The Muskrat Jazz Band

Tony Davis (Liverpool) sent me this picture and gave me this account of the band over the phone

 

The original Muskrat was Johnny and Alf Jones on trumpet and trombone respectively, they went to the States and Canada and Alf wound up playing with the Woody Herman, they were both playing in exalted company in America, there's no doubt about that, the two of them did very well. Johnny- a bit erratic, but Alf was a very dependable trombone player. The Merseys wanted him to join them, but there was no way he could do it, he wouldn't leave his brother. I was the clarinet player, along with a guy called Geoff Grant, (his real name was Goldstone, but his family had to change the name to Grant because of anti Semitic prejudice around the the place and they changed their name to Grant). So Geoff Grant was on clarinet and alto saxophone a bit, that was the front line. 

Muriel Holmes (as she was then), was on piano, she was my sister-in law, and later went off to the Panama Jazz Band after I went off to college, and eventually she married the Panama's trombone player, Ron Minshall, and went off to Canada. She never played the piano after she left England. She was a great Jelly Roll Morton stylist. Gerry Grogan was on Sousaphone, he was one of the very first members. We got Gerry when we were playing in Wallasey, he was in the audience and someone dragged him over. He wasn't a jazz man, he was a very fine brass band musician, and he was listening to us, and I got talking to him, and it came out that he played tuba a bit. I forget how it happened, but between us we bought a sousaphone, and that's how he went on to play it with the band. He used to carry it around in a sack, and he used to get stopped by the police in Liverpool with this sack over his shoulder. He'd been a docker, and he'd be walking round in his working clothes, and he'd get stopped, and the policeman would say, "What's that?", and Gerry would say, "It's a sousaphone", and he'd say, "Come on, what is it?", so he'd tip it out on to the pavement. When we'd finished our sessions in Liverpool on a Monday night, we used to go round to the Aldelphi Hotel, which was very very posh, and we'd sit in the lounge and drink coffee, and Gerry would be in his overalls, and his sousaphone in a sack. 

That was the band - Gerry Grogan on sousaphone, Tony Davis on clarinet, Muriel Holmes on piano and Trevor Carlisle on drums - he later went to the Merseysippi Jazz Band. We didn't have a banjo player at first at all, then Tommy Kirby played banjo for a while, and Muriel used to have to kick him to change chord. He knew all the chords, but he could never feel when the change was due, so Muriel used to give him a nudge to change the chord. On trumpet by this time was Jack Walford. In the picture which was taken after I left, is Billy Bent on trombone, Jack Walford on trumpet, Tom Kirby? on clarinet, Colin Whittick on drums (he came in after Trevor left to join the Merseys), and Gerry Grogan on sousaphone, but the banjo player remains a mystery. Do you know?

 

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