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12,393 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 112 of them this year alone and, so far, 112 this month (Jan. 23).

Saturday, January 02, 2021

View From The Sub’s Bench by Miles Watson

In New Orleans it was called the second line and it is the peak of my musical career to date. I wanted to be a drummer and, as an apprentice blacksmith, I had a good grounding in keeping a rhythm going but the head of the house said she wasn’t having any noisy musical instruments in the house, so for £12 I acquired a battered small bore Kitchen’s of Leeds trumpet and a 1930s' tutor (book) and ignoring all the advice about lessons I proceeded to teach myself to play.

Now there is nothing wrong with being self-taught but in my case I had a bad teacher so for the next 50 years I just played along with the radio and records. My inspiration locally was the Panama Jazzmen with Joe McMullen on cornet.

Joe (pictured right) was a Freddy Randall clone and that was the way I wanted to sound. The New Orleans club on Melbourne Street was our Sunday night haunt and I soaked up all the tunes but never had the guts to try and sit in, but that changed when I retired and joined a band for beginners and started to get a bit of confidence. 

I had noticed that Joe McMullen was leading the Jazz Esquires at the Porthole so I made the effort to go to Shields and got to know some of the band all good musicians Joe, on cornet Eric Pollard, tenor, Ian Trewella, alto, Laurie Brown, vibes, Roy Gibson, keyboard, Johnny Bourne, drums, Eric Gamblin, guitar and Joe Garner, bass guitar or John Duncan string bass.

It was suggested I tried the Wooden Doll on a Monday, it was different to the Porthole but still with a great bunch of guys. I somehow persuaded Brian Chester to let me sit in for couple of numbers and to my surprise I didn’t get thrown out and I followed on the same way the following weeks.

It was at the Wooden Doll I met Malcolm Grey to whom I owe a great deal. Malcolm was playing trumpet at the Porthole where he finally persuaded me to join him on the last two numbers, occasionally giving me the lead. When Malcolm left Mick Hill came along and he too let me have a couple of numbers. It eventually got to a stage where Mick would do one week and I would do the next one. When Mick finally left Laurie who was leading the band by then asked me if I would do the job, trumpet players were getting scarce by this time.

I struggled manfully if not always successfully but we kept a loyal  band of followers and we had sitters in of the calibre of Alan Smith, Dave Weisser and Fred Rowe and, the highlight for me, the great Eric Delaney on drums. The Porthole was financially going through a bad patch so we left and went to the Black Horse at Monkseaton for about a year then back to the Porthole and when it finally closed the Magnesia Bank which wasn’t a success, band members left, the audience dwindled and we finally called it a day. 

The Wooden Doll band, now known as Jazz in the Afternoon, had moved to Tynemouth with Iain McCaulay trombone, Derek Fleck, reeds, John Hallam, bass, Brian Chester, keyboard & Jimmy McKeown, drums. Intermission piano by Roy Gibson and vocals by Teresa Armstrong. This band then moved to the Crescent Club at Cullercoats where with various personnel changes it settled down to the present line up with Ollie Rillands on drums and led by Herbie Hudson on trombone. After the raffle I am allowed on the stand to help out with the entertainment, along with any guest players.

After the Jazz Esquires disbanded I looked in at the Crescent Club on a Wednesday to listen to the Vieux Carré Jazzmen and to re-live my lost youth, the years just rolled away. I was asked to join in for a blow, (Brian Bennett hadn’t heard me before) and I managed to get through three numbers not too badly. I was surprised to receive a phone call from Brian the next day asking if I would help him out when he was desperate for a trumpet player, I said yes (I know my place). So I am now an added distraction on a Wednesday afternoon.

The musicians in the band Jim McBriarty (reeds); Lawrence McBriarty (trombone); Bill Colledge (bass); Fred Thompson (drums) and Brian (banjo) have, like all the players in the other bands, been very friendly and helpful probably because I am always the worst musician in the band and know it. Sitting in has not only made my declining years worthwhile but made me a lot of new friends along the way.

The Watson Jazz Conundrum: does my technique outstrip my ideas or vice versa?



Paul Fletcher (on F/b) said...

Hello Miles, I remember that band for beginners, glad you are still playing!

carstairs said...

.....and I enjoy your vocals!

carstairs said...

By the way, we noticed that you now play a posh trumpet instead of the old peashooter. If you ever wear it out you can borrow another ancient instrument from my collection ( when allowed to play in public again ) !

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