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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?)
- Heath Hayes History – check out the Jazz Band section
- Remember when – the Jazz Age – This gives an insight to experiences in the North East
- 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.
- Bluebirds in a film clip from Cliff Richard’s film ‘Take me high‘, his last feature film and it’s not hard to see why… Filming was in the city of Birmingham from 6 in the morning until 6 at night just for this clip. [Bob's note: I covered this peculiar film before, I think, but can't find the link. I believe he goes into a 70s Gas Street and buys a narrowboat. There's also an odd passage where the pixie-faced one pilots a hovercraft under Spaghetti Junction on the canal]
- There’s even a website showing some of the buses that were purchased by the bands for anyone interested…
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?