Stomp ‘n holler

9th Street Stompers swing us back a century

By Rusty Pate

Photo: (l-r) Skip Frontz, Jr., Sampire, Lon Eldridge, and Dalton Chapman of 9th Street Stompers take their audience to a time before war in America; photo: Amy Kenyon

The 9th Street Stompers do not consider themselves preservationists. While their style of music features a blend of pre-war blues, gypsy jazz, swing, and rockabilly, the goal was never to simply present music from a bygone era.

They all listened to the music of acts like Bob Wills, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Fats Waller, Robert Johnson, and Pops Foster with Sidney Bechet. They knew the sound was possible, so why not try to recreate it themselves?

The band consists of guitarists Lon Eldridge and Dalton Chapman, drummer Sampire, and bass player Skip Frontz, Jr.

Frontz says the band started on the streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee, about three years ago.

“We started doing pretty good in tips, and we realized, ‘Hey, we should do something with this,’” Frontz says. “It was just cool because we all just happened to have the same repertoire – it’s crazy. We were all just playing in a gypsy jazz band. It was the only thing in Chattanooga like that going on.”

While modern Chattanooga may not offer much of what the Stompers do anymore, Frontz says the city has a rich history in this genre. Bessie Smith, empress of the blues, was born there. The Stompers take their name from Chattanooga’s Ninth Street, or as it was known in the area “The Big Nine.”

During a time when separate-but-equal laws dominated the South, Ninth Street was bustling with black-owned businesses, including many restaurants, dance halls, and bars. For decades, the biggest names in entertainment performed there.

Frontz says the band was drawn to the staggering level of musicianship in the style, something that requires time and care to get right as a group. Often, it’s just as much about what’s not being played as what is.

“It’s musical conversation,” Frontz says. “You don’t want to hang out with somebody that just talks the whole time. Everybody knows the tune, and nobody’s ever lost. We’re all listeners, first and foremost. What we’re going to do is compliment the music when it’s somebody’s time to shine, and eventually, it’s your time to shine.”

The band has a history with Ohio: Frontz is from Mansfield. And, after a show in Columbus earlier in the year, the band’s touring van was broken into and its equipment ransacked.

“I’m pretty sure we all went catatonic for like 10 minutes,” Frontz recalls. “We had to file a police report. Through the amazing amount of generosity of our fans, we did an emergency GoFundMe to get our gear back. Within three days, everybody had enough money to get everything back – and I’m talking everything.”

Frontz was lucky enough to recover his upright bass. It apparently had been stolen by what Frontz called “a crack head,” who tried and failed to sell it to local pawn shops. Eventually, it was sold for $200 (insanely cheap, considering they easily cost five times that) to a local musician who figured out it belonged to Frontz after hearing about the GoFundMe.

Frontz then used some of the donated cash to repair damage incurred over the course of the ordeal.

While an event like this can be devastating to a traveling band – especially in the middle of a tour – the larger music community rallied around them. Not only did fans pitch in, but genre heavyweights did, as well.

“It was insane,” Frontz says. “I’m talking musicians that we listen to regularly – people like Deke Dickerson and Fuller Condon from the Two Man Gentleman Band – real names in music gave us money to keep going. Not to mention all the fans. I can’t even count how many there were total because we had three GoFundMe’s going on. It was just mind-blowing.”

While it was a trying episode in the band’s existence, they have continued on. They relentlessly tour. Frontz estimates the band has taken no more than two weeks off at a time over the last year, in between stints on the road.

Living the gypsy life is never easy.

“The days kind of blend into each other,” Frontz says. “You see so many different types of topography in one day. You drive through five states, and you can be in mountains, and, all of a sudden, you’re in Arkansas.”

Frontz says Ohio has always been good to the band, crack heads notwithstanding. Frontz played his first paid gig at the old Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, and he’s not the only member who grew up nearby, as drummer Sampire hails from Covington, Kentucky.

Their brand of music can find an audience anywhere, especially where a premium is put on stellar musicianship.

“We do really well in New Orleans,” Frontz says. “People like the music we do, but we have our own little twist on it. They have a good time and can dance to it. They want to sit in a chair and watch the actual technicalities of the music. Everybody in the band is proficient at their instruments. It was kind of a ‘you-had-to-be-good-to-be-in-the-band’ sort of thing. People can be dancing or they can sit back and kind of enjoy the show.”

The 9th Street Stompers play Sunday, Oct. 2, at HarvestFest at Garden Station, 509 E. Fourth St. in downtown Dayton.  The Stompers start at 4:45 p.m. Ludlow, Dan Raridan, and Seefari are also on the bill. Food Trucks and local craft beer will also be on hand. For more information, please visit

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Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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