top of page

The Story Is Told

The Clyde Valley Stompers
Peter And The Wolf

Peter and the Wolf.jpeg

Peter Kerr looks back at a time when the Clyde Valley Stompers hit the charts:


"Thirty-year-old Bert Murray hailed from Kirkaldy in the Scottish county of Fife, moving south in the mid-1950s to establish himself as one of the most sought-after piano players on the London traditional jazz scene. ..... We had gathered in the Finchley church hall we used for rehearsal purposes, on this occasion to familiarise Joe (trumpeter Joe McIntyre) with some things in our repertoire he might not have come across before. Everyone was feeling good, enjoying the new textures Joe's hot playing lent to the band's sound, when, at the end of one of the numbers, Bert swung round on the piano stool, his normally glum features wreathed in smiles.

"At last," he beamed, "a jazz band fit to play Prokofiev!"

Bert broke the stunned silence which followed by revealing that he had been carrying around in his head for years a conviction that one of the great Russian composer's most popular works was well suited for jazzing up ........... Bert proceeded to enlighten us. Peter and the Wolf was, he said, a children's story about a boy called Peter, who dreams of catching a wolf, with different instruments of the orchestra symbolising the various characters and animals in the narrative. But, Bert advised, he reckoned that only the two best-known themes need be employed for our purpose: the main orchestral one, which represents Peter, and the other, played by solo clarinet, which depicts a cat.   ...... Within an hour, we had it nailed. All we needed now was a recording contract. ......

..........with statements of the two themes delivered by each of the front-line instruments.  Well-tried devices like playing in unison an octave apart, employing uncomplicated harmonies and throwing in a couple of key changes completed the framework, which also left ample scope for improvisation. ....


George Martin sent his assistant Ron Richards to the Finchley church hall to check out our version of Peter and the Wolf. ..... "Fantastic!" Ron beamed after hearing it just once. "A great A-side - all the makings of a hit - no changes needed. I'll rreport back to George and we'll book a session at Abbey Road for the first available date."


In April 1962, EMI's Abbey Road Studios had still to achieve the iconic status ultimately bestowed upon them by an as-yet little-known beat group from Liverpool. From the outside the building looked no different from countless other Georgian townhouses in leafy St. John's Wood. Once through the front door, however, you were presented with an impression of surprising space. Even Studio Two, where we had been told to report, was big enough to accommodate a fifty-piece orchestra .....

But George Martin soon had us in relaxed mood and feeling just as at home as we could have been in the cosy confines of the average jazz club.  Tall, slim and gentlemanly, George possessed the same friendly, unassuming and enthusiastic qualities as his colleage Ron Richards ... George explained that, since the use of multi-track tape machines had yet to become the norm at Abbey Road, no post-session remixing would be possible. Whatever went down on tape would be what came out on record ...

Two run-throughs and one take later, George called us up to the control booth to hear how our version of Peter And The Wolf sounded ... The balance George had created was spot-on, the recorded sound vibrant, and the nods of approval exchanged by the boys confirmed that we were happy with our contribution as well. But with one reservation ...

"I made a squeak on the clarinet in the last chorus," I confessed ... George Martin merely laughed. "It was a great take, and nobody's going to notice your little fluff. I didn't!"


Extracts from Don't Call Me Clyde - Jazz Journey Of A Sixties Stomper by clarinettist and author Peter Kerr. Peter's website  is here.

Here's a video of the Clyde Valley Stompers playing their version of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf in 1962.

bottom of page