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The Story Is Told

Humphrey Lyttelton Remembers
Jimmy Skidmore

Jimmy Skidmore.jpg

'When my friend and colleague tenor saxist Jimmy Skidmore died in 1998, the Order of Service at his funeral bore on the front, under his name and photograph, not the conventional RIP but, in bold letters, the initials KYBL. The first time I became aware of the significance of those initials in Jimmy's life was in 1948, the year of the First International Jazz Festival in Nice. He and I were there as members of an ad hoc (in modern lingo, 'pickup') British band which joined the cast of American and European musicians headed by Louis Armstrong ....'

' ....Most of the cast had arrived in Nice before him (Louis Armstrong) and we all attended an official reception in the Town Hall to welcome him ..... After applause and speeches, he was eventually brought over to a table at which some of us were already queuing to shake his hand ..... Jimmy Skidmore was ahead of me in the queue and I watched as he reached the table, shook Louis Armstrong's hand and bent forward to say something to him. I couldn't hear what he said, but it was received with a gutteral burst of laughter .... I caught up with Jimmy and asked him what had so amused Armstrong. " I just said, 'Kiss your bum later,'" was his answer.

'... On most occasions, the conciliatory "Don't mind me, darlin' " turned aside wrath, one exception being an occasion in New York when he addressed it to a cop who had pulled him up for jaywalking. In seconds he was up against a wall with legs akimbo and the cop's nightstick seriously threatening his dignity, if nothing else ....'

'... He was the sole inventor of what I dubbed the Skidmore Watch, a time piece which contrived to be five minutes slow when a concert was due to start and five minutes fast by the time we approached the end, at which point he would tap it pointedly as I prepared to announce the final number ....'

From It Just Occurred To Me by Humphrey Lyttelton.

Sadly, there seems to be no footage on YouTube of JImmy Skidmore, but we can listen to him here playing You Took Advantage Of Me in 1956  [Jimmy Skidmore (tenor sax); Bertie King (alto sax); George Chisholm (trombone); Leslie 'Jiver' Hutchinson (trumpet); Max Harris (piano); Major Holley (bass); Phil Seamen (drums)]. Bertie King is perhaps less well known. He was a clarinetist and saxophonist from Jamaica who came to England in 1936 with Jiver Hutchinson and played with Snakehips Johnson's band. Over the years he travelled backwards and forwards between the UK and the West Indies, recording with a number of notable jazz musicians. You can read more about him here.


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