by The late Gordon Hughes
Reprinted By kind permission of Just Jazz
Magazine, Gordon Hughes and Keith Staveley
Keith passed away on 12th
Keith Staveley's photo album is a black and white image of the best of British
- and American - jazz. His collection of fading snapshots captures a
50-year career spent accompanying some of the cream of Traditional jazz from
both sides of the Atlantic.
Yet modest Keith has been as equally content at the heart of the
dedicated but unsung bands that played for fun rather than money in his native
Lancashire as he has been to hack stars like Kid Thomas Valentine, Alton Purnell,
Louis Nelson and Wingy Manone.
The glittering list doesn't end there. For this quiet,
unassuming musician has also played with homespun stars like Sammy Rimington,
Nat Gonella, Keith Smith and a host of other British stars whose names have been
temporarily lost in a memory not quite so vivid as it was once.
His dedication to make the kind of music he loves, irrespective of the calibre
or the talent of the musicians around him, has always been the same: passionate.
Today, widower Keith is as happy supporting the rhythm section of the popular
New Riverside Jazz Band as he was the day he first sat behind a drum kit in a
school band in Preston.
"The band's regular drummer was going on holiday with his family and asked
if I would like to take over. I was nervous, I'd never played before but I
managed OK. At least I didn't disgrace myself!"
More importantly, the 16-year-old was hooked. He bought a cheap drum kit from a
second hand shop and launched a career with several bands, including a five year
spell with a locally-based band called the Silver Bell Jazz Band.
A full page editorial in the January, 1968, edition of 'Jazz Times' (price one
shilling, editor John Buddy, sales manager Colin Kingwell, listings compiler
Norman Field) chronicles the band's progress:
'In the Spring of 1966 Preston didn't have a regular NO. band. Keith Moore and
Frank Caunce, after playing in the Bolton and Manchester area for many months,
advertised in the local Press for musicians.
'Keith Staveley, after playing from 1946 to 1953 with various
local bands, was talked into making a comeback, bringing with him the
inspiration of Dodds and Wettling'
It adds: 'The band are resident at the Green Dolphin every Friday; the sound is
towards that of contemporary NO. and the repertoire drawn from the Lewis and
Thomas songbooks with a few standards thrown in'
Then followed a four year spell playing with clarinettist Gabe Essien and
trombonist Dave Donohoe in a band called the Salutation Stompers. Regular guest
musicians included Sammy Rimington and pianist Mike Lunn.
Today, surrounded by his pictorially-inspired nostalgia, Keith recalls the
thrill of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on the same stage as Alton
Purnell, guesting with the Silver Bell band, and a decade later with Kid Thomas,
guesting with the Salutation Stompers at Leyland Civic Hall, near Preston, in
"They were wonderful musicians and smashing people," recalls Keith.
"It was an absolute pleasure which I'll never forget."
Now Keith's hobbies of judo and rock climbing have long since been abandoned to
the ravages of time. But his passion for his greatest love - jazz - lives on!
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