Tuesday October 06, 2020

Alec Crow Jazz Promoter




 I suppose it all started for me in the late seventies when as Social Chairman of the local Round Table in Lincolnshire where I lived at the time I decided to put on a Charity Ball and Cabaret Night - I hired an Entertainment Centre on the Coast (a massive place with 90 beer pumps!) and booked a local but reputable dance band and Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band for the Cabaret. Tickets were selling well and then I get a call that Acker had the 'flu and wasn't sure if he would make it - however it was agreed the final decision would be made 2 weeks prior - the time arrived and Acker agreed to do the gig provided he could have 3 x electric fires in his dressing room! Herewith my first taste of trauma on my 'maiden voyage' as a promoter!

Enthused by the success of the Acker event I agreed to do a similar event the next year but this time booking Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen for the cabaret as he had bigger pulling power with his weekly half hour spot on 'Saturday Night at the Mill' on ITV. All was going well - 700 tickets sold - bus loads coming from all over the county until I was dragged out the shower by a phone call at 7 o'clock on the night from Kenny's Road Manager saying that they had broken down 30 miles away and were at a garage trying to get their minibus fixed and I was invited to phone them every 5 minutes if necessary. Fortunately the dance band was on first and they managed to arrive just in time to scramble on stage to do their first cabaret spot at 10 o'clock - no-one was any the wiser - I just aged 3 years in 3 hours! For those who are interested, the band that night was Ron Bowden (drums), Duncan Swift (keyboard), John Benson (bass), John Fenner (banjo/guitar), John Bennett (trombone), Andy Cooper (reeds) and of course Kenny on trumpet.

John Benson came to our club with Diximix Jazzband from East Anglia in June 2019 and I asked him if they really broke down on that night in 1979 or did they stop at a pub!

I was encouraged to repeat this event in 1980 - which I did - but unfortunately a recession started to bite and numbers went down from 700 to 250 and we only just managed to break even with the aid of some fees reduction and a big raffle.

As the rules say you have to resign from Round Table at the age of 40 I turned my fund raising exploits in aid of the local cricket club.

In rural Lincolnshire there is very little for the youngsters in the way of entertainment particularly at the coast in the winter so in the 80's I organised one or two Rock 'n Roll gigs (The Merseybeats and Dave Berry and the Cruisers come to mind) - with work commitment these bigger events became a bit too much so I spent the rest of the 80's organising discos for the kids (complete with smoke machine and break dancers in the interval!).

I rested promoting and the music scene for most of the 90's - retired in 1994 and moved up to North Yorkshire in 1996 and it was in that year I paid a visit to a local pub one Sunday lunchtime and found a Jazzband from the North East playing - I couldn't believe these bands were still around so I had a chat with the leader who soon put me right and advised me to get myself down to Boston Spa on a Saturday night which I did and saw Dave Donahoe's Band on my very first visit. In the following years I developed quite a passion for the Jazz Scene going to festivals and Jazz Weekends all over the country so much so that in 2003 when I was Captain of Senior Section of the local Golf Club I thought I might fancy having another go at Promoting again so I approached the Golf Club Chairman about putting on a Jazz Event and he agreed for the Club to pay for the supper if I paid for the band BUT I had to guarantee 1000 over the bar - I said don't worry Mr Chairman - the lads will do it!

What had become clear to me in the preceding years by going to gigs and festivals was that the most popular bands appeared to be the one's that entertain, and mention the word 'Jazz' to the unenlightened and it frightens them to death. In 2003 it became clear to me that the obvious choice of band for our opening night would be JIM WILKES STOMPERS (renamed 'SHOWBAND' for one night only) - Jim's imagination in telling a story to lead in to a number bore no bounds - he had the audience eating out of his hand. The night was a huge success and Jazz in Bedale was born. 

From then on I continued to book bands seen at Festivals and at my weekly visit to Boston Spa and from about 2010 we set up 3-gig tours involving Boston, Darlington and ourselves which broadened our scope to bring bands from further afield.

Over the years we had one or two hiccups - in Feb 2009 we had booked a band called Hot Banana with band members from Devon and the Midlands - unfortunately snow fell in great quantities the night before and closed the M5 - things were not good - 120 booked in and only one member of the band who could get through (Matt Palmer from Nottingham) - I rang Matt around 11-30am and he said give me half an hour and I'll sort it - he recruited John Gordon (guitar), Amy Roberts (reeds), Stuart Smith (drums) and an unknown bass player from the North West - we named the band 'The Last Minute Five' 10 minutes before they went on and had a great night!

In January 2015 we had Peter Franks Allstars booked - unfortunately 4 of the band were involved in an accident on the A1 and couldn't make it and we were left with only sax, bass and drums and 110 people waiting for the show! Realising we couldn't do the show with just 3 - we rang Jim Wright (banjo/guitar/vocalist) from Leeds who helped us out and delayed the start by just half an hour!

In Dec 2015 we booked the Kenny Ball Band (run by son Keith) to celebrate our 100th event but they disbanded earlier in the year so we booked King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys and a 40 minute warm-up act with Rae Owens from the North West.

By 2016 it was becoming clear we were having difficulty staying within fire limit for numbers at Bedale Golf Club so we decided to move 8 miles away to Romanby Golf Club to a palatial function suite in January 2017 - we also took the opportunity to rename the club 'Bedale and Northallerton Jazz and Swing Cabaret Club' which was more in keeping with what we do. We opened up at the new venue with the Western Swing Band 'THE SWING COMMANDERS' to a full house and champagne reception.

In the 3 years at our new venue we averaged 20 events per year and ticket sales of 125 per gig - we still continued to book our regular trad bands like Chicago Teddy Bears, Terry's Dead Good Boys, The Pedigree Jazzband but we moved more and more into other music genres likely to appeal to our 'mature' age group with BIG BAND (London Swing Orchestra and The Mini-Big Band from Leeds), SWING (Dominic Halpin and the Honey Bees, The Jive Aces and The Jeff Hooper Swing Band - Jeff was an ex male vocalist with Sid Lawrence and the BBC Big Band who had his own 7-piece swing band) BOOGIE (The Red Stripe Boogie Band and Carl Sinclair Boogie Band - Carl was resident pianist at Jools Holland's Jam House Music Centre in Birmingham and a great showman/entertainer), RHYTHM and BLUES (T J Johnson Band and Jim Wright's Rhythm Deluxe) ROCK 'N ROLL (Mark Keeley's 'Good Rockin' Tonight and the highlight of 2019 was The Bluejays direct from the West End stage and The Buddy Holly Story!).

Everything worked like clockwork we had a great venue with a stage, a function suite with dimming lighting and candle-lit tables and smart waitresses serving quality food in the form of snack suppers direct to the tables in the break. For our part Karen (my publicity lady) emailed out flyers for the next 3 events to all members on a monthly basis - these flyers were repeated on the tables at each event and I would follow up and take bookings for future events in the break. Everyone attending got a reminder to pay up 7 days prior to an event and a table plan was devised by me and details displayed in the foyer on the night. The venue staff would lay out the tables to plan on the morning of the event. It could be fun allocating people to tables - I had a request once from person A requesting to be seated with person B - at the same time a request from person B to be seated anywhere as long it wasn't with person A (solution on a postcard please!). I also had a request once from a lady to be seated 3 tables behind her ex - why is that I asked? - because I'm pleased to see the back of him came the reply!

In January 2018 we celebrated our 150th event with Tony Jacobs and his 'SWELL PARTY SHOW' to a full house.

You can see below a short clip of one of our club nights in Nov 2019

Please do not email or call as the club is closed for the foreseeable future

Mar 6th 2020 saw us put on what I fear will be our last show with the London Band 'The Red Stripe Boogie Band' as I'm afraid I have no appetite to organise an event under Covid restrictions and I can't see anything approaching the 'old normal' returning in the foreseeable future - BUT one thing is certain the virus cannot take away the fun our 360 members and myself have had being involved in the 174 shows over the last 17 years!


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