top of page

The Story Is Told

Dickie Wells - 'Drunky Punky'

Dickie Wells 2.jpg

'We had a rough passage with US trombonist Dickie Wells. We had been warned that he was a 'drunky-punky' ... My first intimation of these disasters was a call from Don Kingswell at London Airport, where he had gone to meet Wells ... his grave tone and description of Wells covered in blood from a drunken fall ... Wells pleaded that the tour be continued and promised to abstain from drink.

The Alex Welsh band, themselves renowned drinkers, were understandably fearful of their reputation and pressed for the tour to be cancelled. They were persuaded to continue ... Wells and the band had been booked to appear on a BBC show called 'Jazz 625'. The rehearsal, at the Shepherds Bush studio, was called at 11.00 a.m. At 11.30 I got an urgent call from Alex Welsh advising me to make haste to the studio. He could see that Wells had been drinking ...

When Wells left the dressing-room to rehearse with the band, I discovered a half bottle of whisky in his instrument case. Some of it had been drunk. I was in an agonising dilemma. If I left the whisky for him to finish, it might render him incapable. If I poured it away his prop would be taken from underneath him. I temporized, and emptied half the contents down the sink, resisting the temptation to pour the lot down my gullet. I replaced the bottle on its side so that the contents might not appear to have diminished ....

As it happened the show went well ... I rushed to the nearest pub and, putting drinks down me ... muttered curses on all alcoholic jazzmen.

At the end of the show our troublesome visitor came into the dressing-room, sighed, and said, "Must get some sleep. Sure has been a hard day". I was silently echoing these sentiments when he looked intently at me and said, "Think you should do the same. You kinda look all-in," and coolly, deliberately, he added, "Guess all that liquor you been drinking won't do you much good, either." I was rendered dumb.

From All This And Many A Dog by band manager Jim Godbolt


There seems to be very little live video footage of Dickie Wells on YouTube, although there are plenty of audio tracks to explore, however,  here is a short video of Dickie Wells playing Bues in F  in 1961 with Sir Charles Thompson (piano), Gene Ramey (bass) and Oliver Jackson (drums):


bottom of page