John Stavordale
19th Jul 1928- 25th Feb 2012


By Joe Silmon-Monerri

John Stavordale, passed away in the evening of February 25th, 2012, after a long but stoical struggle with Cancer.  He was, surprisingly 83; born John Stavordale EMES-THOMAS, in Blackpool on July 19th 1928. At age 11 he was taken to Prestatyn, where he remained until he moved to Bramhall, Manchester, in the 1960s. The surname mystery shall be explained later. To speak to him, one wouldn't know what from?, or how?, he was suffering. He bore it all like a hero, like the trooper he always was; by making light of the situation, with a joke about this or that.

John was not a man to dwell on being sad or downhearted. His was a positive outlook 24/7, all-year-round, and I don't think that I can ever remember him without a smile on his face. I don't think he would have liked to see sad faces at his funeral. He was a kind and generous man who left us all with a good image of his persona and of his inherent generosity, both in kind and in spirit. I know how much his wife, Brenda, his son and daughters and other members of his family, will miss him and I am sure that the whole of the Manchester Jazz community (musicians and friends) will join me in extending our deepest condolences to Brenda and his children: Julia, Mandy, Louise, Karen and Andrew.

John's funeral service will take place on Tuesday, March 6th, at Stockport Crematorium, in the Rowan Chapel, at 1 p. m. There will be a reception later at Stockport Rugby Club, Headlands Road, Bramhall, SK7 3AN, although I had originally been told that this would be held at Davenport Rugby Club and this was announced, as such, on Fred Burnett's website. John's son, Andrew, has passed on a message to say that " . all are very welcome to join the family for a drink and refreshments and to listen to a little live music ." - i. e. at the Rugby Club.

Brenda had asked George Galway to form a band to give John a good local Jazz send-off. I believe George already has the basic nucleus of a band; however, no doubt, others will want to sit in, to help celebrate John's long and illustrious life on the Manchester Jazz scene, which seems to have started in the 1960s, after a good deal of dance-band and big-band work. John was among the mourners at the funeral of Manchester Jazz Revival pioneer Derek Poole (trombonist/ bassist, ex-Smoky City Stompers, from the late 1940s- early 50s) who also sadly passed away, in January 2009. We shall look at the connection with George Galway and others below.

Derek Poole and John had played together in numerous bands over the decades, many of them led by multi-instrumentalist Frank Etchells, his main band being "Etch and His Quads". But being such a versatile drummer, John was frequently found depping for many a local Jazz drummer, despite his original dance-band background. He was such a good all-rounder. However, he tended to spend more time away from the main Jazz scene, unless he was in our clubs to listen, rather than participate, or just out relaxing with friends.

I first encountered John and his drumming at the old Warren Bulkeley Hotel in Stockport, which became a leading Jazz venue from the 1960s onwards, then managed by "Pirate" Jim Jacobs and his then wife Anne, shortly after my time with the London band - the Back O'Town Syncopators. John supported my many ill-fated bands at the Warren, and often sat in with us, sometimes bringing Frank Etchells, who would sit in with anybody!!! However, John and I eventually played together more frequently in a big hotel called the Belgrade, in Offerton, Stockport, during the 1970s, whenever our regular drummer, Eric Fletcher, needed a break, especially when Maurice Cotterell was on piano, standing in for the great Maurice Hope. The late Les Emmett (a pianist) was also a life-long band- mate of John's. They often came as a pair to those Belgrade sessions. Pianist Noel Broadgate, too, knew and played with John frequently over the decades.

In the 1970s, John started working at Ganders Go South, a large restaurant-bar in a very large basement underneath Barton Arcade, off St. Ann's Square, Manchester, with the late Don Long. Don ran various sized outfits at Ganders' into the 1990s. However, the IRA bomb at the nearby Arndale Centre in the 90s put paid to all those wonderful sessions, that sometimes included myself, before I left the area in 1989, for work in Cheltenham. George Galway frequently played on the front line at Ganders with Don and a great variety of pianists (Les Emmett, Alan Howarth, Vinny Parker, Dave Dunbar, etc.); drummers (Moe Green, Pete Staples, Dave Berry, Dave Moore, etc., and of course John) and bassists (Bill Carton, Colin Smith, Pete Taylor, Paul Bennison and others). So this is the connection I referred to above; John and George played a good deal together at Ganders. It seemed fitting that he should be asked to commemorate the event as John would have liked it. John's last session, with the George Galway Quintet, was at the Plaza Theatre, Stockport, not many months ago, which makes it is even more appropriate.

Like many musicians in locally based venues, John drifted in and out of a number of other local outfits, not always Jazz-based; then, over the decades he favoured better quality work in hotel and night club settings, and he seemed to settle more into Jazz-based dance-music (a variant of cocktail-Jazz - something I like too). John spent many years in bands with Derek Poole Noel Broadgate and Frank Etchells, and these musicians and their wives became life-long friends.

A big attraction for John at the time, was that Derek was an expert vibraphone player, apart from his expertise at the double bass and formerly on the trombone. As a percussionist, the sound of the vibraphone, especially one well played, was something John truly admired. It was John's personal comfort zone. They all seemed also to gravitate into each other's company, both socially and semi- professionally. Sometimes, harmonious friendship makes for the best Jazz. There's nothing like harmony, on or off stage. "Etch and his Quads", the quartet run by multi-reedman, engineer and instrument repairer, the late Frank Etchells, largely up to approximately the mid-1970s, provided several necessary comfort zones; the members worked as a single unit, conscious and familiar with each other's approach to the music. In that quartet, the four musicians involved - although the line-up occasionally varied - won a number of coveted Jazz band awards between the 1950s and 70s, some of which were presented during their residency at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, when that venue still featured name big bands and Jazz groups. None of the awards could have been won without the happiness felt by the team members - which projected to audiences and judges alike! It is always easy to spot a band whose members are at loggerheads with one another. It not only makes for bad Jazz, but it looks very unprofessional too. No such problems ever emerged with Etch's Quads; they were a happy bunch, they treated Jazz as fun.

John and I last played with Derek, with him on double-bass, in a band that backed the late George Melly, at the Deanwater Jazz Club, in Woodford, Cheshire, in the mid-1970s. The pick-up band included Derek (double-bass), Eric Stafford (piano), John Stavordale drums), the late Randy Colville (clarinet, alto and soprano saxes), the late Ken Wray, a trumpet player/leader (name???) and myself
(alto/tenor saxes, clarinet, flute and bass clarinet). Ken, who died in 1977, and who had predated Derek Poole on the local scene, was another pioneer of the 1940s local Revival, who started with The Delta Rhythm Kings (c. 1945), and who was now back on his slide- trombone, having been a brilliant Modern Jazz valve trombonist with Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, John Dankworth, Ted Heath, Vic Lewis and others. We must not forget the principal guest, of course, the excellent and eccentric George Melly himself. That was an ill- fated night on which George was robbed of some of his records, while the door people weren't looking. George had hoped to sell copies, but lost no time in asking the band to make up the difference. The band left without pay that night.

It is also sad to reflect on the fact that many of Derek's and John's former close friends and fellow musicians have already passed away too. More lately, John played sometimes with both the Don Long Quintet and Alan Yates's Dixieland Hotshots, on two separate evening sessions, once-a-month, at the Chorlton Conservative Club (Chorlton-cum-Hardy). This was after the Millennium, at a time when I played with both bands once-a-fortnight. The very last time I played with John, was in Alan's band, at The Harvester, Abersoch, possibly around 2005 or 2006. I must not forget Noel Broadgate, who was John's life-long friend and band-colleague, and of course, George Galway, closely associated with John for decades and until recently.

Let us now move away from Jazz and reflect on John's personal life. His connection with music, as such, is accidental and apparently hereditary. He had a very interesting musical ancestry. There was something else. On the one hand, going back to the 1770s, it was said that there had been some connection with Lord and Lady Stavordale. They must have had "lolly" to burn, since Lord Stavordale, a consummate gambler, in a single night managed to lose £11,000. It later emerged that John's grandfather - an entertainer "Miles Stavordale" appropriated the above surname for his Vaudeville act, explained below. The real Stavordales took him to court for that. Nevertheless, John's general manner and carriage suggested that his background was aristocratic. As I said earlier, I first knew him between the late 1960s and the 70s, because we coincided on many gigs, not necessarily all Jazz. Brenda confirmed that he had arrived in our midst in the 60s.

Aristocratic by birth, or not, John's "Stavordale" ancestry is to be found - appropriately - in entertainment: in fact, Vaudeville, between the mid-late 1800s and the early 1900s. A much later "Stavordale" involvement is Puppetry and with the much more modern "Marionation", using electrical and electronic gadgetry, possibly around thirty years ago. First of all: Vaudeville. There were several members of the family who were classical musicians of a very high calibre. Some appeared as circus acts, others rose to be theatre and music-hall performers. The most prominent of these, which caused the 'surname-theft' court-case seems to have been THE MILES STAVORDALE QUINTETTE. Headed by Miles EMES-THOMAS, John's grandfather's ensemble, their stringed instruments said to impersonate the human voice, was . exceptional for the period. It had star-billing in the USA (1905, at Poll's "Wonderland", Newhaven, Connecticut); Australia (1906-1908 - Tivoli Theatre, Sydney, Opera House, Melbourne and Palace Gardens, Perth; New Zealand (1916, Theatre Royal, Christchurch - see poster); They possibly toured many more countries, including Britain, where they appeared at the Hippodrome, Bristol, at least for one week (19-24 June, 1916). Their heyday occurred between the late 1800s and
1918. So this would appear to be how John got hooked on music, and it explains his distinctive dignified stage presence. John only imparted this sort of information in the last two or three years of his life. I mislaid what he gave me, but remembering some details, I thankfully, found most of it on the Internet only a few hours ago.

So, from one type of strings we go to another. The later Stavordale dynasty includes some puppeteers. The only ones who I managed to track down, are Cyril ("Buster") and Madge Stavordale. They made the "big-time" on TV, possibly at the time of "Thunderbirds". In fact, their puppets very much resemble those that appeared in that type of production and that period - at least those I discovered on the Internet do.

As we all look forward to celebrating John's interesting life and times on Tuesday, it now only remains for me to repeat my sincerest condolences to Brenda, Julia, Louise, Karen, Mandy, Andrew and their remaining family members, and friends, for and on behalf of all of us on the Manchester Jazz scene and to say that John will be missed by a great many friends and colleagues too.

Joe Silmon-Monerri

26/02/12 - Sad to report that my friend, drummer John Stavordale, passed away last night. John had not been well for some time, and will be sadly missed. Our condolences to Brenda and to all the family. -

Noel Broadgate.

27/02/12 - Passing of Arthur Pedder and John Stavordale. These unexpected news items are very sad more so because both fellows were great jazzmen and lovely men too. I always enjoyed their company and playing whenever it happened. -

Mart Rodger

29/02/12 - I'm so very sorry to hear Noel Broadgate's news sad about John Stavordale. He was a dear old friend of mine too, going back to the 1970s, as we frequently played together in bands around Stockport, and especially occasionally at a big hotel in Offerton. Brenda and John also used to come to support us when I had a band at the Warren Bulkeley Jazz Cellar in Stockport. He was a very versatile and tasteful drummer, with a fantastic sense of humour and a treasure-chest of jokes to go with it. As usual, we were out of touch for a good two years or so. It just shows how precious time is; we always fail to take advantage of being in touch with close friends and relatives while we can. All of a sudden, it's too late! -

Joe Silmon

07/03/12  -  The funeral went extremely well, with about 140 mourners filling the Rowan Chapel to the door. The service was semi-religious/half-Humanistic; very tastefully arranged. George Galway allowed me to sit in with the band he put together for the reception, consisting of Mike Burns (trumpet/vocals), George (tenor sax, clarinet/vocals), me, Paul Medina (d/bass), Ian Wright (drums) and Vinny Parker (piano). We played some of John Stavordale's favourite Swing numbers. It was a real privilege to play with such great local musicians. It was, all-in-all, the perfect send-off for John. From the Manchester Jazz scene, Nigel Cretney, Derek Galloway and his wife Trisha were there; so were John Tucker, Bill Carton, and "Gordon" (who sat in on Paul Medina's bass), the drummer from the BB Big-Band sat in on Ian Wright's kit. Andrew and Brenda thanked everyone who attended and seemed more than pleased with the outcome.

Joe Silmon

07/03/12 - Hi Fred,

Many thanks to all the musicians and friends who joined our family in celebrating dadís life at his funeral yesterday. It was great to see so many faces and to hear dadís music and some great live jazz.

Andrew J Stavordale


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