The Early Days of Louth Jazz Club
In Queen Street, Louth, there is a striking 3-storey former warehouse, constructed in 1714. The clock, high on the gable end, came from the House of Correction (prison) after it was demolished in 1872. The building was formerly a ships chandlery and more recently a warehouse for Taylors, manufacturers and wholesalers of confectionery. Here, on the first floor, is the home of the New Orleans (Louth) Club where bands play various styles of jazz, as they have done for forty years.
The former prison clock on the warehouse in Queen Street, bordered by decorative yellow brickwork.
The story begins in 1963, when cornet-player John Paddon formed the South Wold Jazz band with its associated club in order to carry the banner of 'Real' Jazz. Having formed the band, it was necessary to make sure that the musicians of the band had somewhere to play their music each week, and that interested members of the public would have real jazz available. Early venues were in back rooms of pubs, with occasional larger venues – Louth cinema and St. James Church being hired when visiting musicians played with the band.
In the early 1980s, a retired miller and Jazz fan, Brian Hall, offered a space in his now redundent flour mill in the town as a ;permanent home for the band and the club. Volunteers set about transforming an empty floor of the mill into a warm and welcoming club, complete with bar and a stage. It wasn't long, however, until brian decided to sell the mill to developers (it's now a set of apartments in Ramsgate Road), and the club were on the move again. In 1983, the club signed a 3-year lease with the owner of a sweet factory in Queen Street, who put the entire first floor at the club's disposal, at £25 per week. Once again, the volunteers set to work, recreating a club room similar to the one at the mill. This 3-year lease ran for 30 years with no increase in the rent!
The South Wold band played every Saturday for almost 50 years, until John retired in December 2012, when membership was 35 and falling. From early 2013, a new committee was installed and with a mix of resident and local bands plus the occasional professional band, the club continues, and membership hovers around the 240 mark.
The personal recollections of Tony Peatman, long-time member and Musician in the Southwold Jazz Band.
I believe the whole thing started at the Greyhound pub but my association with the Southwold Jazz Band began in the early seventies when, on a Saturday night out some friends took us to the Crown and Woolpack. It's now Peter Mountain's Estate Agency but on the night in question there was no banjo player and as I'd seen John Paddon at the Olde Crowne Jazz Club in Lincoln some time previously, I introduced myself and He asked me to come again the following week and bring my banjo. For the next fifteen years or so I became a regular until, the early nineties, when I was asked by Chris Blount to join his band and I then played at Louth only occasionally, which has continued to this day.
On my very first night the Southwold Jazz Band was John Paddon cornet, Tony Parker trombone, Fred Everett clarinet, Laurie Irving piano, Bas Thornton bass, Charlie King drums and myself on banjo. Frank Baker used to guest on piano or perhaps trombone if Laurie or Tony were't available and Hugh 'Spud' Marrows fairly regularly played drums. In those days there was no formal committee, it was run on the good will of the landlord whose name escapes me and a number of voluntary helpers. Eventually the club was getting established and it was decided to form a committee to run things with band members in the majority so that John Paddon would have the last call on the way the music went in his die-hard principles of New Orleans Music. Although I can't be absolutely sure, in those early days the committee could probably have been Bill Fisher, Bryan Hall and Tom Barton with John Paddon, Bas Thornton, Fred Everett and myself from the band.
The Crown and Woolpack changed hands and the club had to move and then had a few temporary homes inluding the Castellum Restaurant in Upgate (one night only) and the Hospital Social Club briefly before settling for some time at the Bridge Street Mill by the river. Bryan Hall had a corn and milling business which he was running down and club and band members spent many a Sunday converting a room into a club under the close supervision of Bas Thornton, he of Thornton and Turner Builders in the town. We played here into the early eighties and one memorable day here involved us being filmed by Yorkshire Television with the late Roy Castle first on a farm cart down the lanes in East Barkwith followed by a session at the club. The connection with East Barkwith stemmed from a series of concerts organised by the late Canon Tony Simpson in East Barkwith Church followed by a parade to farm barn for a jam session. These usually involved well-known English clarinettist Sammy Rimington and also American trombonist Louis Nelson.
We played at Bryan Hall's Mill into the early eighties when the premises were sold and work started on the present premises at Queen Street with again many hours of voluntary effort with Bas Thornton in charge and Tom Foster attending to the plumbing and heating systems. Over the years the club has been sustained by so many people giving their time for free and for fear of missing someone out I'll not attempt to try to name them.
Exact dates escape me but over the years John Paddon made several pilgrimage visits to New Orleans, or the Big Easy, and he arranged visits by so many notable American musicians including Kid Sheik Colar, Louis Nelson, Alton Purnell, Butch Thompson, Benny Waters, George Kelly, Jimmy Noone Jnr., Teddy Riley, Michael White, Al Casey, Herb Hall, Greg Stafford (ex-President of the club) Wendell Brunios, Freddie Lonzo and Don Ewell. Also vocalist and film star Sylvia 'Kuumba' Williams along with a string of ex-pats including Barry Martyn, Clive Wilson, Andrew Hall (he's now gone full circle!) and Chris Burke.
Over the years we had the pleasure of listening to several decorative lady vocalists - Elaine Drewery (of hedgehog fame), Val Lorand and Lulu White (real name Sandra Walker). Visiting musicians from UK included the late Cy Laurie and a memorable night with Ken Colyer on what turned out to be the penultimate full session he ever played in England before his untimely death in France in 1988.
They were good times as I remember them and a great credit goes to the enduring spirit of the volunteers who have kept it going for so long and so well.