Accrington Jazz Club

Dear Fred,

It's been a while since I contributed, but a recent item on the news page jogged my memory cells (more of that later). This must be of interest to you as a native Accringtonian.

As a teenager in the late 60s, I lived in Blackburn and was made aware that there was a club in Accrington where we daring 17 year olds could safely go to be served alcohol with no questions asked. This turned out to be Accrington Jazz Club, which operated on Saturday and Sunday evenings at the old Accrington Stanley Club at Peel Park.

The resident band on Saturday was usually the Silver Bell Jazz Band, which then was a full 7-piece and included John Rothwell on drums and sometimes bass. I was later to play regularly with John in Southport in the early 80s. The only other members I remember clearly were Keith Moore on clarinet and the late Frank Caunce on trombone. This was my first introduction to New Orleans jazz as opposed to the traddy stuff we were all exposed to on the radio at that time, good as a lot of it was. However, the live music I first heard at Peel Park was a revelation from which I never looked back.

Apart from the music, the club had a great atmosphere of its own. The crowd was a young adult rather than a teenage one, and time may have coloured my judgement, but all the girls were beautiful! The guy who ran the club must have been at least 40, and smoked a huge curved pipe. He used to jive with 2 girls at a time with the pipe in his mouth and I wondered what his secret was. I started smoking a pipe as well but it did not work for me! 

The admission cost half a crown, and Duttons Trophy retailed at 1s-9d a pint. At the interval they served pie and peas for a shilling.

On Sunday evenings there was usually a guest band from further afield. However, our A-Level studies, as well as limited finances generally prevented our going there on Sunday as well. I recall two Sunday sessions when I saw Alan Elsdon, and a band from Manchester which included Derek Galloway on trombone.

The one session I truly regret missing was announced as follows:- "Next Sunday, we are presenting a blues pianist and singer from Halifax, called Champion Jack Dupree." We all said, "Never heard of him" and decided to give him a miss. What we did not know was that while he lived in Halifax, he was in fact from New Orleans and was one of the original barrelhouse/boogie style pianists. A year later, when at college I became caught up in the electric blues wave which was current at the time, and heard Champion Jack's sessions with Peter Green's (original) Fleetwood Mac *, I realised what I had missed.

Finally, a band from Liverpool appeared once, called the Savoy Jazz Band, and the trombone player was Bart Poole. Twenty years years later, I joined the Mathew St Ragtime Jazz Band of which Bart was (and still is) a member. We reminisced about Accrington Jazz Club, and the main thing Bart remembered were the pies! We both agreed they were in a class of their own. Only one other pie came close. On leaving school, (and Blackburn) I studied at St Martins College in Lancaster, and used to frequent a pub which served an excellent pint of Guinness and a superb pie to go with it. This pub was the Fox and Goose which I see on the News Page is likely to become a jazz venue. So it seems that what goes around comes around in all sorts of ways, and my advice to Les Bull is --make sure they still serve the pies!!

 * Phil Yates. Yarrow River Jazz Band.       

I used to play at the Accrington Jazz Club at the Accrington Stanley Football Social Club with The Zenith Six. I cannot remember anything about the music but the Steak & Kidney Pudding with Mushy peas were something else. They were homemade by a lady who always saved 6 portions for the band. I think the lady who made the puddings should have been given an OBE.

Mart Rodger        

I feel its high time a mention is made of the Rainy City Jazzband and particularly regards Accrington Jazz Club, R.C.J.B. played there many times in the 60s the line up Bruce Bakewell reeds; myself trumpet; Pete Haslam or Tom Peder trom; Ian McCann banjo; Dave Parr bass and Barry Wilkinson drums. Even though I say it myself this was a "Hot " band. This venue had a terrific atmosphere the crowd fantastic even as I write it conjures up vivid memories. I seem to recall the chap who ran it was named Wilf and at the end of some sessions he invited us back for supper which was a new fangled dish called Currie (new in the 60s anyway) The R.C.J.B. played all over the Northwest and beyond throughout the 60s does anyone out there have memories to share? Also does anyone know the whereabouts of Barry Wilkinson and Pete Haslam? I think Pete is in the West of England .

Harold Roberts     

You'll find mention of Pete Haslam in hare.htm, and R.C.J.B in harlem.htm, and ccity.htm - FB

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Hello Fred & all other jazz lovers

Discovered the interesting note about AJC by Phil Yates by accident and couldn't resist adding a few words of my own.

I played piano with the Silver Bell in the late 60s when I was a student at Lancaster University. I often had to hitch-hike down to Preston but after gigs could usually afford the late night Glasgow coach back up to Lancaster. I well remember playing often in Accrington and used to look forward to it - great crowd, great pies, great beer and the bonus of being able to go up that little slope outside in the interval and gaze over the sad but incredibly evocative football pitch, full of weeds and bits of blown paper, with the battered, decrepit old stand on the other side, still there up till, I think, around 1969.

One night they wanted to put a microphone on the piano but I refused, not on any grail-bearing pseudo-traditionalist grounds but because, as I pointed out reasonably, I could pound the piano hard enough to make any microphone wish it had never been born.

Keith Moore, who I happily met again in Keswick last year, was on clarinet, Arthur Stead usually on cornet (sometimes we had a trumpet player from Bolton called Dwight Gidney - whatever happened to him?), Keith Staveley on drums, a banjo player called Jed and a bass player who was a policeman (Alan??) and Frank Caunce on trombone, a lovely man and good musician who, apart from being an excellent traditional ensemble player, wanted to play ballads like 'I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan' and 'I'll Be Around' and didn't mind my amateurish efforts at working out the chords. He was also of course a very accomplished painter and I still have the superb portrait of Dee Dee Pierce that I bought from him at the time even if I could hardly afford it (my overdraft at Martin's Bank took care of it much to the disgust of the manager, who was later to feature in a slanderous, scatalogical version of 'Yessir That's My Baby' retitled 'Pritchard He's a Bastard' that I used to play at the County College bar at LU).

We also had a regular Friday night gig for a time at the Adelphi in Preston and played the usual round of golf clubs, social clubs and pub jazz clubs (including at least one revisit to my old Birmingham haunt the legendary Salutation Arms, where I had first met the equally legendary Dan Pawson (I later played in his Artesian Hall Stompers when I returned to Brum) who I was eternally grateful to for letting me sit in with his band when I was beginning and only knew two tunes: 'Lord Lord Lord' and 'Tin Roof Blues'.

How nice it is to hear that other musicians also have good memories of the AJC. I've been living abroad for over 30 years now but sometimes the thought of those piano-thrashing, beer-wolfing nights in the ghostly presence of the old football ground seems more real than some of the antiseptic, well-miked gigs I now do that pay more for one night than a certain Pritchard would ever have dreamed of...

Take care
Bob Barton (in Switzerland)

31/03/15 -

Re Mart Rodgers comments on Accrington Jazz Club. I played there many times during the 60's with Keith Smith's Band (on one occasion with Alton Purnell) and had a lot of fun both on and off stage (but that's another story).The steak and kidney pie I remember well and it was there I was introduced to "mushy peas",I found them digestable when cushioned by several pints of the local beer but sober I still can't come to terms with them, even though my Belgian wife adores them.

Brian Turnock

31/03/15 -

I also remember Accrington Stanley Jazz Club. We used to walk around the derelict football ground during the intervals. I met a local girl there and courted her for a while driving there a couple of time a week on my scooter (in winter) and having to thaw the seat out each way. Happy days.

Charlie Bentley 

01/04/15 -

I played there on a few occasions with the Merseysippi Jazz Band and one occasion springs to mind. Derek Vaux was driving an MGB GT and, in a fit of showing off when leaving, revved up and blasted out of the car park. Some people might remember the state of the car park in those days and as he left he hit one of the humungous pot holes which detached the exhaust system from the downpipe backwards. He left the exhaust system behind and proceeded home. Inside the dressing room there was no toilet, but there was a sink that was in the MOST disgusting state and I was told when we arrived that if I wanted to take a pee, the sink was the approved place to do it. During the interval one of the organizers came in and looked at the sink. "Bloody hell" he said. "That's disgusting. Someone's washed their hands in the sink!"

Mike McCombe

01/04/15 -

Accrington seems to have played an important part in our memories. Brian Turnock, Fred & I discussed this at Alvaston Hall on the occasion of the Z’hulus playing there last year. Brian also played Accrington Stanley Social Club with Barry Martyn’s band featuring Andrew Morgan. The band often stayed with Robin & Jean Clarke when in the Manchester area and it was on the journey there after the gig that Brian proclaimed “Accrington is my kinda town”, a statement that I often pull his leg about. Perhaps Jean will make it to Macclesfield this year for a reunion with Brian, not to mention Emile Martyn ? All are welcome at the New Orleans Z’hulus concert in Macclesfield whether you remember Accrington or not.

Fraser McCombe

01/04/15 -

It's amazing that a reminiscing thread I began over 10 years ago is still getting contributors! However looking again at my original post I must correct a glaring error. I mention the New Orleans pianist Champion Jack Dupree, who appeared at Accrington. He later recorded with British blues/rock musicians such as Duster Bennett, Ainsley Dunbar, Mick Taylor and Keef Hartley, but never, as I so confidently stated, with Fleetwood Mac. I feel so much better having got that off my chest!!

Phil Yates

24/03/20 -

Passing the time flicking through some old scrapbooks and came across this photo taken in Oct 1964 when the Keith Smith Climax Band played at Peel Park,which was my first visit to Accrington In another mail I am sending you  a cutting from the Accrington paper about that evening.

Sportsmans Club, Peel Park, Accrington - Photo supplied by Brian Turnock

Reproduced courtesy of Accrington Observer & Times
Tuesday November 17th , 1964

Accrington Observer & Times

New Orleans jazz pianist delights packed audience at Accrington

Another chapter was written in the Accrington jazz group success story on Sunday night when famous piano man Anton Purnell treated the Jazz Kabin fans to his own particular style of New Orleans jazz - and who better? He was born in St Peter-street, New Orleans. Purnell was ably backed by the Keith Smith Climax Jazz Band from London. They were making their sixth appearance at the Kabin. The Climax Band have toured the Continent with great success, appeared in films and on TV but like to come to Accrington because of the appreciative reception.

The Purnell booking was a "scoop" for Ralph Smith, ambitious manager of the Accrington Jazz Group

Alton Purnell arrived in this country only the day before when he played before audiences which had paid up to to £1 to hear him. This was his first appearance in the North. There was a packed attendance.

Jazz is certainly booming in Accrington. The big news is that Bob Wallis and his Storeyville Jazzmen will be at the 2nd birthday party on November 29th and Dick Charlesworth on December 27th for the Christmas Party" 

Supplied by Brian Turnock

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