Pete Haslam's Collegians

Hi Fred, 

Have just found your site and found it most interesting.

I used to play piano with Pete Haslam's Collegians from 1958-1962.

I was married to Colin Tomkins who played trumpet during that time with the Zenith Six.

Knew Ted Calvert very well as he played the Bodega, The Cavern etc with us. I have a programme from the 1960 Jazz Festival at the Cavern, Ted obviously didn't play that with us, but we did many an all nighter there. We played a regular Wednesday spot at the Bodega, and Paddy McKiernan was our agent who made us change from The Crescent Jazz Band to P. H Collegians and we had Striped Blazers and straw boaters to give us a 1920's kick! I may have the recording we did at the Free Trade Hall, with Ted singing "Are you from Dixie"Must look through my memorabilia!!

What fun we had going to all these clubs in some old vans with all the instruments piled in with us..... that is ... I didn't have to take mine thank goodness!

Looking at all these names... I know a lot of them. Have lived in Wales since 1962, so was a bit out of it then, but we did get a sort of band together in the 60's and 70's and Pete and a few others joined us from time to time.

Colin and I divorced in 1981, so didn't have a lot of time for jazz, as I had a very time consuming job, then I married again in 87 and lived partly in Spain, but for my 70th birthday, my husband arranged a surprise party for me and booked a N. Wales band, "Jazz Rag" It was just like old times and I had a sit in with them. They are very good, and I have really got to know them, and go to Bettws y Coed when I can to see them play on a Thurs Night. I was a classical LRAM pianist when I met Colin and it is due to him that I got into jazz, but had some terrific times, and I can't recall any drugs or bad behaviour in clubs. We were just happy!

Thank you for giving me a trip down memory lane. It doesn't seem all that long ago!!

Regards Brenda Canty-Forrest

Yes Sir, That's My Baby
Click here to download the music if you can't see the player above

The Collegians?

Do you recognise this band?

Please let me know if you can furnish any details


There were a few bands calling themselves "The Collegians". One of them was led by a chap from Salford, called Jack Roberts in the late 20s and 30s. It would not be beyond the bounds of possibility that the band in question was his, and that they were the band photographed at the famous Warwick Brookes Studio, then based both at 350 and 351, Oxford Road, Manchester (actually not far from the University). For the Collegians, he went under the name of Billy Roberts, so his band was "Billy Roberts' Collegians".  

That studio was operating between 1919 and 1929 that I know of. This period coincides with the era of the Palais de Danse and subsequently named bands. I remember dancing in my youth at the Levenshulme Palais de Dance, in the 1950s and 60s. I even won a picnic hamper (carrying-case-type) there, for playing "Petite Fleur" with the resident dance band, in a talent contest, in about 1957-58. Lev-vy Palais had started out with a band of similar instrumentation to the Collegians. That was Jack Tucker's Levenshulme Palais de Danse Band, in 1926-28ish. However, that one had no one in it from the Collegians. There are archive photos in a Manchester centre that clearly show two bands from the period at the Levenshulme venue. Neither is the "Collegians". "Jazz" was a dirty word in those days; because in New Orleans and elsewhere, Jazz bands had played in dingy dives and brothels. Bands, even if they were tooled up to play Jazz, with guitars, banjos, trombones, trumpets, clarinets and saxes, had to call themselves names like "Syncopators", "Collegians", or ???'s "Orchestra", etc., in order to remain 'respectable'. Warwick Brookes studio, (see entries on the Internet), must have been very popular and used by very famous performers. Robert Donat the British-born Hollywood actor, was photographed many times during that decade at the W. B. studio in Oxford Rd. It might be a good idea for whoever sent you the photo, to find out if 'Roberts' was one of his family names, or that of the old lady who died and left it, without explaining who the bandsmen were. 

Anyway, getting back to "Billy Roberts" of Salford, have a look at the photo of him in the above link, Jack ("Billy") was both a sax-player and a guitarist. So look at the sax-player in the "Collegians" as a young man, then compare his features with Billy Roberts as an old man. I personally think that it's him. 

Joe Silmon

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