Blow that horn, Rosie
Kenneth Cotts first heard the big band sounds of soon-to-be 100-year-old trumpeter Leonard “Rosie” Ross and his 13-piece band at the Riverside Ballroom in south Phoenix in 1928.
Today, the 98-year-old Cotts is Ross’ roommate in Mayer and accompanies him to his Friday night performances at the Pine Cone Inn, where he still dances to the music Ross and pianist Tandy Andrade play from 6:30 to 10 p.m.
“Doc (as Cotts is known) dances to ‘Alley Cat’,” Ross said.
“If you can’t dance to that, you don’t belong on the dance floor.”
Ross first started playing at the Pine Cone Inn in 1949 and after some time away in Bullhead City, started playing there again in the late ’80’s.
“In 1949, we couldn’t get the people out at 1 a.m., now they’re gone by 10. It ain’t like it used to be,” Ross recalled.
But, there is more than enough appreciation from locals and people from all over the country, to keep Ross playing the French Besson trumpet he loves so much.
Ross said it’s the best trumpet made and allows him to hold notes longer due to its light weight.
Ross said he was living in Bullhead City in the 1970s when a music teacher from Needles, Calif., showed it to him and sold it for the reduced price of $350.
“That was a steal. I knew it was for me,” he said.
At his home in Mayer, Ross is surrounded by fan mail.
“People come from all over (to the Pine Cone) and I get tons of mail from around the world,” Ross told the Courier, which has featured Ross several times in his long and illustrious career.
He has also been featured in American Legion publications and in the “Merck Manual of Health & Aging,” published in 2004.
Ross said: “If anybody had told me I’d live to be 100 and still playing, I’d have told them they were crazy.”
The Pine Cone Inn will be celebrating his birthday on Sunday, Feb. 19.
Between, his fans and his family, the restaurant is already sold out.
Joyce Peters met her husband there in 1987 and her sister, the late Zoeleen McLain, sang with Ross back in the late 1930s and early 1940s in a band called Rosie’s Rustlers.
“They played at Young’s Farm and everywhere around town,” Peters recalled.
“She had a voice that would put LeAnn Rimes to shame.”
Peters made all the arrangements for the party at The Pine Cone Inn in the absence of Ross’ wife, Mary, who died in August of 2004.
“My wife would serve everybody,” Ross recalled. “I’ve been so lonely without her.
“All the women I meet now have been taken.”
Not only does he play the trumpet; he still sings at his Friday night performances.
“He has a real good voice for a man his age, sort of a baritone,” Cotts said.
“I’m there to make sure he behaves himself.”
The Air Force veteran, who performed for General Eisenhower in London in World War II, also plays “Taps” with the American Legion color guard at veteran’s funeral services at the Veterans Affairs hospital.
Sunday will be a busy day for Ross as the VA will also hold a birthday celebration for him at 2:30 p.m. in Theater Building #15.
The public is invited.
Public Affairs Officer Frank Cimorelli said: “Mr. Ross is one of only a handful of VA volunteers nationally who have been volunteers at the VA since its inception.”
“I was always crazy about music,” said the popular musician.
“I love to entertain and make people happy. I look forward to each gig and that makes me happy.”