Tony Pringle

21/12/36 - 03/05/18

Photograph courtesy of


by Tony Pringle

I was born on 12th December 1936 in a bungalow named "The Anchorage" in the village of Greasby on the Wirral Peninsula which is just across the river from Liverpool, England. The big news at the time was the abdication of King Edward VIII, but I was unaware of such goings on. If the Pringle family would have had their way I would have been named, as the eldest son of the eldest son, John Crester Pringle. My mother Isabel Edith Florence Laverick-Platt either had a warm spot for Anthony Eden or felt that as she had so many names someone should atone, hence Anthony is my one and only Christian name. Over the years I have found that I am only called Anthony by teachers and managers when I am in trouble, and more lately, by telemarketers trying to sell me something. Tony is much preferred as a mode of address. 

In 1939, right at the start of World War II, my parents broke up and my father took me to live with my grandparents – his parents. Looking and thinking back I am amazed that they took me on. They had brought up nine children of their own and along came me just as they were in sight of their youngest heading off for pastures new. My dad and grandfather were away somewhere in Wales working at a secret armaments factory under a mountain. My grandmother and my 6 aunts did a wonderful job of looking after me, for which I was not always as grateful as I should have been, but certainly am now. 

Sometime soon after that a German bomb landed in our garden and we took off to our cottage in Wales, away from the bombing. While we were away another bomb destroyed the block of houses at the end of our road and blew all the windows out of our house, the soot came down the chimneys and all my childhood toys were lost. 

Apart from that excitement life was, as I remember it, very good. My grandmother played piano and my youngest aunt had a record collection. I sort of remember Glenn Miller, but have vivid recollections of "Woodman Spare That Tree" and Pistol Packin' Mama". I started piano lessons, but gave them up because my friends called me a sissy. I played a little piano by ear - I would pick out Handel's Largo and other tunes that my grandmother played. At times my Dad visited and I remember him at times trying guitar and piano accordion - it mustn't have taken because it didn't last. Lastly, there was my grandfather, who would from time to time break out with politically incorrect tunes recalled from his earlier days or from some popular music hall artist. At some point someone gave me a Ukulele – my favorite tune was Drink To Me Only and I could play some George Formby numbers – no jazz there! 

My introduction to the music that I love came about totally out of the blue! 

I have always thought that being a fan of New Orleans style or traditional jazz was like catching a very obstinate bug - once you've got, it stays with you forever. I swear it feels like that is the way it has been with me. I can still remember my friend Dave Burnley calling me to come over to his house to hear these great records given to him by his uncle. This was back in 1955 or so, and he had been given a bunch of 78s. I can remember like it was yesterday my first experience with real New Orleans jazz - the first sides that I listened to were Jelly Roll Blues and Doctor Jazz by Jelly Roll Morton his Red Hot peppers followed by Just A Closer Walk With Thee and High Society by Bunk Johnson on the HMV label. 

Wow! I could not believe that music like this ever existed. This was nothing like Sid Phillips on BBC radio or what I had heard on Voice of America over short wave radio. On the way home I went into Strothers, our local record and music store, there I found a copy of 29th and Dearborn and Sweet Mumtaz by the Luis Russell Hot 6. I immediately recognised names like George Mitchell on cornet (still one of my favourites), "Kid" Ory, and Johnny St. Cyr. I bought it and headed home - you have to understand that at this time I had no way to play my find. The next week I bought a Garrard turntable and then went to the Army Navy store where I purchased a pair of earphones that looked like they dated back to the second world war. I hooked it all together and for weeks would just play the two sides - I was really hooked. 

Soon after I traded in my old Ukulele, that I had played for some time, for a banjo and started to learn to play jazz tunes. I also had a Guitar and because of this I used Guitar tuning on my banjo – not the best approach. Eventually I dropped both these instruments and only ever played one band job on banjo as a substitute with another band – after one set I had cramp in my left hand. At the end of the evening I retired from rhythm section work. 

Shortly after my indoctrination into jazz someone talked me into going to hear a local band. The Panama Jazz Band was playing at the Roycroft Hall in Wallasey not too far from where I lived with my grandparents. I can remember my first impression when they started playing. I was aghast. The trumpet player, a very nice guy, had to be the worst trumpet player that I have ever heard. I am sitting there thinking that I could do much better myself. This was based on nothing at all, my never having tried to play any wind instrument. The evening was saved when another trumpet player arrived to much excitement. It was Ken Sims who would later be with Cy Laurie's and then Acker Bilk's bands. When he played it sounded great and I decided there and then to get a cornet. The same week I bought a copy of the Melody Maker newspaper and sent away for a cornet. It cost £12, did not have a spit valve and came in a beautiful curved wooden case with exquisite brass fittings. 

The Druids Jazz Band (circa 1957) at the Roycroft Hall, Wallasey 
(From left to right – John Dunlop (bass); Tony Davis (manager); 
Roy Harshorn  (drums); Brian Williams (clarinet); Tony Pringle (cornet)
Vic Sanderson (banjo); Roy Penney (trombone). 

I started to teach myself to play. I spoke with Ken Sims who recommended a teacher, but after a few lesson I stopped going to him. He told me that playing jazz would spoil my tone. A clarinet player at work taught me something about chords and I started to learn some tunes. At some time in 1956 or so I got an offer to join the Dolphin Jazz Band. After my first gig I walked home with Brian Williams who had played clarinet with the band and he introduced me to Roy Penny and Vic Sanderson. The next night these guys came over to my house and we had a session. Vic had a lousy banjo so I loaned him mine and taught him some chords and off we went. Brian played like George Lewis on the Bunk Victors and Roy played like Jim Robinson. We called ourselves the Druids Jazz Band. We must have driven my grandparents crazy practicing every night of the week and then going to the local pub to talk about the music. They were great times. 

We had our first gig soon after. We were booked to play at a workingman’s club on the dock road Birkenhead, the neighbouring town. We only knew about 12 tunes and half of them were spirituals and we used a Tea Chest bass with one string! The gig lasted 5 hours and I lost track of how many time we repeated ourselves. The audience was not entranced. 


Pretty soon we added drums and string bass (this last replacing the Tea Chest bass) to the Druids Jazz Band and in 1958 we became the resident Saturday night band at the Cavern and on Fridays at the other big jazz club in Liverpool – The Mardis Gras. We played intervals for Ken Colyer, Acker Bilk, Sandy Brown and other leading bands up from London. That’s how I got started! In 1967 I immigrated to USA, in 1969 I met Tommy Sancton and we started The Black Eagle Jazz Band and in 1971, After Tommy and Jim Klippert departed us, we formed the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, but that’s a story to be told in another hand dodger.

04/05/18 -

I just heard that Tony Pringle, leader of the New Black Eagles Jazz Band, did not fully recover from the aortic surgery he had to undergo recently and a heart attack. He passed away yesterday, May 4th - a sad loss for the trad jazz community. He was a most able band leader and had a very personal and identifiable sound on his horn. As we are saying more and more frequently these days, another good one gone.

Robert Thompson

07/05/18 -

The news of Tony Pringles death and the details of the various Liverpool and Wirral spots, really brings back memories when, straight off the Crosville bus from North Wales I’d hop into the Temple or Picton Rooms before going to my lodgings. . I had no idea who I listened to in The Temple but was mesmerised by the trumpeter who had a rapid up and down movement as he played. I was too ignorant to find out who were the players, and possibly too busy studying accountancy to spend time investigating. That was about 1950/51 I suppose. What an idiot I was!

Denys Owen

10/05/18 - Tony Pringle - Cornet Player.

This morning I received the sad new about the death of Tony Pringle. We met when we were both serving members of the Royal Air Force stationed at RAF Yatesbury. A band was formed with a name I confess to having dreamt up: 'The Stonehenge City Jazz Men'. RAF Yatesbury was situated in Wiltshire and not too far from Stonehenge.

We became firm friends with trips to his home town, Liverpool, and we jointly owned an ancient Austin 7 car. Musically we diverged. Myself moving into later styles of the jazz genre. Tony never deviated from his love of and performance within the New Orleans tradition.

Tony was the leader of the 'Black Eagle Jazz Band' for forty seven years. He had moved to the USA at some point has is younger self and lived in the state of Massachusetts. The photograph records our winning the talent contest in the nearby city of Calne, Wiltshire. As you can see the Mayor was not amused.

Some individuals enrich your life. Tony for me was such a person. RIP.

Peter Maguire

10/05/18 -

I have very sad news to deliver- somewhat devastating to the Black Eagles' musical family. Tony Pringle, our musical leader and cornet player, passed away last Thursday, May 3rd, due to complications from heart surgery. Even though he'd been in the hospital for six weeks in a very compromised physical condition , it was still shocking to us.

Tony had expressed numerous times that he would want the band to keep going if he ever stopped playing, and that we should continue to perform the soulful and uncompromising style of New Orleans jazz that he helped create....We fully intend to do that, for many reasons, not the least of which would be honoring his spirit.

Many people have already heard this news and are wondering if there is going to be a funeral or memorial service. Tony didn't want a funeral. Instead, it's my understanding that his ashes are going to be taken to England and be spread near his beloved wife Norma's ashes.

If you would like to send a condolence card, you should send it to his daughter, Jenny Wyatt. I know she'd really appreciate it.

Cards should be sent to:
Jenny Wyatt
43 Anthony Drive
Holden MA 01520

And, if it's difficult to send a card, you can always send me an email and I will forward it to her.

In lieu of flowers, Jenny has set up a memorial donation site with the The Lewy Body Dementia Association in Tony and Norma's name. It's the illness that took Norma from Tony and if the funds could prevent or postpone someone else from having to go through all that she went through Tony would appreciate it.

I look forward to sharing brighter news with you sometime soon. In the meantime, thanks for all of your support over the years. We hope to see you at some of our performances in the near future. - Billy Novick


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