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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Willie Payne & Ossie Riani

Sax player Brian Baggott, told me via his son, Paul Baggott, that Willie Payne, worked with pianist/organist/saxist Ossie Riani in a club in South Shields. The last time he saw Willie was at Ossie's funeral in 1981.
After the funeral, Brian gave Willie a lift back to Newcastle and he remembers them listening to Stan Getz and Johnny Smith playing Moonlight in Vermont.
Ossie was also a character and an excellent jazz musician. His family had an ice cream business - The Gaiety Temperance Café and Ice Cream Parlour in Houghton-le-Spring. Ossie wasn't into the family business so that when he was asked to paint the shelves it is reported that he painted round the sweet jars rather than removing them.
When someone wanted to play an Elvis record on the jukebox Ossie told them to go to Jaconelli's down the street!
The following is added courtesy of the Houghton Heritage Site: Osvaldo was the first son of Columbo and Nelida, and was born in 1920. During the Second World War, Ossie, on account of him being a virtuoso musician, worked for the Government Communications Headquarters; afterwards, he used to say that he handled the personal coded messages of Winston Churchill, but he would never ever discuss the nature of the messages, even to his dying day.
Ossie was a sleeping partner in the Riani business, as he was a fulltime pro jazz saxist working in London; he played with Hughie Green and George Evans. Ossie appeared as an extra in the 1939 musical comedy Down Our Alley.
When the film was screened in one of Houghton’s picture houses, it was billed as ‘starring our very own Ossie Riani’, much to his embarrassment. He had small speaking parts in other films, including Night Train to Munich.
Ossie’s son, Peter Riani, shares his memories of his father:
“There is one story my dad told me about; he and a few other Houghton lads managed to get some plans from one of the libraries or maybe even the university in Durham, and built an aircraft! There was a cliff or a high hill in Houghton that they planned to sail this full size glider off the top. His mum, Nelida, found out and marched up with an axe and hacked the airframe and the wing ribs! He told me he was gutted but it probably saved his life. Unfortunately I don't think any pictures were taken, but he was clear on the involvement of quite a sizable team of Houghton boys. Ossie was quite a character!
One other thing: Ossie sold his beloved tenor saxophone, a Selmer Mk VI, to South Tyneside Local Education Authority in 1977. Ultimately if I ever wanted to buy it back, it would cost thousands. His sax is used as a training saxophone for exceptional young jazz musicians. I would be interested to know if it's still in circulation. If it is, there is another piece of Houghton history floating about!”
Ossie died in 1981 at the age of 61 years.
I wonder if that Mark VI is still around?
Lance.

7 comments :

Ray Chester said...

The South Shields club where Ossy played was the Beach Club which was on the sea front at the bottom of Ocean Road. He played organ and I used to do deps for him, usually on Tuesdays, because he didn't like working seven nights. I remember one night which was particularly enjoyable when the cabaret was Madeline Bell.

He was, as you say, a character and was very likeable which was just as well because he could be unreliable. His family ran an icecream parlour in Houghtop-le-Spring and I first knew him as a very good tenor player. He was older than me and so I was a little in awe of him. The first time I encountered him personally was in 1950 when I had entered a quartet in a Melody Maker dance band contest which took place at the Oxford Galleries. It is a long story and I won't bore you with it but Ossy had agreed to play for me when another player let me down very late in the day. I think we did a rehearsal but on the night he just didn't turn up which rather put me off him for a while - he never gave an explanation. I was very lucky because there was a good sax player who just happened to be there as a spectator who borrowed an instrument from another competitor and played for me, sight reading. We got good comments from the judges, one of whom was Ralph Sharon which intimidated me a touch.
When he died I was among those invited back to the house by Dorothy, his wife, asked me to play Laura on the piano because it had been his favourite song. It felt a bit strange because it was a long time ago when the conventions were a bit different to what they are now but I finished up playing for a while.
Ray.

Mal Maddock said...

I never met Ossie but a story I was told (By the late Ron Studholm) was about when he was working at the Shoreline club in South Shields,
The band had to play a comedian on & the brief was play something fast & when the guy appears on stage he would tell them to stop...The band were to ignore him & carry on playing....the comedian would repeatedly tell them to stop....The band ignoring each order until the comedian shouted (Hilarious).
The club at this time was always getting into trouble with I believe, after hours drinking....This was one of those occasions..... The band started to play something fast but before the comedian could appear, the club was raided & a police officer appeared on stage to inform everyone to stay where they were, He then turned to the band (Who were still playing) & asked them to stop...You guessed it, they ignored him....They were repeatedly told to stop to no avail The final scene that was recounted was two officers dragging Ossie from the Hammond while he was trying to squeeze any last notes from C jam..
Mal Maddock

Peter said...

My dad was a strange animal indeed. In the late 90’s I put my beloved Fender Rhodes up for sale in the yellow ads paper for £800 and a guy called Sam rang me to make an offer on it but when he found out I was a Riani, such was notoriety of my dad, he asked if I was related to ‘The’ Ossie Riani. I said that I was and he told me the following tale about Desi Lumsden and my dad. It was probably in all likleyhood down at the Shoreline in South Shields (I'm guessing). Anyway, Ossie is playing organ and a bombastic boastful amateur saxophone act turns up to play popular tunes of the day along with the easyplay solo arrangement. Ossie amd Desi offer to do an improvised backing because they both happen to have their MK VI’s with them. Ossie says when I give you the nod you do a solo and when your done lean back and give us a wink and then we’ll give it a go. The guy agrees and imagines how good this will make him look with his own backing musicians on stage. The number starts and Ossie and Desi provide flawless backing as the guy plays the lead and when he gets the nod from Ossie he drops into his basic impro routine. Thinking that he’s pulled a scorcher he winks at the two pros magnanimously and they respond rather unkindly by blasting him off stage with some phenomenal musicianship and corking bebop. The guy starts dismantling his sax on stage while they are still riffing off of each other and has it packed away and is off the stage before the number is up.
That story put me off selling the Rhodes, but I still can’t (nor will ever) be able to play it like my dad.

Another tale I remember was when he was playing at the Southwick Social Club in Sunderland in the early 70’s. He told us that they had had a belter of a gig and really blasted the Hammond. So much so that it over heated and as is wont to do when so much dust and detritus covers the valves transformers as it heats up, ignites. There were large flames licking and pouring out the back and my dad played on oblivious because he was reading a score. Bobby Carr noticed first and they ripped the back off the Hammond and were hitting it with beer towels which was making it worse. Ossie played on until someone unplugged the organ. The audience cheered thinking that this was all part of the act. The fire was put out eventually. I can’t remember whether the Hammond was salvageable or not but I do remember my dad saying that someone ( probably Joe Greener) was going to throw my dads pint over the flames. Ossie was indignant, not because of the damage it would have done to the Hammond, but because it would have been “a waste of a perfectly good pint”
Yes saying he was a character is a kind of understatement.

I remember Ray playing Laura at his funeral. It was a well cool moment and very touching thanks Ray.

Peter Riani

Marjorie DeLuca said...

Hi
I'm so interested to see this. My dad always told me about Ossie Riani. My Dad, Bob Horn, played in a band with Joe Clark. Do any of you have information about The Astoria ballroom in Durham? They played there quite a bit.

Marjorie DeLuca said...

Actually I think my dad played with Colombo Riani. I have a really neat photograph of the band. There's a drum that says "Gaiety" on it. Looks like it's around 1930.

Lance said...

Love to see that photo Marjorie and I'm sure some of our older readers would be too.

Marjorie DeLuca said...

You can see it on my blog at http://marjoriedeluca.blogspot.ca
It's about three quarters of the way down the blog entitled: Old Photographs

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