Sandy Brown Jazz

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Looking Back

Chris Macdonald

 

When Chris Macdonald, second clarinettist / saxophonist with the Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra looks back at his early days of jazz and hopefully his recollections will bring back memories for others.

 

Jazz in South West Essex – 1957-1974

 

School was the start! When I went to Wanstead County High School in 1955 there were at least three pupil jazz bands in existence, and when I got my first clarinet in 1957 I managed to talk my way into one of them, not feeling too intimidated at being the “new boy” and certainly the youngest! It was a curious mix of serious jazz fans, and a couple who 'fancied the idea'. Material was, in retrospect, a little advanced, as it seemed to be aimed at the sort of Vic Dickenson Septet idea, but we enjoyed having a go. We had trumpet, trombone/piano, clarinet, alto sax, guitar, tea-chest bass, and drums.

 

School Band circa 1958

 

School Band circa 1958

Chris Macdonald (clarinet); Dave Cresswell (trombone / piano); Fred Empny (alto sax); Tony Petterson (trumpet);? (tea chest bass); ? (guitar); “Nenny” Knight (drums).

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald

 

By that time I had bought my first jazz record – Bad Penny Blues by Humph, quickly followed by a Chris Barber Jazz at the Festival Hall 1956 EP, from which I copied Monty Sunshine’s solo on Tight Like That – my parents were amazed!

 

[We don't have the 1956 version of Tight Like That but I am fortunate in having the 1954 version on the Barber's Best EP which is also available on YouTube and you can listen to Monty Sunshine's solo on that. Ed]

 

 

 

A big change came when somebody discovered the Miles Davis Porgy and Bess album, at which point things stepped up a notch, or so we all thought, and we spent hours copying Summertime, trying to get the voicings right! I suspect it sounded much the same as it always did – not very good!

By that time my school chum Teddy Fullick was having “proper” lessons on his trumpet, and we discovered a couple of others in our year group who were interested in something a little less complicated than the Miles Davis recording. Off we went – trumpet, clarinet (and alto sax by that time), guitar, young lady pianist, and drums. We were caught “practising” in the music room one day by our music master who thought he would step in and “help”, and the next thing we knew we were reading his arrangement of I’m In The Mood for Love and playing in Friday morning assembly in front of the whole school!!! Terrifying – and still not very good!!!

Outside of school, things were happening as well. I had met a trombone owner at the local tennis club who had “connections”, and in 1960, that led me to join my first proper band which rehearsed on Sunday afternoons in people’s houses (Mums and Dads providing interval tea and toast!), and shortly after, gigs started to appear – not much cash but plenty of opportunity and exposure at Young Conservative dances and local sports clubs – Trad was the music of the day, of course!

This band was called the Kansas City Seven, and consisted of Andy Naylor on trumpet (who had a posh Armstrong Siddelely saloon car), myself on piano, clarinet, soprano and alto, another alto player (Dave  ?), Stephen P. Christian on banjo and drums, Dave Reekie on guitar, and occasionally Bob Peters on trombone. We had no bass player, but somebody knew a bass player who had a home-made 3 string bass (sisal, fishing line and one proper bass E string). He was roped in and was quickly provided with a proper 3 string bass for £10!

 

Kansas City Seven

 

Kansas City Seven – circa 1962 – Woodford Green - “Soapsud Ball”

Bill Bickers (washboard); John Arthy (bass); Dave ? (alto); Andy Naylor (trumpet); Stephen P Christian (drums and fag); Dave Reekie (banjo and fag); Chris Macdonald (clarinet).

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald

 

Our first gig arrived – an interval session at the Bald Faced Stag in Buckhurst Hill for the local Young Conservatives dance - we were paid 10/- each! When the evening arrived we were all rather nervous, especially our new bass player who I found in the Gents, swallowing aspirins (he felt sick!), and tying up his fingers with Elastoplast and Sellotaped bandages! Our time arrived – we trooped up on to the stage and kicked off the first number (Streets Of The City, I think). Within a minute of starting I became aware of something white waving about behind me – I turned round and there was our bass player's bandages quickly unravelling as he was plucking his strings...! Disaster for him – bloody fingers ensued, but we did get through our 30 minutes! That bass player was one John Arthy, who retired as a professional bass and brass bass player and leader of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra in 1999!

 

Chris Macdonald

 

Chris Macdonald (alto, clarinet, C soprano and cravat!) with Bill Bickers (washboard); John Arthy (bass); and Andy Naylor (trumpet).

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald.

 

 

This band continued for some time, with our peak performance at the 1961 Young Conservatives Regional Annual Ball at the Seymour Hall in Marble Arch, playing opposite one of the Joe Loss outfits. Another daunting experience - we had arrived at the back door and were ushered on to the stage behind closed curtains in order to set up. We had no idea what to expect once those curtains were open! When our time came, the curtains opened very slowly and we were about 6 feet up in the air. The dancers stood and looked at us, and then surged forwards – I personally felt like running for my life, but we stuck to it and they soon started to jig about, then dance – PHEW!

My next band for a time in 1961/62 was the Woodford Valley Jazzmen, run by drummer Geoff Gilbert from Pitton in Wiltshire. I muscled my way in on piano and 2nd clarinet, alongside clarinet and alto player Roy Rhodes, an avid jazz collector and well-known in that field. Rex O’Dell, and then Mick Hickey filled the trombone seat, Tony Parnell was a very proficient banjo player (his excellent feature was Take Your Pick), with a trumpet player called Cliff (?), and bass player known as “Pud”, who was eventually replaced by John Arthy. We did a regular weekly gig at our club in Woodford Green, as well as a pub gig in South Woodford, and other regular events like the Walthamstow Carnival. A good, solid band with a good sound.

 

Woodford Valley Jazzmen

 

Woodford Valley Jazzmen – Walthamstow Carnival – 1962

Roy Rhodes (clarinet); Geoff Gilbert (drums, leader); Cliff ? (trumpet); Tony Parnell (banjo);
“Pud” ? (bass); Chris Macdonald (clarinet); Rex O’Dell (trombone).

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald

 

Time came to move on and I found myself briefly circa 1963 on piano with the Frog Island Jazz Band at their residency at the King Edward VII in Stratford Broadway. Excellent band, and still is! Rob Fullalove, all round good chap as boss, on tuba, John Whitehead on cornet, Ray Joughin on trombone, Bernie Stutt (I think) on clarinet, Jim Finch on drums (later replaced by Chris Marchant), and Dave Price on banjo to complete the line-up. My place was eventually taken by Keith Durston (whom I had met in completely different social circumstances a couple of years before – and I didn’t know that he even played then!). Four of those people are STILL with today’s Frog Island Band!

Other bands around the area at the time were Keith Nichols’ New Sedalia Jazz Band, his Levity Lancers (with Mac White on reeds, Bob Taylor on trumpet and sousaphone, Keith on piano and sousa at the same time, with occasional trombone), and a traps player known as “Albert Dock International”! Keith was also involved in the unique Arnold J Lovelace and his 1922 Jazz Hounds (!). Bob Taylor was also running his own band in another pub in Stratford. Then there was the Hodgson Bros’ East Side Stompers, the New Era Jazzband (with Alan Gresty and George Tidiman), in which John Arthy continued to cut his teeth, and the Johnny Gooding Band, resident for a time at the Lord Rookwood in Leytonstone, featuring Brian Masters on banjo, with Dave Petty on clarinet and tenor sax .Amongst our own little fraternity we also had the Ian Grant Jazzmen, and the New Imperial Stompers.

 

 

Maryland Jazz Band

 

Maryland Jazzmen – Green Man Leytonstone – c1968

John Sirett (bass); John Parry (trombone); Jim Redfern (cornet); Dave Jenkins (drums);
Dave Price (banjo), Chris Macdonald (alto)

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald

 

I did also spend a few months playing with John Maddocks’ Black Bottom Stompers on alto…

1965 was a decisive musical year for me. As stated below when I write about Eric Silk, it was in his club that my embryonic Creole Dance Orchestra was to emerge. I had been working in the City in accountancy, and I was doing a three night/42 hour week as a Proof Reader/Linotype Operator for the New Daily newpaper at Tileyard Press in Kings Cross, and I was free all day from Thursday morning to late afternoon the following Monday on a regular basis. I got myself a barman job in my local in Loughton, the Gardener’s Arms, and one day a builder came in and asked if I knew anybody who would be interested in a couple of boxes of old 78s for 10/-. They turned out to be mainly British and American 1920s and 1930s dance bands. I bought the lot! And I listened and listened – here was the basis for my Creole Dance Orchestra. So, I started handwriting arrangements, gradually augmenting the single arrangement of King Oliver’s Olga which we had been rehearsing. That is really something for another future article, so I’ll leave that there till later…

There were a couple of New Orleans-style marching bands that I was involved in at that time. The first was Mike Casimir’s Paragon Brass Band, led by his brother with  resplendent multi-coloured brolly – the players included Mike on trombone, Tony O’Sullivan on trumpet, Mike Poynton (I think?) also on trombone, Dave Lob on white, fibreglass sousaphone (c/o Boosey & Hawkes!), and Fred Stead, whom I had met on the Aldermaston marches, on snare drum. The second band was the rather more informal Imperial Brass Band and tended to work on November 5th for the Epping bonfire night parade – it was made up of the usual suspects from local bands, and we all had a good time! The last one I remember in particular. We were parading down Epping High Street, with two small boys running along beside us throwing things at us! It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that John Arthy told me that his sousa wasn’t working properly and he decided to give it a bath! Out floated a large handful of  dried up worms! The youngsters had obviously been flicking them into John’s sousa bell, laughing riotously… From that moment on John put a net over the bell when the occasion deemed it necessary!

My first gig abroad was in 1968 with another band from South Woodford run by trombonist Mike Lovell, with Jim Redfern on cornet (who had been one of the Melody Maker prize winners to meet Louis at Batley Variety Club). It was a booking at an International Beer Festival in Antwerp. We were booked to do three sets between 9pm and 6am. We were opposite a Belgian rock group, who were considerably older than ourselves, very smartly dressed but not uniformed, and who had reel-to-reel taped orchestral backing – very impressive, until we realised at the beginning of their second set that they only had one set prepared and they did it three times!!! The event was supposed to be organised by Brewmaster, but we found to our delight that the bar in which we were playing was selling Stella, at that time not available in England. However when we ordered up and tried our first pint it became apparent that it was Brewmaster coming out of the taps!!! What a long night that was!

In 1969 I married and moved from Loughton to Harlow New Town where we had a flat on the strength of my wife’s teaching job! NO JAZZ AT ALL!!! I had to look elsewhere! Epping was close by and there was a little band playing there in Winchelsea House who I went to see – they were the Washboard Syncopators, and I was shortly invited to join to replace clarinet player (and later emerged as a famous cave diver), Sid Perou.

 

Washboard Syncopators

 

Washboard Syncopators – circa 1970 – Romford Golf Club

Jim Diebel (washboard/traps); Dave Wood (trombone); Dugald Ferguson (banjo); Graham Booth (cornet); Brian Willis (piano); Steve Howlett (tenor); Chris Macdonald (alto).

Photo courtesy of Chris Macdonald

 

The Washboard Syncopators playing Canal Street Blues.

 

 

 

The Washboards had started in 1953 as a washboard, piano and kazoo trio and had reached the lofty heights of winners of the regional Top Skiffle Group Awards in 1954. These three were Jim Diebel (washboard), Brian Willis (piano), and Humph Weston on kazoo and vocals. By the time I joined in 1966 or so they had been augmented by Dave Ruffle (bass), Dugald Ferguson (banjo), Graham Booth (cornet), Dave Wood (trombone and slide trumpet) and Steve Howlett (clarinet and tenor). This was a very interesting band for me because they were looking outwards to a more adventurous repertoire, to include some Ellington and McKinney’s material – right up my street. The only snag was the fact that some couldn’t read the dots. This was overcome by serious, concentrated rehearsal and we were soon digging deep into new territory for us all. We had the advantage of a regular pub venue, the Red Lion, Margaretting, where we could air our new found tunes to a massively packed house – sometimes we had trouble to find space to play! Landlord Gordon Worthy and his wife, Hazel, were very keen on jazz, and plied us with awful Ridley’s beer during the session, and with the dreaded pork pie and coffee at closing time! But they were just so good to, and for, us!

One or two of this band had “connections” too, and in 1970 we found ourselves one Sunday morning setting up in the Rolling Stones’ studio in the Olympic Studios complex in Barnes. This was a first for all of us, but nerves aside, we produced our first eight-title 12” LP and we were very pleased with the outcome, although in retrospect it is littered with “mistakes” and more than a few rough edges. It did, however, capture the spirit of the band. Steve Howlett departed then, to be replaced by Dave Petty on clarinet and tenor, late of the aforementioned Johnny Gooding Band. At that point Dave Ruffle went part-time and was partnered by a young bass player whose name escapes me! The band improved as time passed and we returned to the Olympic Studios in 1973 to produce our second album, It Don’t Mean A Thing…, which featured significantly better performances, despite one or two intonation problems – and more nerves! This album featured 14 tracks, all done in one take, with a cross-section of standards and other tunes. I still think it’s a good effort for a lowly Essex “Territory” band!

 

The Washboard Syncopators in 1973 playing Blues With A Feeling.

 

 

 

 

In August 1974 I left to take up my first teaching post in Havant, Hampshire, and sadly had to leave both the Washboards and the Pasadena Roof Orchestra (again, more about that later!!!).

 

 

Eric Silk, The Temperence Seven and the Cave Stompers

 

I used to see Eric Silk’s band in his final days at the Red Lion, Leytonstone, and from that moment on at the ex-Servicemen’s Club next door. The personnel at that time were Denis Field (cornet), Alan Dean (trombone), Jack Gilbert (clarinet), Pete Tamplin (piano), Eric Silk (banjo), Alex O’Dwyer (bass) and Norman Davey (drums). The Interval often featured Brian Rackham playing piano rags, or Eric’s dreaded portable wind-up gramophone, more often than not pumping out very worn 78s of Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Excruciating!

 

Eric Silk Band

 

In this photograph of Eric Silk's band the personnel are L-R: Norman Davey (drums), Alan Dean (trombone), Eric Silk (banjo), Denis Field (cornet), Alex O'Dwyer (bass), Jack Gilbert (clarinet) and Pete Tamplin (piano).

Occasionally Teddy Fullick played trumpet when Denis Field was indisposed. Teddy and I were at Wanstead County High School. Our PE teacher, Ron Pickering (later a TV athletics pundit), and Phyliis Rigby, one of our Domestic Science teachers put on a series of four weekly jazz Chris Macdonaldconcerts at Ilford Town Hall. This would have been around 1959. The bands included the excellent Sandy Brown Jazz Band, Mick Mulligan’s Band with George Melly and Ken  Colyer’s Jazzmen in the days when he had Ray Foxley on piano. I just cannot think for the life of me who the fourth band was but it was very exciting for us youngsters!

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon; all my friends were doing other things, so I took myself off to the Odeon cinema in South Woodford where I saw The Benny Goodman Story. I was grabbed! We weren't well off, but my parents bought me a clarinet for a combined Christmas and birthday present, so off I went on the adventure of a lifetime, and that is where I am today, still at it!

As I said, we were all exposed to jazz at school, through both small school bands that existed when we arrived, and the discovery that our somewhat staid music master actually liked Chris Barber, along with Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti. The four concerts organised by Ron Pickering actually exposed us to what we had previously only experienced on record.

 

Chris Macdonald, 22nd April 1989 at the Prince of Orange, Rotherhithe

 

A further opportunity came from our Art mistress taking a sabbatical. She was replaced by the wonderfully eccentric Hugh Gordon - he played jazz guitar and caused a sensation by arriving on his first morning in a black frock coat and driving a vintage black Rolls Royce saloon. He was a wonderful chap, and soon palled up with Ron, and they organised our first school "hop" with a live band (previous dances were accompanied by Victor Silvester records). But this wasn't just any old band. The personnel? - Bobby Mickleburgh  (trumpet), Alan Cooper (clarinet), John R  T Davies (trombone), Tony Cash (alto sax), Des Bacon (piano), Hugh on guitar, and Martin Fry (sousaphone). A night to remember ... and essentially the Temperance Seven prior to George Martin unleashing them on to an unsuspecting world!

 

Here's a video of the Temperence Seven in 1962 playing Everybody Loves My Baby.

 

 

 

At fourteen, that night was particularly significant for me as I formed what was to be a lifetime's friendship with Alan Cooper.

Jazz Clubs were then the places for us to visit. The Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford was a massive place when we first started our Sunday night pilgrimages. You had to queue up in single file and present your membership card to pay the lady in the kiosk. It was amazing how many people you could get in with one card! You then went down a long rickety staircase which emerged into a huge barn - no seats, but hay bales. Beer was purchased by the bottle, or crate (!). Quite a big stage enabled us to see the bands quite clearly. We saw, in no particular order, Cyril Preston, Mick Mulligan, Chris Barber, The Confederates, Temperance Seven, Ken Eric Silk at Colyer's Club posterColyer, Terry Lightfoot, Dick Charlesworth ... all the top bands of the time. We soaked it up. Later the barn was closed and the sessions were held in the Hotel itself, but it was never quite the same. I'm sure the move was a wise one though - timber barn, hay bales, everybody smoking....

Another venue that I used to frequent on a Thursday night was the Tally Ho! in Kentish Town, home to the excellent Brian Green New Orleans Stompers - Alan Snook (trumpet), Alex Revell (clarinet), Gordon Blundy (trombone), Brian on drums, Charlie Morrish (banjo), Tom Culbert on piano (later to join us in the PRO, albeit briefly), and Pete Barton on bass.

Ken Colyer's Studio 51 club was a regular haunt as well. No alcohol, toilets (?), smoky cellar. Saturday all-night sessions - I remember falling asleep playing the piano around 5 am on one! We would see Ken's band, the Gothics (Bee Minter, Dick Douthwaite, Richard Simmons, Roger Nicholls, Ron Clarkson, Alan Ward), and other New Orleans style bands. Teddy and I would also regularly go on Wednesday nights to see Barry Martyn's Ragtime Band with Cuff Billett (trumpet), Pete Dyer (trombone), Bill Greenow (clarinet), Graham Patterson (piano), John Coles (banjo), Terry Knight (bass), and Barry on drums - superb band, which I listen to on two LPs that I have, one a private white label copy with George Lewis replacing Bill Greenow. This particular experience was good for Teddy as well as he ended up replacing Cuff Billett when the Martyn band toured the USA in 1968.

The 100 Club was a bit too expensive for us, but I do recollect going once or twice - I remember Sid Phillips berating some Asian girls, who were seated in front of the stage, for talking while he was playing!

There were lots of pubs featuring local bands in our area as well - The Cauliflower in Ilford, Seven Kings Hotel, Green Man in Leytonstone, Cowley Arms Leytonstone, Rising Sun on Tunnel Approach (home to the Bill Brunskill Band), White Hart in Drury Lane...

Going back to Eric Silk and his band - a quick anecdote: When my friend Teddy Fullick was first asked to dep for Denis Field one Friday evening he was greeted on arrival by Pop and Mrs Silk, Eric's mum and dad who always did "the door". Pop said they were very grateful for young Teddy stepping in at the last moment, and asked him if he would like a drink. Being somewhat nervous Ted asked for a pineapple juice or the like. Ted acquitted himself marvellously for a first time, and at the end of the evening he was given his pay packet - evening's fee, less one pineapple juice! We've never forgotten that.

A very rare occurrence at Silk's Club was a band from overseas. Anders Hassler and the Cave Stompers from Sweden were on tour and they made a Friday appearance in 1962. I have a copy of the "Club Diary" page from the March 7th 1962 edition of the weekly Jazz News. At the top of the third column, "Southern Jazz Club", is advertised as being at the Masonic Hall, 640 High Road, Leytonstone. This is interesting in that the address is actually the Red Lion, and I suspect that the "Masonic Hall" was the name of the upstairs room in which the jazz club was held. I'm not sure that I've ever come across another Masonic Hall in a pub?

This means that the club moved "next door" (actually round the corner), to the Leytonstone & District Ex-Servicemen’s Club, 2 Harvey Road, shortly after that, because I remember the Cave Stompers played the latter venue the same year.

 

Cave Stompers

 

In the picture of the Cave Stompers above, the personnel are L-R: Nalle Hallin (trumpet), Kjell Sonderqvist (banjo), Arne Oberg (drums), Anders Hassler (clarinet), Knut Rutenborg (trombone) and Anders Froberg (bass).

Eric Silk had a fine band even before I heard him at the Red Lion and earlier members included Alan Littlejohn (trumpet), Don Simmons (clarinet), Teddy Layton (clarinet), Pete Strange (trombone), Ron Weatherburn (piano), and the wonderful motorcycle and sidecar-riding Norman Bunce (sousaphone). It was a great band for dancing, and the venue was a regular meeting place for aspiring young musicians like Teddy and myself, and proved to be the spawning ground for my Creole Dance Orchestra in 1965 which, in 1969, became the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. For many years the Eric Silk band also featured fairly regularly at the Budworth Hall in Chipping Ongar, then at the very end of the Central line!

 

The Creole Dance Orchestra

 

Chris Macdonald's Creole Dance Orchestra 1966

 

Chris Macdonald's Creole Dance Orchestra circa 1966

L-R: Mick Hickey (trombone), Teddy Fullick  (trumpet), John Farrell (piano), Tony Cooke (trumpet), Dave Price (banjo), Mick Carter (drums), Jo Gurr (alto sax/clarinet), Chris Macdonald (leader), Roy Rhodes (alto sax/clarinet), John Arthy (sousaphone), Clive Payne (soprano, tenor & bass sax/clarinet).

 

I had been playing with local traditional jazz bands since 1957, starting with two school bands. I joined the Kansas City Seven on clarinet in 1960, followed by the Woodford Valley Jazzmen in 1962, and then the Frog Island Jazzband, on piano, in 1964 - the year that the idea of forming a big band to play 1920s/30s music came to me. In late 1964 I was working behind the bar of a local pub when, one lunchtime, a builder came in and asked if anyone was interested in 200 or so 78rpm records for 10 shillings (£0.50 in today’s terms!), which he had found in the loft of a house on which he was working. I bought them, and that was where it all started!

Very soon I had gathered together enough people who were interested in forming a band and we hired the Denglow Studios in Chadwell Heath, Essex for a Sunday afternoon. I wrote an arrangement of King Oliver’s Olga and very slowly we worked our way through it – very exciting for me to hear what I had written!

The musicians on that day were Tony Cooke (1st trumpet), Teddy Fullick (2nd trumpet), Micky Hickey (trombone), Josephine Gurr (1st alto & clarinet), Roy Rhodes (2nd alto and clarinet), myself (tenor), John Farrell (piano), Dave Price (banjo), John Arthy (bass) and Mick Carter (drums).

It soon became apparent that this could work, so I set about writing more arrangements, transcribing piano sheet copies of 1920s songs from my mother’s collection (she was a self-taught pianist) for the instrumentation that we had.  At that time I was working in the accounts department of a big office in West Smithfield, London, for W. Weddell & Co, meat importers. On a Monday morning we were given our whole week’s work, and were left to do that at our own pace, the only condition being that it was all done by 5.00 pm on the following Friday! I discovered that by working hard on Mondays, I could get most of it done, leaving the rest of the week for me to write the arrangements in the office – my Head of Section did not say a word!

.... and so The Creole Orchestra was born…

The material we were to perform came very much from the world of Dance Music, rather than jazz. That was a deliberate action on my part as there were so many people doing the jazz thing. I had also been influenced by the marvellous 1961 Temperance Seven, whose clarinet player, Alan Cooper, had come to my school in 1958 to play at our first school “hop” with a live band rather than records. Alan and I become close friends from that day on, and I was privileged to be present at many of their private gigs, assuming the role of clarinet case carrier! 

The Creole band evolved slowly, and we were able to use the basement of  one of John Arthy’s family’s Bakers Shops in East Ham, London, for rehearsals, once we had lined the walls with egg boxes for sound absorbtion, and put down some carpets on the floor! John Arthy was at that time working for British Fermentation Products, demonstrating and selling yeast products.

Personnel changes were very few, as the early photos show, the one exception being the addition in late 1965 of the very versatile Clive Payne on tenor and bass saxes, clarinet and sousaphone, leaving me to concentrate on the arrangements and band direction. We were soon joined by John Parry on 2nd trombone and vocals. He had seen an article about the band in a local newspaper and came to see me, asking if I would like another trombonist, but my response was to ask him if he could sing! He joined, and the rest is history!  John Arthy bought himself a sousaphone… We went from strength to strength – we had stands made; we tried to standardise our uniform; we looked for gigs. That was the problem that remained with us until 1974!!! It was very difficult to find a venue large enough and interested enough to take an unknown band of 12 people!

Public exposure at that time (1966) was somewhat limited, although the Lord Rookwood in Leytonstone, a well-known jazz pub, found space for us, and we played Thursday evenings in the autumn of 1967 as a public session/rehearsal. We had a notable sitter-in for several sessions in the form of banjo player Eddie Smith who had been replaced in the Chris Barber Band by Stu Morrison in 1964. We had also been invited, in the summer of 1966, to play for the Vintage and Veteran Car Club at the Montagu Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire. Ironically, it was very successful, apart from a few transport problems!

By February 1967 the only other changes to the personnel were the replacement of Micky Hickey by trombonist Algy Davies. Micky had recently married, had a daughter, and I think felt a bit out of his depth in the music reading world – he returned to his traditional jazz roots… Secondly, John Farrell left, I took over the piano chair, Mick Carter had been replaced by Roger Brewer on drums, and finally Gerry Smith took over the tenor sax chair. John Arthy was sometimes absent due to work commitments, and Clive Payne was an admirable dep on sousaphone. I occasionally had to take the piano chair when nobody else was available!

 

The Creole Dance Orchestra playing Look For The Silver Lining in 1967.

 

 

 

We must remember that the raison d'être of the CDO was to recreate the DANCE music, not jazz, of the period. This is a rehearsal take. The tuning and recording is pretty poor, having been done on a randomly-placed Reel to Reel tape recorder with one microphone, and probably recorded in the cellar of John Arthy's bakery in London! The personnel on this recording are: Tony Cooke (1st trumpet); Teddy Fullick (2nd trumpet and ‘hot soloist’); Mick Hickey (trombone); Jo(sephine) Gurr (1st alto saxophone/clarinet); Roy Rhodes (2nd alto saxophone/clarinet); Clive Payne (tenor saxophone/clarinet); John Farrell (piano); Dave Price (banjo); John Arthy (sousaphone); Mick Carter (drums) and Chris Macdonald (director/conductor).

Eventually we found a large pub, The Brewery Tap, in Barking, Essex (Tuesdays from February 7th 1967), willing to take us once a week. We were to be paid a percentage of the evening’s bar takings to divide between us. The idea was to draw in the crowds so that we could all make lots of money! No chance…! But it did give us exposure, and we gradually became a known band on the pub scene, with a lot of help from the local newspapers and by word of mouth.

 

The following is an extract from the Ilford Pictorial – 23rd February 1967

 

Making A Hit With 'Jumble Sale' Music

The dancing years are over. Once they jumped and jitterbugged in the aisles and smooched till dawn to foot-tapping rhythms. Now the nostalgic memories of the great dance band era are etched only on recording wax. And audiences merely listen.

This is what the Creole Orchestra have found as they play a unique brand of 1920s music each week at the Brewery Tap public house. Barking.

Leader of the tail-coated orchestra, Chris Macdonald, said: 'When we formed the orchestra two years ago our aim was to play for dancing. But people prefer to come and watch. We're not really disappointed, perhaps audiences are lazy these days'.

Chris, 23 next month, explained: 'Creoles were a race originating in the Southern States of America. They were a mixture of Spanish, African and French peoples. The music they played had its heyday during the early days of jazz. It was just a name I spotted on a poster in a West End record shop ....'

 

 

 

The Green Man Leytonstone

 

The Green Man, Leytonstone in the 1960s. The pub is probably most well-known for a robbery outside by highwayman Dick Turpin on 30 April 1737.

 

By June 1967 we had moved to the Green Man in Leytonstone on Sundays. We had, by that time, added the “dancing girls”, Pat and Helen, friends of Jo Gurr, a welcome addition for our audiences! We were also joined from time to time by Martin Frith, a baritone sax player, who performed cameo sketches while the band played. One involved erecting an easel upon which he placed an empty picture frame. One of the girls would pose behind it while Martin produced a palette and a paintbrush, dressed in a cloak and a floppy hat and false moustache – the band played, while Martin pretended to paint, If I Had A Talking Picture Of You!

 

Creole Dance Orchestra

The Creole Dance Orchestra February 1967

Back, L-R: Dave Price, Roger Brewer.
Out of shot: Chris Macdonald and Clive Payne.
Front, L-R: John Parry, Algy Davies, Teddy Fullick, Tony Cooke, Jo Gurr, Roy Rhodes, Gerry Smith

 

The Creole Dance Orchestra in 1967 playing A Room With A View.

 

 

 

As in the band's Look For The Silver Lining (above), the personnel are: Tony Cooke (1st trumpet); Teddy Fullick (2nd trumpet); Mick Hickey (trombone); Jo(sephine) Gurr (1st alto saxophone/clarinet); Roy Rhodes (2nd alto saxophone/clarinet); Clive Payne (tenor saxophone/clarinet); John Farrell (piano); Dave Price (banjo); John Arthy (sousaphone); Mick Carter (drums) and Chris Macdonald (director/conductor).

Again, it should be noted that this is a rehearsal take. The tuning and recording is pretty poor, having been done on a randomly-placed Reel to Reel tape recorder with one microphone, and probably recorded in the cellar of John Arthy's bakery.

Gigs were a perpetual problem. We had very few – a big band is very expensive if one is going to keep people together and interested – other commitments were always lurking in the background. I had decided to pursue a career in teaching, and in 1968 went back to college to pursue a degree course. Study took up a lot of what spare time I had and something had to go… My mother’s telephone bill was relieved! Eventually, in early 1969, I decided to relinquish leadership to John Arthy, who bravely took on the mantle of bandleader. He promptly renamed the band 'The Pasadena Roof Orchestra'. The music stands were repainted and updated!!!

Initially the band continued with the same repertoire, inherited from the Creole Dance Orchestra. Then John had the fortune to acquire a library of 1920s and 1930s commercial orchestrations of popular dance tunes and songs. These were gradually introduced into the repertoire over a period of some three years to bolster up my hand-written contributions, and continued to be added for many years.

 

Pasadena Roof Orchestra



Pasadena Roof Orchestra 1969 :


Back row: Jake Spalding, John Parry, Pete Beresford,
2nd row: Ken Hughes, Tony Cooke, Chris Macdonald, Bill Triggs, Bob Renvoize, Barry Tyler,
Seated: Pat, John Arthy, Helen, On floor: Jo Gurr.

 

Personnel of the “new” band? Roy Rhodes left and was replaced by Ken Hughes on 2nd alto. I replaced Gerry Smith on tenor sax and clarinet, and Stan Ivieson was brought in to replace me on piano. Teddy Fullick departed and was replaced on 2nd trumpet by Jake Spalding from the excellent Mike Daniels (jazz) Big Band. Algy Davies was replaced by Bob Renvoize on trombone, and Roger Brewer relinquished the drum chair to Barry Tyler. Finally we saw the arrival of vibes player Pete Beresford, on violin, to complete the picture!

Other personnel changes between 1969 and 1974 included the addition of Mike Baskerville on piano, the departure of Jake Spalding, to be replaced by Dave Manning on 2nd trumpet, and Derek Jones replaced Barry Tyler on drums. Bill Triggs on banjo was replaced by the “bookends”, Albert Sadler and John Bright! The big change, though, was the arrival of Andy Pummell, half way through a gig, to replace Jo Gurr on 1st alto. Derek Jones had been unable to make the gig and we had Phil Franklyn as a dep. During the course of the first set it became obvious that Jo didn’t like his drumming style, and announced that if he continued she would not play for the rest of the gig! Fortunately for us, Jo’s husband Tommy had that very evening brought along a young friend who had just graduated from the Royal College of Music on clarinet and saxophone. Andy came on to the stand, and never left…

Rehearsals were held weekly in the back room of the Three Pigeons in Leyton, and we were very fortunate to have pianist and trombonist Keith Nichols’ presence as musical director on occasions. Recordings were made, initially, at Regent Sound Studios in Denmark Street, London, where we produced a demo EP, with Keith present. The tracks were Pasadena, Sweet and Hot, Sing Holly, Go Whistle, Hey, Hey, and I’ve Got You Crying Again. I seem to recollect that Stan Ivieson was not present, and we had Mike Baskerville, and that Keith overdubbed some of the piano work…?

Gigs weren’t that forthcoming. We were often at local hockey and rugby club’s “1920s Balls”, and a few private functions. One opportunity missed was when the Pasadena Roof Orchestra was asked to replace the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band when they left their Wednesday night residency at the Duragon Arms, Hackney. We did just 4 weeks before the Management decided that perhaps we weren’t the same sort of draw as the Bonzos, who used to absolutely pack the pub – standing room only? There weren’t any seats in the first place! The one really successful residency was at the Mitre, on the south Tunnel Approach to the Blackwall Tunnel – we consistently drew large audiences.

 

Pasadena Roof Orchestra

The 1974 Pasadena Roof Orchestra as on the Transatlantic Records recording:


L-R: Bob Renvoize, Tony Cooke, Dave Manning, Pete Beresford, Albert Sadler, Derek Jones, John Arthy, John Parry, John Bright, Stan Ivieson, Andy Pummell, Ken Hughes, Clive Payne

 

Then the Transatlantic Records approach led us to Chipping Norton Studios in July 1974 – my last performing connection with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra was as MD on the session. Clive Payne was recalled to take over my tenor sax and clarinet seat when I was appointed to my first teaching post in Havant, Hampshire in September 1974. I had to move to the south coast, and there a new temptation appeared! Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra needed a new sax player! I joined on 1st September 1974, and I’m still there!!! 

To that point in 1974 the PRO had been basically a semi-professional outfit, most members having “proper” jobs. When the big step was taken to become fully professional in 1975, due to an amazing rise in interest in, and appreciation of what they were doing, both at home and in Europe, it wasn’t that long before several long-standing members decided that they were not in a position to continue with the Orchestra, leading to some changes in band personnel, and those chairs were taken over by seasoned professionals.

Finally, those who had decided that the professional route was not for them, for a variety of reasons, resumed their semi-professional stance, recruited a few new faces and continued to perform for some years as the Rainbow Dance Orchestra, based around the South West Essex/North East London region.

 

Cooper

 

Clarinettist Alan Cooper, or 'Coops', is probably best remembered for his time with The Temperence Seven (The 'Temps'). He was a founder member of the band which had chart success in the early 1960s. Chris Macdonald, second clarinettist / saxophonist with the Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra shares some of his memories of 'Cooper'.

 

Alan Cooper at Hay 1996

 

I first met Cooper when he played at a school dance at Wanstead County High School. It was our first ever with a "live" band! I think it was probably 1958. An interesting band - Bobby Mickleburgh (trumpet), John RT Davies (trombone), Tony Cash (alto sax), Cooper on clarinet, Hugh Gordon (our temp art master, who fixed the band) on guitar, Des Bacon (piano), Martin Fry (sousaphone), and Sid Pye (drums). When they returned the following year, no Cooper! Why? He was concentrating on the Temps (the "Funny Band", as he always called it!).

This was like a carrot - I looked for every single Temps performance I could find - Walthamstow Town Hall, Royal Forest Hotel in Chingford, Star and Garter by Kew Bridge ... and during the early 1960s I used to watch the "Sunday Band" - Bobby Kerr, Cooper, Frankie Tomes, etc., at the regular lunchtime session in Putney's Half Moon, then another pub down the road. 

During the middle '60s I even attended Cooper's art classes which he ran at Stepney Evening Institute with Peggy, his first wife. I stayed with Cooper at their house in Bolingbroke Grove, Wandsworth, universally known as the "Bolly", for weekends when he was with Clorinda (producing sons Boris, then Rollo). This house had been in the family of Thomas Crapper and the toilets and bathroom were a joy to behold!

 

Thomas Crapper toilet

 

We used to go out scavenging - his favourite places were empty, derelict houses in his area where we would liberate yucca plants for his garden - one of his passions. My mother presented him with three Peace roses (she worked on a big farm in Old Harlow, Essex, which grew roses for Harry Wheatcroft and Sam McGredy, and she was in charge of the production). Eventually, he dug those up and took them with him when he moved to the Twr in Hay-on Wye when he sold the Bolly house in 1993. Always his last call on Saturday afternoons was to the local butcher who used to save him all the scraps which went into his beloved, bubbling, never-empty soup vat on the kitchen range! I can never understand why we didn't get food poisoning!!!

We both had Austin A35 vans for transport! Cheap to run and easy to repair! He clued me up on cigarettes - 'always smoke Player's Weights - they went out when you put them down' - the perfect, economical gigster's fag!! I was working in the City from 1961 up to 1967 and used to go to the Rumboe, just down from the Old Bailey, where he used to play with the likes of André Beeson, Will Hastie and Bert Murray - interesting sessions...!!! 

In 1968/69 he worked regularly at the Lord Rookwood in Leytonstone with "Coop's Group" - John Farrell (piano), Pete Beresford (vibes) and Billy Loch (drums). Occasionally Alan Rogers would be the pianist, especially at the Seven Kings Hotel.

 

Listen to Coop's Group in 1968 playing Sugar.

 

 

 

We had a wonderful weekend at the Hay Jazz Festival at the end of July 1996, where he performed a couple of sets with Martin Litton on piano and Stanley Adler on cello, and I guested with Jerry Senfluk.

 

 

Alan Cooper at Hay 1996

 

 

The Trio playing You Took Advantage Of Me.

 

 

 

 

On another track, Alan Cooper plays Bix Beiderbecke's Davenport Blues on bass clarinet:

 

 

 

I lost immediate touch in 1974 when I got my first teaching post in Havant, Hampshire and moved to Portsmouth. It was at that point he gave me one of his favoured Clinton System clarinets, which I have by my side to this day! After that, our meetings were less frequent, and later tended to be at Hay where he had set up a new "Bolly" with his third wife, Jenefer.

I know he played regularly with Jamie Evans (piano) at the Plough for many years before leaving London. He was very good at sending me postcards to keep in touch and his passing in 2007 was a very sad moment for British jazz. A major highly-respected character was lost ...

Click here for Jamie Evans' website 'Alan Cooper Remembered' where you will find more information and tracks by 'Coop'.

 

Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra is currently featuring Swinging At The Cotton Club, an action-packed show celebrating the music, dance, and songs of the Cotton Club – New York City’s legendary nightclub of the 1920s and ‘30s. Performances by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Fats Waller would have had the club swinging – whilst dancers such as Bojangles Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers lit-up the stage with their breathtaking routines. In this show, the exciting dance and music of the Cotton Club is recreated by the fabulous The Lindy Hop Dance Company, the world’s premier jazz dance company and Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra featuring vocalist Marlene Hill and compere/vocalist Megs Etherington.

Chris Macdonald will share more of his reminiscences from his life of almost 60 years performing on the British traditional jazz scene in future articles.

 

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