Playing Jazz for Charity, ca. 1965.
December, 1964 – or possibly December1965? It’s
amazing how unreliable our memories can become after forty-odd years! I don’t know
which year this is. Just this afternoon, 3rd January 2009, walking back from a
shopping trip, I passed this corner of St. Philips Cathedral in the centre of Birmingham, and suddenly
remembered that we played there once, many years ago. And, that there was a
photograph of the event. So here it is! The main local daily newspaper, The
Birmingham Mail, had an annual Charity Fund, called the ‘Birmingham Mail Christmas
Tree Fund’, that collected for worthy charities. How
our band came to be selected to take part, I have no idea; but I think we all
readily agreed, in that any and every opportunity to play Jazz was – even if
unpaid – to be grasped at instantly! I do remember it was cold that day. Well,
it would be, wouldn’t it, in those days before Global Warming? The band was
called the Zenith Hot Stompers – and still exists
today! From left to right, the members then were: Alan Bradley (trombone);
Terry McGrath (sousaphone); Tony Pipkin (trumpet); Derek
Bennett (drums); yours truly (clarinet), and Alan Oliver (banjo). I’m happy to
report that we’re all still around except for Alan Oliver, who died at the
early age of 55, quite some years ago. A couple of observations
on this photo. are probably worth making. There
is another sousaphone to be seen at right. Whose was it? One candidate would be
Pete Thompson, who was the original sousaphone player with the band. He moved
to the London area
around this time, and Terry took over. Exactly when he moved I can’t remember.
Also, I am playing a metal clarinet – which is ridiculous outdoors in winter!
Terry McGrath found that clarinet in the loft of his new house, when he moved
in. The case was stamped: ‘U.S.’ and so
it was probably left behind after WW2. He generously sold it to me for £2. It
was a Boehm system, and I have always played Simple System since I was about 17
years old – I must be all of 20 years old in this photo! So why I took a metal
Boehm out in December must be put down to general disorganization. Lastly, the overcoat
I’m wearing is an ex-Royal Air Force item, given to me by an old friend, Phil.
Bennett. It belonged to his father. Truly, those were simpler times!
written 3rd January 2009.