Friday October 09, 2020
Jazz Promoter - Harold Swinburne
 
Maghull Town Hall & Llandudno
 
 

Harry & Mary at The Talbot Hotel by Fred Burnett
 


I am known as Harry Swinburne and I was born in Liverpool in 1931. I grew up in a house which always full of music. My mother was a very accomplished pianist and had a music degree which she never used. However we had wireless all day. I used to like to visit my Auntie Martha's because she had a piano and a beautiful cabinet wind up gramophone with some old 78 records. I would shut myself in the parlour and get carried away listening to these records. No jazz but classical, pop, dance, military etc. In my last year at school a teacher tried to start an after school jazz appreciation group which did not take off in a big way but gave me a taste of jazz. The Germans heard that I was there and started to bomb us but luckily they missed me.

After school and a job year in the city I joined the Merchant Navy as a boy rating. I served 10 years and rose up the ranks. This was when my serious interest in music blossomed. I had the opportunity to see some wonderful bands and musicians including some unknown bands in fascinating clubs in Canada, USA, West Indies, and South America among others. I also started to collect regularly American jazz magazines like Downbeat, Metronome and any other music magazines to read when at sea. Big bands were all the rage in those days as well as jazz which was not so commercial in 1950.

I am now 26 and left the Merchant Navy with my record collection and memories of Seeing the likes of the Dorsey Brothers orchestra, and Louis Armstrong All Stars a few times, The Four Aces, and others which I cannot remember.

I launched myself on Civvy street trying different jobs and with my brother Peter trolling around all the jazz and big band venues in Merseyside and the North West. It was lovely to be home every night and sleep in my own bed. I recall happy, often hazy evenings in Wirral with the Panama Jazz Band, Chaucers in Liverpool and The Temple in Dale Street with The Merseysippi, who left there to open The Cavern Club, which is too often overlooked. We also visited The Hunts Cross Hotel, Manor Lock Pub. Warrington, Victoria Hotel in New Brighton and others which escape my old memory now.

 


The Mad Hatter in Warrington
LtoR - Joe Addy,  ?? , Ken Doran, Brian Singleton, Roy Rogers, Derek Pierce
 

Meanwhile I had taken to The Coffee House in Wavertree regularly to see The Blue Magnolia Jass Band to see Trevor Stent and company. I became a fan of theirs and as they moved venues I followed them. I don't know how it started but I began to sing with them several times and usually through a half drunken stupor. I gradually drifted away to other interests and bands. We also had some great breaks at Pontins who had Superb Jazz and Big Band Weekends where I saw Humphrey Lyttleton with Helen Shapiro doing the vocals, Kenny Ball, Monty Sunshine, George Melly, Andy Prior and others. I was still collecting records and soaking up information about bands, musicians and in particular composers and lyricists, such as Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers Irving Berlin Etc. whom I believe will go into history as the Classics of their days with Beethoven, Mozart and so on. I thought that all this knowledge which I had acquired could be put to some use so I Joined hospital radio at Fazakerley Hospital, called Sunshine Radio and I was given a Tuesday evening spot. I visited wards, spoke to patients, took requests and dedications, and spoke to them on radio. We had obtained a licence to broadcast on Medium Wave and it was all so satisfying until the hospital trust shut us down because they were having this new over the bed, pay as you go, system installed.  However I was invited to do a segment on BBC Radio Merseyside on a Saturday evening. I usually did a potted biography with music and anecdotes of the great American composers and musicians. That continued until about 2018 when I had a stroke and was unable to continue.

Meanwhile, about 1989 I had found Maghull Town Hall had a beautiful concert room which was not being exploited. Merseyside Big Band tried a monthly concert there for a few months and I decided it was ripe for some regular jazz. In my travels I had seen a very good jazz band called The Chicago Teddy Bears Society Jazz Band. They did not have a regular venue anywhere near Liverpool so I decided they would have a home at Maghull Town Hall. I approached Brian Singleton and Ken Doran to see if they would try it for door money. We agreed to a three month trial and 27 years later we had a well known jazz venue and some very famous guests. This did not just happen. I spent a lot of time, energy, skill and money on marketing, advertising, printing, posters, flyers and distribution but it all paid off in establishing a famous and attractive regular jazz venue.


Chicago Teds & Savoy Jazzmen at Maghull Town Hall
Tony Dunleavy (tbn), Ken Horton (tbn), Tommy Orret (tpt) Ken Doran (tpt),
Rod Foster (dms), Don Lydiatt, Geoff Walker (bjo), Brian Legan (clt), Joe Addy
(bjo)
 

During those 28 years (approx) I had some great artists at Maghull such as George Chisholm, a lovely man who stayed with Mary and I until I put him on a train to his next gig. Other stars at Maghull were Kenny Baker, marvellous trumpet player, Neville Dickie and Tommy Burton, The lovable Campbell Burnap, Roy Williams, Keith Nichols, Spats Langham, Tom Kincaid, and more. Besides our resident Teddy Bears, we had bands from Russia, Uralsky Jazz Band 3 times, a lively young jazz band from Norway called Dixi twice and even a band from USA called Pasadena Jazz Band. Apart from these foreigners we brought our local bands, like Merseysippi (still one of my favourites) Panama JB, Savoy Jazzmen, Blue Magnolia and from elsewhere in Britain like Roy Pellett Band, Roger Marks from Devon, Des Hopkins from Ireland, Dave Mott Band, Tame Valley Stompers and so on.


Harry with George Chisholm

After 28 successful years with The Teds and Merseyside Big Band on the opposite Thursday the Maghull Council decided to sell a contract for the concert rooms, bar and kitchen to a Liverpool club entrepreneur. He proceeded to impose all sorts of regulations, times and charges upon us. I had meetings with the Town Clerk and told him we could not go on under these terms. They came down on his side and would not budge. So we left and moved the whole operation half a mile down the road to Maghull British Legion who made us very welcome with better facilities, ground floor, use of kitchen, large car park and a large stage with lighting, large concert room, changing room and sound if we needed it. Plus a very reasonable bar and staff. Something that will always puzzle me is that we lost a number of our regular followers in the move WHY?

The Teddy Bears and I carried on at the Legion for several years but the big band fizzled out due to difficulty in finding eighteen musicians of the right calibre to get together regularly. Having gone several years with The Teds at the Legion. The Legion decided to close the club and sell the site to some developers . By now The Teds with Rae Owen were their own masters and moved themselves to Maghull Community Centre where they are to this day every month.
 


Marie Curie event, Sefton Park Garden Fete 1991
Colin Jones (clt), Brian S (dms), Derek Pierce (bs),
? ? (tpt), Joe Addy (bjo) Tony Dunleavy (tbn)

 

Having got the bit between my teeth now I arranged a mini Jazz weekend with The Teddy Bears at Penkridge, Quality Hotel. It was such a good idea that the following year the band brought to my notice that the general manager was advertising and printing glossy leaflets for his own promotion with no reference to me. The Teds to their credit said they would stick with me as they had not been consulted either. So that was the end of that but not the end of me.  I decided it was a good idea, but somewhere else.

Llandudno seemed ripe for me so I went there to spend a day canvassing hotels along the front. After a number of rejections I found a 3 star hotel on the front, namely Chatsworth House Hotel. I met the owner who had never had any business with Jazz bands and was a bit wary. I convinced him and we struck a deal. I marketed the event and booked The Teddy Bears and The Guinness Band. The first weekend the owner his wife and his grown up family came to see what it was all about.
 


The Chicago Teds at Llandudno
L-R: Nev. Goodwin, Fred Boggan (dep), George Galway
Ken Doran, Tony Ormesher, Rae Owens, Tony Dunleavy
 

They were absolutely delighted and no worries for them. We had 200 people and took over the hotel and we built on that success over the years. I booked a whole range of bands including, The Savannah, Jamie Brownfield, Tame Valley Stompers, Dave Mott Allstars, Merseysippi Jazz Band with Clinton Ford, The Blue Mags Mike Lovell's Six in a Bar, and more. Unfortunately by 2015 my health was deteriorating and I had make it the final weekend then, with the agreement of the hotel. There were offers from various parties to continue the events but the hotel said as we agreed to part they did not want this relationship with anybody else. We are still very good friends and Mary and I have since visited there.

That is were the story is up to this date. Maghull Jazz still continues under the leadership of The Chicago Teddy Bears who are all my dear friends who I try to see whenever possible. Maghull is established now as a Jazz venue and I claim that I put it on the map and I am proud of that. Maghull was a desert when I took over and I like to think that I played some small part in that history.

Harry Swinburne
 

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