Trumpets, Banjos, Clarinets & Striped Waistcoats

Trumpets, Banjos, Clarinets & Striped Waistcoats

RHGB26The Very Best Of British Trad Jazz

Coming along, as it did, almost directly on the heels of Skiffle and Rock & Roll, Trad was perhaps the least likely Pop Music phenomenon of the era. Yet for a brief spell at the end of the 50s and the very early 60s, it was massively popular – and not just here in the UK. Many Trad hits sold well internationally, several even making significant inroads into America and Japan, the two biggest record-buying markets at that time. This unique compilation includes virtually every major Trad hit record, collected together for the first time.

New Orleans-styled Jazz first took root in the UK in the late 40s, two of the earliest protagonists being trumpeters Humphrey Lyttelton, who joined the George Webb Dixielanders in 1947, and Ken Colyer, who formed The Crane River Jazz Band in 1949 in tandem with cornetplayer Sonny Morris. Colyer, who also played cornet and guitar, was universally known as ‘The Guv’nor’ and remains the undisputed kingpin of the post-WWII UK Jazz scene; indeed, the Crane River band would ultimately prove to be by far the most important and influential British Jazz band, its early members also including drummer Ron Bowden, trombonist John R.T. Davies and clarinetist Monty Sunshine. But they were musically unconventional and uncompromising, were consequently shunned by the Jazz establishment, and they eventually began to unravel under a welter of personnel changes (their recordings on this set feature a short-lived 1952 line-up, with only Morris and Sunshine surviving from the quintessential Cranes).

However, if Colyer was The Guv’nor, the UK Jazz scene’s catalyst was undoubtedly trombonist/bassist Chris Barber, who formed his first band in 1950. In 1953 they became Britain’s first full-time professional Jazz combo (hitherto, UK Jazz had been a strictly amateur/part-time affair), with a line-up which also included Pat Halcox (trumpet), Lonnie Donegan (banjo), Jim Bray (bass) and former Cranes Ron Bowden and Monty Sunshine. However, Halcox withdrew after just a couple of gigs, to be replaced by Ken ‘The Guv’nor’ Colyer, at which point the band began trading under Colyer’s name. But his tenure of the band was short-lived and he left a year later, following which their billing reverted to Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, recording the version of ‘Tiger Rag’ featured herein shortly afterwards (NB: this same line-up would effectively kick-start the UK Skiffle Boom – check out Freight Trains, Last Trains And Rock Island Lines, RHGB 23). Ottilie Patterson – whom Barber would later marry – joined the band in January ’55 and recorded extensively with them, ‘Jailhouse Blues’and ‘Down By The Riverside’ being two fine examples

The first significant crossover Pop hit enjoyed by the UK’s Jazz fraternity was Humphrey Lyttelton’s ‘Bad Penny Blues’, which made the Top 20 in the Summer of 1956. Recorded the same year, Chris Barber’s ‘Petite Fleur’ first appeared on his 10” LP Chris Barber Plays Vol.3 (alongside ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’); however it was belatedly issued as a single in the United States in late 1958, where it became a massive hit, reaching No.5. Its US success prompted a UK single release, where it became an even bigger hit, reaching No.3 (an identikit follow-up, ‘Lonesome’, also later made the UK Top 30). Ironically, Barber did not play on the disc: it was in essence a clarinet/banjo duet featuring Monty Sunshine and Dickie Bishop, a recipe which Sunshine later attempted to re-create himself, on sides like ‘Wild Cat Blues’, sadly without commercial success.

Talking of clarinetists, Bernard Stanley Bilk had briefly joined Ken Colyer’s band in 1954 before returning to his native Somerset to re-form his own band and bring them up to London. Following a character -building sojourn in Germany, they returned to the UK where Bilk hooked up with an astute promoter/ publicist, who launched him as Mr. Meanwhile, the apocryphally-named Temperance Seven (there were nine of them! – including former Crane John R.T. Davies) had also registered two massive hits, the chart-topping ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ and the exquisite ‘Pasadena’, followed by a handful of minor chart items, including ‘Chili Bom Bom’ and ‘Charleston’. Elsewhere, established Jazz musos like Terry Lightfoot (‘King Kong’, ‘Tavern In The Town’), Bob Wallis (‘I’m Shy, Mary Ellen’, ‘Come Along Please’) and Alex Welsh (‘Tansy’) all registered minor hits, as did Scotland’sfinest, The Clyde Valley Stompers (‘Peter And The Wolf’). Originally formed by Jim McHarg, the CVSs boasted a superb singer in Fiona Duncan, and they also recorded a pair of fine sides with the ubiquitous Lonnie Donegan. On the back of all these commercial successes, even old-timers like Nat Gonella (who’d first recorded ‘Nagasaki’way back in the 30s – a 1961 re-recording is featured on this compilation), Ken Colyer, Mick Mulligan, Dick Charlesworth, Freddy Randall, Mickey Ashman, Dave Carey, The Saints, Cy Laurie, Eric Silk and Teddy Layton all enjoyed renewed popularity, and in many cases earned their first decent money in years! Even mad indie producer Joe Meek tried to get in on the act, with discs from Chris & The Students and The Dauphine Street Acker Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band, bowler hat, striped waistcoat, and all. They registered their first hit in January 1960 with the cannily-titled ‘Summer Set’, proceeded by a steady stream of further chart records which included ‘Goodnight Sweet Prince’, ‘Buona Sera’, ‘That’s My Home’, ‘Creole Jazz’ and ‘Frankie And Johnny’. But, of course, Acker enjoyed his biggest success when he teamed up with The Leon Young String Chorale to record the mellifluous ‘Stranger On The Shore’, which topped both the UK and US charts.

Bilk’s success rather served to open the floodgates, and the next band through were Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen. Ball had served his apprenticeship with Charlie Galbraith, Sid Phillips, Eric Delaney and Terry Lightfoot, before forming his own band in 1958. Encouraged by Lonnie Donegan, who introduced Ball to his record company, Pye, and featured the band on his TV and radio shows, they charted with their second release, ‘Samantha’, following with a dozen or so further hits including ‘I Still Love You All’, ‘Midnight In Moscow’ (which reached No.2 in both the UK and the US), ‘March Of The Siamese Children’, ‘The Green Leaves Of Summer’, ‘So Do I’ and ‘The Pay Off’.

Meanwhile, the apocryphally-named Temperance Seven (there were nine of them! – including former Crane John R.T. Davies) had also registered two massive hits, the chart-topping ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ and the exquisite ‘Pasadena’, followed by a handful of minor chart items, including ‘Chili Bom Bom’ and ‘Charleston’. Elsewhere, established Jazz musos like Terry Lightfoot (‘King Kong’, ‘Tavern In The Town’), Bob Wallis (‘I’m Shy, Mary Ellen’, ‘Come Along Please’) and Alex Welsh (‘Tansy’) all registered minor hits, as did Scotland’sfinest, The Clyde Valley Stompers (‘Peter And The Wolf’). Originally formed by Jim McHarg, the CVSs boasted a superb singer in Fiona Duncan, and they also recorded a pair of fine sides with the ubiquitous Lonnie Donegan.

On the back of all these commercial successes, even old-timers like Nat Gonella (who’d first recorded ‘Nagasaki’way back in the 30s – a 1961 re-recording is featured on this compilation), Ken Colyer, Mick Mulligan, Dick Charlesworth, Freddy Randall, Mickey Ashman, Dave Carey, The Saints, Cy Laurie, Eric Silk and Teddy Layton all enjoyed renewed popularity, and in many cases earned their first decent money in years! Even mad indie producer Joe Meek tried to get in on the act, with discs from Chris & The Students and The Dauphine Street Six. However, the arrival of The Beatles and the subsequent Beat Boom rendered Trad anachronistic virtually overnight, in terms of commercial Pop success, although the bands and musicians themselves would all continue to enjoy popularity on the various live Jazz circuits for many years to come. Indeed, Chris Barber and Acker Bilk still continue to ply their trade to this very day, despite both men now being well into their eighties.