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Bebop Spoken There

Danny Gatton: "I was tired of playing in beer joints. I wanted to do something tangible like building cars. But once you do music it gets into your blood. You can get away from it for awhile but sooner or later it comes back to you." - (Down Beat April 1991).

Tal Farlow: "There were times when I would stop [playing guitar] and do sign painting." - (Downbeat December 5, 1963)

Archives

Today Sunday August 20

Afternoon.
Mark Williams (solo guitar) - Cherry Tree Restaurant, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond, Newcastle. 12:30pm. Free.
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Blues @ The Bay - Tanner Smith's 17-19 South Parade, Whitley Bay NE26 2RE, 0191 2525941. 4pm. Free. Blues jam w. Scott Wall & Charlie Philp.
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Musicians Unlimited - Park Hotel, Park Rd., Hartlepool TS26 9HU. 01249 233126.1pm. Free. Summer Break. Back Sept. 3
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Somethin' Blue - Vesuvio, 3a Houndgate, Darlington DL1 5RL. 01325 788564. 5pm. Weekly.
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Evening
Chris Martin - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free.
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Paul Edis Trio - Black Bull, Bridge St. Blaydon NE21 4JJ. 8pm. £5.
To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Road to Hong Kong with Colin Aitchison - Part Two.

Q: Obviously Hughie, your dad, was a big influence on you not just playing-wise but in what you listened to.
A: Dad used to have a very big 78rpm collection with just about everyone - Muggsy Spanier’s Great 16, Eddie Condon, Count Basie etc. I grew up listening to all of these greats. He was a French Polisher at Swan Hunters' Shipyard and times did get hard with the strikes and other things. Sadly, he had to sell off a huge part of his collection to make ends meet.  Later, with the arrival of vinyl, his interest was mainly with Duke Ellington. They do say that he had the largest Duke Ellington collection in the North East. I can still picture him sitting sitting in his armchair and playing along with Cootlie Williams and Ray Nance. I have warm memories of him tuning in to the "Voice of America" presented by Willis Conover. Again, through this influence I got to understand the magic of Ellington and grew up knowing most of the personel on his recordings.
Q: We know you've now been resident band leader at Ned Kelly’s in Kowloon for many years. How many exactly?
A: I started at Ned's part time just as a dep musician and bandleader in 1993, I became full time in 1997. So we are looking at 18 years now, full time.  I have the honour of being the longest serving bandleader at Ned Kelly's. I wonder if I will get a Long Service Medal?
Q: Prior to that you played at holiday camps and on cruise ships before you arrived at where you are now. Can you tell me more about those times?
A: It has been a diverse and interesting playing career, I must say. I left the North East in 1976 when I was 21.  My first professional job was a summer season with  The Gene Mayo Sound (Pictured)
at Pontin's Seacroft Holiday Camp at Hemsby, Great Yarmouth. When that was over, I joined the band with Chipperfield's Circus. It was a hard blow - I remember muddy Newbury Race Course, 7 hour rehearsals in cold tents  and bleeding lips.
Needless to say, that did not last too long. After 6 months I decided to go for stability and something more musically rewarding.  I spotted and ad in  Melody Maker for a trumpet player at Pontin’s Camber Sands, East Sussex.  This was a major turning point in my life.
The bandleader was Steve Stephenson who had made a name for himself with big  bands during the war years in East Anglia. In fact he had won quite a few Melody Maker competitions in the 1940's.  He formed his show band in the 60's and recorded a few tracks for Decca.
I went for the audition on my day off and recall having to sight read, and play by ear, a number of standards and some ballroom dancing songs. I remember having to play the Spanish Gypsy dance.  At the end it must have been  nervousness as my trumpet sound had an uncontrolled vibrato. I was sure that I had failed the test. After that I had to spend a couple of hours just waiting ... and waiting and waiting. I was praying that I would get the job. When Steve called a couple of hours later, his gruff words of "well son, when can you start?" were the seven most beautiful words I had ever heard.
Steve was a tough, no nonsense bandleader but he could read the crowd and gave the audience what they wanted.  As it was a show band, it was not just playing - we had to sing, dress up, and take part in comedy routines. Being one of the younger band members, Steve took me under his wing and I gradually lost my shyness. I would dare say it was Steve who moulded me into what I am today. It was a popular band with frequent road trips and one nighters. We played several summer seasons at the holiday camps and off season dates were filled with gigs in various areas and the big London hotels, It was through Steve that I managed to meet some famous stars like Matt Monroe, Roy Castle, Leslie Crowther, Bert Weedon, Joe Loss, Sir John Mills (pictured) and Dame Vera Lynn.
I was with Steve from 1977 through to 1986 and it was Steve who nudged and encouraged me to move on. Perhaps he knew that he was going to pack up soon too.  We kept in touch and I did visit him on my trips to England. Sadly he passed away a few years ago.  I am still in touch with his wife Pat, and even managed to stay with her for a couple of days on my visit back last year. We enjoy reminiscing about the good old days of the band. 
Colin Aitchison.
(To be continued...)

7 comments :

  1. I'm enjoying the Road to Hong Kong; fascinating story about how music can take you all over the world!
    As I have been reading about Irish showbands I was interested to see that Colin describes the Steve Stephenson band as a 'showband' which included singing, dressing up and comedy in the overall act. I was wondering if this band was unusual in the UK context as I thought the 'showband' concept was pretty much an Irish phenomenon, albeit a highly popular one. At its peak in Ireland in the early 1960s there were 500 showbands and 450 dance halls throughout the country, some holding up to 3000 dancers. Was this a common thing in the UK as well?
    JC

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi JC,

    You are correct about Showbands being an Irish phenomenon many of whom also came over and played in the UK, In consequence many combos who'd previously been known as dance bands and pop groups re-branded themselves as showbands to jump on the (show)band wagon playing working men's clubs and what remained of the dancehalls or, in Colin's case, holiday camps.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lance, you hit the nail on the head, I remember being on the road, and on gigs with 2 or 3 bands at the same function, such as The Jack Hawkins Showband & Singers, Andy Ross, Ray McVay and many others did jump on the band wagon in the 60's & 70's. also a showband would play all different types of music from Quicksteps, Waltz's, Comedy to the current pops of the time, even a little jazz & swing, of course Glenn Miller's music was still very popular in that era, as it still is today.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Steve Stephenson Showband worked for Mecca for a short period at the Mecca Ballroom, Belfast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes you are right, what year was this, maybe 1960's ?? and did you see the band ??

      Delete
  5. Hi I am Gene Mayo's Grandson.
    I've been searching for any info or pictures but not having much luck.
    Just wondered if that is him playing the drums in the G.M picture
    Cheers Dave

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Dave,
    Yes, that is your granddad playing drums at Pontin's Seacroft Holiday Camp, Gt Yarmouth. This is where I played one summer season with him back in 1976.
    I also remember his name being up at the Oxford Galleries in Newcastle back in the mid to late late 60's, when I was a kid.
    If you would like some pictures of the band at Pontin's Seacroft, I would be more than happy to email them to you.
    My email. aitchisoncolin@yahoo.com
    Regards
    Colin Aitchison.

    ReplyDelete

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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