic’s Hit Parade of 1951 and MGM’s Grounds for Marriage.

In the Fall they repeated their hit performance of the preceding year for Frank Bull & Gene Norman’s famous Dixieland Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium before almost 6,000 cheering fans. In October the National Broadcasting Company flew them to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, to play for the annual NBC convention; they stopped in New York, en route, for a Milton Berle TV Show, and a personal appearance on Martin Block’s WNEW Make Believe Ballroom.

Christmas Day they appeared on Walt Disney’s One Hour in Wonderland over the whole NBS TV network, and played their version of Jingle Bells, which had been a hit record of the holiday season. To start 1951 off in their own spectacular way, they became the first jazz band to play in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day before an audience estimated at two and a half million people!




Jam at Ward's home

1. 1948. Jam session at Ward’s home with Albert Nicholas and Minor Hall


early photo

2. 1949. Ed Penner, Clark Mallory and John Lucas


first recording session

3. Their first recording session (John Lucas)


beverly cavern2

4. Beverly Cavern with Danny Alguire


beverly cavern

5. Beverly Cavern with Danny Alguire (front view)


FH5 at Disney Studios

6. Performing at Disney Studios


7. 1952. Old Piper’s Opera House, Ghost Town, Virginia City, Nevada, with Betty Kimball, for a Railroad Historians event.


Mickey Mouse Show

8. 1956. The Mickey Mouse Show


Animation Stage

9. 1950 Disney T.V. Special “One Hour To Wonderland”. They played “Jingle Bells” on this sound stage.


Mikey Mouse Show with suits

10. Playing in “Black Suits” on the Mickey Mouse Show


serenading the trolly

11. 1957. Serenading the vanishing trolleys in L.A. with stops at various fire stations


FH5+2 tv railroad spectacular

12. FH5+2 performing at Ward’s Grizzly Flats Railroad for Dave Garroway’s 1958 Wide Wide World T.V. Railroad Spectacular


At the Golden Horseshoe, Disneyland

13. FH5+2 at the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland


At Disneyland New Orleans Square

14. At New Orleans Square, Disneyland. This was their glossy photo.


strolling version

15. At Disneyland (strolling version)


At Disneyland

16. At Disneyland


Probert, John Smith, Tom Kubis

17. FH5+2 featuring the soprano sax trio of George Probert (center) and his protégés: John Smith (left) and Tom Kubis (right), playing “High Society.”


john smith sub

18. Here’s John Smith subbing for George Probert with the FH5+2 for the Jazz Incorporated Jazz Club, December of 1969.


last gig

19. FH5+2’s LAST gig in May 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Invited to sit in are: Danny Barrett (cornet), Larry Wright (soprano sax on left), Jeff Beaumont (soprano sax on right) and Art Leon (banjo.)


ward's home 1947

20. 1947 at Ward’s home with some of the FH5+2’s families, Disney big wigs and some New Orleans musicians. John Lucas’ family gave me this photo and Jeanette Thomas dated it to 1947.

Below is a guide to who the people in the photo are:

Disney Big Wig & Wife Harper Goff & Wife Betty Kimball - Ward's Wife Jeanette Thomas - Frank's wife
John Lucas and his wife or girlfriend Clarke Mallory & son Frank Thomas & one of his sons Joe Darensburg
"Tubby" Minor Hall John Kimball - Ward's Son Fans
Ward Kimball Kelly Kimball  - Ward's Daughter


Ward and Louis

21. Louis Armstrong and Ward Kimball.


FH5+2 with Satchmo's All Stars

22. 1955. FH5+2 shared the stage with Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars.


Frank and Jeanette thomas

23. Frank and Jeanette Thomas’ 1999 Christmas Card.


Jim McDonald

24. Jim MacDonald in his later years. Voice of Mickey Mouse (1940’s, 50’s and 60’s), Disney sound effects artist and one of three FH5+2 drummers.


Ward's home 1

25. Ward’s home (a.k.a. Grizzly Flats Railroad) entrance. You can see the train track off to the right.


ward's home 2

26. Going down the tracks. . .


ward's home 3

27. . . a little closer. . .


ward's home 4

28. . . .and you’re there!


before train resoration

29. Before Ward began restoring this Nevada Central locomotive No. 2, here at Grizzly Flats Railroad.


party at gfrr

30. Party time at Grizzly Flats.


Kimballs 1948

31. The Kimballs 1948, at Grizzly Flats Railroad: (l - r) Betty, Chloe, John, Kelly, Ward


party gfrr2

32. Grizzly Flats Railroad, view from the train house looking towards the front.


Ward with suitcase drums

33. 1975. “The Sunshine Six” with (l - r) Probert, John Smith and Ward Kimball playing his “suitcase” drums.


George Probert

34. George Probert's glossy photo.


Clark Mallory

35. The last photo taken of Clarke Mallory, the FH5+2’s original clarinettist, given to me by his nephew, Russ Mallory.


Ward's 1963 Christmas Card

36. Ward’s 1963 Christmas card.


Ward's last Christmas Card

37. Ward’s LAST Christmas card (poster) 1966.


Ward and Betty

38. Ward and wife Betty Kimball going for a drive.


dixieland at disneyland

39. Dixieland at Disneyland brochure, 1967.



40. My first invitation to visit Ward at his home.



41. This photo, made into a postcard, was my invitation to come and visit with him again. Photo was taken by the BBC who were interviewing all remaining artist who worked on Disney’s “Silly Symphonies.”


Earthquake McGoon's Flyer

42. Earthquake McGoons advertisement. 1967


dixieland at the shrine

43. Dixieland Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium poster.


Ward's art

44. Wow! I own Ward Kimball original art.