I was conned!


At Fred's suggestion I delved into the British Newspaper Archives to see if there was any mention of the arrival in Britain of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1919. I didn't draw a blank but was underwhelmed by the lack of coverage, although I did turn up a number of bands that, in name, preceded them as a Jazz Band playing in Britain. Where the "con" comes in is that I was amazed to see an advert, repeated on several days, that The Band of The Coldstream Guards would be playing in a Leeds park to celebrate the end of WW1 and that they would be playing the "Jazz Music of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band". Then I read the tag at the end, "or an Al Fresco concert".

David Boulton's book "Jazz in Britain" (Jazz Book Club Issue 19, 1959), covers the the arrival of the ODJB in the UK, so that's the place to look, but it also covers the introduction of jazz into Britain in great detail; how "The Jazz" was a dance preceding the arrival of the music, amd how the clergy reacted and such. With the advantage of having the internet I am able to add a bit more flesh on the bones of how jazz music arrived here.

"The Magleys" were a well respected couple Americans who toured the halls demonstrating all the latest dances and as early as August 1917 both The Stage and The Era reported on their performances at The Holborn Empire where they were accompanied by The Jazz Band. The reporter in The Stage goes on to describe the music of the jazz band; "The Jazz Band's speciality is syncopation and whose playing - with eccentric trap-drumming of Hughes Pollard - carries one back to the glad nights at Caro's before the War."  Whether The Magleys had been influenced by a month long engagement in Paris in June 1916 had been their introduction to the Jazz Band is speculative.

There was adverse publicity on the 27th February 1918, in The Era, when there was a report of the performances at The Bedford Music Hall, "At the Bedford, a jazz band appears to be a combination of violin, banjos, brass, bones, tin kettles, and Lord knows what beside" and the music emanating is a sort of super-syncopated rag-time, rag-time in absolute tatters"

The next mention of "Jazz Band" comes in an advert for sheet music where readers were urged to "Stick Around for the New Jazz Band" one of several such title to be plugged prior to the arrival of the DJB. The Sunday Mirror on June 30th 1918 commented that "Brighton still has dances, and has moreover a Jazz Band for the new dances". Another earlier contender for being the first Jazz Band in Britain are Kay and Stephens' "8 Hawaiians" who were advertised in The Stage in July 1918 as "The 8 Hawaiians" and who by September that year had emerged from their chrysalis to become a fully formed butterfly going under the title of "The Hawaiians, featuring The Great American Jazz Band" .

Whilst they had been developing, in September 1918 The Leeds Mercury states that a baseball match at Headingly involving visiting American airmen "In all probability would bring with them what is known as a Jazz Band, a feature of musical enterprise known only to Americans, which should constitute a decided novelty to the Leeds public."

Meanwhile, not to be left behind in the clamour for this latest novelty and London agent "De Wolfe's Direction" advertised in The Era for "musicians, banjo, saxophone, cornet, trombone, violin and trap drummers to join Murray Walker's famous American Rag and Jazz Bands." for possible West End engagements.

At last we come to the earliest recognisable incursion to Britain by a real jazz band, as opposed to local musicians emulating what they thought a jazz band should sound like, The Hampshire Advertiser on the 23rd September 1918 reported on "Entertainment at the American Hut" where, at a concert given Thursday last in the Y. M. C. A. hut arranged by Miss Margaret Bishop "Items were given by Mr Miller's U. S. Navy "Jazz Band". A Jazz band is the latest sort of ragtime band, which is at present creating a furore on the other side of the Atlantic, and these exponents of the new art played wonderful dance music,"

The same week Elsie Janis in The Sunday Mirror anticipated that "Great Britain would shortly by afflicted by a new plague. It is called "Jazz", and we shall be inoculated with the germ when "Hullo America" is produced on Wednesday at The Palace." She went on to describe how the Jazz Band came to New York using derogatory language that I am not prepared to repeat. There also was a report in The Pall Mall Gazette that the plague had already reached Paris where "nowadays the Jazz Band is the chief feature of the revue."

In The Folkstone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald there was a persistent advert throughout the latter months of October 1918 that promised a Jazz Band to accompany the dancing classes organised by Miss Harding of London at various venues covered by the paper but again, it is probably more to do with the dancing than anything else.

WAR ENDED on the 11th November 1918: -

On the 15th December 1918 The Pall Mall Gazette and The Globe proclaimed: - "American troops Joy Parade" the American troops in London will have a joy parade tomorrow, headed by a Jazz Band, with a Buck and Wing drum major. They will march from the American headquarters to Horse Guards Parade, where there will be music from three to four o'clock,"

On the 11th December 1918 The Tatler reported that: - "The deck of the U. S. ship New York made a vast ballroom, in which three wonderful wild jazz bands played for the dancing of nearly a thousand guests, who flocked from nearby Scotland to imbibe in the extremely well done U. S. naval hospitality."

"The Frisco Five" were mentioned as being probably the jazz pioneers in Birmingham but the reviewer of their performance at The Empire in the Evening Dispatch on the 24th December 1918 was certainly not impressed nor was the reviewer of "The Jazz Seven" at Leeds when writing up a report in The Stage on the 27th December 1918.

On the 24th December 1918, it was The Lancashire Evening Post that reported on President Wilson's visit to London for formal visits which was followed by a Boxing Night Dance at the U. S, Army Headquarters in London." Dance music by the U. S. Navy Jazz Band will no doubt suit the taste of the American Army and Navy officers, who will assemble at Prince's Restaurant with their lady friends."  It seems that Word War One was the most likely way that jazz gained popularity among the partying classes; the rest of us had to wait a little longer. All this before the ODJB had landed at Liverpool. but that's another story!

Pete Vickers 2nd February 2018

Dan Vernhettes' email to Pete Vickers References -

Dear Readers, We have published a new booklet about the Centenary of the Arrival of Black Military Bands in France in 1918 (a support for our conferences). You can take a look at the French version.  Some friends asked about an English version. We can do this if we get 100 orders. The price would be 20 euros mail included. You can send a pre-order if you want a copy.

We still have copies of: "Traveling Blues", the gorgeous and unique biography of the great Tommy Ladnier, by Bo Lindström and Dan Vernhettes. 191 recordings available. "Jazz Puzzles" Volume 1, the emergence of jazz in New Orleans, by Dan Vernhettes and Bo Lindström. "Jazz Puzzles" Volume 2, riverboat jazz, by Dan Vernhettes and Bo Lindström. All thee books in English. Special price 90 euros instead of 100 for two books. Excerpts and orders on http://www.jazzedit.org

"Hommage ā Alfredo Espinoza", the genius of saxophone (French version). Possibility of receiving an Mp3 compilation out of 280 tunes. See the list, and listen to Alfredo's fantastic style:

"Big Boy", the unique biography of Frank Big Boy Goudie is sold out in its English version. Possibility of receiving an Mp3 compilation out of 240 tunes. You can watch the flip book

Please contact us for any question.



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