Atlantan Ed Gadrix played with Tommy Dorsey at a concert at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre in 1948. Photo courtesy of Ed Gadrix.

Atlantans’ big band memories and catching up with TV’s Johnny Beckman

Q: What happened to weatherman Johnny Beckman?

—Ralph Rhyne, Snellville

A: John Beckman, the TV meteorologist known as “Johnny the Weatherman,” is an active 85-year-old retiree in Stone Mountain.

Since retiring from WXIA-TV in 1995, he has written five novels and many short stories (available on Amazon), been a columnist covering politics, humor, restaurants and more for several Georgia newspapers and become a web designer.

He has picked up many hobbies, including photography, oil painting, motorcycling, flying, sailing and repairing radios. He also has operated a ham radio since 1953.

“My wife says I’ve had every hobby that there is, but I think I’ve missed one or two,” Beckman said in an interview.

Beckman started on TV in 1954. During his career, he worked for WXIA for 13 years and before that, WSB-TV for 20 years.

Beckman is loving retirement and doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

“My mother lived to be 105, so that’s what I’m shooting for,” he said.

Readers responded with their memories of Atlanta’s big band concerts, following up on a March column.

Ed Gadrix of Atlanta was 9 years old in 1948, when he played trombone with Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra on the stage of the Fox Theatre. Gadrix even performed a solo in “My Gal Sal” during that concert.

“I’d been playing trombone since age 6 and for my age was pretty good and I’m sure the publicist for Dorsey saw the advantages of my performing with the ‘sentimental gentleman,’” Gadrix wrote. “I still play trombone and my musical friends who are old enough really like to hear the stories about that event.”

Kathy Ackermann’s father, Jim Sedlack, played trumpet in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in the early 1950’s. He also played “dance jobs” around town, she wrote, adding that he was a teacher.

“Sometimes he would play for reunions, parties or events that booked a big band. The bands would bring in a few key players with the leader, but the rest of the band was filled in with local musicians, such as my dad. I wonder how many people suspected that’s what was going on,” she wrote.

Her dad recounted the story of one prom where a student recognized him playing in one of the well-known big bands. He recalled the student exclaiming, “What are you doing here!”

In the 1980s, Ackermann remembers seeing bandleader and pianist Count Basie perform in Atlanta hotel ballroom as well.

“It remains a special memory, as I was able to meet him and shake his hand. He had the kindest smile ever,” she wrote.

Will Robinson contributed. If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail q&a@ajc.com or call 404-222-2002.

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