Dave Potts (banjo)
RIP 19/04/14


Listen to the Red River Jazzmen Playing 'Makin' Whoopee with Dave Potts on vocal

15/04/15 - Dear Fred, Some sad news. I just have heard that Dave Potts (banjo) passed away last Thursday. Although I didn't know him well he was a good friend of our late banjo player Reg Aveyard. I understand they were in the RAF together. I have just spoken to his wife Jean and she has confirmed that he played with the Collegians and the Red River Band. No funeral details as yet but Jean is going to let me know in due course. -

Peter Swensson, Savoy Jazzmen.

17/04/15 - I'm very sorry to hear about the death of yet another old friend and colleague --- Dave Potts. We played quite a few times together, mostly whenever I depped (very infrequently for Tony Iddon) in the Red River Jazz Band, and whenever I sat in, guested or depped with the Crescent Jazz Band/Pete Haslam's Collegians at the Bodega or out-of-town gigs (60s). About four years ago I visited Dave in Manchester Royal Infirmary. He had been seriously ill, but had made a reasonable recovery, I was told later. It's great that he had a new lease of life for that much longer. Dave was a very accurate and rhythmic banjoist and used to synchronise his playing in such a way that he never jarred with whoever was on piano. That isn't easy to do, but Dave mastered that task. I can only remember Brenda (then Tomkin, now Canty-Forrest) and Denis Gilmore on piano (doubling cornet) with the Collegians/Crescent. I think it was largely Roy Maguire, for a good while on piano with the "Reds" during their long-term residence at the Warren Bulkeley, Stockport. Roy was a very good vibraphonist too.

Joe Silmon

17/04/15 - Hello Fred, I'm so sorry to hear about the death of Dave Potts. I played with him in The Crescent Jazz Band...later Pete Haslam's Collegians in the late 50s,early 60s. He was an excellent musician,keeping a good steady beat in his inimitable nodding style. I have been listening to our recording again since I had it copied on to CD as Fred asked me to as he put some of the tunes on his home page over the Christmas period. My condolences to Jean and his family. -

Brenda Canty-Forrest (was Tomkins)


(Joe Silmon-Monerri)

By now, most readers of the News Page on Fred Burnett's great Jazz website will be aware of the very sad news that our old friend and colleague, Dave Potts, passed away on Thursday 9th of April 2015 at 11 a.m., having arrived in hospital at only 8 p.m. on the Wednesday. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease for some time. He had retired from his job as a Traffic Manager with a Trafford Park company in 1990, but I think he went on playing for a little while, despite two serious heart attacks in 2007, and the replacement of a heart-valve. This all caused him to slow down. Dave was born on the 19th of November 1933, so he had reached 81 or 82. I wish to thank Peter Swensson, of the Savoy Jazzmen for contacting the website to relay the news to us all, and Fred himself, of course, for providing the news, and his family for updating me more recently. Dave leaves his wife, Jean, sons Howard, daughter-in law Gillian and Andrew and daughter-in-law Avril, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, a little girl. I'm sure that they are all in the thoughts and prayers of all of us from the old Scene.

Always one of the nicest and most thoughtful musicians on the local Jazz scene, pleasant and friendly to talk with, Dave could always be relied on to be the 'placator' or 'peace-maker' if ever there were any disputes or tensions between band members --- which happens --- he was capable of defusing tricky situations. That's a rare skill, as well as a virtue. Dave Berry, drummer, confirmed this in a recent conversation.

Let us cast an eye over Dave Potts's interesting career on the Manchester Jazz scene and his stalwart contribution to it over the decades. I am able to do this, because about four or five years ago, I interviewed Dave regarding his time with Pete Haslam and his "two-bands-in-one", and we went on to talk about his days in the  Jazz Band. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to cover his briefer stint with the Rainy City Jazz Band. Maybe someone else can fill that gap. Perhaps Ian McCann?

Where did it all start? The first successful band involving Dave, was the Crescent Jazz Band. Dave was known to us all affectionately as "Noddy", because he nodded his head to the rhythm as he played. It was also something to do with his ever friendly nature. The "Crescent Jazz Band", depending on the venue and the period, was also known as "Pete Haslam's Collegians" (complete with striped blazers and straw-boaters). However, that all came a bit later. Dave was studying Electronics at Ferranti's, Chadderton, at the time that the band was in its embryo stage. Its members had started rehearsing in 1950, with no band-name in mind, back then. As usual, National Service interrupted progress around 1952-55 and disrupted any idea of a regular personnel for a few years. Dave was in the RAF between 1952 and '54. Dave on banjo, Denis Gilmore, on piano back then, between 1950 and 1952, would get together with other local 16/17-year-olds, to rehearse their favourite music. Dave's favourite British Jazz band was Chris Barber's. The Jazz apprenticeship sessions took place at the Wagon & Horses pub, in Rhodes, Middleton, Manchester. The pub was owned by Denis's parents, on Manchester Road.

Demobilisation in 1954/55 brought things back on an even keel. By 1952, some of the boys were now back home and able to resume their practising; but there were some other welcome changes too. While in the R.A.F., Denis Gilmore and Pete Haslam had met at a School of Radar Training unit in Wiltshire (RAF Yatesbury?), and they had enjoyed regular Jazz sessions in the NAAFI. By 1955, Pete, who had started on clarinet, decided he would rather play trombone. He then decided to try his brother Robin on clarinet. The lad took to it almost immediately. A drummer, Pete Bell, joined the group. Denis, Robin, the two Petes, Norman Slater (d/bs) and Dave, now had the nucleus of a band, and in late 1955 they had gone pianoless, as Denis was now on trumpet. It was time for Dave, now back home from the RAF for about a year, to provide the chord stucture entirely on his own on banjo, at least for a while. The boys rehearsed at the local Bowlee RAF Camp in Middleton, where they were joined by two serving RAF Jazz enthusiasts, at the time, according to Dave, in some handwritten notes to me. However, the trumpet chair is a bit of a mystery. For at least a while in 1955, it was Colin Lounsbeck on that instrument, according to Manchester Evening News research material. Line-up: Colin, Robin H. (clt), Pete H. (tbn), Norman Slater (d/bs) Pete Bell (dms), Denis Gilmore (back, but on piano only), and Dave Potts (bjo).

This seems to have made it easier for the boys as regards travel. When they had been rehearsing at Denis's parents' pub., it meant a three-mile bus ride for Robin and Pete Haslam and drummer Peter Bell. Peter actually took his drums on the bus, according to Robin Haslam, who said "... and as I recall, his bass drum was BIG !! Dedication ? ..." In a photograph from the cover of the February 1992 issue of "Jazz Times", sent to www.jazznorthwest.co.uk by Robin Haslam, for his brother Peter's obituary, depicting the Crescent Jazz Band, in its very early post-long-term rehearsal days (1954-55?), the line-up was as follows: Pete Haslam (tbn), Denis Gilmore (tpt), Robin Haslam (clt), Dave Potts (bjo), Denis Taylor (pno) --- he was with the band for a very short period --- according to Robin, Eric Batty (d/bs) and Peter Bell (dms). Robin believed it was taken at the Thatched House, with which I tend to agree, from memory of the venue. However, since at that time, the band was alternating on a 2-band session with "Eric Batty's Jazz Aces". It may have been mere coincidence that Eric was on bass, at the time the photograph was taken, and not the regular bassist, Norman Slater, who had definitely not left the band permanently yet, and may have been watching from the "wings".

Robin Haslam's photograph, used on the front of "Jazz Times" in February 1992, was taken in the very early days of the band. The year for the above picture must have been 1956, as Robin Haslam states on it (reason: Dave Berry replaced Peter Bell possibly late that year). At about the time of the Thatched House photograph, Dave Potts was still on banjo as he is visible in it (i. e. in 1956). Dave Berry, who joined in 1956, is on drums, Denis is doubling trumpet and piano, and now by 1958, the recently arrived Colin Tomkins, who had married the future pianist in the band in 1956, was now permanently on trumpet, since Denis had experienced some serious 'lip' problems. Later at the end of 1958, Colin's wife Brenda Tomkins, (now in the 2000s, Mrs Canty-Forrest; back then a mother for the first time, quite shortly after her baby's birth) valiantly joined on piano, so it was a 2-trumpet front line for a while, but only until the Tomkins's baby was born. Brenda tells me that Colin and her were never on stage with Pete's bands at the same time. This was because Colin had to 'baby-sit' during Bodega sessions, and Brenda during the Clarendon sessions (once Colin had joined the Zenith Six). However, they were both on stage together for one night at least, possibly the John Mills's Tribute night at the Bodega; because I saw them performing on stage at the Bodega at least that once, as I was there myself with Tony Smith's Jazzmen. Among the many local Jazz bands that attended and played for the charitable event, both the Zenith Six and Pete Haslam's Collegians were very much in evidence. Colin was simply sitting in for a number or two, with Pete's band; it was possibly the only time that the couple had shared the stage in this band. So someone else was baby-sitting that night in 1961. And what a great pianist Brenda was---and I believe still is, in her present Welsh environment!!! By the time the band was playing in striped blazers (1959-60), for their contractual obligation for The Bodega appearances, already also known as "Pete Haslam's Collegians", the band, including Brenda---the only member of the band wearing a beige skirt [which appears white in a famous photograph]---Denis Grundy was now on drums, but Denis Gilmore was still on trumpet, with Robin on clarinet, and Norman Slater on bass. Pete Haslam was not present, according to Brenda in a recent e-mail to me. Pete was at home suffering from a very bad cold. The picture was taken by a professional photographer, says Brenda, and was the one used, visibly 'leaderless', for the Liverpool Cavern Jazz Festival literature. Colin Tomkins had already left the band to join the prestigious Zenith Six, the immaculate follow-up of the Ray LeClerque band, that graced the Manchester Jazz Club at the Clarendon for a while in the late 40s/early 50s, the new band lasting well into the 70s. Dave's photograph was taken in 1960 at the Bodega. The Collegians on the distinctive stripy raised stage, matching the "blazers" nicely, with their unconventional flared-out lapels. Brenda left the band in Spring 1962, when the couple and their baby left to settle in Wales, much to the regret of the local Jazz scene, as they were both highly respected for their contribution to local Jazz.

As well as at the Bodega and the Thatched House, both accessible from Cross Street, the Haslam band(s) played gigs at the Manchester Sports Guild (Sportsman Restaurant), on Market Street, and later at the new MSG in Hanging Ditch. It was only at the Bodega, that Impresario Paddy McKiernan insisted on the band being called "Pete Haslam's Collegians" and wearing the regulation blazers and boaters. Otherwise, they were "The Crescent Jazz Band". During the 1960s, they played at out-of-town venues, such as: the Downs Hotel, Altrincham, the Railway Hotel, Wilmslow, Rochdale Jazz Club (then at Rochdale Rugby Club), run by a very pleasant chap called Pete Wilson and at the Duke of Edinburgh in Oldham.

As with most Manchester and Stockport-based bands in the 50s and 60s, Pete Haslam's outfits played double or multi-band sessions at the Cavern, off Mathew Street, Liverpool, run then by Ray McFall, the building being demolished in 1973 to make way for a railway development scheme. It was, subsequently, replaced on Mathew Street itself by a mock-up of the old premises, that sports something called the "Wall-Of-Fame", on the left-hand side when entering off North St. John St. This is a very tall wall full of very special bricks, each commemorating the names of artists or bands (Jazz/Rock/Pop) that performed at the 'real' venue since its inception, and back then in 1957, strictly Jazz bands. The "Wall of Fame" and the new "Cavern Pub" are on the same side of Mathew St. as The Grapes. I remember when we gravitated there in our intervals, we emerged from the Cavern, turned left, then right onto Mathew St., to go to The Grapes pub. No matter what their position is on the "Wall", whether at the front, or in a tight corner, every brick commemorates someone. Good for Liverpool City Council! It's a much appreciated gesture. I doubt Manchester will ever follow suite, to commemorate the thousands who made up the Manchester Jazz Scene that started as far back as 1919

Left-to-right:  Pete Mooney (d/bs), Dave Potts (bjo), Allan Dent (tpt), Dave Berry (dms), Mick Knowles (tbn), Roy Maguire (pno), Tony Iddon (clt/ldr).
The Red River Jazzmen photo reproduced  from the late Alice Garnett's "Jazz Times" September 1991 issue.
The photo, however, was probably taken 25 or 30 years earlier. - Joe Silmon


Peter's bands were appearing at the Cavern between 1958 and 1963-64, notably during the January 1960 Liverpool Jazz Festival, when they shared the 'really tiny' stage with bands such as "The Acker Bilk Paramount Jazz Band" and other bands mainly London-based. By now, more regular additional Rock and Pop outfits were involved: Bee Bumble and the Stingers, The Swinging Blue Genes, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Spidermen, The Big Three, etc., and the long list included one group who would eventually spell doom for the Jazz outfits --- The Beatles!!!

Free Trade Hall, Manchester concerts were becoming commonplace, with Jazz Band Balls happening occasionally, there, and in the area generally. TV appearances followed for the band, on Granada's "People And Places" and there were many gigs in Yorkshire and the Potteries. Dave was in the right place at the right time. By about 1958, Norman Slater had been replaced by Colin Knight, on double bass. Colin had a more modernist approach. Being a great musician, very skilled with chords and scoring parts, he influenced the band towards a West Coast sound. By now the ever versatile Dave Berry was on drums with the band, too. Around this period, Colin Tomkins, still in the band, aided and abetted the other Colin in his approach. The change in style would not be permanent. Colin Knight and Dave Berry left the band some time between 1959 and 1960. Dave Potts was now restless, too, and wanted a change of territory. Colin K. and Dave B. were replaced by Cliff Jones (d/bs) and Denis Grundy (dms), respectively - Denis Grundy already seen in Dave's photograph of the Bodega session. The band then went back to something approaching its original, more Classic Jazz style. Around this time too, when playing at the Bodega, the band was joined by the mystical vampirish-looking figure of Ted Calvert, the cloaked vocalist. He was a natural entertainer. His act certainly complemented the fairly easy-going character of Pete's band. Dave was still in the band, but not for very long. I remember sitting in with the band around 1959, shortly after my own baptism of fire onto the scene, and it was still Dave on banjo at the Bodega. In 1961, Denis Gilmore left the band and was replaced by the trumpet player who helped to coax me into Jazz, when we both worked at Sparrow, Hardwick & Co., a textiles warehouse/store on Piccadilly St. (London Road), Manchester. Geoff Wilde was Denis's replacement. When one person left a band, soon others would do likewise.

Following his successful career in the above bands, in 1961, Dave Potts decided to expand his horizons and rejoined another great Manchester band, or rather a Stockport-based band. I say rejoined, because there is graphic Manchester Evening News evidence to the effect that, while in Pete Haslam's bands, Dave had played with another famous band in the area. This was the Red River Jazzmen, under the leadership of clarinettist Tony Iddon. The line-up of the band in 1958 was: Tony Iddon (clt/ldr), Tony Smith (tpt), Chris Brown (tbn) [by at least September 1959], Dave Potts (bjo), Pete Mooney (d/bs) and Eric Pizey (dms). The band had originally been based in Dukinfield, where it started in approximately 1956, becoming established in 1958. In this band, Dave was to experience the appreciation of foreign Jazz fans. In 1964, his new band was nominated to appear at the International Amateur Jazz Contest, to be held in Zurich, Switzerland in September. Two Manchester bands did well. The Gordon Robinson Septet and the Red River Jazzmen, were among the many contestants from all over Europe, if not the world. There were several categories of Jazz. Gordon's band was there for the Mainstream award, and won first prize. The Red River Jazzmen came a very respectable sixth in their category, a variety of post-Classic Jazz, a little like the "Frisco" sound. Stockport and Manchester had had a proud day!!! Dave can be seen quite clearly in his light coloured raincoat, (Jazz Times photograph). There has been some confusion over the year of the contest being either 1964 or 1965. Well, in fact, both are applicable, but only in the case of the Gordon Robinson Septet, who attended and won first place on both occasions, in the Mainstream event. Alan Stevens makes it plain in "Jazz Roundabout", M.E.N., 1st October 1965, referring back to 1964, that it was that year when both bands attended; the RRJ coming 6th (Traditional), Gordon Robinson's band managing first for Mainstream, out of 50 international outfits. However, both the "Reds" and Gordon's band were actually invited back a second time, for the September 1965 contest in Zurich. Gordon's band was flown there. Club 43 had raised the relevant funds. They won again, but in 1965 had to share the first place with the Novi Big Band from Poland. That said, the Red River J/M had to decline the offer to represent the British Traditional side, because, this time around, expenses weren't being covered for either band by the Swiss. The RRJ boys were not in a position to play abroad for no fee, while paying their own expenses to get there, and while there. This is very understandable. So they only went once, and came 6th (Traditional Jazz, although they covered Mainstream too). That was definitely in September 1964, and by train/boat-train only. Fortunately, they got a sort of consolation prize. They were invited to go to Dusseldorf for the 1965 German International Jazz Festival, being the only British band invited. It was an 'expenses paid' arrangement. Whether they went or not, I don't know. There is possibly no information in the local newspapers, because it might have been regarded as 'just another gig".

Below the Stockport Advertiser photograph, reproduced on Fred Burnett's wonderful website, courtesy of The Advertiser, and Peter Day, Dave Berry wrote:-  "In 1964 the National [Amateur] Jazz Federation Band Contest featured three winners : two of the bands were local (Manchester) bands and a third from Chester - the Glyn Evans quartet. The main picture I'm sending, features all the musicians from two of the bands; i. e., Gordon Robinson septet, and the Red River jazzmen. The musicians pictured are all named in the two bands featured in the newspaper cutting (n. b. one musician was absent from the main picture, namely Allan Dent (tpt), Red River jazzmen. The winners of the national contest were awarded the prize of an all-expenses trip to Zurich, Switzerland, to take part in a jazz festival there. The two Manchester bands did well, the Gordon Robinson quartet coming first overall (in Zurich) and the Red River Jazzmen coming a commendable sixth. About 50 bands took part. Humphrey Lyttelton was amongst the judges".

Also in 1964, the Red River Jazzmen, no doubt now augmented by the excellent Dave Mott on baritone and alto saxes and clarinet, played at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester, where they recorded a track that features Dave Potts, singing wonderfully well on his favourite number "Making Whoopee". Maybe Fred will let us hear it? It was sent to me by his son Howard. Andrew and Howard have been updating me. Thanks boys!

Dave Potts continued with the Red River Jazzmen, with those wonderful sessions at the Warren Bulkeley Hotel in Stockport, long since demolished, and numerous out-of-town gigs, until 2006, when poor health forced him to retire, according to his sons Howard and Andrew. The band disbanded during the second decade of the 2000s. What loyalty! What a fabulous career! We salute you Dave, and are proud to have been your friends and fellow Jazz musicians for so long.

May you now rest in the Peace of the Lord.

Joe Silmon-Monerri

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