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Jazz All-Nighters

Diz DisleyWe start this page with Johnny Johnstone's memories of a Jazz All-Nighter held at the Royal Albert Hall in London from 10.00 pm on January 18th to 6.00 am on January 19th, 1957.

The pictures are from Johnny's Souvenir Programme thatGraham Burbidge cost him the exorbitant sum of 2/-, but at least it put something in his hand on which to collect autographs.

Johnny points out that when guitarist Diz Disley signed his name, Diz the musician / cartoonist inevitably added the curled moustache.

The second autograph from the same programme is of drummer Graham Burbidge who we think was playing with Sandy Brown until November 1957 when he joined the Chris Barber band.

The Jazz All-Nighters were still a bit of a novelty at the time (didn't they start at the Cy Laurie club?).

We should like to hear from anyone who has attended a Jazz All-Nighter from those times and can tell us more about them. Please contact us if you can.

John Henry says:
I remember an all-nighter at the Corn Exchange in Bath in the early 60s when I was a student. I think the hosts were the Blue Notes and the Avon Cities Jazz Bands from Bristol. I think we had Alan Elsdon down from London. We took our sleeping bags (mainly to sit on) and just jived all night with ample glasses of the local ale! The classic comment I remember from a girl I took along summed up our innocence at the time: 'Thanks, John, that's the first time I've been with a man all night!'

June Bastable writes:
I went to a Cy Laurie all-nighter in June 1956 (a year before I moved down to London). It was a revelation to me and was one of the reasons I had such a strong urge to leave grey post-war Leeds and join the real youth of the day. This was living!!! I remember it was so hot, I took my vest off and left it in the ladies' room, never to be seen again. I was most impressed by the weeping walls and condensation raining down from the ceiling. There was an old sofa to sit on if you could get a seat. I can't recall which band was playing (probably Cy's band) but the crush of bodies remains with me to this day, as does the image of George Melly in his striped pants perched on a handy dustbin by the stage. Think of the impression this made on a 17-year old provincial girl!


Ron Drakeford includes an item on all-nighters in his Kingston Jazz memories (click here)

Lennie Williams

The Royal Albert Hall venue, if I recall, was particularly well attended with all the top bands of the day (and some nights). I can recall at least two such all-nighters there where a group from the Fighting Cocks would get together and book a “box”.

Lennie Williams
Photo © Ron Drakeford

Most vivid memories however centre around Ken Colyer's club at 51 Great Newport Street (The '51 Club') usually on a Saturday night. Come the morning, it would be a walk back to Waterloo station via Charing Cross and over Waterloo Bridge. Needless to say we were probably the only ones around that early on a Sunday morning, and all looking to get home for some kip before being up and at it again on Sunday evening at the Cocks.

There was also another all-night venue at the Lyceum, which was non-stop music as a revolving stage was incorporated. As one band finished it's last number of the set, the oncoming band would strike up in the background a chorus or two before the previous band ended. The stage would then revolve with one band playing out and the other playing in. Again top line traditional bands were featured. One such all-nighter recorded for posterity resulted in a well oiled group photo of the Fighting Cocks contingent. This I have included in case anyone recalls the names. I was going to use this under the “characters” heading that I started, but the all-nighter theme presented itself, so here we are:-

All-Nighter photograph


Top left to right:
Margaret (Terri) Claridge, yours truly, Barry Foster, Lawrence (Loe) Beisly, Ray Ring. On his own, not in a row, in front of post Mick (The General) Brocking.

Middle row left to right:
Paul Emery, Dicky Baker, Spud (never knew his real name), Mick Hart.

Front row: Ian and girlfriend. (Ian's father ran the pub at the Triangle between Norbiton and New Malden called the Brewster, now the Willow Tree). I can't recall the girl's name ( Pauline?) although she and Ian were together a long time and may have eventually married.

Barry Foster went on to form Chessington Scooters with another character David (Spider) Jermey. Spider eventually went on to become a successful race horse trainer. Mick Hart was a fixture and fitting at the Fighting Cocks and used to serve behind the bar until going blind due to diabetes. Dicky Baker lived opposite me in Thames Ditton. He became a tiler and emigrated to the USA (Las Vegas), tiling swimming pools, later becoming a banker. All illegal until an amnesty and he declared himself.

Paul Emery died fairly young, but his elder brother Mick (Gruesome as previously mentioned) is still with us and lives in Walton. Ray Ring was a welder and died around eight years ago. Lawrence Beisly was in the print trade and was a compositor with the Financial Times. He married Terri (Margaret Claridge), had 3 sons and he died in 1994. Mick, 'the General', has been contributing to this story and lives in Chessington.


Jim Manning has discovered our page on jazz all-nighter gigs and has written with a good reflection of those insomniacally heady days:

In the late 1950s (I think) and certainly the early 1960s, there were two sorts of all-night session: the gala shows at the Albert Hall - when there would be ten or a dozen traditional bands on the bill - and the Saturday night / Sunday morning session held in jazz clubs, principally the Studio 51 in Great Newport Street (The Ken Colyer Club).

The Albert Hall sessions were splendid. Once, with a few friends, I booked a box. It was a long way from the stage, and the musicians were tiny figures in the distance. The amplification was good, and we could hear the music clearly. These were the days of the two groups of traditional jazz followers - the New Orleans revivalists and the 'traddies', who Royal Albert Hallfollowed the more commercially orientated bands. At one Albert Hall do, I recall Kenny Ball coming on just after ken Colyer and he received some light-hearted booing. The Colyer set received the usual reverential applause.

One aspect of these midnight to six sessions was that the punters took alcohol into the Hall - and drank it inside! Whilst some people slept on the floor, the vast majority got their money's worth by listening to the music - some of which, in a concert setting, was very good indeed. There was some dancing, jiving, and only a few stewards.

The club sessions were completely different. The Saturday all-nighter followed a normal session by another band, usually Ken Colyer. There was no bar at Studio 51, but a few fine pubs were within walking distance, so the audience tended to go from a pub to the session. There seemed to be a certain status attached to participating in an all-nighter, evwen though many ended up sleeping on the floor in a very small, cramped, smoke-filled space. The bands tended to be semi-pro, and around 1961, my own band, Jim Manning's Crescent New Orleans Jazz Band, played a whjole session. It was hard work and we were far from our best, although many fans from the Woolwich area were present.

The ceiling at the '51 was low, and the acoustics were such as to muffle the music. The really ardent fans used to sit at the front, near the small stage, and the back of the room was the dossing down area.

Although I had a spell on Thursday evenings with the Bill Brunskill band at the Cy Laurie Club in the early 1960s, I was never aware that Mac's had ever hosted all-nighters. It was a larger room that the '51, with a much higher ceiling, and probably greater floor space.

There was clearly much excitement in being among the audience at all-nighters, much as there was at 'all-night parties'?

In other parts of your page on jazz all-nighters you mention Dave Cutting - a really fine, strong trombonist. I sometimes played alongside him in the New Excelsior Brass Band from Woolwich and the Kent area. John Shillitoe wa on trumpet with me in 1965 at Friday night sessions at the North Kent Tavern - happy Days! The 'kid' was a splendid exponent of the styles of jazz trumpet played by Kid Howard, Percy Humphrey, Bunk Johnson, Kid Thomas Valentine and Wooden Joe Nicholas. He was also a fine vocalist, particularly on comedy numbers such as The Lancashire Toreador (George Formby).

Ed: I hadn't come across Wooden Joe Nicholas but here he is playing Up Jumped The Devil (click here). 'A famous recording made in Artesian Hall New Orleans in 1945 by Wooden Joe Nicholas trumpet, Albert Burbank clarinet, Jim Robinson trombone, Lawrence Marrero banjo, Alcide Slow Drag Pavageau bass, Baby Dodds drums. Wooden Joe was the uncle of Albert Nicholas and this recording demonstrates the true New Orleans style.'

Peter Maguire says:

Just looking through the page - to see information about the Dave Burnham Band in Poland, when I saw the Albert Hall All Nighter item:

At that time I was in the RAF stationed at RAF Tangmere. A conventional and model citizen - latterly. Just a few months before the Albert Hall event I had been taken by a friend called Peter Nickolson to a jazz party at the Guildford School of Art and Design. It transformed my life. Out went the blazer and tie. The grey flannels. Shined shoes. In came a parody of the beat profile. Epiphany that eventually found me playing around Soho clubs and coffee bars and wearing more authentic beatnik gear.

But to recap. With a couple of friends I went to the Albert Hall All Nighter and what a fantastic night it was. Non-stop music featuring the better and lesser known bands of that era. The floor was heaving with jivers. One thing I do remember was the multiplicity of curtain drawn boxes. Who knows what was happening behind those curtains. The entire event had an exhilarating feeling of almost total anarchy. It was an experience that in some ways shaped my future life. Certainly my ambition to become a jazz musician.

(Peter Maguire runs the website Jazz Clubs Worldwide)




If you found this article interesting you might also like these other articles on the website:
How I Found Jazz and Changed My Life by Kathy Sanders
Finding Trad by Anthony Abel
Bill Brunskill, The Jubilee and Other Jazz Bands by Don Coe

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