The Original Panama Jazz Band

A particularly fine study of the band captured during a break

Started in Wallasey in 1954, the OPJB continues to play great jazz over 60 years later. Always based in Wirral it has held residencies for all of this time, including a 15-year stint at The Black Horse in West Kirby, The Eagle & Crown in Upton Village, The Grange in Moreton, two long stints at The Hotel Victoria New Brighton, The Leasowe Castle Hotel and currently The Irby Club, also in Wirral.

No original members survive, but over 40 musicians have passed through the line-up, playing host to many great names in Jazz. Among those who have featured with the band include Humph, Digby Fairweather, Kenny Ball, Pat Halcox, Roy Williams, Alan Elsdon, Pete Allen, Campbell Burnap, George Chisholm and Tommy Burton.

The late George H Buck Jnr, internationally renowned New Orleans based record producer, raved about the tape "The Panama Jazzband" that we put out some years ago and he re-issued it on CD on his GHB Label: It's still available. Further recordings "Live at The Vic" and "Something For The Weekend" and "Smoke That!" were also hugely popular. As part of our 60th anniversary year (2014), Neil Raymer of Raymer Sound has reissued (on CD) a tape that he produced of the band in 1992, called "Something For The Weekend". The new cd is now called "Something For The Weekend - With A Bit On The Side!". The "Bit On The Side" comprises the first limited issue vinyl EP the band made in 1970, and also some tracks that Neil recorded at Maghull Town Hall in 1991. We're also selling it at gigs.

Sadly Neil passed away just before Christmas 2014.

Currently the Original Panama Jazzband can be heard every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at The Irby Club, 15 Thingwall Road, Irby CH61 3UA (Opposite "The Shippons" pub) ; Tele. 0151 648 0900: Free admission, starts 8.30pm: Club details 

The Original Panama Jazz Band at Wallasey Town Hall for newly-elected Mayor Geoffrey Watt’s evening celebrations on 14th May 2018. 


Developed an interest in jazz in the early '60s Trad Boom years, listening to Kenny Ball's Jazzmen on Brian Matthews' "Easy Beat" on the radio. He bought a "Melody Maker"trumpet and joined the school orchestra that fortunately had a nucleus of renegade jazz enthusiasts, including his then physics teacher Ian Robertson (now trombonist with The Peninsular Jazzmen) and fellow pupil and bass player Howard Worthington. His first band was the West Coast Jazzband; then in 1968 he joined the Blue Magnolia Jass Orchestra, playing cornet with Ken Sims. In 1973 Jon joined the Panama Jazz Band. Whilst with the OPJB he has also played with Roger Brown's "Banjo-Free Zone", The Harlem Hot Stompers for 5 years, 3 years with Terry Perry's "Big Easy" Band and many others, including The Chicago Teddybears, The Wabash, The Parade Jazband and Chester's Wall City Jazzband. He was a founder member of The Mike Carnie All-Stars and is also pleased to be a regularly included with Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz including jazz festivals at Vancouver, Dresden and Norway, and also with the band on a Caribbean cruise.


Dave became interested in jazz in the 1950s when he became aware of George Lewis, and played with many bands before joining the RAF. Here he formed a band, which, for a number of years, toured Cyprus (at the request of England). He returned to England in 1962 and joined the OPJB, sharing the clarinet chair with Keith Jones. He has an instinctive ear for harmony and his superb tone and attacking style equals that of many professional musicians. The singing is pretty good, too. Dave has played with many bands, including the Merseysippi on their Sacramento Jazz Festival visits. He now also plays regularly with the Manchester-based Harlem Hot Stompers.


Born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, he began his musical career at 7 years old, learning to play violin at junior school. At secondary school he took up tuba, before transferring to trombone shortly before leaving school to attend technical college, specializing in music. At this time a couple of old friends from school formed a jazz band (The Dixieland Ramblers) and asked Laurie to join. In 1966 he became a student at The Royal Manchester College of Music studying trombone. Most of the music there was classical of course, but some of the more jazz oriented students amongst us decided to form a big band. After leaving music college he pursued a career as a freelance trombonist and music teacher based in Manchester, and for 30 years played all kinds of music including classical gigs, theatre work, cabaret, recording sessions, and jazz gigs, with all kinds of "celebrities". For most of this 30-year period Laurie played every Sunday evening with The Goyt Valley Stompers, a jazz band originally based in North Derbyshire (an article in the Sheffield University Rag Magazine at the time described them as "a raucous load of boozers" which filled them with great pride!). Renamed The City Syncopators, they relocated to Didsbury Cricket Club, Manchester in the 1980's and played there for over 15 years. He joined the Panama in 2008. Laurie still teaches music, also plays violin and tuba and does a few classical gigs, as well as big band jazz and is regularly in demand from many bands.


The newest and, arguably, the best-looking member of the band: Isabel Toner takes the bass space sadly left by Hugh Potter in January 2016. Isabel had piano lessons as a youngster but, attracted to the jazz scene in later life, she took to playing the double bass. Her playing debut was in Fritzel's in Bourbon Street, New Orleans, in about 1993. Now she plays in several bands, particularly in the North West, and together with Jim Pickford (banjo) and Mike Pearce (dums) formed the DeeSide Dixies which has been running since 2002."



Malcolm joined in 2013 and replaces Terry Burstall who was our piano player for some 45 years. Born in Mitcham, London, Malcolm emigrated north to Chester in 1978 and since has become a familiar figure on the jazz scene up and down the empire. Currently is a member of many other bands including The Merseysippi Jazzband, partner Isabel Toner's Deeside Dixies, Dennis Armstrong's Great Northern Jazzband, The Severn Side Jazz Band, and can also be seen in Chester's streets busking with trumpeter John Higham. Malcom lists Mel Powell, Erroll Garner, James P Johnson and Art Tatum as the most admirable of piano players and describes his own playing as "affordable". As the Panama always pays out on a performance-related basis, this works very well.


Bill is the latest addition to the line-up. Like many others in the Mid 50's, his musical introduction began with playing in a skiffle group. He joined "Dale Roberts and the Jay Walkers" in 1958 and first performed at the famous Cavern Club in 1959. He played many times there, in and around the Liverpool area during the Halcion days of Mersey beat, performing alongside all of the groups that later made the sound of Merseyside so famous. In late 1961 he left Dale Roberts and the Jay Walkers to join the Remo 4. 6 months later he left as they joined the stable of Brian Epstein to turn professional, which Bill didn't want. In 1997, at the 40th anniversary of the Cavern Club, the late great Bob Wooler ('Mr Mersey sound') informed Bill that he had been on the short-list for the job vacated by drummer Pete Best. After a break from playing the drums for several years, Bill started again, playing with The Jimmy Chadburn quartet in a four year residence at The Chester Grosvenor Hotel. Later Bill played with The John Dunbavand trio, alongside Hugh Potter, also the Brian Jones small combo and other bands in the Chester and Warrington area. In 1990 Bill was approached by trumpeter Tom Jones to re-form the Wall City Jazz men along with Trish Fields on vocals, playing at the Mill Hotel Chester, where he still performs every Monday night with them. As well as now enjoying playing with The Original Panama Jazzband, Bill also plays with Martin Bennett's Old Green River Jazzband. We include the picture of Bill in full evening dress to give the band some class.

So: If you're seeking a band for a wedding / birthday / funeral / trial separation / all four, that gives good value for money, arrives on time and looks smart, look no further!

You can order the band's latest CD "Something For The Weekend - With A Bit On The Side!"
from Jon Critchley (details below) for £5.50 including postage, or at any of the band gigs at a discounted rate of £5.

Click on the play button to hear a selection of tracks from the new CD or click here to download the MP3 file

Contact: Jon Critchley: Tele. 01829 751815
email:  or
Dave Thomas: Tele. 01942 674516

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