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Wood Green Jazz Club
The Fishmongers Arms and Bourne Hall
In 2010 Eddie Fowler who runs the Wood Green Local Knowledge Club, wrote to say that he believed Django Reinhardt gave a cup to the winner of a Quintet competition in 1938 at the Gig Club, Bourne Hall, Wood Green. Eddie wondered whether this could have been the Wood Green Jazz Club at the Fishmonger's Arms, 287 High Road, Wood Green, London, N22 8HU (now a block of flats, says Eddie).
'I would be grateful for any help the enquiry generates as this detail will soon disappear - Bourne Hall seems odd, and yet the jazz club didn't exist then as the Fishmonger's Arms. Maybe a local community hall?'
Since then, we have received contributions from a number of people that have enabled us to put together a collection of memories of the Wood Green Jazz Club at the Fishmonger's Arms. Please contact us if you would like to add to the collection.
In 2010, trombonist Tony Milliner came with me to take a look at the Fishmongers Arms as it was then. The building was still there and the tiled facade at the bottom and the general exterior seemed to have been preserved, including the name Fishmongers Arms at the top of the building. Much of the ground floor was occupied by Police Station offices, and as one of our correspondents says, the rest of the building has been turned into flats accessed by a small door to the far left.
Tony Milliner remembers the two doors to the left of the building being those the bands used to take in their gear, and to go into Bourne Hall. Bourne Hall was part of the Fishmongers Arms, but a separate room at the back of the building, says Tony. Our second picture shows that something was once attached to the side but has since been removed to build new houses.
Trumpeter Bunny Austin:
The Bourne Hall was a wooden hall attached to the Fishmongers Arms. The Fishmongers pub was on the corner of Trinity Road and Wood Green High Road. This hall became the Wood Green Jazz Club run by Art and Vi Sanders circa 1947-8, but the Bourne Hall was used as a local dance hall during the 1920s. I know this is correct because in 1950 I played in a band with pianist Les Stanford, born in 1902, and Les told me he played in the Bourne Hall during the 1920s and 30s. The Bourne Hall became a favourite venue for the first Alex Welch band, but before he played there Art Sanders booked the Dutch Swing College band about 1949 and Joe Daniels jazz band around 1951 with Dave Shepherd, Alan Wickham, Nevil Skriumshaw, etc.
With regards to the the Django presentation at the Gig Club, maybe this
could have been put on by members of the musicians union North London
branch? I was in the MU in 1959 and we used to have meetings over at Bush
Hill Park, not far from Wood Green. Lots of the members then were of pre-WW2 vintage and I'm sure they would have been keen to meet Django.
Clarinetist and bandleader Alvin Roy:
Bourne Hall was indeed where Wood Green Jazz Club was situated. Bourne Hall was attached to the Fishmongers Arms and as you entered the doorway, you turned left and walked a short distance down a corridor to enter the club. If you turned right you went into the pub, which had its main entrance facing the High Road (Green Lanes). Art Sanders was usually stationed in the corridor at the entrance of the club ready to have a friendly chat as he took your money. The Fishmongers is still there, but Bourne Hall is now flats and part of our youthful memories has gone ... sad but inevitable.
Regarding Bourne Hall and Wood Green, it was part of the Fishmongers Arms pub (at the rear of the pub). I played there many times.
Richard White from south-east Asia:
I am writing in response to your query about the "Bourne Hall" in the Wood Green area. I am writing from south-east Asia and so do not have access to any written records, but I was a denizen of Wood Green Jazz Club and the Fishmongers Arms from approximately 1960 to 1970. For a few years I had a flat within walking distance and I am sure that I can recall the name of the hall behind the "Fish" being Bourne Hall. I was sorry to read that it is now a block of flats. I'm about to go to a meeting so will have to stop soon. Just another twelve bars - I have so many more than fond memories of Art and Viv and all the great bands and musicians I saw at Wood Green Jazz Club. So I'll be writing a bit more at some later date.
Tony Milliner also remembers a notice put up for a gig with the Alex Welch band featuring George Melly. It advertised: 'Belch and Belly'!
In August 2007, we had mentioned a letter from Frank Harrison to Jazz Journal magazine where Frank was enquiring about a privately made LP of the Sandy Brown Band at Wood Green Jazz Club in 1955. No-one responded to say that they have anyinformation about this, but Mike Ricketts brought to our attention a British Film Institute three DVD set called 'Free Cinema' that contains a 22 minute documentary called 'Momma Don't Allow' recorded at the Wood Green Jazz Club in 1956 by the Chris Barber Band. Mike found it 'evocative of a Britain long gone...' If you are interested, you can go to the Amazon site and search their DVD page for 'bfi Free Cinema'.
The video is now available in two parts on YouTube. Here is Part 1
and here is Part 2
This 1954 Karl Reisz / Tony Richardson 22 minute film was shot over nine Saturdays at Wood Green Jazz Club and features the Chris Barber Band at the time of Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan and Ottilie Patterson. It's a great short film that really captures the atmosphere and audience at the Club.
The film is an important record of the music and its fans at the time when 'traditional jazz' was being discovered by young people and of one of the UK's most popular bands in their early years.
If you are interested in viewing the film at the British Film Institute, The Mediatheque is a separate room at the BFI (near the Festival Hall and Hayward Gallery). It has a number of computers with fairly large screens each with its own comfortable single or double seats. You are given headphones when you go in and instructions on how to use the computers. You plug in (there are facilities for two people to watch at the same time) and choose the piece of film you want to watch. It is a very pleasant experience, a great resource and the staff are most helpful. You can book your computer in advance or just turn up and hope one is free. For more information click here. 'Momma Don't Allow' is also on a DVD set called 'Free Cinema' available from the BFI.
I worked at Wood Green Jazz Club from about 1962 to 1968'ish. I helped Viv and Art run the club, cleaned up, picked up glasses, repaired their car and hopefully advised on bands and helped with bookings. I know I am a bit later than the period you are looking for, but it was a fantastic club and allegedly the oldest 'hot rhythm'club in the UK, with posters advertising appearances by Django Reinhardt and many others. When I first became involved with the club it was strictly Trad on Sundays and Tuesdays and the first band I saw was Freddy Randall in about 1962. The regular Sunday band was Alex Welsh, and Tuesdays were an assortment of bands that slowly metamorphed from Trad to R&B, the main instigator of this being Mike Cotton. Tuesdays from then on became one of the hottest places to be in town with all the best new wave of music that was sweeping the country. John Mayall, Zoot Money, Mike Cotton Sound, Graham Bond, Brian Auger Trinity with Julie Driscoll, Long John Baldry and 'Rod The Mod', the Artwoods, the Kinks, the list was endless. Being a bit more of a modernist, I persuaded Viv and Art to book some of the more adventurous bands on the Sundays and so we were fortunate to see Mike Westbrook's Concert Big Band featuring the likes of John Surman, Alan Skidmore, and the very underrated, late Mike Osborne. On several occasions I got to book my own favourite, the Tubby Hayes Quartet, of which I must confess I have a bootleg recording. Of course I do remember appearances by the Fairweather-Brown ensemble. Wood Green Jazz Club was a fantastic place and memories I will always treasure.
Anne Hudson lived five minutes from the Club in the 1950s and often popped in when bands were rehearsing. She writes that her sisters were keen supporters of the Club - 'one sister was the best dancer around and the other married a member of Chris Barber's band ...', whereas Ann herself preferred 'going to places like Klooks Kleek to listen to Tubby Hayes'. Ann has also discovered that Momma Don't Allow can be viewed free at the British Film Institute Mediatheque on the South Bank (see above).
Oh happy memories! I met my first love there and then my first husband. The Maddens were fabulous dancers and they had a fruit and veg business in Palmers Green, wonderful family. I loved them dearly. Viv and Art were so special. I was at Hornsey College of Art and was always broke, and they often turned a blind eye to my entrance ... A handsome young man, David, used to help them on busy nights, and he had a girlfriend called Shirley Shepherd who went on to marry Charlie Watts. I adored Mike, the brother of the Hudson girl who married the drummer. Oh memories, memories, I feel quite young tonight.
(We are glad that the Wood Green page has been bringing back so many memories. We wonder how many marriages the place was responsible for? )
I used to go to Wood Green a lot - maybe 2 to 3 times a week during 1957-59 before I married. Saturday was the main night, but Sunday and Tuesday too. I remember Art and the crowded bar where we used to order brown and mild, drinking plenty to replace the sweat from frantic jiving. A young bloke used to dance with two girls at once in the front by the stage. He was smartly dressed in a snappy suit with, I think, an overcoat he wore on arriving over his shoulders like a cloak. Or am I mistaken? Popular bands were Barber, Lyttelton, Sandy Brown and Al Fairweather (Tuesdays I think), Alex Welsh, Colyer sometimes? I think we had an extended licence at Wood Green on New Year's Eve. I walked home to East Barnet - none of us had cars. Great stuff! Friday night was good at Haringey Jazz Club.
Jennifer Bernhard from the United States has added to our collection of memories of Wood Green Jazz Club: 'I was trying to find current information about Glendale Grammar School where I was a student back in the late 50s, early 60s, when I came upon your wonderful description of all the goings on at my favourite place of all times - the Wood Green Jazz Club. I loved that place where I used to dance my heart out and the music wasn't too shabby either! I lived on Winkfield Road so never had to worry about driving home under the influence because it wasn't far to walk! I left the UK in the 60s to work in Belgium and then came to the US in the early 70s. Thanks for rekindling those early memories.
Looking through some old diaries, I noted that I first visited the club in 1952. I first heard Steve Lane and his Southern Stompers at the club and was most impressed! Living in Southgate, N.14 at the time, Wood Green was about the nearest club. I was a very frequent visitor up to about 1956 when I moved to Ealing ... Eric Silk was there on 18th January 1953; Chris Barber and Monty Sunshine on 15th February 1953, and Ken Colyer on 11th October 1953. Other bands and artists heard at the 'Fishmonger's Arms' were Alex Welsh, Sandy Brown, Terry Lightfoot, Mick Mulligan, the Wood Green Stompers (they were also playing at Boreham Wood Jazz Club around the same time), George Melly, Beryl Bryden and Kathy Stobart.
I remember the small bar at the club - Belgian Lamot lager was the drink at that time! A work of art to cross the crowded floor with a couple of full glasses! There was an 'Old Boy' there who, I think, used to help out with clearing glasses. He often got up on the stage and sang 'Ol' Rockin' Chair'. Who still remembers him?
The record played most times during the intervals must have been Earl Bostic's 'Flamingo'. I can't hear that number now without being taken back to those great days at WGJC! We were all a bit younger then! I have been a jazz fan for well over sixty years now, and a record collector since about 1947. I first visited 100 Oxford Street in 1951 (although we knew it as 'Mac's' at that time)."
Have just read some web stuff about the Mike Cotton Jazz Band from the late 50s / early 60s onwards. I used to work with Mike during those years as we did our apprenticeships at the same time at Standard Telephones and Cables, New Southgate. I moved out of London in 1966/67 and I guess Mike got on with playing. I remember meeting Mike one Saturday coming home at Manor House tube station in London - he had just bought a spanking new trumpet. Poor Mike - he had to finish his apprenticeship before moving into his music full-time. A group of us used to frequent Wood Green and Tottenham jazz clubs through those years and it was manic. My memory was jogged when I listened to a Radio 2 programme recently about the Clyde Valley Stompers and I wondered if Mike was still around and maybe playing? We are both getting long in the tooth now....
(Mike Cotton is still very active although he is away from the UK for several months of the year when he is much in demand playing jazz on cruise ships. Mike still plays occasionally with the Great British Jazz Band alongside Digby Fairweather, Pete Strange, John Barnes, Dave Shepherd, Len Skeat and others. Click here for information about their album Swing That Music on the Candid label and the cover picture of the band members -Ed).
I used to go to Wood Green Jazz club around 1958 - I was only 16 but an older guy John Gough who would have been about 18 used to go with me. The best dancers in those days I seem to remember as a brother and sister couple [could have it wrong but their surname could be Maddens?]. If you got there early before anything kicked off, [towards late fifties] the place smelt of strong disinfectant, still smell the smell today!
Later we drifted not far away, just across the road to a place called Harry Bolts, there was no live music there just records but a lot of girls seemed to hang out there. Amongst old papers I found my membership card - it mentions the wrong pub, should be Fishmongers Arms not Nightingale [that was Maurice Jay dance place, I think?] There is no year on the card but the number may mean something? Just a little thing aside and following on from ''Mama Don't Allow'' this guy was nothing to do with that film, but just up the road in Winchmore Hill where I lived growing up in the 50s was Tony Richmond who went on to be a massive cinemaphotographer'.
I too went to Glendale Grammar School in Wood Green and around 1958/9 started going to Wood Green Jazz Club at the Fishmongers Arms. I had just started playing the clarinet (rather badly....no change there then) and remember Sandy's band on Tuesdays and Alex Welsh on Sunday nights. Walking back to the Zambezi coffee bar in Turnpike Lane after the gig had finished was the icing on the cake.....my, we knew how to enjoy ourselves in those days. I got to know the late Archie Semple, clarinettist with Alex Welsh, who gave me some tips. One highlight I remember, apart from my band's first gig at the club, was sitting in with the Alan Elsdon band together with Sandy Brown. I'm not sure how that came about but as I can't remember what happened yesterday, that's not surprising. What thrills me today is that some of the musicians I saw in those days on the stage at Wood Green, I've since played gigs with: Roy Williams, Diz Disley, Sandy Brown, Tony Milliner, Acker Bilk, George Chisholm, Harvey Weston, Lennie Hastings among others. I never thought that when I was listening to those bands as a schoolboy, I would, years later, be sharing the stage with my jazz heroes......but don't tell them that.
Alvin Roy's article on Wood Green Jazz Club rings very true as I too went to the Fishmongers Arms. He forgot to mention Thursday nights when Diz Dizley played there with the great Denny Wright.
Bruce Turner was a strange but lovely man. I remember one evening with the Kenny Baker Trio with Bruce as a guest, and we were discussing the programme. He said: "Who do you want me to play like tonight Dad?" He could do it too, Hodges, Desmond, Konitz, Carter, etc. But we sometimes wonder who was the real Bruce.
Ron Prentice (double bass and bass guitar) writes: "I saw your web site and was most interested to read about Wood Green Jazz Club at the Fishmongers Arms. I started my career in music at that club when at the age of 19 I joined The Wood Green Stompers. I was 19 and Terry was 17, I well remember backing Big Bill Broonzy sometime in the early 50s. I left Terry to join Eric Silk and after a year or so gave up jazz to earn more money in dance bands. As a young semi- pro I used to work at Woodall House in Lordship Lane. I still play a mixture of music including some jazz. If you would like to see my web site look me up on Ron Prentice musician." Ron who now lives in Somerset has worked with the Exe City Big Band (based at Exeter College) and still plays on cruise ships. He is off again in April with Bill Geldard, Roy Willcox, Tommy Whittle and Tony Fisher. Ron also works with pianist Elizabeth Hayley and often meets up with Mike Cotton.
A friend since my school days sent me these two memories of days gone by. We used to go to both clubs/pubs during the 50's and 60's until we were married, wonderful nights. In the early 50's we listened to Bobby Mickleborough, Joe Daniels, Eric Silk, Freddy Randall, George Melly with Mick Mulligan, Christie Bros. Stompers, etc.
Those were the days. Hope these two pictures will add to your collection.
Malcolm Gilbert from the Netherlands:
I was at school at Trinity Grammar (1951-56 ) which was across the road and behind what had been the Almshouses for the Guild of Fishmongers (hence the pub's name). I think it was probably sometime in 1955 that one lunchtime I walked past the hall next to the pub. The door was open and out of it was coming the sound of music which I had never heard before. IT WAS TRADITIONAL JAZZ! Being obviously under age to visit the club, I followed my new found music by going to Hornsey Town Hall for jazz concerts. First was Chris Barber with Ottilie Patterson (her singing of I'm A Salty Dog gave me shivers), then the Royal Festival Hall, etc. At last some of the very famous American jazz musicians were starting to appear in the U.K, plus when I started my engineering apprenticeship, a fellow apprentice Brian Peerless (expert on Eddie Condon) told me about Doug Dobell's jazz record shop in Charing Cross Road.
So when I became 18 it was down to the Fishmongers Arms. I lived in Southgate, North London so it was easy to reach by either by the underground or by cycle(oh yes, on two pounds ten shillings a week as an apprentice you did not even think about owning a car). Being at college the dress code was a dark blue reefer jacket (ex-surplus shop) and college scarf. The bar at the club was rather small at the right hand side and as one other contributor has mentioned, it took some agility and luck to get across the room past the frantic dancers with drinks.
By watching various couples dancing I learnt to skip jive and stomp in the traditional jazz style.The girls very rarely refused to dance and many were students of Hornsey Art College and were very friendly. At 20 years old I started courting, my girl friend lived at Friern Barnet and I now had a car. Wewent regularly on Sunday evenings to the club where Alex Welsh's band were basically the regular band. We would arrive earlish so as to get seats near the stage and if I remember rightly there were long leather pub sofas. A very cosy, enjoyable evening could be had for not much cost and you could smoke. Archie Semple was not always with the band as he did not have good health. Many was the time when a tremendous cheer would go up from the audience as Archie just about made his solo.
I married in 1965 and moved out of London and sadly never visited the club again. Another London club I went to a lot in the late fifties/early sixties was Barnet Jazz Club. I would go by bicycle, jive for 3 hours, cycle home then cycle to work at 7am! I see from the website that the hall has gone but the pub is still there. Having returned back to London in the late seventies (south this time to Honor Oak Park near Peckham) I renewed my hearing jazz in pubs again by regularly going to the the Lord Napier in Thornton Heath, especially on a Sunday for Bill Brunskill's band. Sadly that all changed when Vic the publican left.
In closing, the website brought back wonderful memories to me. Great fun and though people had a lot to drink there was never any trouble. I now live in the Netherlands, in Dordrecht, which has the oldest jazz club in the Netherlands - so the music of Jazz which captivated me when I was 15 still has it's hold.
I was just reading about the Wood Green Jazz Club at Fishmongers Arms. My favourite club where I met my wife. I read Peter Pohl's letter (Feb 2009) in which he mentions 'an old boy who sang Ol' Rocking Chair' - yes I knew him slightly. He was a disabled person who sat at the front, next to the gangway on the right hand side.
He only ever sang that number and often would sing from his wheelchair. His knowledge of the music was extensive but would not talk about himself. Bring back the Wood Green Jazz Club! My regular trips were Tuesday and Saturday with Sundays reserved for the Cooks Ferry Inn in Edmonton.
(Click here for our page on Cook's Ferry Inn).
Our page on the Fishmonger's Arms caused George Welsh to recall that:
'In 1965 I saw Pink Floyd play there, the cost 3/6d - about 18p nowadays!'
I accidentally stumbled upon your page and it brought back many memories. These are from a slightly later period but may be of interest. Whilst I and most of my friends lived in Enfield one of our group lived in Palmers Green and I think he was probably the one who first alerted us to Wood Green Jazz Club which we then attended regularly, 3 nights a week for much of the early 60s. None of us had our own transport at that time and we would travel by the 269 bus (629 trolleybus until 1961) from Enfield to Wood Green.
I can remember Art Saunders and his wife on the door. As Alvin Roy recalled you turned left on entering and passed down a short corridor to enter the club. To the right the corridor did lead into the pub but before reaching the pub it gave access to the toilets. Occasionally there was a altercation with someone coming from the pub, using the facilities and then trying to casually wander passed the pay desk as if they were just returning from a visit to the loo. At times the place was really heaving but I don’t think many managed to fool Art.
I also remember the bar in a small room off to the right of the main hall. On a busy night it was quite a struggle to even reach it, let alone fight your way out again carrying a round of drinks.
Alex Welsh was almost a fixture on Sundays when the club was always packed. The finale to an evening with Alex was drummer Lennie Hastings’ very non-pc cod German singing complete with tin helmet & goose-stepping. (I only recently discovered that Lennie was the drummer on the 1957 hits of Johnny Duncan & his Bluegrass Boys; Last Train to San Fernando etc). The only exception to Alex on a Sunday that I can recall was Humph who was booked every couple of months or so. He was a great favourite of mine; so much so that 50 years on I can still recall all the band’s names - front line Humph, Danny Moss & Joe Temperley and rhythm section Ian Armit, Pete Blannin & Eddie Taylor. Saturdays were also very busy and all the well known “Trad” jazz bands appeared.
However, when I first started to go, Tuesday was reserved for mainstream bands; two already mentioned by others were the Fairweather / Brown band and Bruce Turner with his Jump Band. The third one that I remember was Fat John Cox (presumably not the same John Cox contributing to the Forum!) and these three bands seem to monopolise Tuesdays.
Together with Humph, these were the bands I enjoyed most but unfortunately, with the exception of Humph, they did not pull in the crowds; in fact the Tuesday attendences were embarrassingly low; sometimes in single figures when they started playing! If you were at the front for the opening numbers it felt like they were performing just for you. Of course this could not last and they were phased out in favour of the R&B bands like the Mike Cotton Sound. I can also recall seeing the Graham Bond Organisation with Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker (later of Cream) but this was not really my thing (too loud; I prefer my blues acoustic) and I drifted away from the club.
I don’t know when the Jazz Club ceased to function but by 1968 the Fishmongers Arms (presumably the Bourne Hall) was the venue for the likes of Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention; actually the latter (with Richard Thompson & Sandy Denny) is one I would have like to have seen but I had moved away from London by then.
Mike Durell also writes to say that the old gentleman who used to sing Ol' Rockin' Chair from his wheelchair was Geoff Watts.
Kemal John Ghafur:
My friend from schooldays (Trinity Grammar opposite the club) Roger Smedley used to play there and tells me of the famous bands and musicians he met. Roger was with the original Dave Clarke Five as keyboard player and featured many times at Tottenham Royal (on the revolving stage) and Harry Boult's Dance Studio at Wood Green.
Anne Beaven adds to our growing compilation of recollections of Wood Green Jazz Club and Cooks Ferry Inn
I used to attend Trinity Grammar School 1958/63 and we spent many happy hours at the Wood Green Jazz Club, dancing the stomp to trad jazz bands. We had to pretend to be 18 so that we could get in. I remember Wood Green Jazz Club as being quite small and dark but with a great bohemian atmosphere.
We also used to dance at Harry Bolt's in Wood Green and the Bruce Grove and Manor House Jazz clubs where during the interval, fabulous blues records were played including Muddy Waters and Lightening Hopkins.
We also used to go to the Cooks Ferry Inn where we saw The Animals with Alan Price and Eric Burdon. The list of great bands and singers that we saw is endless, Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball and many others.
We mainly went to the Jazz clubs to dance and obviously to hear the bands. I don't even remember having anything to drink and certainly not anything alcoholic We very rarely danced with boys, if ever, and would jive with others girls wearing tights jeans and our dad's large baggy jumpers.
John Codd, trumpeter with the Dave Carey Band, wonders whether anyone can tell us whether other members of the band are around?:
'I have just been reading about the old Wood Green Jazz Club,' John writes. 'Some great memories of playing there with the Dave Carey Jazz Band, one of the best clubs we played at, always a good audience. The band was formed in 1954 with myself on trumpet, Tony Milliner (trombone), Tony Gibbons (clarinet), Pat Hawes (piano/vocals), Bob Mack (guitar/banjo), Eric Starr (bass), and Dave Carey (drums). We made our first recording for Decca, issued on the Tempo label - it was the first time that a band had had its first recording issued on an LP - this was 1955 and 78s on their way out.
I also recall that we appeared at the NFJs concert at the Royal Festival Hall, we had a great reception, and I think it let people know who we were. I will never forget all the lads, and sadly Dave and Tony Gibbons are no longer with us. I have been trying to trace any of the band that are still around but have had no luck. At 80 I still play flugelhorn, trombone and some flute, just for fun - can't leave Jazz alone! Regards to all - John Codd'.
We are able to contact Tony Milliner about John's message, but please contact us if you can help regarding Pat Hawes, Bob Mack or Eric Starr.
Writer, poet and broadcaster John Harvey has sent us a link to the article below that he has written about the Fishmonger's Arms on his website. Click here to read more about John, to visit his site and to read his blog.
Sometimes you inadvertently walk into a piece of your long distant past and it stops your breath like a large hand pressed hard against the heart.
There I was, Friday last, walking along a stretch of Wood Green High Road – north from the tube station – that I doubt I’d walked along in over fifty years, and there in front of me, on the corner of Trinity Road and the High Road, was The Fishmonger’s Arms, now, the exterior of the building largely unchanged, the local police station, but then home of the jazz club run through the 50s and 60s by Art and Vi Saunders in the adjacent Bourne Hall, where my friends and I spent so many Sunday nights listening to various jazz outfits of the period, in particular the Alex Welsh Band.
It was where we went to listen to the music, drink, dance – by which, of course, I mean jive – and meet girls. Though the only communication, the dancing itself aside, was usually little more than an outstretched hand and a terse, “Dance?”, and then at the end of the number, if you were lucky, a quick little nod of thanks from the girl before she returned to her friends.
To catch something of the atmosphere, take a look at Karel Reisz’s and Tony Richardson’s short early film, Momma Don’t Allow, featuring the Chris Barber Band and filmed at the club in 1956. And for more information, memories and discussion take a look at the always interesting Sandy Brown Jazz web site, run by Ian Maund.
We loved the Welsh band for the sparkling joy and intensity of the music they played – back then a bright Condon-style dixieland that would later, with changes of personnel, morph into mainstream and swing – and for the way they always seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage. Alex with his clipped cornet/trumpet phrasing and instantly recognisable vocals; the edgy vibrato of Archie Semple’s Pee Wee Russell-influenced clarinet; Roy Crimmins’ trombone – Crimmins whom we ‘adopted’ as our favourite member of the front line, frequently buying him a pint of bitter when we bought our own.
Drummer, Lennie Hastings, in every sense at the heart of things, would frequently finish off one of his four bar drum breaks by jumping up and shouting ‘Ooyah-ooyah!”, sticks held high above his head, and could also be prevailed upon, to our naive delight, to roll his trousers above the knee, insert a false monocle and transform himself into Herr Lennie Hastings, singing Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear and Ein, Zwei, Solfe – One, Two, Drink Up in cod German.
Why exactly we stopped going I’m not sure. Some of us went off to university, I suppose, others drifted into jobs, drifted away; steady girl friends failed to share our enthusiasms; engagements, careers, marriage, mortgages, children beckoned.
I last saw Alex Welsh, clearly a sick man, leading a band at a club in Nottingham in the early 1980s. Not so long after that evening, he was dead at the age of just 52.
Here's the Alex Welsh band with Lennie Hastings playing Beale Street Blues in 1964:
I often recall my Sunday evenings, in the mid 50s, spent at Wood Green Jazz Club. They started me on a lifetime enjoyment of Trad Jazz.
I was a very good friend of one of your earlier contributors, Pat Millard, or Pat Heaton as she was then known. After dancing all evening, we would travel home on the 233 bus to Park Lane, Tottenham, where we both lived. We were recruited as extras for the dance scenes in “Mama Don’t Allow” which was filmed on a Saturday morning in the hall. There was no live band - the music played was pre-recorded. So the film must have been put together in the Edit room, where they seem to have “Lost” my contribution. We were paid, well, I was, £2 cash - a lot of money then, plus a free lunch in the pub.
By late 1956 National Service training loomed. After a weekend leave, I would visit the club in my baggy new Army uniform, the lovely Art would enquire how I was getting on, and of course let me in free, as he did with all servicemen in uniform, I don’t remember him ever giving me “half a crown”. At closing time,10 p.m., I would dash down the hill to Wood Green station, tube to Waterloo station, dodge the Redcaps checking passes, catch the train to Salisbury, then cadge a lift 30 miles to sneak into Blandford camp, where I would manage a couple of hours in my bunk before 6am roll-call parade Monday morning. It all came to an end in January 1957, when I was posted overseas to fight one of Her Majesty's colonial wars, very popular at the time, not to return to UK for nearly two years. These days, in the wrong half of my 70s, I get my kicks playing banjo, weekly, on a Wednesday afternoon, here in Hertfordshire, with a Trad Jazz Band, made up of old aged pensioner Jazz Legends
This all brings back fond memories of those wonderful days of youth, when all the girls noticed you and your knees were never hurting.
Irene Hayward has been reading our page about the Fishmonger’s Arms and Wood Green Jazz Club. Irene says: ‘I used to go to Harry Boult's club in the 50's and I remember seeing the John Barry Seven there, the band was a regular feature, who would have thought that he would go on to be the composer for the James Bond Movies! Harry Boult's club was located in Lordship Lane (Wood Green end), it was almost opposite Wood Green tube station. My memories of it are very vague but I recall it was always crowded with teenagers and there was a stage at one end of the hall and some of us would sit on the edge of the stage so that we could be as close to the live performers as possible.'
'This would be around 1959. I wonder if people also remember The Assembly Rooms, opposite the Fishmongers Arms? .. that was another popular place to dance.'
'Concerning Les Sennett’s comments about Tottenham Royal (see below) … I spent a lot of my teen years there, Monday and Thursday evenings were record nights , Saturday and Sunday would be live performances and Dave Clark Five was a big attraction, I’d also go there Saturday afternoons, absolutely loved it all and it was inevitable I’d meet my future husband there!…anyone remember the Spurs celebration dance at the Royal when they won the double?
I also went to Maurice Jays Dance School, which was mentioned on your page, their formation team performed on BBC TV, ‘Come Dancing' I think the programme was called…ahhh, memories, memories.'
Regan Masters writes 'I was just writing an autobiographical piece from my childhood that took place at the Fishmonger’s Arms, Wood Green. I attended the Foster Miller Dance School from the age of three (1950) until the age of eleven (1958). The hall that was attached to the pub was where we held our regular Saturday morning dance classes (ballet, tap and jazz dance). Occasionally we used one of the vacant rooms above the pub and next to the snooker room for rehearsals mid-week. The hall we used for the Dancing School was the same one used by the Jazz Club. I started going to the Jazz Club a few years later in about 1962. I decided to Google it to refresh my memory of some of the bands I saw play there. I wasn’t expecting to find much but was astonished when I went into your website, to find so many people with as delightful memories as my own. It all came flooding back. Aaaaahhh! Nostalgia!'
Regan Masters (Foster Miller pupil and Jazz Club devotee).
David Gent recalls: There was for a short while another jazz pub in Wood Green: the Starting Gate. Music was in a very small room above the pub. I remember hearing Pete Lemer's very avant-garde band there, and sitting so close to them that the bell of the tenorist's horn was practically in my pint. I also remember my mate's (non-jazz loving) girlfriend talking without cessation throughout the whole gig! I went to a school called the Sir George Monoux Grammar; some years before Johnny Dankworth had been a pupil, and he started a jazz appreciation society which organised regular concerts and "Jazz Band Balls". I remember the Fairweather-Brown All-stars playing a concert at the school in I think 1961.'
Eric Silk at Wood Green :
Picture © Brian Cook
Brian Cook sends us these pictures of the Eric Silk band playing at the Fishmongers Arms (Wood Green Jazz Club) in the early 1950s.
Brian writes: 'In the early 1950s and living in Islington, friends and myself - in our early teens - would visit the Fishmonger Arms pub / jazz club in Wood Green, North London.'
'Sometimes we would take with us our mouth organs/harmonicas and join in on stage with some of the groups like Sandy Brown and Eric Silk, and having just taken up photography I would take photos while on stage. While recently sorting out old photos, I came across three photos that I had taken in the jazz club, one of Sandy Brown and two of Eric Silk including other players with them. I was looking for the jazz club on the web and your site came up, hence this email.'
'In the picture below, Eric Silk is on banjo, bottom right, wearing glasses.'
Picture © Brian Cook
Below you can listen to Eric Silk's Southern Jazz Band playing at the BBC Jazz Club in 1951. Ken Bunce on YouTube writes: 'My Grandad (Norman Bunce) used to play with Eric - Sousaphone .. I know they made a record or two but now lost in family archives somewhere! I was hoping to find a recording somewhere .. any idea if he was on this session anyone?' and Derek Voller: 'I used to belong to the Southern Jazz Club in the early sixties. Eric and his band played in a hall above the Red Lion pub in Leytonstone, East London. We had some great sessions there, with Dennis Field leading the band with his superbly precise cornet. Such a shame Eric died so young. He created one of the very best bands I ever heard.'
Brian Cook follows up his Photographic Memory of Eric Silk (click here) with these recollections of Wood Green Jazz Club:
'Friends and myself would visit the 'Fishmonger Arms' jazz club as often as possible. We would travel by trolley bus from the Highbury Corner area of Islington to Wood Green, Art Sanders (ex-commando) was usually at the entrance door looking for undesirables - just the man for the job - apart from Art and his wife Viv being the managers.'
'Sometimes myself and friends would go on stage and join in the bands, see photos. We would liked to have gone more often, but being apprentices there was evening classes twice a week, we were also interested in cycling and swimming.'
Photograph © Brian Cook - Sandy Brown at Wood Green Jazz Club in the 1950s
'Sometimes it got quite hot in the club. I remember one time when I felt quite faint and went outside for some fresh air where I passed out - no it was not the beer because us being apprentices could not afford to drink too much - anyway I passed out in front of Art. When I came round Art was helping me inside where he looked after me together with Viv, Art was a strict but fair man.'
'Then there were Sunday afternoons when the big bands like Ted Heath, Johnny Dankworth and others would be playing in the cinemas.'
'I have just discovered your details about Fishmongers Arms, Wood Green Jazz Club, which brought back very pleasant memories for me. I came out of the army in 1953 having completed my National Service, I was born in Wood Green and was still living there at this time. I was introduced to Trad at the Fishmongers Arms, my induction into this music and still enjoy it. At the time I attended the Fishmonger's Alex Welsh was the resident band there, George Melly used to attend also. We used to have large beer barrels spread around with candles lit on them which made for a nice cosy atmosphere. I together with some friends also took up Ballroom dancing at a dance school just down the road called the Bowes Park School of Dancing. I then got the fever for the Big Bands and became a great admirer of the Ted Heath big band who I followed until it disbanded. They were most enjoyable times leaving me with fond memories.'
I would like to answer the question from Irene Haywood on your page. Yes, I remember the Assembly Rooms well - above the King's Arms, I believe - and used to attend every fortnight. Here is a photo showing myself and three other friends drinking at the bar! I am on the far right of picture; Bill Lygoe a close friend who lived a few doors away from me in Wood Green is second from the left. We had both planned to travel to New Zealand on some government scheme working for the forestry for two years, I think we had to pay £10 fare refundable on our completing the two years?. It didn’t materialise because I met someone at the Assembly Rooms and got married in 1957.
This picture was taken around 1955/56 - the other two persons, I can’t remember their names. I remember when Maurice Jay sent along a formation team to demonstrate how good they were! I have also attached a copy of my membership card of the dancing school I attended in Bowes Road. Bill and I used to go dancing about five nights a week we enjoyed it so much, we attended the Royal at Tottenham, the Athenium Club in Muswell Hill on a Sunday evening, in the summer we used to dance in the open at Downhills Park, the Shell, and the same band that was at the Royal Tottenham used to play there, I believe it was the Kirchin band?. Those days bring back wonderful memories, nothing can compare with them today, we didn’t have to get drunk to enjoy ourselves then like it appears they have to today!!. Great memories. (Les Sennett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lawrie Gordon writes: I saw the page on Wood Green Jazz Club. I used to live at 295 High Road just four doors from the Fishmongers Arms. I was just 9 years old when we moved there. On a hot summer's evening my father used to take ice lollies and ice cream around the club with Art's permission and I used to accompany him. I heard all the greats at the time Nat Gonella, Dutch Swing College, Joe Daniels, if my memory serves me right and my particular favourite - Freddy Randall.
If you found this page interesting, you might also like our pages on:
Cooks Ferry Inn
The Cy Laurie Club
The Dancing Slipper, Nottingham
New Merlins Cave
The Six Bells, Chelsea
The Prince Of Wales, Buckhurst Hill
Eel Pie Island
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