Down your local – when Brownhills was a musical mecca

The Crown as it is today: from the pub’s website.

Great friend of The Brownhills Blog, top photographer and graphic designer, twitter wit and aspiring returnee cyclist Peter Barker had a remarkably off-beat find the other day. Lurking in his father’s personal effects was a reel to reel tape, containing a recording of some local jazz music, played at The Crown in Brownhills West in the 1970’s. This fits in nicely with David Evans recent musings on music and its place in local community and culture.

It seems Mondays at the Crown were jazz night. Peter isn’t certain, but thinks the recording is from 1977 or perhaps a little earlier; it’s of a program aired on BBC Birmingham (latterly Radio WM) called ‘Down Your Local’ which used to feature music and entertainment from around the station’s broadcast area.

Peter had this to say about the recording:

Hi Bob

I’ve split up the recording from the Crown into separate tracks, and I’m sending them on separate emails so hopefully you’ll get them all. Sorry the quality’s a bit ropy, thanks to the combination of a mangled reel to reel tape and a very temperamental old Ferrograph. I may give it another go in the near future but this is the best I can manage at present. I was planning on putting the Ferrograph on eBay but having tried it I think a skip would be a better destination. (Or failing that, I’ll stick it on Freecycle.)

With regard to the recording: it was broadcast on Radio Birmingham I believe (I’m not sure when it changed to WM). I have a feeling it may have been broadcast earlier than 1977 – could probably be a couple of years before that.

Paul Degville, Fred’s son, carries on the family tradition. Fred taught that other notable local musician, Noddy Holder, to play guitar...

Personnel: Paul Degville: Lead guitar; Fred Degville: Rhythm guitar; Ernie Jones (Johns (?)): Violin; Ron Thomas: Bass guitar; Len Coton: Drums.

I remember it being a long room with the bar down the left hand side and possibly two open fireplaces on the right, with a roaring coal fire in at least one of them. (My dad was always convinced the pub was sponsored by the NCB.) I know you had to get in early or you ended up barbecued by the end of the evening.

There’s a bit about the Crown towards the bottom of this page – you’ll find it if you do a search for Fred Degville.

There’s also a bit about Fred and Paul Degville on this page.

Hope that’s enough info to be going on with.

Peter

I can assure Peter that the recordings are fine, and astounding. Calling back from a time when Brownhills had a music scene, it may not be to everyone’s taste (I know [Howmuch?] is allergic to certain types of jazz), but it shows how diverse and interesting the pub circuit was in the town at that time. It must have taken an immense amount of work to transfer them and clean them up. It’s a fine job that Peter has accomplished there.

I’m interested (as is Peter) in any recollections you may have of that scene, or indeed, of the Crown itself. This is a remarkable find, and I’d like to thank Peter for it most profusely. Peter is a top bloke and also has something else for your perusal, later in the week. Top fellow, so he is.

Please feel free to listen or cut out and keep these recordings. Do listen to the intro chats, they’re wonderful.

Track 1: I Saw Stars:

Track 2: Intro chat

Track 3: Body and Soul

Track 4: Intro Chat

Track 5: Nigh and Day

Track 6: Nuages

Track 7: Sweet Georgia Brown

Track 8: Dinah

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38 Responses to Down your local – when Brownhills was a musical mecca

  1. warren parry says:

    fantastico.

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    What a wonderful article! Many thanks to Peter for sharing this and to you for making this a super article to read and to listen to. Django Rheinhardt and Stephane Grappeli brought unique innovative sounds..le Hot Club de Brownhlls, then! ( even without the NCB contribution) Wonderful. I wonder what sort of music was performed at the Station Hotel? Our local Brownhills High Street butcher Barry Yates and his folk group brought their own memorable style to the music scene. Does anyone have examples of these, please?
    Peter and Bill..what a super way to start the week. Thank you. David

  3. David Evans says:

    HI
    erm..Bob. oops!…….

  4. Hi Bob

    Thanks for the very kind comments! I have a feeling I may have ‘mis-identified’ the first track. If anyone can confirm, or whatever the opposite of confirm is, that it’s “You Took Advantage of me” I’d be grateful.

    Fred moved on from the Crown to a Club in a prefabricated building on Aldridge airport. It’s nice to see his grandson Ian’s on here.

    I’ve found a couple of modern clips of Paul on YouTube now:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/pauldegville?feature=watch

    And one of him playing with Tommy Burton in 1985:

    Cheers

    Pete

    • Hi Pete and Bob,
      Such memories playing at the Crown with my Dad and all the other muscians.
      Sadly, some are no longer with us, but it’s great that we have recordings to remember them.
      I still play at different events and continue the style of Django, indeed, in the 70’s I played with Stephane Grappelli on three occasions and remember after our first meeting he sent word back to the Crown that he wanted to meet up and play together again.
      Just for the record the first track is I saw stars.
      Please keep up the great work, love the site.
      Paul Degville.

      • Hello Paul

        Really pleased to see you’ve caught up with this thread. Thanks for the correction on I Saw Stars. I’m sure Bob will be able to put that right.

        Any ideas when this was from? I have a feeling the more I think about it that it would have been about 1975.

        Hope to see you playing live sometime soon. Do you ever get to the Trumpet these days?

        Regards

        Pete

        • Hi guys…

          Sorted. Sorry, been working late.

          Fascinated by all the recollections here.

          Cheers
          Bob

        • Hi Pete,
          I think you are probably right on the date 1975 or maybe a bit earlier. I had completely forgot about the recording, although, there were several live and recorded events at the Crown during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
          It’s not that often that I play at the Trumpet due to the travelling involved, but next time I play there, I will let you know as well as any other local gigs.

          Regards Paul

  5. Ian says:

    I’ve got a great big lump in my throat and am incredibly proud of my Grandad Fred, Nan Trude, and Uncle Paul, not to forget my late, wonderful mom’s voice.
    Thank you so much.
    Nan and Grandad ran the Crown until a barmaid ran off with the takings, then they took on the Greenacres club in Aldridge. Grandad died in 1979 from cancer, it had ravaged him. He was a very, very lovely man. Nan passed away in 1988, and mom in 1998. Uncle Paul is down in Herefordshire now, still gigging and as brilliant as ever. He has tons of videos from back in the day. I’ve a photo I’d like to add, please Bob…

    • Hi Ian

      That’s wonderful. I’m so pleased the audio has found its way back home.

      Anything you’d like to add, please mail me on BrownhillsBob at googlemail dot com…

      It’s been a pleasure.

      Cheers
      Bob

  6. Brilliant! Great to hear from Ian.

    Looking forward to seeing the photo.

    Pete

  7. brian stringer says:

    Just found the Crown Tapes and been in ecstacy for half an hour. I was in the Crown most nights listening to Fred and Paul with Mom Trudy singing. My favourite night was Wed when we had the unique Norman Pritchard on Vibes. Boy!! could he play. We also had the wonderful blind saxophonist Jack Woodhouse. One night old Uncle Bill was playing bass and he usually played with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. We watched in awe as during a long number it got nearer and nearer to his lips, and just as he was about to snatch it out, his solo came up. We watched him panic as he realised it had stuck to his lips, and his spitting and spluttering to a shower of ash and sparks was hilarious. Saw Paul a couple of years back at Lichfield Garrick playing with THE STICKY WICKET BAND. He appeares regularly at the UPTON JAZZ FESTIVAL in June.

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  9. A couple of other regular performers from this era that Brian will probably remember are Ken Rattenbury on trumpet and Steve Pacitto, an absolute wonder on the electronic accordion. (Young Bob will think that’s an oxymoron, no doubt!) Steve’s still playing, although he must be getting on. In fact I’ve just done a search and discovered he’s doing a gig at Lichfield Garrick on Fri 10 Feb 4:30pm–6:30pm, details here:
    http://www.list.co.uk/event/20268495-steve-pacitto-quartet/
    He’s also playing at the Trumpet in Bilston on 14th Feb.

    Oh, and a question for Ian:
    On the recording it sounds like the presenter credits Ernie Johns, but I recall posters at the time naming Joe Jones as the violinist. Do you have any ideas, Ian?

    Pete

  10. brian stringer says:

    Yes you’re right Peter, I do remember Ken Rattenbury, but learnt never to sit behind him because he had a tendency to fart when going for a high note. Re Steve Pacitto, he played regularly at the garrick on Fridays till the manager, in his wisdom, went for alternative music, which obviously failed if Steves back. I recently posted a video of Steve playing Caravan on his last visit to our jazz club. Google “SUTTON COLDFIELD JAZZ CLUB. Ignore web sites and click on ,’videos’ I’ve put on 27 videos of different bands over an 18 month period, and Steve is on there. Sadly a bit frail now as he is about 85 I think.

  11. brian stringer says:

    Station Hotel played host to The Tommy Burton Combo before Tom ditched the sax for the piano.

  12. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    did the Crown or the Station ever host the Zenith Hot Stompers?
    cheers
    David

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  17. Roger Kidd says:

    FANTASTIC FIND!!! I lived in Walsall in the early seventies, and often we drove to Brownhills to hear the Degvilles and Ernie Jones play this stuff. There was a larger group one night; I remember Ken Rattenbury on trumpet.

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  27. Graham Hewitt says:

    As a kid I lived in the same street in Wolverhampton asJack Wodehouse. Each evening he would set out on his dad’s arm and carrying his accordion to play at the Palais de Dance. As an adult I heard him play sax and piano at the Hollybush on Penn Road. A wonderful evening of modern jazz.

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