Music without peer…

What seems like an age ago, but in fact was only in 2019, I featured an article here about the Brownhills Co-Operative Society Orchestra. It was a surprisingly popular post for what I, at the time, foolishly considered a slightly obscure subject: But it drew much comment and you can read it and the original article by clicking here. I’ve featured the original article at the foot of this post for content, too.

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by reader David Book who had a photograph of the Peerless Dance Band, a notable local musical ensemble who I’ve heard referenced a good few times, but have very scant information on.

David said:


Thank you for this photograph and for the interesting information from Derek.

I can confirm that the man in the centre at the back (glasses, tie and holding a violin) is Samuel Holford (my grandfather). I understand that he lived on Great Charles Street and later in Shire Oak.

He had a greengrocers shop before the war.

Samuel Holford, centre holding violin and the Peerless Dance Band – date unknown. An absolutely gorgeous image kindly supplied by David Book. Those expressions – Samuel and the the chap on banjo particularly – but the suits, the stance. Everything is timeless.

I’m not sure of the date or the identity of the musicians, but I have a photograph of him playing in the “Peerless Dance Band” (I’ll email the photo to Bob, in case it’s of interest)

Best Regards
David Book

Now firstly my huge thanks to David for a remarkable image, and such a beautiful copy of it too: But not just that, this potentially opens up a new avenue – who were the rest of The Peerless Dance Band? Where did they play? What dates were they around? What can people recall and contribute?

This is just such a lovely image, I’m fascinated by it: The expressions, the posture, the charm of it. It’s thoroughly gorgeous.

You know what I’m going to ask: Please do contribute anything at all – either about the musician Samuel Holford, the dance band he was in or indeed, the Co-Operative orchestra. Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or have a word on social media.

Samuel is the man also hiding the violin in the image below, heading up my original post.

Orignal article:

A lovely image from something I didn’t know existed at all – Brownhills Coperative Orchestra in, I think, the 1950s. Image very kindly supplied by John Bakewell, who is the dashing young lad back right holding the double bass.

Something very interesting popped up in the week that I think will engage the older readers particularly, and is a lovely one for the pre-Christmas period: A photo of the Brownhills Co-Operative Society Orchestra.

I had no idea it existed at all. I of course knew about the Brownhills Co-Operative Choral Society operating from the same place – which won many awards and was famous for decades; David Evans has written extensively about that fine history here many times over the years.

Yet I don’t recall any mention of an orchestra at all. John Bakewell wrote:

I used to play double bass with the Co-op orchestra that rehearsed each week in a room above the shop. Has anyone got any memories of this orchestra?

John added:

I’m second from the right at the back with the head of a double bass next to me. The society had their own instrument which meant that I could go straight to rehearsal on the bus from Cannock after finishing work in the council offices.

David Evans also observed:

Possibly a young Ray Cooper, back row second from right… Viola player.  Isabel Cooper, his wife, front row, by the clarinet player…

So can we help John identify more of the people in the image, or share recollections of this clearly very fine group of musicians?

The musical history of Brownhills is illustrious – truly – and also remarkably diverse, so it surprises me I’ve not noticed this orchestra before.

Can you help please? If you can, comment here on the blog, find me on social media or shoot me an email to BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks, and particularly to John for shining a light on another bit of our otherwise forgotten cultural heritage.


The Co-op Hall, the upper floor used for a number of purposes, including the Labour Exchange. It stood where Farm Foods is today. A cracking 1980s image by Brownhills George, and posted on Panoramio.

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1 Response to Music without peer…

  1. David Book says:

    I should add:
    – Samuel Holford was born in 1904
    – He was out of the country between 1941 and 1945 (RAF medic)
    – There are a number of mentions in local newspapers (e.g. Lichfield Mercury, Cannock Chase Observer, Staffordshire Advertiser, Rugeley Times) of a ‘Peerless Dance Band’ (searched via the site ) between 1926 and 1935. Some of the early adverts say “… under the leadership of Mr. Bert Thacker”.
    – Example of one advert (Friday 21 June 1935, Lichfield Mercury):

    There was a large attendance at the Memorial Hall on Saturday evening for the weekly dance the music being supplied by the Peerless Dance Band. Messrs. E. Boulton and McCarthy were M.C’s and the ladies’ committee were in charge of the refreshments.

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