Photograph courtesy John Lindop
I think the
drummer in the Panama Jazz Band picture in the 1950's was Bill Moore,
I remember Ron Minshall (trombone), John Wilson (Clarinet), Dave Renton (banjo) and Stan Minshall (playing piano chords) meeting weekly at Dave's home to play jazz in the latter half 1954. At this time Dave had been teaching JD (me!) to play guitar and sing folk songs and he invited me to come to these sessions and listen to what was going on. At this time I knew absolutely nothing about jazz. Eventually I sat in for a few songs. Jazz education was furthered by record sessions at Dave's and Ron's homes. Johnny Bates, I believe, was running a weekly jazz record session at a café in Victoria Road, New Brighton. At these sessions, a couple of dozen folks would bring their LPs, EPs, and 78s and heatedly discuss their relative merits. This was a good learning experience for me.
Laurie Renton, Dave's brother, completed his army service and joined the weekly sessions chez Renton on piano. Stan switched to washboard at this time. This was when the group really started to become a band. I think Dave came up with the name, Panama Jazz Band, at about this time. The first gig that I remember was at a youth club in Birkenhead. This gig was arranged by a friend who worked with Dave at Dunlops. The Band had no trumpet player at this time so the front line comprised John on clarinet and Ron on trombone.
In June of 1955, JD (me!), bought a second hand trumpet and began the long , difficult, and still incomplete process of trying to learn the damn thing! Then- PJB had found a trumpeter, an ex-Butlins Redcoat named Copple Davies. The drumming deficiency was solved by the arrival of Alf Tweedle, a dance band drummer from Liverpool. (I can remember that we all thought that Alf was of advanced age but, decades later, when I asked him about this, he told me that he was about 30 when he joined PJB!)”
Ken Sims departed for London late in 1956 to join Cy Laurie's band. His talents definitely deserved to be heard in a grander setting. Ken was replaced by Jack Brierly I think, a cornet player from Chester, who also introduced Johnny Lindop to the band. Johnny was a sousaphone player, also from Chester, who drove a Morgan three-wheeler car with his sousaphone wrapped around the spare wheel at the back. These changes naturally gave the band a different sound.. I joined PJB in late spring of 1957, replacing Jack. Meanwhile, Johnny Lindop had also left leaving Stan on string bass. The first gig I played was a Riverboat Shuffle on the Royal Iris (the green and yellow ferry boat). The Merseysippi Jazz Band had top billing (rightfully so, of course) and I think Ralph Watmough's band and, possibly, the Liverpool University Jazz Band (featuring the Higham brothers) were also on the menu. I also remember that singer Joyce Jerman* was on the bill. Joyce, whose philosophy was 'there is no fate worse than death', was the producer when I made my only theatre appearance in Pantopera... Shortly after I joined PJB Laurie left and was replaced by an excellent pianist, Muriel Holmes, who had previously played with the Muskrat Jazz Band. -----------and so Muriel takes up the story!
“I had left Muskrats sometime in 1955, I think. I know I played with the university briefly when they were between piano players, with the Higham bros. Shortly after your wedding** the Muskrats asked me to sub with them because they had a gig at the Wallasey Jazz Club. Someone from Panama asked me if I had gone back to the Muskrats and I said "NO!" Soon after I was invited to play with the Panama. At that time I recall that I was on piano, Stan was on bass, Dave was on banjo, and ?? on drums. Ron was on trombone, John Wilson was briefly on clarinet followed by Bruce. I can't remember when Ken Simms was on trumpet. I mostly recall Johnny Dodgshon on trumpet. Ron left to do his two years in the army, December 31, 1956. The little short guy in the photos took over on trombone. Some of the photos taken in 1957 show Ron playing while he was on leave. Dave Renton did not take over on trombone until sometime after we came to Canada.
I know we were one of the very first bands to play at the Cavern when it first opened as a Jazz Club. Whenever we played at a dance I played all of the waltzes alone. The guys all left the stage and went for a beer. Drums may have stayed.
I played with the band until we came to Canada around end of May 1959. I am sure Ron probably played those last months as well, from Dec. 1958 - May 1959 but I am not really sure".
Tony J Davies