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Jazz Remembered

Stu Eaton

Stu Eaton and Sandy Brown.jpg

Stu Eaton and Sandy Brown circa 1948

Stu Eaton was born on the 19th April 1927 in Joppa on the outskirts of Edinburgh, not far from Stan Greig's home. At the age of five, he started at Edinburgh's Royal High School's preparatory school on the first Monday of October 1932 in the same class as Bob Craig and Al Fairweather.

Stu and Al remained firm friends for many years. In those childhood days they hung out together then made friends with Sandy Brown who was in the class below them at school. They moved on to the senior part of the Royal High as they grew older, then reaching their teens, three of them would get together listening to records and going into Edinburgh and visiting Methven Simpson or Alf Beckett's record shops.

Sandy, although hardly a serious young man, was very serious about his music, and in time the lads taught themselves to play instruments - Stu the trumpet, Al the trombone and Sandy the clarinet. Practising at various of their houses they would work out the chords and try to copy King Oliver and Louis Armstrong tunes. They never rehearsed at Sandy's house as apparently Sandy's mother "was a terror"!

It was not long before Stan Greig joined them on drums and John Twiss and/or Norrie Anderson on banjo; and Bob Craig took up the trombone. Then Al decided to learn the trumpet - Stu taught him the fingering: "He was better than I was in about eight seconds", Stu remembers.

Looking back many years later, Stu wrote to me: "I think it started  at a meeting  in the Three Tuns,  Very different then from what was  when I last saw it in '80s. That was the watering hole when then  Rhythm Club was round the corner. The suggestion that we play once a  week almost certainly came from Drew (Dru) Bruce.  The original group was  Drew, Sandy, Bob Fairley, Bill McGregor, me and, of course, Mrs  Bruce.  We later invarably referred to her as "Ma Bruce" but never to  her face. Drew played sax on every tune we worked on and usually sang  Buddy Bolden's Blues and Winin' Boy at each session,   Input came  from records (vinyl, scratchy etc), Bill's chord book and a battered  volume of Sheet music from JR Morton's pen. Drew, who sort of led things, was convinced that Morton DID invent  jazz and deserved credit for all things.  Sandy followed Dodds --  almost slavishly -- but listened to and admired others --Fazola,  Noone, Tesch etc, Bob was a Bix fan and I played tunes.  We started  with the easy ones and is probably why Ma Bruce liked The Sheik.  We  probably used it as a "warm up".  So we did not have a trombone player.   Enter Al.  He was a natural  musician and had fooled around on the black notes of the piano since  I had known him (10-12 years).  So his understanding of chords and  harmony was there. (unlike Sandy who used both colors and knew  musical theory).  Then he came out of the army and we asked him to  join us on trombone. If there a clown among New Orleans / Dixie instruments  the trombone gets top spot.  Al just fell into it and his natural  sense of humor combined with discovery of what he could do made him  quickly the focal point.  Not that the others were always serious.   Didn't we all laugh a lot in  the starting days? Al's style was a bit of Ory, Brunis and a Marx brother.  Relatively we were serious.  Al changed a mistake into a new idea.  That's what Ma remembers.  No wonder.  Did the trumpet make him more serious as the  years went by?   I didn't hear him often enough to know.  Maybe he  just became more of a perfectionist.  He sure became better."

 

After the end of the war, young men were required to sign up for two years' National Service in the armed forces and so in 1947, Stu and Bob left Edinburgh to join the Royal Air Force, and Al went into the Army. Two years later, with National Service over, Stu returned to Edinburgh to share a house in Morningside Place with friends Will Redpath and Dru Landells. The house quickly became a gathering point for beer drinking, listening to records and playing jazz. Stu eventually left the band, leaving Al Fairweather to take over on trumpet and Bob Craig to take over from Al on trombone.

As the friends entered the early 1950's, Al and Sandy left Edinburgh for London, and in 1954, Al saw Stu off from Charing Cross station as Stu headed for Canada and a career in advertising.

We have no recordings of Stu with Sandy's band from those early days. According to Sandy Brown's Discography, compiled by Gerard Bielderman and John Latham, there were some private acetates made but at present we do npt know where they might be. Details of these recordings are at the bottom of this page.

Stu continued to play his trumpet once a week for a while in Canada before starting to do "a two-trumpet thing with a Torontonian named Mike White that lasted for a year or two - I was never much good at practising."

 

The photograph below is apparently from the late 1950s and shows Stu with 'Traps' Trappier (drums), Cecil Scott (clarinet) and in the background, the faint glitter of the glasses of Willie "The Lion" Smith. At present we do not have details of where and when this was taken.

Stu Eaton 2c.jpg

Gradually, work in advertising for the McCann company took up more and more of Stu's time, but it did enable him to make business trips to London - "I dropped out of playing in 1959 as I got more involved in the advertising business, "he said.  "I occasionally went to London on business eg 1968 and sometimes in the1970s  I'd see Sandy or Al."

 

"I was posted to New York and in 1980 Al took a much-deserved vacation and shared my apartmentt.  Then a couple of years  later I was on loan to the London office for almost two years and saw a lot of Al and occasionally Stan.  In fact, we played together in our flat at  some kind of party (Dorothy, my wife, knew them from the old Edinburgh days)."

After that, Stu pretty much gave up playing until the early 2000's when he started the occasional session in Canada with "some guys my age!!", but eventually put his trumpet away.

in 2012, Stu celebrated his 85th birthday with his wife, Dorothy, family and friends. His son Alex sends us this picture from the party with Stu in the centre.

Stu Eaton birthday.jpg

By the time the Covid pandemic arrived in 2019, Stu was living in a care home. His friend Peter Bartram was unable to see him as the home did not allow visitors. In January 2024, Peter contacted us to say that he had learned that Stu had passed away on 26th January at the age of 96.

Stu Eaton.jpg

According to the Sandy Brown Discography, a number of private acetate recordings were made by Sandy's early band that included Stu Eaton. At present we don't know what happened to these acetates or who might have copies, but the details are:

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh - 1946
Archie Semple (cornet); Stu Eaton (valve trombone); Sandy Brown (clarinet); John Semple (piano); George Crockett (drums)

Yellow Dog Blues : Stomp, Stomp, Stomp : Shoe Shiner's Drag

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh - October 1946
Stu Eaton (trumpet); Al Fairweather (trombone); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); George Crockett (drums); Dru Bruce (vocals on Careless Love)
Fidgety Feet : Careless Love

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh  - October 1946
Stu Eaton (trumpet); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Billy Neill (guitar); Bill McGregor (bass); George Crockett (drums);
Yellow Dog Blues : Untitled Number : Doctor Jazz : Shoe Shiner's Drag

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh - 3rd January 1947

Stu Eaton (trumpet); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Billy Neill (guitar); Bill McGregor (bass); George Crockett (drums); Dru Bruce (vocals on Careless Love)

Careless Love : Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh - 25th January 1947

Stu Eaton (trumpet); Bob Fairley (trumpet on Royal Garden Blues); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Billy Neill (guitar); Bill McGregor (bass); George Crockett (drums); Dru Bruce (vocals on Joe Turner's Blues)

Buddy Bolden's Blues : Jazz Me Blues : Sad Ole Blues : Royal Garden Blues : Joe Turner's Blues

Sandy Brown's Jazz Band - Edinburgh - 4th July 1947

Stu Eaton (trumpet); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Billy Neill (guitar); Bill McGregor (bass); George Crockett (drums)

I Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll : Careless Love

Brown's Smoky City Six - Edinburgh - 20th February 1948

Stu Eaton, Bob Fairley (trumpet); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Dave Mylne (drums); Dru Bruce (vocals)

Atlanta Blues (Make Me A Pallet On The Floor) : Baby Won't You Please Come Home?

Brown's Smoky City Six - Edinburgh - 1948 (private LP)

Stu Eaton, Bob Fairley (trumpet); Sandy Brown (clarinet); "Ma" Bruce (piano); Bill McGregor (bass); Dru Bruce (vocals)

Buddy Bolden's Blues : further unknown titles

Note: "Ma" Bruce was the mother of Dru (Drew) Bruce and took part in the band when they practised at Dru's house.

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