Marching on

I’ve had a blistering article mailed in from reader and friend of the Brownhills Blog, Stuart Cowley. Stuart, you’ll recall, has written and supplied some great material on the subject of Chasewater, and his pictures and recollections of the cafe there have been very popular.

Stuart has a great interest in, and memories of, marching jazz bands in not just our area, but in general from participating as a band member in competitions and a wealth of personal experience.

Untitled 3

Cinefilm image of unknown band marching in Brownhills, thought to be from the interwar period. Image from the Midlands Media Archive.

This, I know, will be of interest to all readers and particularly the artist formerly known as Bev Lloyd, who recently asked me to promote a site concerning this history, for which I’ve lost the post. Please, Bev, if you’re reading, drop me the link and I’ll edit it in.

This has been a mammoth post to edit and has taken hours to do the links, but it’s so well written that it’s been more than worth the effort. I thank Stuart for his wonderful piece, and for shining a light into a bit of local culture that I have absolutely no knowledge of.

As ever, comments and email welcome: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers!

[Edited 11:00pm, Sunday 3rd February 2013]

The artist formerly known as Bev Lloyd let me know that there’s currently a marching band operating in Burntwood: Burntwood Adfatonions. We’ve lost their Facebook page, but Clare Cole runs the show.

Bev also pointed out that there’s a nostalgia page for the Brownhills Tartans Jazz Band also on Facebook.

Cheers to Bev for that, and my apologies to Bev for being a klutz and losing the original mail.

Marching Jazz Bands

I thought it might be worth putting together some information on the children’s marching jazz bands that were popular back in the 70s, I was in the drum section of one from Burntwood 1970-77, the Bluebirds. At one point nearly every town in our area had one, each with about 30 members they would compete at carnivals up and down the country during the summer months so the chances are that they touched the lives of some of the readers of your blog at some point.

Lots of information about the culture, history and music of marching bands can be found at Marching Elite.

My condensed version:

Jazz bands go back to around the 1920s and 30s where they were originally found in the North East and across the Welsh pit villages as a social activity for the local miners and their family members, becoming increasingly popular as a way to pass time during the strikes associated with this period.

Back in the day the instruments were tin kazoos and drums, they performed to a crowd in local carnivals and festivals in the area, often competing between villages.


The Walsall Wood Red Caps were a familiar sight in the 1930s at carnivals and parades, along with several other bands from the area. Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

As the years went on the number of bands started to grow and started up in new areas such as the Midlands and Yorkshire, which are still popular havens today to some degree.

1973 saw the first England Vs. Wales competition which brought bands from both sides of the country together, this was followed the next year by the first World Championships held at Alexandra Palace in London.

The late 60s and early 70s saw the largest growth of bands in the Cannock, Brownhills, and Tamworth region with virtually every town and village having at least one, although it is recorded that some bands existed in the Norton Canes and Brownhills West area as far back as the early 1930’s, my mother was a member of one of them as an eight year old.

Back in the 70’s it wasn’t common for every family to own a car or take regular holidays so venturing out to a carnival on a band coach anywhere in the country every weekend throughout the summer season generated many happy memories for the children, parents and supporters that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Valuable life skills were learned in terms of teamwork, discipline and confidence building that would put them in good stead for later life. All credit should be given to the trainers and committee members involved who through dedication and some personal sacrifice were able to get together, raise funds for band coaches, uniforms and instruments and provide the ongoing motivation needed to put some 30 or more children per band proudly out on to the streets in local parades, marching in unison, not for financial gain but purely for the love and joy of doing it.

Chase World06

The Chase Royals were a big local band. Does anyone know if they’re still going? Image from Bandworld3.

At some carnivals in the 70s it wasn’t unusual to see some 30 of these bands in a street parade each separated by a decorated wagon, providing a colourful display drawing in people to the main carnival events where the bands would later compete against each other for prize money. Some local bands were fortunate enough to be able to go abroad but whether abroad or at somewhere closer to home these children acted as fine ambassadors for their hometowns. A typical week would be training on a Tuesday and Thursday night, up early on the Saturday to catch the band coach to a carnival anywhere in the country, getting back late, sometimes near midnight, to get up on the Sunday and do it all over again. As lads we used to get some stick from time to time from mates who didn’t understand what we were up to but at the end of the day the girls outnumbered the lads about 20-1 so it was inevitable that long term relationships formed, I met my wife of 30 years through the bands as did many other couples.

It’s very sad that they are no longer so popular and a pity that local communities no longer seem to organise the carnivals and street parades that used to be prevalent throughout the summer, local traders and councils are missing a trick there I think. After all, what could be better than attracting about a thousand kids plus supporters and members of the public to an event where they are likely to be spending money within the town at an event that generates community spirit?

These may be of interest and bring back a few memories

I’ve  put together a list of sites that I’ve come across on you tube of Midlands bands going back to the 70’s and tried to name them where I can, you’ll also see some of the usual scout bands and some dance troupes, not connected with the jazz bands but who also regularly used to participate:

Polesworth carnival (Tamworth) 1970s

  • Norton Canes (Cannock) Millittaires (yellow and purple)
  • Red and blue band – unknown
  • Tamworth B Tones (black hats red capes)
  • Tamworth Trinity Georgians (blue with white marine style hats)
  • Mainly purple- unknown-possibly Fazely Scimitar (Tamworth)
  • Rawnsley Rubettes-(Cannock) Black and white

Polesworth carnival (2)(Tamworth) mid 1970s

  • First band – unknown, possibly Polesworth Coronets? – blue
  • Littleton Startones (Cannock) – red and black
  • Tamworth Trinity Georgians – (blue with white marine style hats)
  • Blue and red – unknown
  • Mainly purple – unknown, but possibly Fazely Scimitar (Tamworth)
  • Rawnsley Rubettes (Cannock) – black and white
  • Tamworth Castle Marines – tartan and white
  • Orange – Unknown
  • Tamworth Trinity Georgians (blue with white marine style hats)

Rushall carnival early 1970s

The sharp eyed will note this video is from our very own Stymaster.

  •  Norton Canes Millittaires – yellow and purple
  • Burntwood Bluebirds (uniform would date this at 1971 approx) -red white and blue

Bilston carnival 1964

  • Bands here are unknown

Coseley carnival 1964

  • Bands here are unknown (possibly old tableaux style bands, Crown Premier, Wayfarers , High Peak ?)

Useful links

  • Bandworld – a great general memory site. Bandworld has some historic info relating to the first world championships held at Alexandra palace 1974, winners were the Tamworth Castle Marines  This competition went on well past midnight due to the amount of bands involved, street parade was past the houses of parliament earlier on in the day.
  • The Castle Marines were sponsored by the Castle Hotel Tamworth and trained at Whittington Barracks.

Something I can’t find any further info on – a band called Ynysowen youth band from South Wales, they were formed after the Aberfan disaster from some of the monies received from round the world at the time. Some of the members had been in the school at the time of the disaster, they would never attend a Sunday competition as they wished to attend church in an act of remembrance. I can remember having some interesting conversations with a couple of the members at the time.

Does anyone have any further information, please?

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Cannock Chase, Chasewater, Environment, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, Local music, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Marching on

  1. John Preece says:

    My Dad was in the GayTones (I’m not joking) which I believe was Norton Canes based and was wondering if there was any information on this marching band.

    • stuart cowley says:

      If you look at the cine film that Wendy Jones is currently putting on you tube, look for a band in orange and white and that will be your dad’s band.

  2. pedro says:

    Great Article, thanks to Stuart and Bob.

    Looked in the archives for the Gay Tones without success, but how times change. In 1950 there seems to have been the Gay Nineties Club in Tamworth, and I confess to going in the 70’s to the Gay Tower in Edgebaston.

    The Palace Theatre in Tamwort advertises a matinee called the Gay Ranchero in 1950, and in 1944 the gay singing sensation of Deanna Durbin.

    But in 1926 they advertised Richard Dix in the Rollicking Romance “Too Many Kisses”…the story of a young blood who just could not make his lips behave….

  3. Clive says:

    Great Article, thanks to Stuart and Bob.

  4. david oakley says:

    What a joy to read this post and to offer thanks to Stuart and Bob for such a presentation.
    As a youngster in Walsall Wood in the ’30’s my first allegiance was to the Red Caps. but all the
    ‘jazz bands’ fascinated me, and I would follow them for miles, when marching.
    The band seemed to come under the control of a Mr Scott, and he would carry the mace in front of the band, when marching. The band trained on Bowker’s field in Holly Lane, and in the summer time, during the evening practice, the sound of the bazooka’s and drums would drift across the common, (No Castlefort Estate, then) into Salters Road and into the open windows of the kid’s bedroom. Yes, we called them ‘bazooka’s’ in those days, ‘kazoos only came about in the 1960’s
    renaissance of the bands.
    I loved the band contests. Many were held on the Walsall Wood F.C. football ground at Oak Park. One in particular sticks in my memory – after competing in the playing and marching competition, the finale of the contest was for each band to offer an original tableau. The form of the tableau was a closely guarded secret, and bands went to extreme lengths to preserve the secret from other bands, while practising assiduously to get things right for the contest.
    Came the moment. The Red Caps formed into a group, and all was silent, then two members of the band emerged, quickly wrapping a very long white sheet around the band, at the same time ,
    wooden masts and sails were hoisted from within the band and, hey presto ! the band had transformed itself into a sailboat ! While the strains of “Red sails in the sunset” drifted from the
    bazooka”s and drums.. Yes, the Red Caps won the contest, Who could follow that ???
    Yes, happy innocent days ! I saw an earlier reference to a Norton Canes band of the ’30’s,
    That would most certainly be The Norton Dandies. Don’t be put off by the name ! They were tough cookies when it came to competition.

  5. pedro says:

    Hi David,

    Tamworth Herald Saturday 7th August 1937…


    The Bolehall Imperial Jazz Band at the Lichfield Carnival on Monday were awarded first prize and challenge cup. They became the Midland Champion Jazz Band, defeating seven bands, including the holders of the cup, Norton Canes Dandies. On Tuesday, at Stockingford, in a jazz band contest, Imperial gained first prize of £10, Norton Canes Dandies and Warwick Charity Jazz Band being second and third.

    Derby Daily Telegraph 22 June 1936…Uttoxeter Carnival…Silver Challenge Cup for best jazz band, the Dandies from Norton Canes…

    TH 19 Sep 1936…Tamworth Hospital Carnival 1st prize ND’s

    • david oakley says:

      Hi Pedro,
      Thanks for your research. Norton Dandies certainly were a power in the world
      of Midland Jazz Band competitions at the time, that why I was so chuffed when The Red
      Caps won this one. Don’t remember the full result, but I expect The Norton Dandies would
      not be far behind.
      I think the Red Caps changed their names to The Red Coronets, shortly afterwards.
      There was a local jazz band named The Black Aces,around at the time, but I cannot remember the village they represented. Be nice if you could stumble across them in your

      • pedro says:

        The Archives, at the moment, only has the local Tamworth Herald during this period that would just touch on the area. However more pages of papers are constantly being added, and in the about the last 14 months the number of pages has gone from 3.5 to 6.5 million! I will keep a look out.

        I see a New Aces swing band at the Mile Oak in 1941, and Black Eagles performing around the same time at Fazeley.

        Regards Pedro

  6. david oakley says:

    Hi Pedro.
    Thanks for your efforts. I agree, The Tamworth Herald would be somewhat peripheral to our area, except for events on their own turf. Walsall Observer, the now defunct Walsall Times, the Cannock Advertiser. & E & S. would be a little nearer home. On the other hand, if the Black Aces won very little they would create little publicity for themselves.
    Regards David.

  7. stuart cowley says:

    Also some recently found video from the 1980 World Championships at South Shields, originally a Tyne Tees Documentary running for about 50 minutes in 5 ten minute sections on you tube.
    Documentary was called “some people don’t call it music” it gives a good insight as to what it all entailed. Hopefully the link below will take you there.
    Happy viewing

    • Twin says:

      Loved the article, its so nice a history has been collected on these bands, I was in the Lichfield Three Spires (around about 1976) and were nearly always in the prizes our main competition back then was the Blue Birds. I loved every second of it, especially competitions. Lichfield Three Spires colours are bright blue, Orange and White.

    • Wendy Jones says:

      Hi Stuart
      Remember me, Wendy Harper,?
      I have over four hours of old cine film of jazz bands my Dad had put onto video tape, I have transferred them onto a DVD, I need to make another copy (if I can remember how).
      I was watching some of it last night, there is the Chase Wakes showing the old grandstand, old swimming baths etc. blessing of the drums in 1970, taken in the Brentwood Suite, some old footage taken at the filming of Take Me High, in Birmingham, Heath Hayes and Norton Canes showing the old pit spills in the back ground (now housing), the exchange of the French troop both in Burntwood and France (where there is a clip of you) St Matthews hospital grounds, the old first orange and blue uniform, mention a few, some of the film is very poor quality, however, most of the early days of the Blue Birds and other jazz bands have been recorded.
      Cine films where in 3 minute clips so Dad must of been dead keen
      Do you remember the films shows he used to show?, we were all so excited to see ourselves on screen, how technology has advanced.
      The films will be a super mammoth task to put into some sort of order
      I also found old scrap books of jazz bands I complied when I was a teenager in the 1970’s, they have been in my loft for nearly 30 years, they are in the shed now, I will sort them out, they confirm dates
      Regards Wendy

      • Stuart Cowley says:

        Morning Wendy,   Yes, I remember you, I’ve always wondered what happened to your dads films, it would be good to see them, I’d love a copy of the DVD. It would be good to see the making of the film and Paris shots. In talking to people around Cannock way on there seems to be little in the way of memorabilia on Cannock bands and also one or two have mentioned the documentary “50 years of jazz band history” that was televised in 1976, I’m not sure if your dad filmed that.   Stuart 


        • Stuart I have sent Wendy your email address. I’m hoping you two can cook up some great history stuff between you. Brilliant.



          • Stuart Cowley says:

            No worries chap, I know her dad had a wealth of stuff, only problem is it may turn in to a bit of a Bluebird thing, there were about 30 bands in just the Cannock area alone , it would be good to see some stuff from them but there seems to be very little about. 


            • Wendy Jones says:

              Hi Stuart
              I have emailed you but I might have got the address wrong. (I’m not to clever at this attaching thing) I have put a few clips of the jazz bands on youtube, however, its extremely time consuming, I don’t know if you have managed to see any of them. There are some good clips of the Chase Wakes in 1973, when the French majorettes came to England and the jazz bands paraded each with their own banners with their name on them, I still the film to collect the names, talk soon hopefully
              Will try and do a couple more clips today
              Regards Wendy

          • Jill Adney says:

            hi Bob, Its Jill who was a member of the TGs Jazz band.
            I’ve spoken to Stuart and said to ask you for his email address if thats ok.
            Thank you

            • Hi Jill

              You should have Stuarts address by now – I sent a round robin on the 28th December with yours, Wendy’s and Stuart’s address. Did you not receive it?


        • Wendy Jones says:

          I have just emailed you, I also have a few old newspaper clipings of other bands, and there is loads of different bands on DVD, old cine film taking in the early 1970’s, also of the French troop we exchanged during 1974, film of Paris with the Blue Bird performing, there is a clip of you walking across the screen, I’m sure you will enjoy watching it.

    • Jill Adney says:

      hi stuart
      hope you and your family are well. You may not remember me but I was a member of the Trinity Georgians band and I recently came across lots of photos of different bands in the 70s which I would like to show you but dont know where to start. Any ideas?

      • stuart cowley says:

        Morning Jill, nice to hear from you. I’m not too good on the technical side of things about putting stuff on to websites etc but if you make contact with Wendy Jones through this blog she seems to be more up to speed than me and has put a lot of cine film on You Tube including some of the Georgians, good luck.


        • Jill Adney says:

          Thanks for replying back Stuart, will get in touch with Wendy.
          Hope you and your family have a lovely New Year.

          • stuart says:

            If all else fails I work with a lady who was also in the TGs she may be interested , ask Bob for my e mail address and I’ll forward detail on. You and yours have a good one too,

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  11. miss a moore says:

    Was wondering if anyone has pictures of Tamworth trinity Georgians my mom was lead kazoo n lost pictures over the years if any one has any or knows where I can go to get some would make my mom a very happy lady as the band was her life for over 20 years

    • Pedro says:

      Only mention of the band I can find in the Newspaper Archives is for August 1971 when they were described as a Jazz Band and playing at Wilnecote Parish Hall. (many years are missing from the archives)

      If you Google you can see the site below…

      where they were entered in, what is called, the first World Championship in 1974.

      Best wishes Pedro

  12. miss a moore says:

    If anyone has any pictures or videos of Tamworth band trinity Georgians could you pass me a link or email them to me at as my mom was a marching member lead kazoo and would love to see them

    • Wendy Jones says:

      The Trinity Georgians are on the old cine films, the hours of work to go through them is very daunting, I will get them out tomorrow

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  14. Wendy Jones says:

    I was a Blue Bird in the 1970’s (I could see myself in the old film) and I kept a scrap book of all the events which I still have, also there is about 5 hours footage of old cine film of events all over the UK and Wales, there is a lot of footage of local events. Dad used to give film shows in the old Burntwood baths. I also have a fair amount of old Blue Bird photographs taken in the 1970’s. I can remember most of my fellow marchers names.

    • Jill Adney says:

      Hi Wendy
      I was a member of the Trinity Georgians in the 70s and came across loads of photos of the bands we all competed against, it would be nice if I could show these to bring back memories for all jazz band members but not sure how to go about it, spoke to Stuart and he said to contact you. Hope you can help.
      Happy New Year to you.

      • Wendy Jones says:

        Hi Jill

        I also have loads of old photographs of jazz bands, although mostly Blue Birds with a few other jazz bands. Also I have more old cine film of bands taken in the 1970’s that I still have to download. Also old scrap books with newspaper cuttings and old programmes

        I am able to scan photographs and download films, but I still have to master how to start my own web page, a task for 2014

        I would be willing to scan any old photographs and put them onto disc for you

        Happy New Year to you

        • Hi Wendy

          Still have your Cliff stuff to go up, not forgotten, promise ;-)

          You should have each other’s email addresses now – I did a round robin last night. Please let me know ifyyou haven’t.

          If you want help setting up a blog or site of your own, please shout up, only too happy to help

          Happy new year

          • stuart says:

            Morning all,
            It is looking like it needs a dedicated website rather than deluge a site such as this with stuff and that’s where I get lost in the technicalities of it all.

          • Wendy Jones says:

            Hi Bob
            The last couple of months seem to have dissolved into thin air. My main interest has been the old shops in the Burntwood and surrounding areas. I call it “One hundred years of shopping in Burntwood”. I have been collating it into book form and have gathered a fair amount of information and old advertisements and photographs, I have well over 100 hundred pages of information of shop keepers and items they sold to the public. It has escalated from writing about shopping with my mother when I was a young girl and I used to walk past the shops to school.

            I also worked in Lindon Road, Brownhills for 13 years after I left school in the early 1970’s and most days would walk the length of Brownhills High Street with my friend over the old railway bridge, its amazing what daily events we so easily forget (I have been looking at your old photographs of Brownhills which brought back so many memories), I not going to adventure with Brownhills shops yet

            Jazz bands were a part of my life for 10 years, however, not all my life

            Its mainly the setting up of a web page and attaching links that I am not to sure about

            You always work so hard and give hours of your time

            Wishing you a very Happy New Year

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  16. Lesley Shephard says:

    Thanks Stuart for contacting me onFriends Reunited. I was in the Longford Troupers in the early seventies and reading all the comments has bought back fond memories of rehearsing our routines ready for the weekends competitions. Every child in our street had a broom handle with some kind of weight on the end to march up and down twirling them and launching them into the air. I still get the urge to do it occasionally on the rare occasions I find a broom in my hands.

  17. stuart cowley says:

    Just spotted a brilliant piece of film on this same site, to my knowledge contains some of the oldest film of such bands going back to 1934/35, the link is here, thanks again Bob:

    • carol says:

      I was in ynysowen jazz band in the 70s came across this site by accident and stirred up a mindful of happy memories so vivid you wouldn’t think it was 35 to 40 years ago it was also good to see our village band was remembered thanks

      • stuart cowley says:

        Thank you for leaving a message Carol, I hope my memories of your band were accurate, whenever me and my wife are in South Wales we try and pay our respects at Aberfan, probably difficult for people down there to understand the impact the disaster had on my age group up in the Midlands, a lot of us were living in mining communities ourselves and we were of a similar age at the time. For happier memories though if you want to see more band stuff track down Jill and Wendy who have also left comments on this topic via Facebook, Jill has loads of old photos and Wendy has put 44 clips of film from the 70’s on youtube, search for Wendy Jones chase wakes.Thanks again

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  19. scott says:

    Chase Royals Are still going strong. And still taking part in competitions around the uk.

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