In the late 50s, I used to get the bus from All Saints to the Playhouse, Hulme and sneak into the Circle. There, I would settle myself comfortably with my sandwiches and happily watch the NDO recording their programmes. Although I played trombone, Harry Archer was my hero at the time, I had an affinity with the bass.
Etched on my mind are the images of braces-clad Johnny Roadhouse, Roger Fleetwood before his need for a beard, and the whole brass section.
In later life as a gigging semi-pro, I had the pleasure of acting as sidesman to many of them; Freddie Hefferan was the first to engage me as a bass player in one of his function bands where I would stand alongside Bob Turner. On one gig, Bob took me to task when I decided to play four beats to the bar. 'What does it say on your copy, Paul?
You should just be playing playing two beats there!'. I felt very humble. Other times I might be playing in outfits including Fred Kelly, or Ernie Watson or Harry Burgess or even Johnny Roadhouse and on one occasion, Brian Fitzgerald. When I joined The Manchester Music Service, I had the pleasure of having Johnny Lawton as a colleague.
I felt very privileged to have been invited to play with my lifelong heroes.
Gordon Gribbin ( NDO music librarian 1965 -1974 )
I've just looked over the titles on the new “Diamonds” double CD’s and was vividly reminded of the night I spent copying the parts for `More Than You Know'. I was always happy to copy an Alan Roper score, and this one was needed for the next morning so I was prepared to spend the night working on the parts. I was intrigued by the piano part - a long melody based on the chords of the song with lush voicing. This was repeated as the melody of the song was played over the piano by the flugel.
As with all Roper arrangements it was intriguing and beautiful.
The only thing that marred the experience was the TV in the bedsit next to mine where they were watching the movie `Summer Holiday' on BBC. So Alan's magnificent arrangement alternated in my head with the banal and irritating `We're All Going On A Summer Holiday.' I copied all Alan's scores for his `Wind In The Willows' Suite and many more. All his work had a touch of genius but his musical handwriting was a bit sketchy. I had to keep an eye on the chords when copying the wind and brass so that I could work out what notes they were supposed to play. I learnt a lot about harmony that way. This reissuing of lost tracks has a touch of deja vu about it for me.
After my time with the NDO I moved to Australia and worked for the Melbourne Show Band under Brian May.
The band folded in 1982 ( I think) by which time I was working in TV Entertainment as a composer/arranger/music producer with no technical knowledge.
One of the original Melbourne Showband producers, Neil Davey, took on your task of finding usable tapes in order to put out some records of the band. It was a long and tedious task, hindered by tapes that were badly stored and losing their coating and the difficulty in an encroaching digital age of finding working machines to re-master the multi-tracks. I think he is spending his retirement in completing the task. Now you know you're not alone.
(I know the feeling well, Gordon - a lot of the material I have has been badly stored in lofts, garages etc - amazing that it is still usable- albeit with great care !
Thanks for the Memories
Of Playhouse afternoons, of all those swingin’tunes
Alyn Ainsworth, Bernard Herrmann
and the Kitchenettes with spoons,
How lovely it was.
Thanks for the memories
Of melody on the line, of Sheila singing fine
The trad lads, and moments with Stan’s homing custard pies
How lovely it was
Many’s the time that we saw you
And many’s the time that we heard
The best big band in the land
You did have fun and no harm done
And thanks for the memories
Of Roger Moffatt’s style, Norman George’s smile
Johnny Roadhouse’s braces- he wore them all the while
so thank you so much ....
We remember Make way for music
When you got as high as a steeple
You were such famous people
From swing to pops
You were the tops
Here’s to you the NDO
and thank you so much
thank you so much
Thank you so much !