I know all blog readers will by now be aware of the very special evening of jazz that is going to be with us at The Hedsor Social Club SL8 5ES this Thursday, August 8th, and many of you will know this is to celebrate my 75th birthday.
Actually my birthday is the day before, and August 8th is actually the day my wife and I celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary. June, who isn’t that fond of jazz, has kindly allowed me to have my “party” at Hedsor, and to help me celebrate 75 years with my jazz loving friends and with some of the best live jazz around.
I thought that just for once I would ramble on (as old people do) about how and when I started listening to jazz music.
During WWII dance band music and American swinging music was always available on “The Radio”. That was the Home Service and the Light Program. And often we got the American Forces Network as well on our valve AM radio’s.
At about this time on a radio not unlike the one above, I started listening to Kenny Baker's Dozen.
My first introduction to records was via 78 rpm disks played on a wind up “acoustic” gramophone during the war. We played “Songs from the Western Front” during air raids in our Anderson Shelter!
No, this isnt my family, but it IS an Anderson Shelter!
But real jazz came into my ears around 1952, probably first from Sid Phillips (78 of “Clarinet Marmalade”), then 78’s followed from Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 and All Stars.
I think once we had an electric gramophone capable of playing LP’s (about 1954) I found Ken Colyer and Humphrey Lyttelton. You will not that these are bands that were led by trumpet players. Those early 78’s got me playing a coach horn alongside them with me playing as many notes as I could match! As that wasn’t many, in the end I purchased at trumpet!
The Blue Anchor as it is now.
So I played Trad (badly) for a few years with a number of friends. One of those was a drummer who just so happened to live in The Blue Anchor at Hammersmith. We both played to his record player. Wonderful stuff, the music and the beer! When he decided (as a drummer) that he needed to know more chords and started to learn the guitar, I had a go at playing the drums to! As a trad trumpet player I didn't need to know any chords of course!
Much to the relief of the general public (and the underground system, have you ever tried going to gigs on the London Underground helping to carry a drum kit?) I last played in public in 1971.
Listening to jazz, and being keen of Hi Fi equipment has never stopped! My taste in style developed over the years. I had always listened to American music, and an early LP was The Buck Clayton Jam Session with ”The Hucklebuck”, and one of my first major equipment purchases as an apprentice engineer was a Leak TL12 Plus amplifier with a Varislope 3 Pre amp. 15 Guineas this cost me out of my £3 wage!
I think Bruce Turner introduced me to a saxophone. Before him we trad people thought that a saxophone was an impure thought! Now one of the records I would take with me to a desert island would be from the LP Humph at the Conway, and Bruce turner playing “St James Infirmary Blues”. I’ve worn out 2 LP’s of this concert, and now have it on CD!
Live jazz music was harder to pay for than classical music. As an engineering apprentice I qualified for very cheap tickets for the Industrial Concerts that were put on in the Albert Hall once a month on Fridays by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, but for jazz, the cheapest way was to join a club. So, I became a member of the 100 Club (100 Oxford Street), and of Studio 51 (under Moon’s Garage in Soho Square).
Little did I realise how large my collection of LP’s and then CD’s would become during the intervening 50 years or so. Neither did I dream that I would actually get to know some of the fine musicians I now listen to. But, I am very privileged to be friends with most of those who come to play at The Hedsor Social Club. I am also privileged to have those who listen to the music there as my friends as well.
It will be a great evening of jazz on Thursday. It would be great to have YOUR company there as well. I cant promise another bash in 5 years time, but I can now promise you that at our Christmas Party on December 19th, we have coming as our very special guest Tina May!!
Take care, and perhaps you too can try and keep live jazz alive!