The Dancing Slipper in Nottingham was once a key jazz venue. M.P. Ken Clarke, who grew up in Nottingham, said in an interview with Harkit Records:
‘There was a big jazz following and there were some jazz record shops. There were quite a lot of places you could go listening to jazz in Nottingham. The Dancing Slipper was one of my regular places. I mean, every Saturday night I used to be at the Dancing Slipper, and it was a base from where my particular set of friends operated and anybody who wanted to look for me on a Saturday night knew they’d find me at the Dancing Slipper. The jazz policy was every Saturday night, but usually trad. I don’t think I ever saw Tubby Hayes there. It was the British trad bands that came through and that was what I liked at first. And because I liked it I decided to go and buy jazz records.’
On the website nottstalgia.com there is a picture of the Dancing Slipper building in Central Avenue, West Bridgford as it was in 2007. It is now the West End Restaurant and Cabaret, above a confectioner’s shop. In October 2009, the Nottingham Evening Post said:
‘Next Thursday we have the opportunity to hear jazz again at this venue, now known as the West End Cabaret Club, when the Nottingham Rhythm Club holds its annual jazz dinner, with music provided by the Antique Six Jazz Band, which will play for diners, dancers and listeners.’
In his 2004 ‘homily to Lake Records’ on the website SingSong PR, Ralph Laing wrote:
‘The dancing Slipper in Nottingham was one of the principal Midlands venues for touring bands. Run by an enthusiastic, one-armed promoter called Bill Kinnell (known to us all affectionately as Foo), the Slipper was a permanent fixture throughout the entire trad revival, and only finally closed in the early 1970s. The sound system at the Slipper was provided by an electronics enthusiast called Allan Gilmour. He was a delightful man with a large moustache and he adored jazz. With the permission of the bands (and I never heard of one refusing) he recorded every session at the Slipper from the early 1960s onwards. Covering every band which ever played the club circuit, this treasure trove of over 1000 hours of well-balanced material was kept private for 35 years. Sadly Allen died recently and LAKE has entered into an arrangement with the estate to issue the best of the library’.
As well as audio recordings made at the Dancing Slipper, there are a number of videos made at the club in 1959 with the Mike Daniels band (click here). Click here to listen to samples of the Tubby Hayes Quintet playing live at the Slipper in 1963.
Derek Tomlinson writes:
'I remember Saturday nights at the 'Dancing Slipper' in the early 60s seeing such as Terry Lightfoot, Ken Colyer and the Dutch Swing College. The one thing that sticks in my mind is going outside for a breather and seeing the garage door down below thumping to the rhythm of the dancers above. I heard a story that Bill Kinnell had a record shop in a Nottingham arcade off Parliament St. He had a false arm and used to take out a spare and chew it if anyone came into his shop to buy anything other then jazz records. True? No idea. Happy Days!'
Ivor James writes:
'Wow - what memories! I knew "Lefty" Kinnell. He once went on stage at Derby Jazz Club (The Corporation Hotel) to be met by a chorus of jazz fans chanting "'Kinell, 'Kinell"! He took it in good part though! In those days I used to play guitar and banjo with the house band at Derby Jazz Club, more particularly after they moved to The Duke Of York on Burton Road. Then a change of job and shift work prevented me, and I'm afraid that after I left Derby in 1969, I got out of touch with the jazz scene.'
'As an aside, many years later, living in rural Suffolk (I'm now back in Burton-on-Trent!) I played with a little 3 piece ensemble - piano, guitar and drums (we couldn't find a bass player!). We played in a pub one Sunday afternoon. The pianist could put out a reasonable version of "Bad Penny Blues". There were only a few people in the pub, two of which turned out to be Humph and Chris Barber! I don't think Brian has ever recovered! But the two gents were complimentary!'
Bass player Ron Drakeford recalls the Dancing Slipper:
'The articles about the Dancing Slipper bring back a few memories. Colyer, Lewis, Daniels etc. I did a few gigs in the Nottingham/Derby area for Kinnell with a band called Phil Boyd's Ragtime Band with Diane Seagrave, Nottingham's answer to Doreen Beatty.'
Ron says that the link we have included for Mike Daniels playing A Good Man Is Hard To Find on the Dancing Slipper page has a photograph that was actually taken at the Thames Hotel in Hampton Court where Mike was resident on Friday nights. 'This Daniels band was probably one of my favourites,' says Ron, 'I had the good fortune to play with them at the Thames Hotel when Don Smith was unexpectedly not available. I lived a mile away so could pop home, get my bass and only miss the first couple of numbers.'
Johnny Johnstone shares his memories of the Dancing Slipper.
I've just looked at the web page on the Dancing Slipper and, needless to say, the memories come flooding back.
Bill Kinnell ran the Dancing Slipper sessions under the banner of the Nottingham Jazz Club. On the regular Saturday evening sessions, thanks to Bill, we were treated to bands in addition to the more purist bands. The Fairweather/Brown All Stars included local lad Brian Lemon who sadly can't play anymore due to arthritis, but I sometimes phone him and he hopes to come up to Nottingham to visit The Bell Inn where I play on Monday evening's. As I recall, the Jazz Couriers - Ronnie Scott / Tubby Hayes Quintet played in the Dancing Slipper at least once, on a Wednesday evening, and I went to see them. Tubby brought his vibes along as well as his tenor saxophone, and of course it was a marvellous session. Humphrey Lyttelton's Band was also a favourite band to appear at The Slipper, and I personally will always be grateful to Bill for presenting these bands.
The Dancing Slipper in recent years
The Alex Welsh Band also played at the Dancing Slipper and I was very lucky to get to sit in with the band when Archie was in it (1962) at the Trent Bridge Inn where sessions were held by the Nottingham Rhythm Club on Tuesday and Friday evening's. Archie and I dueted on the tunes "If I Had You" and "Pee Wee's Blues". I pushed my luck once more at the Derby Jazz Club, also run by Bill Kinnell at the Corporation Hotel, and Alex very kindly let repeat the duets with him. What an honour that was. I had only been playing for a couple of years so during the interval, at TBI session, I asked Archie how he could go from Pee Wee to Ed Hall? (What a dumb question I now realise that was!). He then showed me when he went on!
Just to finish this bit about Dancing Slipper sessions, I was asked by Bill if I would bring the great tenor saxophonist, Ben Webster to the club, where he was to play with the Bruce Turner Jump Band. I was of course thrilled to be asked to do this, and a pal and I went to collect Ben at the Victoria Hotel (still standing, but alas no railway station anymore). We were invited up to his room, as he wasn't quite ready. He welcomed us in and offered us a drink (brandy) which being beer drinkers, we declined. I suppose with the value of hindsight, we should have thought this could be a bad sign, but we were in the presence of one of the giant's of the jazz world, and in awe.
We got him to the Slipper alright, and at Bill's request, we showed Ben to the dressing room. This was a room where all the electrics were, and could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a dressing room! When we were at the hotel, we noticed that Ben filled a hip flask with brandy, which I think he must have consumed while waiting to come on stage. You may have heard this story, but sadly Ben was so drunk he just could not play, and in the end, poor Bill had to order Ben off the stage as he started to whistle while the band was playing.
I formed my first band, the Johnny Johnstone All Stars, in 1962, which ran regularly in various Nottingham residences, mainly pub's, through till the early 1970's, with a fairly stable personnel comprising Dave Leithead (trumpet), Ken Sansom (trombone), Ralph Laing (piano), Chris Stones (guitar), Ernie Greenwood (bass), Mik Coney (drums) and myself on clarinet and tenor sax.
Our best residency was at a pub called The Milton's Head where we had a Sunday evening session in what was called the Theatre Bar. From Monday to Saturday evenings there was "Old Time Music Hall", but we had the bar on Sunday evenings. How we got it was one of those strokes of luck that sometimes comes your way. Ken Sansom and myself were walking back to our cars / buses when we chanced to meet the drummer with the band that was in residence at that time in The Milton's, and he told us that the band had quit that night due to some disagreement with the landlord. As we were going to need a new residence ourselves, Ken and I agreed that Dave Leithead and I would go down to the Milton's Head the next evening and see if we could get in there. This we did, and got the residency which lasted until the place was demolished to make way for what is now the Victoria Centre, a big concrete block of flats!
During this period we had various guest artists including two sessions with Sandy Brown and he managed to get me the worse for wear, with me stupidly mixing beer with whisky! The sessions were, of course, both marvellous - so the band told me!
Other guests in various different sessions were Johnny Barnes (at the moment hopefully recovering from a stroke?), Roy Williams, Alan Elsden, Danny Moss, Al Gay, Bruce Turner and Jim Douglas. These days it is not possible to have guests at our regular venue,The Bell Inn in Nottingham, but who knows, maybe sometime in the future it may be possible at another venue?
Humph used to refer to the Golden Slipper as the 'Golden Gumboot.'
Ralph Laing was nearly right about no band ever refusing to let Alan Gilmour record them - he usually was right, was Ralph. When Henry "Red" Allen appeared at the Slipper in his first of two appearance's, he refused Alan permission to record him, with Humph, because he was under contract to American Columbia, and was afraid of any come back from them. On his final appearance, not long before he died from cancer, he appeared there and asked Alan if he was going to record him, but unfortunately, as on the previous visit, he wouldn't agree to being recorded. Alan didn't bring any recording equipment along. An opportunity lost forever!
A shame, but these guys had to be careful with the big recording companies. When Peanuts Hucko guested with a band I was with in the mid 1970's called Jazz Spectrum, I asked him, as I did with all the guests whether he minded if the session was recorded? He initially agreed to this, but when he saw that the recording was being done by Alan Gilmour, he insisted that we stop the recording and that he had the tape, of which he said he would send me a copy - but of course he never did! These sessions involved, at various times, Wild BIll Davison, Bud Freeman, Billy Butterfield, Ralph Sutton, Bob Wilber and Buddy Tate - who borrowed my tenor saxophone for the evening as his had developed a fault. None of those objected to being recorded! I personally payed for these recordings and still have copies of the sessions.
Bob Jackson has sent his recollections saying:
I used to sing with Ralph Laing's band Jazz Spectrum, and played some trombone, up to the end of 1971, and earlier I sometimes depped for Johnny Johnstone's band when Ralph and Dave Leithead were in it.
It was fascinating to read the memories of John Johnstone and Ralph Laing about the Dancing Slipper in Nottingham. I very rarely missed a gig by Sandy Brown - including what was possibly the first time that Tony Coe joined the band on stage. He played tenor on just the second half of the gig, and was reading the parts. Tony Milliner was on trombone. I remember that Yaknik (one of Al's tunes I think) was one of the numbers played.On later gigs, with both Tonys in the frontline, there were arrangements of some of the tunes from the Atomic Mr Basie (including Li'l Darling with Sandy on bass clarinet), plus numbers like Lunceford Special, which sounded great with the four-part front line.
When the Fairweather Brown all-stars were not playing as a totally regular unit, I remember one gig at the Slipper with John Mumford on trombone. There were others with just Sandy and the rhythm section, with Sandy sometimes playing bass clarinet as well as clarinet, and sometimes blues piano and singing. Terry Cox seemed to be a fairly regular drummer on such gigs. I also remember Sandy guesting with the Johnny Johnstone all-stars at the Milton's Head, and I sang Nagasaki with Sandy and the band. Alan Gilmour had recorded the session but later couldn't find the tapes.
1965 seems to have been an amazing year at the Dancing Slipper, with plenty of American guests, including Earl Hines of course with the Alex Welsh band in April. This was an incredible education for young jazz fans who had never before heard American musicians live. I would have been in my second year at university in Wales, so could only have gone during vacations - but the terms were pretty short. I lived in Ilkeston and used to get two buses to get to the club.
I heard Bud Freeman there with Alex Welsh, and on another occasion, Eddie Miller, but don't have the dates. Buck Clayton and Big Joe Turner guested with Humph on different dates, one of them being 14 May 1965; Ruby Braff guested with the Welsh band in July 1965; I was also there at the infamous Ben Webster gig with Bruce Turner, which Johnny Johnstone describes - this was 12th of June 1965. I remember Ben being escorted by two policemen down the stairs at the Slipper, and he asked one of them whether he liked Oscar Peterson! This was not a comfortable occasion for Bruce Turner (Bruce gave me his account of the evening when he stayed with us after a gig guesting with Spicy Jazz in 1989). He did so many wonderful gigs at the Dancing Slipper with the Jump Band. John Chilton was trumpet player with Bruce's band whenever I saw them, with Pete Strange on trombone, and Colin Bates on piano. Later, of course, Nottingham's Ray Crane joined the band on trumpet. It was Ray who later recorded the Splanky album with Sandy at, I think, the Gallery Club in Carlton (where I occasionally played trombone with Phil Boyd).
Jazz Spectrum. L-R: Ken Sansom (tbn/bj); Bob Jackson (vcl/tbn); Ralph Laing (p/ldr); Mike Coney (d); Dave Leithead (tpt); Jerry Williams (clt/alt); Bill Cole (bs). Probably taken at the Old General in 1970/1971
Photograph © Bob Jackson
I moved from Nottingham to Coventry in January 1972, having worked with Jazz Spectrum at the Old General with Ralph Laing, Jerry Williams, Dave Leithead, Ken Sansom and Bill Cole with me on vocals and occasional trombone. We did one gig at the Dancing Slipper when Chris Barber was delayed, I think at Silverstone motor racing track. He phoned Bill Cole and asked us to do the first half. The Barber band arrived in time for the interval and played the second set - no doubt much to the relief of the audience!
I still play on and off with Zoltan Sagi, who was with me in Jazz Spectrum for nearly 25 years, before joining the Big Chris Barber band for nearly 3 years. There are some pictures of Spicy Jazz and some extracts from recordings if you click here. Zoltan arranged various Fairweather Brown numbers for Spicy Jazz, and we recorded some for Zoltan's label Bassline. Zoltan transcribed or adapted the Fairweather/Brown arrangements of tunes like Go Ghana, Scales, The Card, Blues March, Wall Street Lament, African Queen, Maple Leaf Rag, and Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting which we used to do with Spicy Jazz as a tribute to Sandy.
Alan Field adds to our stories about this famous jazz venue:
'Bill Kinnell ('Foo' to admirers and detractors alike) was the dominant influence in the Nottingham jazz scene throughout the sixties and the Dancing Slipper, his principal venue, the setting for a night that almost fifty years on, still seems like a dream for me and hundreds of local fans.'
'Bill had a reputation for being a hard man to part with a shilling, largely attributed by minor musicians and hangers-on who considered their status too lofty to have to pay to get in to a gig. But despite the impossibility of covering the cost at the door, Bill booked the entire line up of the biggest US mainstream package to tour the UK at that time. Earl Hines : Buck Clayton : Coleman Hawkins. For hours the tiny stage was swamped by a 'Who's Who' of jazz giants, with the usually frowning Foo, moist-eyed and swinging an empty coat sleeve alongside. Crammed against the bar, drummer Les Shaw and I tried to make room for the enormous Joe Turner. "Get you a drink Joe?" the awe-stricken Les asked. "Break the money Honey and keep on traveling" beamed Joe. You couldn't write it could you..'.
Peter Minkley also recalls the time when Ben Webster was drunk:
'Just reading about the Dancing Slipper on the net. I remember going to the
Jazz nights there and was there the evening Bill Kinnell had to ask Ben
Webster to get off the stage because he was so drunk. I can hear Bill saying
now: 'Mr Webster, will you please leave the stage', massive disappointment. I
had seen him at Ronnie Scott's Club and was so looking forward to seeing him
I also was there to see Earl Hines and remember chatting to him after his
gig, I was only 18, It was magic to be able not only to see but to chat to a
Wonderful days never to be forgotten.'
Hazel Lale writes:
Hi. I have vivid memories of The Dancing Slipper and watching Rod Stewart...and Little Beryl Marsden ..wow
Adding to our information about the Dancing Slipper in Nottingham, Bob Moore writes to remind us that Ken Colyer played and was recorded there in 1969. Bob says:
The record is entitled Ken Colyer's Jazzmen live at the Dancing
Slipper 1969 and the record number is LC 35 and produced by VJM Records
of Kingsbury, London. I bought it directly from Ken Colyer after he
played at a gig in a village near Great Missenden Bucks in about 1974.
There is a photo on the front of the band which is said to be made up
of Ken with local musicians from Nottingham. The personnel are given
plus details of the recording and a bit of blurb about the Dancing
Slipper and mentions the promotors at that time.
I have been a trad jazz fan since about 1951 so you can guess my age group and my local jazz club was Wood Green at the Fishmongers Arms pub. I went there a few times and think I may have seen Monty Sunshine playing there and one or two other bands. Freddy Randall springs to mind but I might have seen him elsewhere, possible the Cook's Ferry Inn Walthamstow. I am not sure if I ever saw Sandy Brown but I remember, Crane River Jazz Band, Alex Welsh etc. My interest in trad jazz has been revived in the last few weeks as I am a member of the local U3A Jazz appreciation group and as a result of the recent sad deaths of Kenny Ball and Terry Lightfoot we are having a presentation on British trad jazz.
[The personnel on this album were Ken Colyer (trumpet), Tony Pyke (clarinet), Geoff Cole (trombone), John Bastable (banjo), Bill Cole (bass) and Malc Murphy (drums). We cannot see that this particular album is currently available on CD, but an earlier recording by Ken Colyer - Memories - at the Dancing Slipper in 1963 is available from Lake Records - click here]
From Johnny Johnstone
Digging around in a box under his bed, Johnny Johnstone has come across a programme from a gig he went to at the Dancing Slipper in Nottingham in 1963.
The cover photograph is of Alex Welsh, and the programme gives the date as April - May 1963.
The back of the programme lists other bands appearing. We have not heard of the Spree City Stompers nor the Cave Stompers - does anyone else remember them?
The Orchestra of the Dutch Swing College was very popular. It is also interesting to note that impressario Bill Kinnell had other venues at the time in Derby, Leicester and Coventry.
David Green in Nottingham writes adding to our page of memories of Bill Kinnell and the Dancing Slipper:
Mention of Bill Kinnell brought back some memories. He was one of our Chilwell neighbours in the 1940s, and although having the use of only one arm, competently ran the greengrocer’s shop on Chilwell High Road, just round the corner from where we lived. As lads we often ran to the shop when we saw the potato lorry making a delivery and it was amazing to see Bill single-handedly carry full sacks into the shop and later weigh out and bag them for customers. Many years later I met up with him on the Jazz scene, not having realised we had a common interest.
In late teens a crowd of us, mostly from West Bridgford, regularly went to the Dancing Slipper for the popular Trad Jazz concerts and the Chris Barber Band was one of our favourites in the 1950s and 60s. I remember a particular occasion (in 1957?) when the band arrived without trumpeter Pat Halcox, who had been involved in a road accident and was delayed. An SOS was sent out for Mick Gill, (Mercia Jazz Band I think) who played at very short notice but sadly didn’t fit in with the Barber style and only played a couple of numbers. Chris Barber, on trombone, was accompanied by Monty Sunshine on clarinet, Ron Bowden on drums, Micky Ashman on Bass, Ottilie Patterson (vocal) and two banjo players - Lonnie Donegan and a bearded Bill Bishop. Looking back, Donegan was possibly hoping for a solo career and was soon to release “Rock Island Line”; Bishop may have been guesting as a possible replacement when Donegan left the band.
I was fortunate to have my camera with me, and took photos of the band members, which they all kindly autographed when they were next in Nottingham; I still have them somewhere in the ‘archived’ stuff in the den!
Ken Milner writes:
I have just been reading about the Dancing Slipper. I was the DJ there in the 70s as King Ken along with my friend Melody Mike!
Brings back memories :) I can remember in the day time it was the Ivy Brooks Dance School, I didn't have much to do with the Jazz nights (sorry not my scene) but did enjoy Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, I used to work mostly Friday nights if I remember and played Motown Charts etc.
Lynne Clifford (nee Hodgkinson) remembers the Dancing Slipper
'I have just come across your website and the Dancing Slipper page (click here) and it brings back memories of Friday night at this venue with all my girl friends. I never went on a saturday night for the jazz, I was probably too young, but I do remember seeing Herman's Hermits one Friday night around 1965. Happy Memories.'
('Something tells me she was into something good')
Debby Klein writes:
I checked out your website with great interest, when trawling for something about Bill Kinnell to refresh my memories. Bill was, bizarrely, my godfather. But this can be explained as I am the daughter of Mick and Betty Gill, so I have many childhood memories of the Dancing Slipper and 'me dad going blowing'.
We lived in West Bridgford as some will remember, in the 1950s as I was growing up. I well recall the 'Great Ben Webster incident' - there was a little sticker on our phone in the hall for many years, which proclaimed 'Ben Webster spoke on this phone' although I believe that what he said was rather slurred and along the lines of 'Sorry man, too much'. I remember Johnny Johnstone, one of your correspondents, indeed I have a photo of him at our house in Eltham Road. I also remember many other 'blowers' like Bruce Turner, Ray Crane, etc. They all used to visit us, and/or sleep on our front room floor.
I note the comment that Mick Gill's cornet style 'did not fit in' with Chris Barber when asked to play at short notice. Well, it wouldn't would it - me dad was a Revivalist, not a Traddie. Also, I don't really think he was that good a musician in retrospect! I have a collection of his recordings on a CD and, er, it's an interesting archive rather more than entertainment!! We idolised him at the time though. Sadly he died young, in 1987.
I am sure some will also remember my vivacious young mother Betty, whose raison d'etre was Jive and Jazz 24/7. Sadly she too died, in 1995. They were both in their early 60s. Does anyone have any memories of my family? Now into my own 60s I'm trying to piece things together a bit……. and still listening to jazz.
Debby's father was cornettist Mick Gill and Debby has sent us this picture of Mick's band. Does anyone remember any of the musicians?
Do you remember the Dancing Slipper? Please contact us if you do.
If you found this page interesting, you might also like our pages on:
Wood Green Jazz Club: Fishmongers Arms
The Cy Laurie Club
Cooks Ferry Inn
New Merlins Cave
The Six Bells, Chelsea
The Prince Of Wales, Buckhurst Hill
Eel Pie Island
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