The Magazine Articles Reviews The Bar ATOMIC Girls Gallery Venues Bands Retro Radio Forums Shopping



Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Catchin' Up with Claude
By Degen Pener

Together for over 50 years, The Treniers are a living link between the swing era and the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll. The band inspired Bill Haley’s stage show, appeared in the early rock movieThe Girl Can’t Help It, and proudly call themselves one of Las Vegas’ original lounge acts. With a new generation of swing fans discovering their raucous repertoire of jump blues hits, Claude Trenier—the band’s leader and one of its only original members, along with saxman Don Hill—talks with The Swing Book’s Degen Pener about a life of jumping, jiving and wailing.

We did a lot of wild, crazy things. My twin brother Cliff and I came up out of the big bands. When we first started out we started pulling the twin thing back at the Apollo when we were with Jimmie Lunceford’s band. One of us would go out singing and walk off one side of the stage and the other came in singing the same song from the other side of the stage. People went, “How in the heck did he get around there that fast?” Man, people stopped drinkin’. We were the new sensation.

One thing everybody said about the Treniers is that they stick together. You fight one of them, you’ve got to fight them all. We were like the Corisan twins. That was a big Douglas Fairbanks movie. If one felt a hurt, the other one felt it too. We were real close. One time, we had a little scuffle in Wildwood, New Jersey. I’ll never forget—I wrote a song and he wanted it faster and I said no. He said, “So what?” We started swinging at each other and he ducked and I hit the wall and I broke my little finger. We had disagreements but we didn’t have no violent fights where you get a knife or a hammer or a stick or anything. We just had little fisticuffs.

In nineteen hundred and forty nine, this guy that owned a club in Chicago called the Blue Note started calling us the Rock and Rollin’ Treniers. We had a song where we’d sing in the background, “We gonna rock. We gonna roll.” We were playing this stuff and we really didn’t have any name for it. The guy that owned the club said, “What kind of music you call that?” And we said, “We don’t know. We’re just having fun. It’s swinging.” Any number that had a beat to it and was a little fast, they started calling rock and roll. They just changed the name. Alan Freed called us the greatest rock ’n’ roll band ever. We were on the Jackie Gleason show and that jumped us up into the high money bracket. We used to work 50 weeks a year.

I tell you, I enjoyed the whole experience. Other guys in my band got married. Cliff met his wife in Los Angeles and got married and adopted a daughter. Not me. Hell, no. The problem is that I would be out there with some girl and she’s talking on the phone with her husband and I’d be [in bed with] her and she’s telling him how much she misses him. And I said if this is what goes on with married people, damn marriage. When I see a woman getting close, I say, “Look, I’ve got to go—I’ve got to here, and I’ve got to go there.” See, I’m a musician. I travel. I’d rather be out here singing. I like to sing and swing.

Of course, we ain’t working that much in Vegas now. All these hotels have cut their budgets. The music is canned. They got so many magicians now, if each one made one thing disappear, we wouldn’t have no Las Vegas. Some of the hotels say, “Oh, you been around too long.” Damn, we’ve been playing the Strip for 51 years, what the hell do they care how long a group’s been around if they do business? Besides, all the groups that are playing around town are playing that jump, jive and wailing stuff, the same kind of music that we played 35 and 40 years ago. They think they done found something new. But it’s nice to see that swing is back because it was just laying there. It helps us too. Our last show in Wildwood sold out in twenty minutes. It shows that the music we were playing in those days is never lost.

I don’t have no millions. I enjoyed my fun. I play keno. I like playing the horses. The only thing I would change is to keep my twin brother here a little longer. He was a cigarette smoker and he wouldn’t quit. My brother Buddy died of that too. They’d wake up and boom, they’d have a cigarette. And two minutes later they’d have another. Cliff used to be the comedian in the group and when he passed away, I had to be the comedian, the straight man, everything. Until my nephew Skip came in there and he became the straight man.

I just made eighty on July the 14th and I’m still jumpin’ around. I got a little arthritic knee so I have to wear one of those elastic braces when I go on stage. When we do “Go, Go, Go” and start jumping all up and everything, I don’t want it to kick out. But once I get started, I’m in there for the night. That’s why I’m still in it. I have fun. When I come off stage, I say, “That’s better than a hundred dollar bill.”

To learn more about The Treniers, visit To order The Swing Book by Degen Pener, visit or

Behind in your reading?
Check out past ATOMIC features.

Dear Dottie
1999 Article List
2000 Article List
2001 Article List
2002 Article List
2003 Article List
2004 Article List
Thrift Store Record Reviews
Up Close Squirrel Nut Zipper's
Frontman Jimbo Mathus
Catchin' Up With Claude Trenier
How to Make Out to a Monster Movie
In Remembrance of Swings Past
Interview with Dean Mora
I Want Candye!: Candye Kane
Silence Is Golden:
Exploring Early Cinema in
Present-Day Hollywood
Jive Aces Swing Through Europe
Beatin' The Chops:
Pictures Of Lulu
Girls, Cars & Tattoo Charms
Lavay Smith:
The Divine Miss Thing
Spats: A Return to Civilized Attire
My Girlfriend Loves Elvis
Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?
Adventures in Vintage Expoland
The Melody Lingers On
Shake Your Wicky Wacky Woo!
High Noon At The Hoot:
Rockabilly Hits Orange County
Pep, Vim 'n' Verve:
Bill Elliott Bounces To Stardom
The Grand Dame Gets Her Due: Louis-Dahl Wolfe
Mermaids In NYC
Recycling Vintage Rings
Kearney's Got The Cure
You're Invited to a
Hawaiian Dinner Party
Can Broadway Swing?
Swing Therapy
Thelonious Monk:
Music Of The Sphere
ATOMIC Bares All!
Pennies From Heaven
Beatin' The Chops:
Just Dance, Dammit!
Bump & Grind Southern Style:
New Orleans' Shim Shamettes
Lady Day Speaks


© 1999-2009 ATOMIC Magazine, Inc.
ATOMIC Magazine Inc., 917 Orchid Drive , Lewisville, TX 75067
All site content, including images and text, is copyright © 1999-2013 ATOMIC Magazine, Inc. &
This material may not be reproduced, borrowed, or used for any purpose except by written permission of the copyright holder. Terms and Conditions of use.