Re Tubby Hayes in Reading – responses from our readers

Trevor Bannister’s recent piece on Tubby Hayes’ appearances in Reading provoked some very interesting responses in the form of memories and photographs.

With the permission of those concerned, we thought we’d share them with you…

Tubby Hayes at Reading University from Clive Downs

My memories of the music are very scant, I’m afraid. I seem to remember more of the circumstances leading up to it. At the time Graham (Hobbs) and I were playing with the Undecided Souls, Hugh and Calvin Bullen’s band. We heard about the concert and decided to go (Alan Ross also was going). The Bullen brothers had a very attractive sister, Annette, who worked at a car showroom office in Harris Arcade. I remember Graham and I, or maybe Alan and I, visiting her office to arrange to get her a ticket.

But she wanted to bring a friend, I suppose it was a kind of double date, although I thought we were just trying to make sure the concert was well attended.  The only other bit of that encounter I remember was that we discussed Dave Price, the local jazz pianist, because Annette knew of him, as a sculptor.

As I remember, Graham and I sat in the front row. Graham’s dad gave us a lift there, together with Alan Ross and his father (who worked at the Post Office with my father). Nothing much came of the relationship with Annette, unfortunately (or her friend).

Sad to say, I remember very little of the music, not even the fracas described in the article. The only incident that has stuck with me is Tubby Hayes looking very irritated when he tried to attract the bass player’s attention, without success. I seem to remember Dave Price playing piano at the gig.

About the only other thing I recall was Alan Ross’ father remarking how he had enjoyed the show as we got back in the car afterwards.

Alan now runs Jazz House Records



A rare early photograph of Tubby Hayes in action in the front room of his parents’ home in Wimbledon (photo from the late Shirley Rennison)


Tubby’s playing and ticket prices from Ian Gordon

Never having seen him live, my own partial reservation recollection from listening to TH on radio/disc has more to do with too few pauses rather than the too many notes criticism quoted, particularly on tenor (maybe a British influence on later Coltrane) Just sorry there was no local making an amateur tape, for potential streaming.

The tickets you reproduce suggest that entry prices back in the 1950s were probably 5 to 6 shillings rather than pounds (maybe the equivalent of £5 to £6 pounds now ?).  Thanks again for brightening this isolated Saturday.


Dizzy Gillespie? Who’s he? from Ade Holland

Thanks for stirring the memory cogs. Many years ago when I lived in Corby Northamptonshire, I had a swing band that supported Tubby and others at concerts. A teacher at Corby Grammar school (Keith Diggle) was a jazz enthusiast and put on regular concerts in the school and we always got asked to support them. From memory there was the late great Mark Murphy, Stan Tracey, Ronnie Scott, Tubby, and others.

Another memory years ago I was in a North London Chinese restaurant with around seven or eight other guys, we were on a sales and management course with a company we all worked for at the time.  All heads in the busy restaurant turned towards the door when a huge colourful man mountain came in flanked by a couple of heavies in suits!

A spectacle indeed, he was dressed in a white kaftan with a bright red fez type cap……I exclaimed wow look who’s just walked in…..”Dizzy Gillespie ” I said…….none of them were any the wiser, “Who’s he” were the replies. I was left in awe of him as the conversation reverted back to sales and targets.

Not long after that I gave it all up to become a pro muso. Keep well.

PS I remember in a past life I used to be in a band with Graham Hobbs, great keyboard player and lovely bloke, in fact many years ago he helped us move house.


Buddy Rich at the Hexagon and jazz travels in the USA from Ian Kennedy

I grew up loving jazz, and modern jazz! I am now 78 years old, grew up in Scotland, played drums in a band there, moved to Reading in early 70s.   So interesting reading about jazz in the town then!

Tubby Hayes was one of my idols, and I often saw him at Ronnie Scott’s, where I was a member!   Along with other jazz greats!

The Buddy Rich band was my all-time favourite, and I remember he came and played, only once, at the Hexagon!   And funny, I managed to get seats on the third front row, right in front of the stage.   And I persuaded my wife to come along too!  Now, she hated big band, very loud jazz, so, with a little smile, I knew what she was about to experience?

The auditorium was packed, and when I saw actually how close we were to the stage, for me, Fantastic!  But her?? OMG! Wrong, when the band started, what a noise, and THE most wonderful noise I have ever heard!   The musicianship was simply superb, some of the best players in the world, and as for Buddy Rich himself, WOW!  The word amazing doesn’t do him justice!  Simply the best and most fantastic drummer ever!  What a Big Band!!!

And the bottom line? My wife LOVED every second, saying how different it is seeing LIVE jazz!    A moment I shall never forget, and as an ex-drummer, such a privilege to be there and witness such a super star just doing what he loved!  And how we all loved him too! RIP.

I was fortunate to see him, and his fabulous band, very many more times at Ronnie Scott’s!  He loved coming to the UK where he felt his music was appreciated!   He was right!

I came to live in Reading after getting a job with the BBC in London, and Tilehurst was as close as I could get to London and be able to afford it!   Thus, my interest in jazz in the London venues was kindled!

I was given the job of Lighting Film Cameraman at Ealing studios, and was there 35 years.  My job took me all over the world, many, many Documentaries! Or Panorama etc., and so lucky to get to jazz concerts wherever I was in the world!

I was twice part of the New York Crew!  So much work was being filmed by the BBC in the USA, they decided to base a crew in New York for a three-month period. We had our own flat on W14th Street, just up from Greenwich Village – the home of great jazz!   New York feels open 24/7 and there were so many venues to choose from. I saw Arturo Sandoval at the Blue Note, Arturo Sandoval and Woody Herman’s Herd, Buddy Rich, Dave Brubeck, and loads more at the Village Vanguard. Every week they had a top band, group, or singer. I might never have heard of them, but I went to see them all!  Wow, the musicianship was just amazing and so many new faces – young American guys playing superb jazz!   What a country for talent!   Fantastic experience!  I often didn’t get to bed until the wee small hours!

I was also at work filming the Coca-Cola 100th Anniversary gig at their Atlanta HQ in 1986!  That was the most fantastic party I have ever been to! There were thousands of their workers there, from all over the world.  Fantastic ambiance and food, and the  wine and spirits flowed … so did the music!

The event was held in a huge hangar.

A 40-piece orchestra playing in one area and in another, who else but … Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers!  I just stood and loved every minute!  Wow!

Everyone was given a Gold Plated traditional Coke bottle – I still have mine!


The Reading Jazz Scene Post 1970 and a memorable night at Nino’s Wine Bar from Andy Pegg

Although I am 70 years old, I only came to Reading as a student (at Bulmershe College) in 1969, so the events in the article preceded my arrival. It’s amazing to think that there was such a vibrant jazz scene in Reading during that period.

My first encounter with jazz in Reading occurred in my first year, when Geoff Hawkins (tenor sax) and various other musicians including Colin Boyd (bass) and Mike Cooper (guitar) performed in the Bulmershe College Art Department (I was an art student). At the time I played in a folky/hippy trio called ‘Bliss’ who played at Bulmershe supporting the late Duster Bennett (one-man blues band) and then at Reading University all night Christmas Ball supporting Chicken Stack, Family and various others.

‘Bliss’: (L to R) Martin Berry, Roger Hunt and Andy Pegg rehearsing at Bulmershe College before playing a gig supporting one-man blues band, Duster Bennett (photo from Andy Pegg)

In my first year as a student my band had a 45 rpm single released on the Chapter One label. The band broke up on a tour of the West Coast – well, not that West Coast, but Cornwall, the Zennor Folk Club to be precise. I heard Alan Skidmore playing alone on the Cornish cliffs wailing to the seagulls and waves below, before seeing him with a quartet later that day in Penzance, and this coincided with my discovery of Mingus, Miles, Coltrane, Wes Montgomery etc. My path from Eric Clapton to Ornette Coleman had begun.

A couple of years later I formed a Reading Rock/Jazz/Fusion (whatever terrible name you wish to attribute to it) band called ‘Gamelan’, which evolved later into’ Naiad’, then ‘Espionage’, and finally  ‘World Service’. Naiad featured regularly at Bulmershe College, Reading University, the Three Tuns on Wokingham Road, the Cellar Bar at Bracknell Arts Centre (on one occasion supported by Andy Sheppard’s band – whatever happened to him?) and many more venues. Our best gig was on the main stage at the Bracknell Jazz Festival (with my friend and Progress regular Simon Price on drums).

Bracknell Jazz Festival: (L to R) Roger Keene, Simon Price, John Underwood, Andy Pegg, Graham Hobbs (out of frame on the concert Bosendorfer) (photo from Andy Pegg)

With tenor sax player John Harries and keyboardist Graham Hobbs I organised and promoted a regular gig in the cellar of the ‘Cap and Gown’ pub opposite Reading College on Kings Road.  ‘Naiad’ played there regularly as well as Mike Cooper (now playing experimental guitar rather than folk-blues) and also what was perhaps Reading’s first (and last) free- jazz improvising group ‘Pendulum’ – Pat Kelly (trombone), John Harries (tenor & soprano sax) Andy Pegg (guitar) Jeff Wraight (bass) and Ron Hetherington (drums). Pendulum also played at the Bracknell Jazz Festival. John Cummings, the festival organiser who went on to ’Serious Music’, was a great supporter of local bands at Bracknell, including Naiad and Pendulum.

‘Naiad’; Cap & Gown (L to R) Tony Terry, Graham Hobbs, Kevin Willoughby, John Harries, Roger Keene, Andy Pegg (photo from Andy Pegg)

One day Graham Hobbs took a last minute call from Danny (who later went on to own the Purple Turtle) asking if he could get the PA together for Ronnie Scott who was set to play that evening with his band at Nino’s, a wine bar by the bridge over the Kennet in Duke Street. Danny usually did the sound for gigs at Nino’s but he wasn’t available that night. Graham was running a music shop along the Oxford Road at that time and asked me to help.  Of course, I wanted to see the band up close. We set up a few microphones, a small mixing desk and a Peavey PA.

From the outset Ronnie and drummer Martin Drew were totally obnoxious. As they sound checked, Martin told us to ‘Get the f……  reverb off the drum kit!’ – there was no reverb on the drum kit!

Once the band started to play it was clear that it was the wrong venue for them.  Readers’ may remember this. My band had played there previously, and we went down quite well, but we were loud enough to be able to partially ignore the chatting of the audience. But it was clear on this night, that the majority of the audience were ignoring the band.

Ronnie had two mics, one at the right height for the bell of his tenor sax, and one, extended to its greatest height, for announcements, and his jokes. Unfortunately, every time Ronnie made an announcement his tenor was clanging against the lower microphone. He was unaware of this, and blamed Graham and me, the PA guys. He even started complaining about us over the speaker system. By the time that the band took a break, Graham was so furious that he said we were to pack up the PA system and go home – before the second set. After buying him a drink I managed to persuade him that we should stay for the rest of the evening, but we couldn’t get out of there fast enough at the end!


Further reflections on Ronnie at Nino’s … and Graham Hobbs from Trevor Bannister

I remember the evening exactly as Andy describes it. You could feel the tension.  To make matters worse for me, I’m sure it was on that occasion that I had a ‘You Lookin’ at me’ moment with the over-zealous bouncer who brushed past me at the bar. ‘Do it again,’ he said, ‘and you’re out!’ I’d just been standing still minding my own business and watching the band!

The gigs at Nino’s, for which we should extend all praise and credit to Ian Hills and Reading Jazz Circle, dated back to the height of ‘yuppiedom’ when the term ‘wine bar’ first became fashionable. It was at Nino’s that for the first time I saw someone paying for their drinks with a credit card. Now people just flash a mobile phone. How times move on.

Ian organised a string of great gigs. I remember seeing Stan Tracey, with Art Themen, Roy Babbington and son Clark, several times, Clark’s own quintet, Bobby Wellins and Dick Morrissey. No doubt there were many others that I missed. Unlike Ronnie, Stan Tracey communicated with his audience almost entirely via the music. In fact, in all the times I saw Stan play, I only ever remember him making one announcement. ‘If you don’t know that tune,’ he said as he finished ‘Body and Soul’, ‘You shouldn’t be here.’

The ebullient personality of Graham Hobbs , mentioned by both Clive Downs, Ade Holland and Andy Pegg, also figures strongly in my memories of the mid-1960s. Though a year apart, we both attended Ashmead School in Northumberland Avenue. He performed a mean impersonation of the deputy head and uncompromising disciplinarian George Saunders.  Graham and I once travelled to London together to see a double bill with the Jimmy Smith Trio on the first half and the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet in the second. We stood at the stage door

afterwards and to our delight the giant Jimmy Smith and Dizzy’s young pianist Kenny Barron, signed our programmes. We also happened to bump into Eric Burdon of the Animals who was equally stage struck by Jimmy Smith. I remember that Graham asked Kenny if he had played with Charlie Parker. ‘I was too young, man,’ came the reply.


Graham Hobbs from Andy Pegg

Graham told me a few funny stories about Ashmead, such as the Headmaster going apoplectic with rage every time the toilets were blocked with milk bottles. He also told me about having roll-ups with Percy (Watts) in the Art Room store cupboard. Percy liked Graham because Graham was quite good at Art and liked to talk about Jazz. Graham recounted how they were having a sneaky fag in the store room one day when a class of 1st years came in. According to Graham, Percy put his head around the door and instructed, ‘Aaaw, draw a bird and colour it in!’ As an Art Lecturer throughout my working life I’ve recounted that tale many times – not a model to follow but amusing all the same.


Jazz oop North from Art Themen

The list of personnel appearing in Reading was a veritable history of modern jazz and I was familiar with most of them as they all seem to have travelled to Manchester where I was based in my formative years.  Can you imagine the difficulties they all had heading oop North before the days of the motorways? The M6 is pretty bad now but I do remember the A6 having been worse by a factor of three in the 50s and 60s.

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