Back in 1997, the Madison Jazz Society asked clarinet and saxophone player June Dalton to put together an all-female band to play at its year-end party. Dalton enlisted drummer Marianne Egerstrand, and the two hand-picked a group of fourteen women to form Ladies Must Swing. Fortunately, they didn’t disband after the gig. Instead, they grew to a core group of eighteen who regularly play throughout Madison and beyond.
The women knew from the start they wanted to play jazz, swing and big band music, and they quickly found appreciative audiences. “A lot of great music came out of the World War Two era,” Dalton says. “It appeals to all ages.”
Sometimes they dress in period costume, such as at Wisconsin Aviation’s Hangar Dance each year or when they performed at a concert honoring the Tuskegee Airmen in Alabama in 2008. “We’re kind of living history,” Dalton says.
Wherever they play, the Ladies are known as energetic and fun entertainers. And Dalton says this is due to working with a special group of women.
“We have a lot of joy,” she says. “It does seem to bring out the best in all the girls.”
But do male musicians mind missing out on all this fun?
“If I wanted to start another band I could because I know so many men who want to join,” Dalton says.
Find a schedule of upcoming performances at ladiesmustswing.com.
Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.