The Merrymakers, seven or eight local musicians led by saxophonist Joe Saya, started playing the county in the early 1930’s. Playing for crowds dancing “The One Step”, “Two Step”, “Fox Trot” and, of course, “The Waltz”, the boys fame spread a little beyond yelling distance to Montrose and even Durango.
The home hall was The Almont Pavillion on holidays and Saturdays. The ranchers and miners were too tired on Fridays and couldn’t be hung over on Monday’s…the work was hard. They played hard too and it wasn’t uncommon for a dance to see 6:00 AM. The band got $5.00 no matter how late they played.
The musicians learned to watch the patrons slip out of the hall in the bootleg days…later they might find a stashed bottle for a free swig. Joe Saya once said, “Young people today like “Rock and Roll”; it’s just a different style of music. I look for big band, what I call modern music, to come back. Now we don’t have dancing in the dance halls, just in bars. The spirit is the same; as long as people get plenty to drink, they have a good time.”
“Big Band Music” is the latest “city” craze…Joe Saya passed on a few years ago.
Source: “Mountains, Minerals, Miners & Moguls.” by Denis B. Hail