YEARS OF THE ORIGINAL PANAMA JAZZ BAND 1954-2014
following history is drawn from the still agile memories of a number
of past band members including John Dodgshon, Ron and Muriel
Minshall, Johnny Bingham, Keith Jones, John Braben, Bert Lamb and
Neil Hopkins, plus Fred Burnett's website Jazznorthwest. co. uk and
some endless googling on the internet. At least forty musicians can
be accredited to the band's personnel since its inception: putting
exact dates to the early days as to who played what and when was
further complicated because some switched from one instrument to
another, such was their talent and enthusiasm for what was new music
to them. The jazz they heard on the gramophone and radio was new and
exciting. Records were relatively hard to get. Today it's easy to
access the music from many sources, but the excitement can still be
felt when you hear something new on a record you've played countless
Earliest known photo: Ron Minshall (tbn), Alistair Wallace (gtr), John Lindop (sousa), Copple Davies (tpt), Dave Renton (bjo), unknown (dms) , John Wilson (clt), Laurie Renton (pno)
Renton had been teaching his friend John
Dodgshon to play guitar and sing folk songs and
invited him to his house to listen to the band.
Encouraged, John bought a second-hand trumpet in
June 1955 and started the long process of
learning how to play. Whilst he was busy doing
that, the band 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.
[John Dodgshon recalls "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 the PJB!"]
Harrison Hall, probably 1955/56: Ron Minshall (tmb), Dave Renton (bjo), Ken Sims (tpt), Stan Minshall (wsbd), John Dodgshon (gtr), John Wilson (clt)
Laurie had been playing piano and left in 1957 and was replaced by an excellent pianist, Muriel Holmes, sister-in-law of Tony Davis who until recently led his own band. In December 1956 Ron left the band to do his two years national service and Johnny Bingham (real name Rowbottom), from Knotty Ash, took over the trombone chair in-between Ron's leave. On his return Ron married Muriel in March 1959 and moved to Vancouver a few months later. Dave Renton then switched from guitar / banjo to trombone. The band was playing regular Wednesday night sessions at The Tick Tock Café in Grosvenor Road, New Brighton for The Wallasey Jazz Club organised by Johnny Bates and at many venues in Merseyside including the 21 Club, The Temple and New Brighton's Floral Pavilion Theatre. A big event set up by Bruce Bakewell and Johnny at The Tower Ballroom, New Brighton featured Ken Colyer's Jazzmen, with the PJB as interval band. For reasons unknown, this caused a rift between Dave and Bruce, resulting in Dave leaving the band (John persuaded him to rejoin in 1960). Shortly after that The Queen also requested his presence for National Service.
December 1956, Wallasey Jazz Club (Roycroft Hall): Muriel Holmes (pno); Stan Minshall (bs); Alistair Wallace (gtr); John Dodgshon (bjo) Dave Renton (vcl); Ron Minshall (tmb); Standing is Johnny Bingham, also known as John Rowbottom, who played trombone when Ron went into the army.
Maybe as a result of The Tick Tock Café Jazz Club folding, Bruce
then arranged for the band to start its own Wednesday sessions at
Wallasey Conservative Club in Manor Road. Skiffle was now the rage
and the band often featured a skiffle group in the interval, one of
which was one called The Quarrymen, led by someone called J. Lennon.
March 1962 at a Scottish dance in St Georges Hall: great cummerbunds! Dave Renton (tmb), Neil Hopkins (bjo), John Dodgshon (tpt), Bill Williams (drs), Stan Minshall (bs), Bruce Bakewell (clt)
Also in 1962 Brian Williams left and Dave Thomas joined on clarinet.
Due to their day jobs getting in the way, Dave shared the clarinet
seat for a few years with Keith Jones, a Sheffield born university
graduate who, in 1955, was a founder member of trumpeter John
Shillito's first band, The Gloryland Jazzband, before moving to the
Northwest in the 60s. John Dodgshon returned from National Service
and stayed with the band until 1966 when he emigrated to Canada, at
which point John Braben joined on trumpet. The line-up of the band
then was John (tpt), Bert Lamb (pno) Roy Penny (tmb), Dave Thomas
(clt), Bill Williams (drs), Robin Tankard (bs) and Neil Hopkins
Probably The Black Horse, West Kirby, 1971: Roy Penny (tmb), Robin Tankard (bss), John Braben (tpt)
After piano player Bert Lamb left in the mid 60s Terry Burstall
joined. Terry was born in Southport and founded The Darktown
Strutters in the 1950s. He remained with The Panama for 45 years!
The band held several subsequent residencies on the Wirral
peninsular: The Grange Hotel (Moreton), The Albion Hotel and The
Hotel Victoria in New Brighton (It's amazing, but The Merseysippi
were also resident band at The Vic - in 1948!), The Leasowe Castle
Hotel (One time at the Leasowe, our drummer Bill Williams was
greeted by the hotel chef as the band was setting up. "Evening Bill,
same old music?" said chef. "Evening chef, same old food?" said
Bill. Touché! When the Albert Dock in Liverpool was first opened to
the public in the '70s, the PJB secured many gigs playing on the
dockside during the daytime and were often accompanied by Daring
Dave: a juggling, uni-cycling, fire-eating street entertainer: he
would tap dance to The Charleston; on stilts! Other residencies
included The Eagle & Crown in Upton Village and Upton Tennis Club.
1980s: Alan Pendlebury (tmb), Keith Broadfield (bss), Jon Critchley (tpt), Bill Williams (drs), Terry Burstall (pno), Dave Thomas (clt), Gordon Porritt (bjo)
Wirral born Gordon was much travelled in his life. In the 60s he was
a founder member of The Memphis 6, and later formed an R & B band
aboard the Cunard M. V. "Saxonia" during his years as ship's
engineer in the Merchant Navy. In the late 60s he lived in London
and was a member of The Main Avenue Jazzband. After a spell in
Canada and the U. S. A. playing Irish folk music) he returned to
Merseyside and joined the Savoy Jazzmen. During this time his day
job took him to South Africa and Libya. As well as a musician Gordon
was a super chap, full of enthusiasm and unrepeatable filthy
limericks. He was also the band's catering manager and sought out
any available food on gigs. He left the band in 1991, travelled,
rejoined in 1997 and finally left in 2002 to travel again. In 2003
he joined Bahrain's Dilmun Dixie Landers in 2003 and enjoyed another
three years of life. Sadly missed.
Isle of Man Ferry; back from the Jazz Festival and Bill's a bit tired!
Keith Broadfield left the band in 1989. For the next year or two we
were fortunate to draw on bassists Keith Allcock, Norman Simpson and
Colin Fabb until Hugh Potter joined in 1991, voted "Most Outstanding
Musician" back in the annual Inter-Varsity Jazz Contests when he was
in The Liverpool University Jazz Band in the late 50s.
Whilst we were resident at The Hotel Victoria in New Brighton in
1994 we did a live recording and put out a tape, imaginatively
called "The Panama Jazzband-Live At The Vic". (Jon Critchley, Dave
Thomas, Frank Robinson, Tony Ormesher, Terry Burstall, Hugh Potter,
Bill Williams) and also guest trombonist Brian Oldham.
2014: Malcolm Hogarth (pno); Laurie Cooper (tmb), Mark Owen (drs), Jon Critchley (tpt), Hugh Potter (bss), Dave Thomas (clt)
2014 Current members:
Jon Critchley (trumpet): Developed an interest
in jazz in the early '60s Trad Boom years. Bought a "Melody Maker"
trumpet and joined the school orchestra that fortunately had a
nucleus of renegade jazz enthusiasts, including his then physics
teacher Ian Robertson (now trombonist with The Peninsular Jazzmen)
and fellow pupil and bass player Howard Worthington. His first band
was the West Coast Jazzband with brother Peter on drums; then in
1968, in the Golden Guinea Club, New Brighton, Alan Miller and Jeff
Samuels of the Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra asked him to join and
was somewhat awed to be playing cornet with Ken Sims. In 1973 Jon
joined the Panama Jazz Band. Whilst with the OPJB he has also been a
member of other bands, including Roger Brown's "Banjo-Free Zone",
The Harlem Hot Stompers (5 years), Terry Perry's "Big Easy" (3years)
and The Mike Carnie Allstars (7 years). Also plays from time to time
with Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz, The Chicago Teddybears Society
Jazz Band and The Old Fashioned Love Band.
John Dodgshon lives in San Fransisco, still plays fine trumpet and
visits now and again.
To go with the anniversary, a new CD has been issued which consists mainly of a re-issue of a tape recorded in 1992 but for the anniversary it includes four tracks that the the band did for an EP in 1970 (Hence 'the bit on the side'), and were the first recordings made by The Original Panama Jazzband. You can get the CD at any of the band gigs at a discounted rate of £9. Click on the play button to hear a selection of tracks from the new CD or click here to download the MP3 file - Fred Burnett