Bill & Bo Winiker

Bill & Bo Winiker

Music was a constant presence when Bill Winiker and his younger brother Bo were growing up in Millis, Massachusetts, coming from the jazz records their pianist father Ed spun on the turntable or from the jam sessions he held there with his musician friends. When it wasn’t one of those things, the boys would be listening to WBZ to catch the hits of the day.

It was Ed’s dream to have his whole family playing music, so he arranged for Bill and Bo to take piano lessons, which were roundly rejected by the boys. But during an instrument demonstration at Clyde F. Brown Elementary School one day, nine-year-old Bo became intrigued with the sound of the trumpet. Around the same time, George Shearing’s drummer, Marquis Foster (one of Ed’s pals), gave 12-year-old Bill a pair of drumsticks. Trumpet and drum lessons followed and the boys’ lives changed forever.

Ed Winiker & His Family Band

In short order, Ed gave notice to members of his band (Eddie Winiker & His Orchestra), surprised his wife Annette on Mother’s Day by giving her a stand-up bass and some lessons (not the new washing machine she expected) and asked her, Bill and Bo to join him in what he called Ed Winiker & His Family Band. Bo was 10 and Bill was 13.

And soon, a ritual began. Every night after supper, Ed would take Annette, Bill and Bo to the music room and introduce a jazz standard like “All the Things You Are” or “Stella by Starlight.” After they’d learned the introduction and the melody, Ed would teach them how to improvise on it. Then they’d move on to a pop tune, putting together set lists that included both standards and current hits (plus some waltzes and foxtrots).

Going pro, Notable appearances

Before long, they Winker family were a working band, performing at weddings, parties, Elks halls, Lions clubs and, for a five-year stretch, on the Provincetown Ferry. Bill earned his music degree at Boston Conservatory, Bo earned his at New England Conservatory and the two freelanced in other groups. There were different versions of the Winiker Orchestra, some led by Ed, others by Bill or Bo, and they played together often. They opened Faneuil Market and closed Boston Garden. They played at the 125th anniversary of the Museum of Fine Arts, the 150th anniversary of the Boston Public Library and were part of a 21-piece band’s performance at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.

Current activity

Ed died in 1997 and Annette is retired from playing, but the Winiker brothers have never stopped. Among other longstanding gigs, they had a 14-year run at the Parker House Hotel and a 26-year stint at Skipjack’s. Brookline residents since 1975, they currently play as the Winiker Jazz Trio at Brothers Restaurant in Brookline every Saturday and Sunday (Bo on trumpet/flugelhorn, Bill using a snare, two cymbals and a low-boy high hat and their cousin Neil Greene on piano).

Bo still practices every day, Bill carries a pair of drumsticks when he’s on his exercise bike and practices on the handlebars and the pair know how to play thousands of songs. “At one time we figured there were about 15,000 songs in our repertoire,” Bo said recently. “But we’re not sure of that. It could be more by now.”

(by Ed Symkus)


Published On: February 26, 2020