Sandy Brown Jazz

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On A Night Like This, The Story Is Told ...

Tony, Ronnie And The West End In War Time


Tony Crombie and Ronnie Scott

Tony Crombie and Ronnie Scott photograph by Nigel Henderson


'Tony Crombie, who was slightly older than Ronnie (Scott), was already hanging out with young guys who were sitting in or working at some of the clubs in the West End. Tony used to carry the drums for 'Flash' Cecil Winston, a short, stocky boy with well-greased black hair combed straight back and bird-like features, with eyes so dark they were almost black with a permanent twinkle in them, as though he were inwardly always laughing at something. The first paying gig that Tony had was at the Mazurka Club in Denman Street, owned Lyons Corner Houseby Joe Rubini, who could afford to hire only a drummer and pianist. Tony used to travel by bus from the East End, stowing his drum kit under the stairs of the double-decker.

The Mazurka Club was situated up two flights of steps, and to gain entrance you had to knock on the door, which was answered by the opening of a six-inch-square panel. You would find yourself looking into a pair of eyes peering out over half a nose, and if the guy didn't know who you were, he would not let you in.

Alf Summers used to carry his drumsticks in his pocket, Sonny Herman had his trombone and Ronnie, of course, had his sax. Harry Morris was known as a 'moody' trumpet player, because he did not play an instrument but used to carry an empty trumpet case with him so people would think he was a musician! Alf Summers told me: 'Clubs like the Mazurka welcomed guys like Ronnie because they would sit in and play for nothing and, of course they augmented the band. We all had a great time. All we wanted to do was play, and all we wanted to play was bebop.'

A wide selection of small drinking clubs hired pianists and drummers and the boys went from one club to another, sitting in wherever they went. Sometimes the owners would be confused by the fast-tempo bebop and would say: 'Can't you play something we all know?' They refused to play anything that sounded remotely like the popular music of the day, and because of it occasionally were asked to leave, so they would move on to another bottle party club like the Jamboree, in Wardour Street, or the Nuthouse Club in Regent Street.

Dad, Tony Crombie and their clique of teenage musicians would make their way to Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, along with the professional musicians who hung out there at 4 a.m. after work was over. The Corner House was open all night and always so Easy Street bullypacked with customers that the lads had to queue up in the street. It was an unnerving experience, with the constant drone of the bombers flying overhead, seeing some buildings suddenly burst into flames and others being totally obliterated, while fire engines and ambulances with their sirens blaring were coming and going in all directions. Tony Crombie vividly remembered this gruelling experience and said: 'After several nights of this we finally discovered a side door guarded by a Lyons security guard who was an exact replica of the towering bully used by Charlie Chaplin in Easy Street. We were successful in humouring him into opening the door for us to slip inside by dropping half a crown into his ever-receptive palm.'

Those hours between 4 and 7 a.m. were magic to the teenagers, surrounded by the comforts of a warm restaurant and hot food. The open-air unofficial labour exchange of Archer Street had now been transferred to the comparative safety of the Corner House, which was thronged with musicians looking for gigs .......'

From A Fine Kind Of Madness: Ronnie Scott Remembered by Rebecca Scott with Mary Scott.


Listen to Tony Crombie And His Men including Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes playing Beryl's Bounce from 1958




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Al Capone And Fats Waller
Blind Willie Johnson
Sidney Bechet Coming Of Age
Times At Plunketts

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