Correspondence from our readers this year
Dave Stevens and Alexis Korner
Alan Bond writes: "A friend and I went down to Plympton last year to collect a huge tranche of tape cassettes, mostly jazz of one kind or another. The chap who had collected it had passed away and his son was looking to pass it on. I still have boxes and boxes of the stuff in my conservatory and I am looking to pass it all on so, if you can put out an appeal for serious contenders to give it all a good home, I will happily pass it all on. It's mostly collected segments of radio programmes but among them were two cassettes recorded live in Ireland and they feature a trumpet player by the name of Freddie Baker, who I have never heard of. It's only a quartet with a clarinet/soprano saxophone, banjo and brass bass in addition to Freddie Baker on trumpet but it's a very tight little swinging combo."
[Please contact us if you are interested and I will pass your message on to Alan. (Ed)]
The Dancing Slipper Club, Nottingham
Peter Minkley writes about our article on the story of the Dancing Slipper club in Nottingham (here): "It’s a great article and brought back so many memories. I always used to go there at the weekend. I saw Ben Webster ordered off the stage drunk; thankfully I saw him in full flow at Ronnie Scott’s. One of my best memories was seeing Earl Fatha Hines. Me and my friend spent 10 mins talking to him after his performance, a real legend of the piano. There used to be a club in Notts called the Gallery, I went to see Tubby Hayes play there and somewhere I have an old colour slide of him sitting in a chair with his sax around his neck. Also there was a pub on the River Trent called the Town Arms, the Ian Carr and Don Rendell quintet used to play there. It was my friend who introduced me to jazz when I was 14, I have loads of jazz LP’s that I still cherish. My friend used to play trombone and I played guitar, no wonder my parents went out when we were practicing! He went on to play the tenor and I went on to play fingerstyle guitar, Charlie Byrd being my hero, but I also love Barny Kessel, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, a genius and of course Django. Django by John Lewis of the MJQ being one of my favourite tunes. Great times for a young jazz fan. That’s why I love reading your very detailed news letter, it really keeps me up to date. I visited Ronnie Scott’s when I went to see my son and his wife in London about 4 years ago, first time I had been to Scott’s in over 55 years, strangely enough I went to see an afternoon session with Lee Ritenour, a great day. But nothing beats seeing Roland Kirk, he handed out bamboo “flutes: to everyone in the club and we played along with him with the aid of a few beers, great times and wonderful memories."
The Cy Laurie Band In 1956
Many thanks to Andy Smith who tells us about this brief footage of the Cy Laurie band that he came across in a YouTube documentary. The video is a half hour documentary about London's Soho in 1956 and the Cy Laurie band appears at 16.10 minutes in. You will find the video here.
The Lord Napier Pub, Thornton Heath
I have been contacted by someone from the Thornton Heath Afrobeat Orchestra (THABO) telling me that "they are a local community based music school on a mission to provide access to music to anyone who wishes to get involved. Part of their long term mission is to reclaim the Lord Napier pub in Thornton Heath and convert it into a community music hub and try to restore some of the lost music heritage lost with the pubs closing." They are currently planning to make a short film about the pub and wonder if anyone has any footage from the past that might be available? (Ed)
The Art Wood Combo
Back in 2018, Tony Freer. Tony wrote: "I am trying to put together a full history with as many photographs and stories by band members and recordings that may be available. This is strictly a personal project for band members only. This is not for publication or anything. I am not in the music or publishing business, but a retired banker in Canada. It is amazing just how many individuals I have been able to contact who have provided photographs and some private recordings, but I am still looking for some very important individuals to complete the picture. The one recording that I know about, but will probably never be found is a recording made at the 100 Club in late 1965, or early 1966. I know, because I remember being there and seeing the tape deck set up in the club. Anything at all that anyone is able to provide will be appreciated.
Tony was specifically looking for the following information:
1. In early 1960's Diz Disley, along with John Barton, Mick Waldron and Malcolm Pool made a recording under "THE HOT CLUB OF LONDON". Has anyone heard of this recording or know how to obtain a copy. Also, would anyone have any photographs of this group.?
2. Would anyone have any photographs or details of the Art Wood Combo or Redd Bludd Bluesicians who played at Wood Green in 1963/64?
3. I am trying to contact the following individuals, would anyone have any contact details: Barry Kerswell, Lennie (Buddy ) Cole, Jim Willis, Johnny O'Donague, Gerry Waite, Andy (Andrew) Wren, David Rome (Slater), Jim Butchart, Vic Dawson (possibly moved to Canada), Barry Laver and Mike Waldron. Also Johnny Jones who played with the London City Stompers."
Jonathan Cocking got in touch saying "I just noticed that Jim Butchart's name appears on your website on a list of people you'd like to contact. I was at school (Haberdashers') with Jim and printed his first visiting cards advertising his services as a jazz drummer. We stayed in touch for a while after leaving, but eventually lost touch. I visited a one-man art exhibition of his in the West End and that was the last time I saw him apart from once when he appeared as a labourer in a 1982 episode of The Professionals (see IMDB). Sadly, according to ancestry.co.uk, Jim died in Suffolk in 2004, aged 60 or 61".
Peter Cook also wrote: "Reading with interest re Art Wood, the eldest of The Woods boys, Ted Woods was drummer with Colin Kingswell Jazz Bandits and later formed Ted Woods River Boys and youngest Ronnie Woods now of Rolling Stones fame. I was just browsing past contacts starting with Barry Kerswell and up came the names Jim Willis, Gerry Waite, Mike Waldron and many others, Ray Smith - piano, Eddie Harper - piano, Lenny Hastings - sax, Brian Sidaway - clarinet, Mike Messenger - Sousa, Reg Squires - double bass, Pat Halcox - trumpet etc etc. (I also worked with Bert Fawkes, father of Wally Fawkes). I was known as 'Pete the Jiving barman' from The Viaduct Inn, Hanwell, west London and used to follow the jazz scene including Steve Lane at the Norfolk Arms, Wembley as well as many other jazz club venues at that time. Countless tales but sadly I am not a musician."
Tony Freer is still continuing his research and wonders "I know Jim Willis had died, but not when or where. I never found details of Gerry Waite, Mike Waldren, Lennie Case, Johnny O’donaghue or Vic Dawson. Would anyone know anything at all on these individuals; where they may have lived and if they are still alive etc.?"
Please contact us if you can help. (Ed)
Jazz At The Shay
Jonathan Firth writes: "I picked up on your blog last night when looking into some history on Eddie Thompson whom my father knew very well as he had The Eddie Thompson Trio as residents at the club he ran at the Shay Club in Halifax under the banner “Jazz at the Shay”. My father was also a regular at the Anchor in Brighouse where I think he first met Eddie who had a regular gig there. When the Anchor stopped running Jazz sessions Eddie moved over to the Shay and became a regular there. My father was Harold Firth and he ran JATS with 3 of his friends - principally Stuart Bush but also his drummer Colin Fleming (my father was also a pianist and accordionist as well as house painter by day!) and Bob Kemp who had a local fish and chip shop. In your section on Marion Williams and Eddie, Paul Acton mentions going to the Anchor and that 2 guys ran sessions at the Shay (home of Halifax Town FC). Those 2 guys would be my dad Harold Firth and Stuart Bush."
Does anyone else remember The Shay? (Ed)
Cyril Davies and Bernie Watson
Last month Robert Lethbridge in Canada wrote to us saying he has become a grandfather and has started writing his memoires so his grandson "will know a liitle about me"; a great idea. Robert was writing about his memories of the Dancing Slipper venue in Nottingham, trying to remember a band that played there. We had recalled that the band was that of harmonica player Cyril Davies, but neither of us could remember the name of who a young the guitar player might have been that Robert mentioned: "...... one musician I remember was this guitar player who didn’t look much more than about16 years old, but a good time was always had there!"
Todd Allen, also in Canada, writes: "That guitarist in question was Bernie Watson who had been part of the original Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages prior to joining Cyril's All Stars (replacing Jimmy Page (!) ... he was replaced by Ritchie Blackmore in Sutch's group). He left Cyril (replaced by Geoff Bradford) to briefly join, and record a single with, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. After this he left the R&B world completely and it is reported that he resumed his classical guitar studies. From that time forward, Bernie purposely kept a low profile and distanced himself from the early '60s scene, performers, band mates and acquaintances." Our thanks to Todd who sends us this picture of Bernie Watson.
Robert Lethbridge says: "I think you might have got it, he looks like the person I remember. He sat on the edge at the front of the stage.. A final solution, thank you so much."
Colin Brown asks whether I have come across the music of the late Dorothy Donegal, and I have to admit that I have not. Dorothy, who died in 1998, was from Chicago and was a classically trained American pianist and occasional vocalist, primarily known for performing stride and boogie-woogie as well as bebop and swing. I shall include more about her in a future issue and would like to hear from anyone who remembers her and her music. Here she is in a video from 1945.
Crom Jazz Festival 1966
Arthur Acheson has sent this copy of a programme for the 1966 Crom Jazz Festival in Ireland. where Arthur's band was due to play. Arthur writes: "It was all part of the Trad boom, which was just beginning to blossom in those years, or perhaps it was at its height. The Crom jazz festival in 1966 was a total washout. To attempt anything in the open air on this ambitious scale without making provision for the Irish weather was an act of madness and so it turned out. I do not remember who was in my group on that night, I do not know if we actually played because a downpour started in the late afternoon and continued into the small hours. Chris Barber and Ottilie retreated to the castle and the hospitality of Lord Harry Erne. The hundreds of cars parked in a field masquerading as a car park where soon up to their axles in mud and I remember Pat Halcox and another member of the Barber band helping to push my car to the main road. A colleague of mine on the way home picked up the soaked figure of Sandy Brown making his way on foot back to his hotel in Lisnaskea. Before the event started I did have a chat with Sandy Brown and as a clarinet player myself, it was mostly about the clarinet greats, mainly, Benny Goodman."
Musicians Wanted For New Devon Trad Band With A Difference
Drummer and percussionist Steve Day is probably best known as a jazz performance poet who works with some excellent improvising musicians. Steve has also produced several albums, poetry anthologies and books on jazz musicians, but that is not where he started. He says: “I was brought up on Barry Martyn, Chris Barber and Ken Colyer, all heroes to my Dad – the first jazz I ever listened to and loved. Since arriving in Devon I’ve been playing regularly – Day Evans Dale Ensemble, the Occasional Quartet featuring Sam Richards, Inanna and Crow Country plus regular rehearsals with the Ashburton Improvising Orchestra. A few weeks ago I played very informally with some trad guys. I counted in a classic tune faster than their usual count; it punched through. Inspired by ‘new wave trad’ like Tuba Skinny and Indun Carling I’ve decided to form a band featuring Oliver, Armstrong and Bechet mixed with Basie and Ellington material - played with a high energy rhythm section driving mega danceable music - e.g. Sidney Bechet, New York, 1951 and Indu Carling at Birdland in 2023. I believe there’s a jewel to be had in this music. If there are any South Devon based musicians who’d be up for putting a bit of effort into gigging the sacred songbook with swagger and punch please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Dave Stevens and Alexis Korner
Thanks to John Westwood who has come across this broadcast on YouTube of the late pianist Dave Stevens playing with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated in 1962. Dave had also played with Sandy Brown's band before he emigrated to Australia where he hosted a local jazz radio prgramme and was regularly in touch with us.In 2012 Dave wrote "I was with Sandy's band for a while in the fifties. As you may know, I was featured on one track in the "Sandy's Sidemen" album. I was playing with the band at the time, so I guess that's why Al (Fairweather) chose me for the album. I was - and still am - an enormous fan of Sandy's, and am sad that my playing at that time was well below the standard of the rest of the band. Mainly laziness - I just didn't practise. At that time I was a full-time accountant, and at Sandy's request I formed a company for him called Acoustic Designers Ltd. I think it's still in existence. As well as my short time with Sandy, I played with John Haim's Jellyroll Kings, Mick Mulligan's band, Beryl Bryden's Backroom Boys, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, and a short time with a little band led by Dickie Hawdon, a great friend. I moved to Australia with my family in 1964, and have played with various Australian bands. Now 87, I still get maybe a couple of gigs a month and do a weekly jazz program on radio." Dave sadly passed through the Departure Lounge in 2019.
Jazz Venues as Charities
Brian O'Connor sends us this article from the BBC News website that discusses the problems facing small venues due to the current cost of living. Brian points to a section in the article that describes how the Music Venue Trust has 'launched a new scheme last year - allowing fans to buy shares in venues that enable the charity to purchase them. The Snug was among nine venues selected for the pilot project when its former owners put it up for sale. If the fundraising project is successful it will be able to pay a reduced rent to the Trust, helping to "secure the long-term future of The Snug" and the other eight sites.'
Is 'Danny Boy' Unlucky?
In last month's Quiz there was a question about the tune Danny Boy / Londonderry Air. Amanda Brown writes: "I was just looking at your quiz. My father always said that Danny Boy/ Londonderry Air was regarded as very unlucky by musicians and we were never allowed to listen to it. There was a mad rush to switch the radio off if it came on!! I never really heard it properly until I was an adult and still feel strange if I hear it. I always thought it was an odd superstition as it's always got to be played by musicians. I've looked it up and have never found anything about the superstition. I wondered if you'd ever heard of it?"
This is not something I have heard, has anyone else? Ed.