For Britain’s best small bands – a weekly… Bandstand

A new jazz show hits Granada’s airwaves

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 13 September 1959

BRITAIN’S best small bands will play weekly for viewers, beginning on Thursday. The series, presented by Granada, is called Bandstand and the first four programmes will star Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band at one end of the studio and the Ray Ellington Quartet, with Valerie Masters, at the other.

“Each week we’ll have at least one guest. The first will be Don Lusher, the modern trombonist in the country,” director Dave Warwick told me. “The week after, it will be harmonica player Max Geldray, an old friend of Ray Ellington. Then we’ve booked a veteran star, trumpeter Nat Gonella, followed by Johnnie Gray, a good tenor saxophonist with a flair for comedy.

“We will have comedy only where it is involved in the music, as it often is with Ellington. We won’t go in for comperes with a lot of comic patter. The bandleaders will do the announcing and will be encouraged to develop their own personalities.”

Warwick, a blond, outspoken man from Southport, will book jazz and near-jazz groups of all kinds. He knows the subject well because for years he was a dance band drummer and vibraphone player, but he found the going hard as a drummer because the market was glutted — “by about 20,000 people who had learned to play in the Services, fooling around with small groups in NAAFI canteens.”

Valerie Masters
Singer Valerie Masters

Whenever he directs a band programme – he did seven of a Humphrey Lyttelton series, Here’s Humph and a dozen Ray Ellington Shows — he does a bit of drumming, strictly for fun, by sitting in with the bands during run-throughs. He looks forward to a reunion with the Lyttelton band later in the Bandstand series.

Others he hopes to have on the show eventually are the Tony Crombie Quartet, Georgia Brown (“a talented singer who recently returned from America, where she has been making records with jazz stars”), trumpeter Kenny Baker, the Dill Jones Trio, Joe (Mr Piano) Henderson and singers Dick Francis, Rosemary Squires and Maxine Daniels.

“Ray Ellington’s original pianist, Dick Katz, has become a manager. I’d like to get him back on one programme to do a solo spot,” Dave Warwick said. “I’d also like to see Ray Ellington’s original girl vocalist Marion Ryan, come back and do a song with Valerie Masters, the girl who replaced her.”

Although there will be a good deal of jazz, Bandstand will not be aimed entirely at teenagers.

“In America, jazz appeals to an older public,” Dave pointed out. He believes Bandstand may make some adults take a stronger interest in it.

“I’ve noticed that teenagers who like jazz even “educate” their parents by pointing out some of the good things to listen for,” he said.

“If you take a well-known number — say, I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time – and play the first eight bars straight you can then go into the most advanced modern jazz idiom and people will appreciate it. But if you start off playing intricate jazz, you won’t hold the audience.”

Some of the guest musicians Granada hope to feature are not necessarily big stars, but they are all well-known in the music world.

“I don’t suppose Don Lusher, for example, means much to the mass of viewers, but every serious fan in the country knows about him,” said Dave.

The programme may not be confined to jazz and dance groups. There may be a gipsy band, or a Trinidad steel band.

“Our policy is flexible,” concluded Warwick. “We don’t know yet whether to concentrate on bands of contrasting styles or groups of the same sort. We would like to hear from viewers about their musical preferences.”

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