One man's  introduction to jazz in Preston
and all that followed.
By David Whitehead.


22/12/17 - Hello Fred,

Like yourself I was introduced to the British Jazz scene at the Bodega in 1955 when after 2 years military service in Hong Kong, being exposed to American Forces network broadcasts, and also the repertoire of Joe Wolfendon ( our NAAFI piano 'Fats Waller ' impersonator ) I wanted more. This occurred due to rejoining Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club, and playing with the A Team away fixtures in the Manchester area. These were often completed by enjoying the liquid hospitality of the Manchester University Students Union, who often had members playing for or against us.

The travel was by coach from Starchhouse Square, Preston. (few car owners in those days). On one memorable occasion, on completion of the Bodega gig, the Colyer Band discovered that the coach driver had been persuaded to join in our revelry, and was coerced into taking the rugby team plus the Colyer band members via the East Lancs Road (no motorways at that time) to the Students Union at Liverpool University to see The Merseysippi Jazz band where Licensing hours did not apply. Needless to say, the team returned to Preston in the early hours of the morning and I believe resulted in disciplinary action against the coach driver. I never did find out how the Colyer Band got home.

My history is ex Kirkham Grammar school, whilst living in Ashton 1946-51. Hence the association with the Grasshoppers when they were at Lea.-  3 years regular service in the Artillery with 2 in Hong Kong. demobbed July 1955 just in time for the Colyer/Barber Boom. Taught myself banjo as a result of the' Rock Island Line' broadcast, With Bob Kitchen, Gus and Geraldine (our vocalist and Rhythm Guitarist) surnames forgotten, we had a one year, Monday tenancy, at the Lea Gate hotel, where we were unpaid, but left a lot of free drinks on the piano lid, as we attempted to convert the musical culture of the area. The high point of our skiffle endeavours was as a supporting act at a Harris Tech college dance.

1956 saw me complete studying at Preston Wireless School (Lancaster Road) to go to sea as an MN Radio Officer. First trip as 4th Radio Officer on the troopship 'Asturias' into Suez as part of our military debacle. Found ourselves in the company of the tank landing craft 'Empires Doric, Gaelic and Celtic' which had been re-commissioned by the MoD for the duration, from their ferry routine from Preston to Larne as Anglo Continental Shipping Company. Subsequent Merchant Naval postings for the Marconi Company allowed me to visit Birdland (Stan Getz gig followed by late night jam session as the session show musicians came in later).  Also managed to visit Eddie Condon's Restaurant and became a life long admirer of Ruby Braff.

Late 1958 I came ashore as a Radar and Echo Sounder Engineer working for Kelvin Hughes at Fleetwood Fish Dock, and rejoined the Grasshoppers. The Jackson Bradshaw Band were the kings of the Fylde at that time. 1960 moved to Harrogate, where I taught Royal Signal's Apprentices, Microwave theory and Maths, whilst playing rugby for the Georgians and cricket for Bilton. Married Margaret (Bootle church Organist) 1963 and moved to Liverpool where, after period with the Plessey Company, joined National Air Traffic Services as an Air Traffic Engineer, and was swallowed up in 1970 into the Civil Aviation Authority. Career from 1968 includes Liverpool Airport, Manchester Airport and en-Route Air Traffic Navaids and Communications.  Daughter Karen born 1966, studied Violin and Viola. Merseyside Youth Orchestra, Royal Academy, European Youth Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra.

Grandaughter Rebecca is a Cellist in 3rd year at Royal Academy. Son, Neil did violin to Grade 5, but has swapped to Gibson Guitar and plays Blues influenced by the 'Rolling Stones' with whom he is also a cricket associate. Occupation now, free lance IT Engineer.

Needless to say that when I sit down at the piano, wife, daughter and grandaughter find some excuse to go out.

 Since coming to Liverpool I have tried to maintain Trad interest in all the local bands, although the 'Blue Mags' are the ones I have seen most of, throughout their various re-incarnations.

In the  Preston Area I may have been remembered by old St Andrews Primary fellow pupils such as Dick Bamber (Bambers of Friagate)  and ex Kirkhamians Martin Mears, Albert Shepherd and Bas Bailey who were Grasshoppers members. Alas now all deceased. It is possible that we have have some of these in common.

Keep up the good work, and as my Scot's Grandmother used to say "Lang may yer lumb reek"

Dave Whitehead



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