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Billy Krechmer

Wilhelm Frederick “Billy” Krechmer, 92, a clarinetist whose name once was synonymous with jazz in Philadelphia, died of heart failure at Sunrise Assisted Living in Paoli.

Born in Millville, Cumberland County, Mr. Krechmer had long resided in Longport, N.J. He also had lived in West Philadelphia.

Mr. Krechmer recorded with Herb Gordon's band and toured with the Ted Lewis Orchestra during the big-band era, but in Philadelphia he was known for the jazz club he owned, operated, and served as band leader for nearly 30 years. The club, on Ranstead Street in Center City, was known simply as Billy Krechmer's. The idea for the club came to Mr. Krechmer in the mid-1930s, when he was playing with the house band at the Earle Theater, about a year after he had toured with Red Nichols.

When the big bands started to come through Philadelphia, “everybody wanted to go out and jam after the last show,” Mr. Krechmer recalled in a 1991 Daily News interview. “I knew all the joints, and I took them to places where they would play for nothing, just to play jazz.

“I got tired of paying cab fares, and I began to think, 'Why don't I do this myself?' So I rented this little storefront on Ranstead Street for $65 a month and got a liquor license - in those days you could buy them right from the state. They told me I was the first person to apply for one who wasn't an ex-bootlegger.”

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