50 Years of The Harlem Hot Stompers
6th Nov 2019
The Harlem Hot Stompers, stalwarts of the Northwest jazz scene, celebrated their 50th Anniversary in October in front of a full house at Didsbury Cricket Club in Manchester, home to their current monthly residency. The audience contained founder band members John Reade (piano), John Ronan (trombone) and vocalist Julie Flynn who joined the band in 1972, as well as several musicians who had depped with them over the years, and joined the band on stage for several numbers. These included Laurie Cooper (left), Terry (the scarf) Brunt (right) and Derek Galloway (centre), all still highly active on the local jazz scene and Derek also fronting the always-popular Temperance Seven.
John Reade was a member of the Idle Hour Jazz Band and the Savoy Jazz Band whilst a student at Cambridge University prior to moving up to Manchester. A native of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, John Ronan graced the Rivermouth Jazz band before the move to Manchester joining the Ian Rose Jazz Band, the Louisville and Savannah Jazz Bands. Original band leader Tony Foulkes sadly passed away in 2013 and was previously with the Manchester Zenith Jazzband, the Stockport-based Dallas Jazz Band and founded the Smoky City Jazz Band in the mid-1960's. Current band leader Ian McCann on banjo/guitar joined the band in 1975, and current member Dave Parr joined in 1976 on String Bass, as did long-term drummer (and sometime vocalist - 'for music lovers everywhere!') Dave Berry. Dave Parr subsequently took up the brass bass to add a more authentic sound on some of the earlier numbers.
The Harlems originally formed in 1969 from the break up of the Mick Burns Rythym Kings, and started life in the cellar bar of the White Lion in Didsbury courtesy of the jazz-loving landlord Peter Blissett. Musical inspiration was taken from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Joe Oliver, JR Morton, Duke Ellington et al. From a personal perspective, the writer was there as a 15yo (different times) music lover whose only knowledge of jazz was seeing Kenny Ball on the Morecambe & Wise show. Two work colleagues, an elderly alcoholic sax player from 30's swing bands and a jazz-loving pianist, used to borrow the cellar bar and piano for a bit of a jam after work on Fridays. I remember the landlord inviting me to stay on the see a 'proper' band that turned out to be the Harlems. I was hooked on live music and have followed the Harlems, and many others since.
3 years on, and the band moved on to a weekly Friday night residency in the Satchmo Room at the Midland pub in West Didsbury, a place certainly not for the faint-hearted. Characters galore frequented the main pub as well as the jazz room, including a dapper chap always at the front - 3 pints then onto the large Brandies, a quite disabled chap who sometimes had to be poured back into his 3-wheeler disability car, and the one-armed cigarette roller.
It was here at the Midland that guest
bands sometimes shared the stage. Memorable visits included the classic Max
Collie band with Mssrs. Mason, McIntosh, McKay Williams & Gilbert, the Blue
Mags from Liverpool and the Midlands Zenith Hot Stompers. Vocalist Julie
Flynn introduced the Xmas Jazz Parties here, with competitions such as
Knobbly Knees (and other wobbly unmentionables), resembling something out of
Hi-De-Hi. The residency moved on to the since-demolished Warren Bulkeley in
Stockport, where the cellar bar resembled a railway tunnel with it's domed
ceiling attracting many railway and air-raid shelter puns. I remember the
sound was quite good - perhaps due to the stone ceiling.
FwilmA few years later the band moved into Didsbury Cricket Club which was fast gaining a name for jazz, hosting bands such as Mart Rogers Manchester Jazz every Monday, the Harlems every Friday and the City Syncopaters band on Sundays. A teenage TJ Johnson made regular appearances there to guest sing with some of the bands, under the strict supervision of his Mum. Tommy Burton also appeared here a few times courtesy of local promoter Graham Brooks, still running weekly Tuesday Jazz in nearby Wilmslow.
As with all well-established bands, members come and go, and long-serving members include Murray Smith and Alan Bray on trumpet, Dave Berry on drums, Tony Foulkes, Howard Murray and Dave Thomas on reeds, Pete Haslam and John Ronan on trombone, the aforementioned vocalist for 25 years Julie Flynn, and current members Ian McCann on banjo/guitar, Bill Smith on trumpet/vocals, Fred Boggan in the drum chair and Dave Parr on string bass and tuba.
After leaving Didsbury CC due to a change in the club policy, the Harlems became a bit nomadic, taking up residencies at Hyde Cricket Club, the Moss Vale in Urmston and Fallowfield TC before finally returning to Didsbury for their current monthly residency, although now changed to a Thursday night. Regular appearances at other clubs include Eagley Jazz Club near Bolton, Boston Spa, Rochdale and Glossop
In addition to being a staple of the Northwest jazz scene, they have also made several TV and radio appearances, and supported such jazz luminaries as Beryl Bryden, George Melly, Cy Laurie and Humphrey Lyttleton. Festival appearances include Keswick, Bude, Gunton Hall, Abersoch, Kelsall, Ambleside, Bodelwyddan and Alvaston Hall.
In 1997, Ian and Tony visited the San
Diego Jazz Festival, and were able to team up on stage with the recently
departed Denis Gilmore with the New Orleans Wanderers - Denis having
previously depped with the Harlems before emigrating to the States. It was
mentioned that the Harlems were booked for the Keswick Jazz Festival the
following May, and were without a regular trumpeter due to Alan Bray having
recently moved on. Denis immediately offered to fly over from home in Santa
Monica and take the trumpet chair for the Festival - high praise indeed for
a man who never forgot his roots. 50 Not Out - a great achievement for one
of the Northwest's finest.
5 in the trumpet chair
4 banjo players
3 bass, trombone and clarinet players
Remarkably, only 1 pianist and lead singer
Guests over the years included Humphrey Lyttelton, Cy Laurie, Chris Barber, Max Collie's Rythym Aces and the Blue Mags. As well as weekly residencies, they also found time to appear at many Northwest, UK and overseas Jazz Festivals, and continue to entertain jazz lovers everywhere with a repertoire containing jazz classics from Beiderbecke, Oliver, Armstrong, Morton et al, and many less frequently heard tunes.
Photos by Barry Pryme
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