UK's Jazz Guitar Pioneers
1922-68 - composed, performed and recorded the original Candid Camera theme tune - I've Got You Covered
One such colossus of the nineteen-fifties was the incomparable Bill Bramwell, bassist, banjo player, guitarist and raconteur par excellence.
Roger Bramwell was born on the 16th of July 1922 in Corwen, Merioneth, however at an early age he acquired the soubriquet ‘Bill’ and the name stuck, indeed he preferred it, as he would say, ‘Roger Bramwell? Would you? No thanks!’
Bill was conscripted into the RAF in 1942 and was immediately posted to Malta where he joined the Stations’ resident band. Upon demob he departed for London and briefly joined the Freddie Randall band, shortly after he decamped, for the first of a number of occasions to play with the Reg Wale Combo, in between times working with Karlo Krahmer the bandleader and soon to be founder of the fondly remembered and much lamented Jazz recording company ‘Esquire’.
In 1947 Bill was one of four instrumentalists who were to receive the accolade ‘Young Musicians of the Year’. The other three members of this august quartet were… Humphrey Lyttleton, Derek Franklin, later of the Hedley Ward Trio, and Roy Foxley, who went on to record with Ken Colyer and many 50’s Jazz outfits. In recognition of his success on the 24th of January 1948, Bill alongside the bassist Bernie Woods became the first of many domestic Jazzmen to be recorded by Karlo Krahmer, playing and singing the old Jazzer ‘My Old Man’… ironically the recording was not released until a decade later.
Late in 1948 he was to leave for Cape Town for an eighteen-month residency… he returned to the UK in 1950 and was to rejoin Reg Wale’s band. Bill had a low boredom threshold and in 1951 he joined a cruise ship, travelling extensively and bizarrely for a fleeting period he was employed as a disc jockey in Honolulu. It was whilst in Honolulu he became interested in psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. Upon his homecoming (1953) he would attend a number of psychoanalysis sessions. At great length Bill would with mounting absurdity recount that during his time on the couch his psychotherapist would feverishly knit. ( - was it a male we wonder).
Bill was short, rotund, bald and bespectacled, indeed he resembled everyone’s idea of a bank manager or stockbroker. His great charm lay betwixt the juxtaposition of his appearance and his true character; he could reduce his audience to hooting wrecks, laughing until it was too painful to bear any longer. During his time with Mick Mulligan he was nicknamed ‘Bumble Bee Fat’ - in honour of the Blues singer Bumble Bee Slim. Bill married the daughter of a minor Devon notable and in 1956 and set up home in Hampstead.
1957 Bill Bramwell was to join Chas McDevitt (Bill in full flight
with his inimitable ZZZ's - Scat mode opposite - was that an Ecko
archtop guitar? - dig those retro mic's) and with Chas he re-recorded ‘My
Old Man’ for Oriole Records, (CB 1395) perhaps as a spoiler Karlo Krahmer
finally issued his 1948 recording of the same tune (Starlite Records ST 45
004) As a direct result neither recording received the attention it
Bill’s guitar style is difficult to describe, his chord work was pithy and punchy in the manner of Django Reinhardt and his single string work is similarly inventive and incisive. His light tenor voice was extraordinary, his richly creative scat singing perfectly complimenting his swinging guitar.
Bill was good, Bill was a superb, highly underrated session man, his greatest predicament was that he knew he was good… and he would tell you. He would come off stage stating ‘I was good tonight, bloody good’ … even on the occasion when he had not played to his usual lofty standards. Bill’s problem? he was an irredeemable and incorrigible alcoholic. And it was to become his downfall.
For on the 13th September 1968, at the early age of 46 at his Hampstead home Bill Bramwell was to die of a stroke.
met Bill, I only know him through recordings and the stories of musicians…
even given his many faults, and there were many, above all his humanity
shone through… he may have annoyed and infuriated many, but in the end they
all forgave him. All remember Bill with deep affection and respect.
Bill never legally changed his name and he was interred under his birth
Bill in the Highlands protesting at what they have to put up with when bringing his skills to the hinterlands of Scotland. No - it is not a cold 'Jimmy Currie' found abandoned in Glencoe (We didn't have such food available then) but simply snow (gathered on Shirley's hot water bottle which can be a nasty surprise to some southerners.
Bill, Anthony David Kohn Vocals & Guitar, Manager Bill Varley Lennie Harrison - Bass, Shirley Douglas -Vocals and Chas McDevitt - Guitar, Vocals, Whistling and blankets. circa '57. Marc Sharratt - Washboard took the picture
Main Article by Alex Balmforth
It is rhyming slang of course,
Gallo was a respected guitar player, teacher and composer. He was one of the
first guitar players in London to acknowledge Eddie Lang's plectrum guitar
music. He dedicated original guitar solo's to this style. He also wrote many
other compositions for plectrum guitar and fingerstyle.
(Denys Justin) Wright
- 8th February 1992) was a
guitarist, born in
Denny grew up in Brockley, with frequent forays to the Old Kent Road and
the Elephant & Castle.
Les Bennetts was a fine player and a better one in the making then. Les formed "Les Hobeaux" and joined Chas McDevitt when the then incumbent Tony Kohn was purloined into National Service. A bit later he was recruited by Lonnie Donnegan to replace Denny who was not treating his body like a temple. Les stayed with Lonnie for some time until Denny recovered his health.
Stephane Grappelli: "Denny Wright also is a marvellous player, he's got such a good technique. Of course he can't produce Django's melodic line because Django invented it, but he has his own style, and on top of that he's got the strength of Django Reinhardt. In my opinion he's the only player in the world who can compare to Django and, you know, when I'm playing with Denny Wright and if I let my spirit go, then maybe I find that for a few seconds I'm back again with Django Reinhardt." Paul McCartney: "I remember going to see Lonnie Donegan in 1956 at the Empire in Liverpool. It was wonderful. After we saw him and the skiffle groups, we just wanted guitars. Denny Wright, his guitar player, we really used to love--he was great." Denny died in1992 in London after a nine year battle with cancer. His wife, Barbara, predeceased him by just under three years. He leaves a son.
IVOR MAIRANTS was well known throughout the world to guitarists of
all styles. After over 50 years as a professional guitarist,teacher,
composer and leading UK musical instrument retailer, he devoted the last
few years of his life to composing and writing for the guitar. Born in
1908 in Rypin, Poland. Ivor Mairants came with his family to the United
Kingdom in 1913. He took up the banjo at the age of 15 and became a
professional musician at the age of 20. From the 1930's he was a
featured banjoist and then guitarist of many of Britain's leading dance
bands including those of Ambrose, Roy Fox, Lew Stone, Geraldo and Ted
Heath. In the 1960's and 1970's his outstanding guitar playing was often
heard on television, radio, film soundtracks. His recording of the
'Adagio' from Joaquin Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez' with Manuel sold
over one million copies. His guitar quintet broadcast regularly in the
late 1950's on the BBC's 'Guitar Club' series.
the 1950's Ivor Mairants established his central school of dance music
in London. All instruments were taught at this innovative establishment,
but special emphasis was given to the guitar. Several of his ex-pupils
are today Britain's top guitarists. In 1958, together with his wife
Lily, he opened The Ivor Mairants Musicentre. This was Britain's first
specialist guitar store and it was situated in the heart of London's
West End.. For many years some
From the 1930's Ivor Mairants was a prolific columnist in several leading music journals including Melody Maker, BMG and Classical guitar. In 1980 his highly acclaimed biography 'My Fifty Fretting Years' was published by Ashley Mark Publishing in the UK, and in 1995 his marvellous opus, 'The Great Jazz Guitarists', probably the most complete collection of note-for-note transcriptions of historic jazz guitar solo's was published by Music Maker Publications in Cambridge, UK.
Ivor Mairants made a unique and outstanding contribution to the world of guitar in Britain. Over the past 50 years, there can be few British guitarists who have not benefited from this contribution. he was a member of the worshipful Society of Musicians, a prestigious and ancient British guild, and a Freeman of the city of London. In 1997 the Worshipful Society of Musicians inaugurated a new annual competition the Ivor Mairants Guitar Award, which will remain an important part of the enormous legacy this irreplaceable figure has left for future generations of guitarists. Ivor Mairants - Born 18 July 1908, Rypin, Poland. Died 20 February 1998, London, UK.
Whilst in New York he recorded a session that for many years lay neglected and unrecognised. A few of the recordings were eventually released but surprisingly they were for the most part overlooked. Upon his return to the UK and at the outbreak of war Vic enlisted into the RAF and joined the service band ‘Buddy Feathertonhaugh’s Radio Sextet’, and after Buddy’s departure reinvented itself as the ‘Vic Lewis – Jack Parnell Jazzmen’. Around 1944 Vic and Jack teamed up with George Chisholm, several of the Squadronaires, Johnny Mince and three of his US orchestra, then resident at the ‘Palladium’ and recorded a number of landmark sessions with Parlophone Records. After the War Vic collaborated with Stan Kenton and enlisted a band, which largely played Kenton inspired arrangements. This band persisted in various incarnations until 1960 when Vic segued into management, managing amongst others, Elton John, Dudley Moore and Nina Simone.
Vic’s recordings are difficult to locate, although it is worth searching out a (deleted) 2003 CD on Upbeat - URCD 192 showcasing his pioneering 1938 New York jam sessions. - thanks to Alex Balmforth for this contribution.
Sykora - influential host of
‘Guitar Club’ who was on a number of occasions voted the winner,
‘musician of the year’ by readers of the ‘Melody Maker’
Music remained an all-consuming passion for Sykora. He led own band in
the 1950s, performing with Ted Heath at the London Palladium and with
Geraldo at the old Stoll Theatre, and was voted Britain's Top Guitarist
five years running in Melody Maker's readers' polls. Music led him
into broadcasting, and involvement in the creation of a wide range of
popular radio programmes. First he presented and played on Jazz Club and
At the Jazz Band Ball. He devised, presented and performed on the Guitar
Club and Stringalong series. Other programmes with the Sykora stamp
included Those Record Years, Album Time, LP Parade, Big Band Sound, and
Radio Three's Jazz Digest. In his final years he liked nothing better
than to watch the ever-changing waters of Loch Long lap on the foreshore
opposite his house at Blairmore, and to soak up the music of Django
Reinhardt and other guitarists.
Fizroy Coleman, 76, was born in Alfredo Street, Woodbrook. His father, a steamroller driver, played the guitar for amusement, but did not want young Fitzroy to touch his prized instrument. So, he improvised one by nailing a flat pan to a piece of wood and stringing marling on it to let the boy amuse himself. But at age 19, Fitzroy could take it no more and made for the guitar each time his father was out working, and began to teach himself to play.
He recounts the events as follows: "I started to invent chord constructions and rehearse the popular ballads of the day. It was only when he caught me and realized I could play without any teaching that he allowed me to use the guitar freely. "On moonlight nights, Ray Holman's father, Leslie, would come over to our house and he would play his ukelele and I would be on the guitar. A lot of fellows used to come by and sing songs from Satchmo and Rudy Vallee and the talk would usually be how I make chords different to other guitar players. "One of the people who came by was Victor Hudson, known then as 'Whistling Charlie'. He had a fake flute but he could whistle so sweetly that he was considered a musician. When he heard me play he asked my mother to let me go with him all through St Clair on his tours.
"Remember, this was in the thirties. Radio was not popular, so together with Steadman Butler on cuatro, we would learn the songs, however we got to hear them, and walk to St Clair and stand outside the gates of white people houses and play songs. They would come into their gallery to listen, then would send the maid out with some coins for us. But for those days, we made good money. "My playing came to the attention of Captain Cipriani, who then introduced me to a whole new world by taking me to perform at dances and concerts in the Princes Building and the Royal Victoria Institute (now the National Museum). Meanwhile, I was also making some money playing for the tourists on the waterfront. But by 1942, I started playing formally with a big band. It was Len Woodley's orchestra, a band that worked for the elite.
"I played with Woodley until 1945, when an Englishman, Al Jennings, came to Trinidad to select a Caribbean All Stars Band and I was chosen as the guitarist, even though I could not read music. They said I was a drinker and knockabout but Rupert Nurse, who was chosen as the arranger, stood up for me and promised to teach me the notes when we got to England.
"We left here in October, 1945. All I had was my guitar and the clothes on my back. I did not even know that there was a thing called winter. It was a soldier on the boat who gave me a coat. But from the first time they heard me play in London, I nearly always enjoyed steady work, which continued for all of the 26 years I spent there."
Coleman's unique style of playing chords to match virtually each note in a song's bassline, caught the attention of all who would listen. When the band with which he left Trinidad folder while on tour to Paris, Coleman was selected from the lot to perform at London's prestigious Mill Roy Club. It was there that he made some of his more valuable contact, spending may hours after work relaxing with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis when they were in London, and exchanging notes, as it were, with Hoagy Carmichael whenever he was in town.
Coleman married in 1947. His wife, Victoria, was well connected, although the war had devastated the family's clubs. But she became his manager and piloted his flight to the top of the heap of jazz guitarists. He regularly played sessions for BBC TV and was featured at all the top nightclubs. Business got so good, Coleman was soon able to offer regular work to the very band members that begged him to go to London.
Coleman also introduced Kitchener to the circuit when the latter arrived in London in 1951. He worked on Kitchener's early recordings and did some work for Beginner, who had accompanied Kitch to the UK. Coleman continued to amaze audiences until his retirement from the British scene in 1975. Now, he lives with his second wife, Edna, surviving on royalties from his life's work.
from Doncaster b 2nd Jan 1933
Dave Goldberg Guitar / Trombone / Composer. Born 22nd
July 1922 Merseyside, died London 21st Aug 1969
He was an early bebop pioneer and the flat he
shared with fellow guitarist Pete Chilver in central London was where
many young musicians gathered in 1949 to hear and discuss the bebop
records beginning to come from the USA. Proof of his familiarity with
the idiom can be found on twelve inch 78 issued under the title "Melody
Maker Columbia Jazz Rally" recorded in June 1947. He sounds very much at
home on Thrivin' on a riff made at a time when most of our local
musicians were still playing in the swing style. He died in
1969 at the early age of 47.
Can anyone shade in more of these careers?
The elegant Neville Skrimshire (born 1923) was also everywhere. He seldom played a solo but he seemed to be everyone's first choice as a rhythm guitarist. Bill Ashton told me quite recently that when he was gigging he thought Neville was the most reliable provider of a pulse he had ever played with. He had received lessons from Bill Bramwell. - Tony Kohn
John McKechnie - The most competent technician, loved by his fellow musicians, was a very modest man (died 2003) who was the musical mainstay of the Hedley Ward Trio Jack McKechnie, Derek Franklin - Bass and Bob Carter/George Taylor - Piano. Whenever Jack rehearsed most of the others on the bill went to listen. He and I developed a ridiculous double act. Jack was a big man and I was as thin as a pencil. I would stand and hold a guitar on a neck-strap. I would play chords with my left hand near the nut and my right hand near the bridge. Jack could put his arms round me and his left and right hands in the centre of the fretboard. I played chords and Jack played melody. I only remember "Sweet Georgia Brown" but it was enough. Recently Jack's nephew contacted me and I told him this story. He was trying to write a book and he reckoned Jack had not received the acclaim he deserved. I tend to agree with him. - Tony Kohn
Jim Douglas (1943-) Best know as guitarist for the Alex Welsh Band, he completed 19 years with the group. One of Britain's most fluent, experienced and eloquent guitarists, he continues to perform today- undated?
Pitt (born 1940 - elder brother of Vic (Bassist)
one of the finest exponents of banjo and
guitar in the country ...has had lengthy spells with all the top jazz
bands including Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, Terry Lightfoot and Alan Elsdon,
doing countless TV and radio sessions"
Hi Eddie, I've recently been introduced to your excellent U.K. Jazz Guitar pioneers site and would like to thank you for including my name in the list. In answer to your question regarding details about myself and others, I can, of course, supply you with as much info. regarding my own career as a guitar player as you might require and would be delighted to do so. Perhaps we can establish a dialogue at your convenience.
For now, kind regards, Tony Pitt.
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