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THE JOHN BENNETT PAGE - Number 5,  July/Aug 2016

 

In this issue I'm going back a long, long way; almost before time began.... Well, that's what it feels like!

 

 

1953, aged 17.   Daydreaming about things to come perhaps.........

 

1953.    Ken, aged 23, on National Service.    Ken had the right idea - keep your battledress uniform on when sitting in and everyone will think you're a hero!      A couple of years later I was on National Service myself, and I used to sit in with the Cy Laurie Band in Windmill Street Soho, fully clothed in khaki.   (That's just me; not the Cy Laurie band!)

 

Summer 1956.   An impromptu session on the roof of a house on Hampstead Heath.   Note Ken Colyer, visible just above my head; and the diligent chap who's making tea in the foreground.    Those were the days!

 

 

A nice sleazy picture of Trevor Williams (tpt/bandleader) and me 'giving it one' as they used to say back then, at a gig in deepest Soho.

 

 

Spring 1956.   Still with Trevor Williams, but about to join the Terry Lightfoot Band

 

Spring 1956.   Ken still with the Sid Phillips band.

 

 

1956.    The semi-pro Lightfoot band: Johnny Richardson (dms), Bill Reid (obscured - bass), Terry Lightfoot, Colin Smith (tpt),  John Bennett (tmb).   Seated: Al Wilcox (bjo)

One month later the semi-pro band became a pro band.   Band members were given a stark choice by manager Ken Lindsay; if they wanted to keep their day job they'd have to leave the band!   Simple as that.  

Some hard decisions had to be made.    Al Wilcox worked in the printing trade.    He decided not to risk his job, so he left and was never heard of again.    Johnny Richardson had arguably more to lose: he was on his last year as an apprentice in the jewellery trade.  He decided to give that up and ever since has enjoyed a long and fruitful career in the band business.   Trumpeter Colin Smith did not like the cold way the decision was put to us by Lindsay.  He left on principle, but was to return to the band a year later.     Bill Reid and I decided what the hell?  It's worth the risk.   And it was! 

 

 

Skiffle was all the rage in 1956.   Its principal exponent, Lonnie Donegan, had achieved chart success with Rock Island Line and went on a short tour of the USA.   This concert was his 'welcome home' do!  

 

 

The front line of Kenny's semi-pro band.   Dave Jones, Kenny, Charlie Galbraith (who was actually the bandleader).

 

1958.  An after-hours session with some of the Lightfoot Band.  L-R: Bill Reid bass, John Bennett piano, Ginger Baker drums, and Terry clarinet.

 

 

1958.   Kenny (minus moustache!) joins the Terry Lightfoot Band.   Here he is between Billy Loch (dms) and Paddy Lightfoot (bjo/gtr)

 

 

The Lightfoot band's new front line: John Bennett, Kenny Ball, Terry Lightfoot

 

 

At the Cavern, when it was a jazz club!

 

 

                                                           

October 1958.  Melody Maker breaks the news.....

 

 

 

 

The birth of the new Kenny Ball Band.   Left to right: Colin 'Barney' Bates (pno), Brian Prudence (bass), hidden behind Barney's coffee cup.  John Potter (bjo), John Bennett, Kenny, Tony Budd (dms), Dave Jones (clt)

 

 

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Your emails........

Write to john.bennett173@ntlworld.com

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From Mike Boxall:

Hi John,

I'm wondering if your encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Ball-istic can help me with a query about one of the Band's 1963 releases - Hazelmere? It was on the B side of Casablanca released in April '63.

It was originally composed as a military march which Kenny arranged in a more 'New Orleans funeral' style. I'm a military music fan who's old enough to remember the 'trad jazz' boom of the early 60s, and I'm hoping you may be able to shed some light on why Kenny chose this march. Was it because he'd heard it during his National Service, or had something else brought it to his attention?

I'd be very interested to hear any info you might have on Hazelmere.

Kind regards - Mike

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From John Bennett:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your email.     I certainly do remember recording Hazlemere, but after all this time I was completely flummoxed as to its origins, etc.      I had a vague recollection of it having something to do with the Guards regiments.    Then it dawned – there was a definite connection with an advertisement for Guards cigarettes!  

After a bit of poking around Google I discovered an item on Youtube which may interest you.  Tap in 'Guards cigarettes advert' and you'll find a bit of 1960’s film of the Guards marching with the tune Hazlemere playing in the background.    It’s not our version; it’s  played by a military band, with flutes, march style.    There’s a bit at the beginning and another at the end.  

Let me know how you get on.

All the best,

John

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From Mike Boxall:

Dear John,

Thanks for your very quick and informative reply. I’ve found the advert you mention on YouTube so my question is answered - great!

Here’s more information about Hazelmere than you ever wanted to know:

  • Although the end of the advert shows a Guards Band playing, the music is actually being played by the Corps of Drums (drums and flutes) - I play in a Corps of Drums myself, hence my interest (obsession?)
  • The tune has been speeded up - it's a march but you'll notice that the Guards are not marching at the furious pace of the music.
  • The composer of Hazelmere was Drum Major Tom Birkett. As a lad he'd played cornet in a brass band so on joining the Coldstream Guards was sent to the Corps of Drums as he could already play the bugle (the Drummers' second instrument).
  • At the end of WW2 he had the job of re-forming and training the Guards Corps of Drums for the VE and VJ Day parades. Lacking any music he started to arrange Band marches and also write some of his own.
  • Hazelmere would have been written around this time and was named after his wife, Hazel. (Confusingly there's also a march Haslemere named after the town in Surrey.)
  • Hazelmere is still a popular Corps of Drums tune today - if you watch Trooping of The Colour on 11th June you'll very probably hear it played by the Corps of Drums (not the Bands) while the troops form up to march past.

I’ve really enjoyed discovering this march given the New Orleans funeral treatment. It seems to me to be the mark of good music that it sounds good however you play it. Sadly I can’t express my appreciation to Kenny himself, but my thanks to you for your part in the record and in answering my strange question so promptly.

Kind regards - Mike

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From John Bennett:

Hi Mike

Thanks for your very informative notes on Hazlemere.     I shall definitely tune in to the Trooping of the Colour on the 11th June.  

All the very best,

John

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From Digby Fairweather:-

Dear John,

..... I wondered if you’d like to hear the story? I’ll take a risk..........

Back in l988 I set up the National Jazz Archive in Loughton Central Library. Since then it’s been doing quite well. The NJA is our national collection of books, journals, posters, letters, photographs  – just about anything you can read or look at – on the subject of jazz, and it’s now in its twenty-eighth year, so we must be doing something right! We’ve had three Heritage Lottery grants too which helps and on our 25th Anniversary in 2013 Cleo Alec and Jacqui Dankworth played a big concert for us down the road from Loughton library (in the Methodist Church) with the Ronnie Scott House Band – all for the huge sum of £1500.00! Keith and the Ball band did a fundraiser for us too (we’re a Charity) which was marvellous........

However the NJA is now bursting its spatial banks and a few years ago there was a rumour that our governing body Essex County Council (who supply our premises/heating/lighting and pay our Archivist, David Nathan) might not be able to go on doing so because of financial cuts. In other words the project was now in very considerable dangerS o I went to see our 'Chief Executive' (Town Clerk) at Southend on Sea - where I live with wife Gwen - and he said: 'I'll give you a new room  in a half-empty Art Gallery (the Beecroft, built in l974) and you can open up a big new department there'.

There is so much space throughout the building that I - and a group of good friends – started talking seriously about the idea of a UK Jazz Centre again. You might remember, John,  that they were going to build one in Floral Street Covent Garden back in the l980s – but the money mysteriously ‘disappeared’!!!!!! – all three million pounds. However that’s thirty years ago and the Arts Council seem happy to look at the idea again – and have provisionally offered us half a million pounds to get started! We have a 25 year agreement with Southend Borough Council signed and sealed as well as a three-year strategic plan. This  includes  a museum of jazz memorabilia, a big space for art exhibitions, a full research collection, a small cinema (!) and - most exciting perhaps - a club area which will be designed to replicate our beloved 100 Club which  may well be torn down soon because of re-development in Oxford Street. (How sad!!) Roger H. loves the idea and has given us a whole collection of old posters (framed) and other memorabilia – which I hope will go on the walls when the building’s up! So you must come and see us. It’s still early days – we’re open once a week on Saturdays from 10-4.30 in the new Beecroft Art Gallery in Victoria Avenue.

.....Another thing that occurred to me was the matter of the ‘show’.   In the 60s I remember you doing wonderful creatively adventurous albums like ‘Pixie Dust’ – one of my many favourites. And at the very start of the band your influences were Hackett-Teagarden (exquisite) and Wilbur de Paris too??   With regard to this I remember doing a few jobs with the American guitarist Marty Grosz a few years ago, and he remembered the Ball band in the States – around l961? “We just thought ‘a bunch of English guys’” said Marty “ – and when they arrived they blew us out of the room and down the street!”.......

Love to you and Ann,

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From John Bennett:

Dear Digby,

 I remember when Ken and I were in the Lightfoot band, and plotting Kenny's future band, we both decided our influences would be the Condon, Hackett, Teagarden style, plus the Wilbur de Paris band.   That sounds a bit weird now, but I think we both saw Wilbur de Paris as a kind of link between the British jazz band/Barber style and the smoother dixieland sound.    Ken also wanted Fats Waller's 'Havin' a Ball' in there somewhere - can't remember why; just the title, I think.   

As for the LP 'Pixie Dust':  John Parker had a lot to do with the arrangements for that album.     For me, Parker was an inspiration - and for the band too, as Andy Cooper has often said.   We were definitely at our most musical when John P. was in the band.       Shame he had to go (well he didn't have to go - but that's another story!)    

Phew, that'll have to be all for now, Digby, but please let me know of any other queries you have - I always enjoy delving into the old days.

Love to all, and I'll let you know when Ann and I can come down to Southend,

John

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From Marc Daumler, Berlin:

Thank you so much for answering my mails.

If it is Ok for you, I will write not „Mr. Bennett“, I will write „John“. (Unbelievably , I´m writing to Mr. Bennett from Kenny Ball Jazzmen und call him John!)

Be sure, I will write more and sooner.   Today, I have to do a lot in my agency.

It will be a honor for me to stay on your page on the Keith Ball website!

In the morning, I looked in the single records from my father, and I found some of Chris Barber, of Papa Bue´s Viking Jazzband, Ken Colyer and sure, some of Kenny Ball, here some Pictures!

I wish you a great day from berlin, your second home!

Marc

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From John Bennett:

Hi Marc,

Thanks for your email.    Of course your place in this email page is secure - just keep sending in the messages!  

All the very best,

John

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From Alan Roy:

Hi John

I hope this finds you in good spirits and, every now and then, glancing at your King case and thinking one day, and soon.

Warmest congratulations on your latest newsletter that I found very interesting and colourful too. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when you all discovered that you were playing for Kenny Ball and her Jazzmen; I bet that raised many a laugh and many continuing wry comments!

It was good to see Digby’s comment in your newsletter; another fine musician who has done so much for British jazz. Have you ever thought of collaborating with him on a book on how to play Dixieland trombone? The sort of book I think would be well received would be based on the Bill Watrous/Alan Ralph book Trombonisms. Do you know it? It’s only 48 pages long but filled with a wealth of information and loads of examples. I’d suggest that you sell your book as a .pdf file on the web, before thinking about the costs of printing it as a book.

And if you need a bit more inspiration to dust off the trombone have a listen to Track 10 on KB’s Live at the BP Studienhaus CD. The trombonist’s solo on Blue Turning Grey is superb. Then listen to the way he drives the band on Track 6, Ory’s Creole Trombone, absolutely outstanding. Any idea who he is?

John, I know you’re a fan of Abe Lincoln; do you know his website http://www.abelincolntrombone.com/?  It is well worth a visit, and when you are there have a look at the solo transcriptions by Bob Burnham.

As ever John, thanks for the music, and the memories. 

Alan

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Hi Alan,

Thanks for your email and kind comments.   I have to say I enjoy being retired - after all, 54 years with the Kenny Ball Band is more than enough for anyone I would have thought.    You're right though, I do  occasionally glimpse the King out of the corner of my eye and wonder.....     But whether I've still got the puff for a complete session is another story!

I do know the Abe Lincoln web site.   There's some tremendous stuff on it - and he was still playing at 90! 

'Kenny Ball and Her Jazzmen' seemed to go down quite well in Russia.   I think they looked on it as British humour.    I remember one Russian gent coming into our dressing room in Moscow.  'Mr Kenny Ball is living up to his name', he said, 'he is showing his balls to the audience'.