Crowning glory

I’m sure you’ll remember that way back, I featured some recordings of live Jazz being played at the Crown pub in Brownhills West, by amongst others, Ken Rattenbury, Paul and Fred Degville – very respected musicians. This was lifted from a reel to reel recording of Meanwhile, Down at the Local, a program then broadcast by BBC Radio Birmingham.

Peter Barker, ace photographer and graphic designer, found the tape in his late father’s personal effects, and lovingly digitised the recording using his trusty mac and a grumpy Ferrograph reel to reel tape deck. Peter subsequently discovered another tape of a previous program featuring the Degville band at the Crown from Easter, 1973. Sadly, however, in the process of conversion, the Ferrograph had one last strop and digested the tape. Peter feared all was lost, including some rather special interview moments.

All was not lost however, and thanks to a concerted effort by the blog community, and the very hard work of Peter himself, the recordings were saved and published here.

This remains one of the things I’m proudest to have facilitated in the four years of writing this stuff. A real act of musical and historical felicity.

Sadly, Paul Degville passed away at the start of this year.

It seems that Peter has been having another sort out, and came across the following rather special image.

Crown Sextet
Left to right: Frank Nicholls, reeds/woodwind; Ken Rattenbury, trumpet; Paul Degville, bass guitar; Fred Degville, rhythm guitar; I seem to recall the drummer in the pic was Colin Something (sorry, the surname escapes me, but it’s definitely not Len Coton. I’m sure Brian Stringer or others will be able to fill in the blank.) and Norman Pritchard, vibraphone. Image generously sent in by Peter Barker, possibly originally by the Express & Star.

Peter said:

Hi Bob

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve been in touch. Hope you’re well.

I’ve just gone through an old box of photies and come across the attached.

Thought you might be interested to tie this in with the Crown threads: this is the Ken Rattenbury band that was featured on the ill-fated second batch of tracks.

I think the pic came from the Express and Star, although unusually there’s no copyright stamp or other details on the back.

Left to right: Frank Nicholls, reeds/woodwind; Ken Rattenbury, trumpet; Paul Degville, bass guitar; Fred Degville, rhythm guitar; I seem to recall the drummer in the pic was Colin Something (sorry, the surname escapes me, but it’s definitely not Len Coton. I’m sure Brian Stringer or others will be able to fill in the blank.) and Norman Pritchard, vibraphone.

This one should actually replace the pic you’ve used at the bottom here.

That picture is of the group from the other session (Incidentally, Len Coton is on that one.)

Best wishes
Pete

Thanks to Peter for that, and the subject is still open: if you have anything to add, or memories of this wonderful period, please do contact me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or comment here.

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One Comment

  • David Danks

    Hi Bob, great to see this picture with Frank Nicholls. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Frank? I played guitar at the Crown on many occasions with Paul and Fred but struggled with playing the clarinet for a few years. I could play a few of Acker Bilk style numbers but dear Frank was something else. A great player. I remember eventually selling my clarinet to Frank in the mid 60s for eight quid.

     
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