Southport in the 70s
Phil Yates -
The recent addition of the Crosby Rhythm Kings to the memory page prompted affectionate memories of a true jazz eccentric-the late Bix Roscoe who plays trombone on that very competent rendering of "Copenhagen" all those years ago. I was privileged to have known Bix and played with him many times during the more recent past-- 1976-1990 when there was a lively home-grown traditional jazz scene in Southport which sadly is no more.
It began with the formation of Formby Jazz Club in 1976. The club met weekly at the British Legion, and anyone who played an instrument at whatever level was welcome to have a go. From these meetings the nucleus of a performing band developed which became the Alt River Jazz Band. They played at the Crown Hotel in Birkdale for several years before moving to the Marine, later called the Tara, in Coronation Walk.
After the formation of the Alt River, there remained enough surplus musicians at Formby Jazz Club to create a second band. There is a very small stream which runs through Formby and flows into the River Alt. This stream is known as Dobbs Gutter. So the Dobbs Gutter Jazz Band began playing at the Sands pub near Ainsdale beach, and later played for many years at the Royal Clifton Hotel.
The Alt River members were George Lapsley (Tpt), Dave Blackledge (clt), Kevin Bargen (bjo), Jeff Lewis (tmb) and Roy Swift (dms), (now both Rioters ), Mike Mcloughlan (pno) and Norman Cuff (bs) (now both Wirrorleans).
The Dobbs Gutter comprised Don Evans (tpt), Dennis Clarke (tmb), Ricky Whiting (pno), Ian Patterson (Bs), Wilf Jenkinson (bjo) (now Yarrow River), John Rothwell (dms), (now Silver Bell) and myself (clt) (now Mathew St). Later members included the late Al McDowell (tmb) (founder of the Wirrorleans) and Tony Ormesher (bjo) and Rae Owen (bs) (now both Chicago Teds).
As a total novice, the Alt River was the first band with whom I played in public, first as a sitter-in and later as a dep. Bix Roscoe invariably appeared at most gigs, often with an array of instruments, a valve trombone, flugelhorn, mellophone, euphonium, banjo. He always sat in. If he wasn't invited, he got up and played anyway! Bix was a natural musician and his knowledge was encyclopaedic. He often gave the audience erudite lectures on the history of the tune about to be played and its composers which often took longer than the tune took to play! Off the bandstand, you could not have an ordinary conversation with Bix, because he spoke like a textbook all the time, but you always came away knowing something new. His vocals were equally eccentric and entertaining. When he sang "Shiek Of Araby" he didn't wait for the response from the rest of the band" He's got no pants on" He confessed to it himself!
A vast number of guest musicians from all over the region and further afield were regular visitors to Southport. Digby Fairweather, who held jazz workshops at the Arts Centre throughout the 80s regularly dropped in for a blow, and both the Alt and the Dobbs played interval spots for Humph and for Kenny Ball on more than one occasion. Looking at my old diaries of that period, I cannot believe how busy we were. Anyone in Southport organising any kind of function seemed to want one of the local bands.
This brief reminiscence of the Southport jazz scene would not be complete without mentioning an unsung hero---- a gentleman called Bill Scott, a fan of both bands who regularly invited them to perform for friends at his home, where he made recordings on what was then "State of the Art" equipment. He then generously donated copies of these soirees to every musician and guest. I still have several of these recordings and other people will have many others. They would make an interesting archive if collected together. When both bands died a natural death in the very early 90s, it was Bill who kept the flame alive by forming the Southport Melodic Jazz Society. This still organises regular concerts and its influence went a long way to bringing about the recent highly successful Southport Jazz Festival. So although there are no longer any traditional bands specifically local to Southport, it's good that the music is still alive there, and I have so many happy memories of being a part of it. I hope others have memories to share.
Very many thanks - Pip McKerrow
Are there any survivors of the long-standing jazz sessions at the Marine Club, Coronation Walks, Southport, 1980s? Roy Swift was always on drums. Front line varied; George Lapsley (tpt), Alan Pendlebury (tbn) were regulars with Kenny Doran(tpt) and various clarinettists. Once, the entire Blue Mags arrived and gave a stunning performance of Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver Stuff. Somebody once told me there was a dubious sort-of club upstairs, above the jazz club but I never had the courage to find out".-
19/03/07 - HI Fred,
25/06/06 - Hi Fred,
Good to hear from Frank Farrington
( and his wife Dorothy) from whom I hadn't heard for years since I left the Alt River Jazz Band, which was the band he referred to as playing first at the Crown Hotel, Birkdale, Southport and later the Marine Club in Southport in the late 80's to join the
Re: Frank Farrington's letter, there are some survivors of the Marine Club sessions. The band was the Alt River band, I replaced Kevin Bargen on banjo for the last 2 or 3 years at the club. Roy Swift is playing with the Rioters, Mike McClashlan (piano) and Norman Cuff (bass) are with the Wirrorleans and I'm with the Yarrow River band. The dubious club upstairs was nicknamed the Zoo, and if you'd seen the clientele you'd know why.
Great to hear Roy Swift is still playing. A very good drummer and raconteur. Is Ken Ratcliffe (bass) still around ? He was another Marine Club Regular, and who can forget Bix Roscoe, a complete crackpot from Hesketh Bank, who played an odd slide/valve trombone?
11/05/05 : Hi Fred,
Can I correct some of your info. re. Dobbs Gutter in 1976 please. I can assure you that the band had occasional practises in my house, and I am married to the guy who not only named it, but led and guided it until 1978 - the trombonist Alan Wilde.
The original band consisted of: -
Don Evan - trumpet
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