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Colin Symons
Drummer and Bandleader

The Disappearance of Colin Symons

Over time, there have been a several enquiries about drummer and band leader Colin Symons.

Back in 2015, pianist Jamie Evans wrote: 'I was interested to see a mention of the singer Pam Heagren last month (see our page on Steve Lane - click here).  I worked with her quite regularly in the early-to-mid '70s in the Colin Symons band. 'This picture shows Pam and myself (circa 1973), possibly chatting after doing our regular voice/piano feature, "Crazy 'bout My Baby". I can't speak for Pam but I veryJamie Evans and Pam Heagrenmuch enjoyed those duets, as I am sure did the rest of the band who always seized the opportunity to quench their thirsts at the nearest outlet. Incidentally Pam rarely partook and the pint on the piano lid is mine not hers!'

'The Symons band was relatively successful and had a broad repertoire which went well beyond the trad/dixieland genre. Although the personnel was not entirely top-level, Colin always used trumpet players of the highest calibre including Alan Wickham, Ray Crane, Geoff Brown and Nick Stevenson.'

Jamie Evans and Pam Heagren
Picture courtesy of Jamie Evans

'I always got on well with Colin who was an engaging and charming man and not a bad drummer either. Inevitably we fell out big-time at one point but made up later, I am pleased to say. I heard many years after I lost touch with him that he had died young and try as I might I can't find any information relating to him. If anyone can add any facts or even hearsay I would love to hear from them.' 

Colin's name was then mentioned briefly in our Profile of clarinettist Neil Millett (click here) where banjo player Andy Ford is quoted as saying: .....'Neil Millett decided it was time to move on, so a new reed player had to be found .... at about the same time the Colin Symons band was disbanding and I met Harry Brampton, who agreed to join us.....'

Colin's name pops up again in our page on the Thames City Jazz Band (click here) where Jane Buller, the daughter of banjoist Jerry Withers, wrote: '..... I spoke to my sister last night - we were recounting some of the names of bands that Dad played in - Thames City, Imperial, Empty House Jug, Colin Symons, and with Sid Pye and Brian Green. He played regular sessions in various pubs which may be long since gone and Dad went from playing the banjo to the double bass'.

Now Tim Brown writes: 'I was interested to see references to Colin Symons. We both attended Warwick School from 1958 and established a traditional jazz band, the Storyville Stompers when we were about thirteen when we were good friends. Colin was a very enthusiastic, charismatic drummer and totally obsessed by jazz. I got chucked out of Warwick School when I was sixteen and we drifted apart. I have understand that Colin died when he was very young. The Storyville Stompers didn’t last very long, probably my fault as I was the manager! Colin was really the main performer and I can remember his spectacular long drum solos. As you say, this was the time of the trad jazz boom and I remember going with Colin to Kenny Ball concerts at the Coventry Hippodrome as well getting Louis Armstrong’s autograph. Colin was also very keen on swing, including Glenn Miller, which I did not enjoy. I have come across an interesting interview online from It’s Psychedelic Baby magazine (September 2017) with Lance Fogg, formerly of the group Complex. He also went to Warwick School and played in a trio with Colin, with whom he was clearly impressed. [In the article Lance says: '...My first “band” was a jazz trio – the Dave Wilmot trio – piano (Dave), bass (me) and drums (Colin). We played ragtime, Scott Joplin stuff. We made a recording at Dave’s house and had acetates made. I think I’ve still got one! Colin Symons on drums was amazing. He was only 14 going on 15 yet could play all Joe Morello’s stuff from Dave Brubeck’s recordings which was extremely complex jazz drumming. I often wonder if he managed to make it in the music business.....']

The only other reference I can find is in John Chilton's Who's Who Of British Jazz where there is another passing reference to Colin in an iten about cornettist Rod Mason who '....Left Acker Bilk in 1973, worked in drummer Colin Symons' band, then co-led with Ian Wheeler ......'

Tim Brown continues: 'It would be really helpful if you able to find any information about Colin. I think that he was living in Cambridge at one point and died in the mid 1980s.'

So ..... who remembers Colin Symons and can tell us more? Does anyone have any pictures of Colin? Please contact us if you do.

Richard Playfair writes: ''I was interested in your article on Colin Symons.  I am sure when I was in Cambridge between 1974 and 1977 Colin lived in a house on Thompsons Lane. I was playing trombone with student jazz bands at the time, but our paths never crossed musically although his name was often mentioned.'



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