Last updated Thursday October 29, 2020 at 15:00:00
It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that founder of The Quayside Hot Stompers, pianist Tom Culbert, passed away earlier this week.
I spoke to Tom a while back when I asked for his permission to reprint his life story which he had written for Just Jazz. For someone so devoted to the music of Clarence Williams and New Orleans Jazz, it is so disheartening that he won't be getting the traditional send-off due to Covid restrictions.
As well as studying classical music, Tom also studied the 'New Orleans masters; such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five (1926), Jelly Roll Morton (pianist), and Bix Beiderbecke. He joined the New Era Jazz Jazz Band and did a national BBC broadcast from the Roundhouse at Camden Town, and in 1970, appeared with the band on 'Opportunity Knocks; with Hughie Green, where they won the 'clapometer; and came second in the national vote. He also played for 4 years with the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. He went on to play with Brian Green's New Orleans Stompers from 1964 to 1967, before moving to Blackburn in 1972 where he began to play with the Riverside Jazz Band in Accrington. When that folded he joined the Forest Jazz Band, playing in Trawden.
Tom was a lovely person, and of late he was a full time carer for his wife Et, who was wheelchair bound. He always seemed delighted to hear from me whenever I rang, and I was touched when he invited Barbara and myself to his 80th birthday celebration in 2016, at The Union Exchange in Colne, home of The Forest Jazz Band.
So sad, Tom was a lovely bloke who always knew the verse to any songs I would sing. I could never trip him up.
14/10/20 - That’s very sad news, Fred, I played with Tom on several occasions over the years and enjoyed both his musicianship and his company. A thoroughly nice man and a fine musician. R.I.P. Tom.
This is sad news. Tom was a really nice guy. He would ring and chat about his early days in and around London. A lot of folk will miss him.
I had known Tom for forty five years and played with him regularly in the East Lancashire Riverside Jazzmen for fifteen years and various other bands after that. He was one of the most kindest and helpful of friends and his deep knowledge of early jazz and his long experience in other bands was a big musical influence on all of us. I know it's a cliché but he will be very sadly missed by his friends and all who knew him.
Very sad news regarding Tom; a
fine pianist and a gentleman in every sense. I really enjoyed my
time with his Quayside Hot Stompers and Delta Trad 5, because
the bands played such an interesting and unusual repertoire. It
was a real pleasure to play some of those tunes, which were
classics in their day but which are today largely overlooked.
Certainly, one of my prized possessions is the Quaysiders's CD
which was dedicated to the music of Clarence Williams. I found
Tom a pleasure to play with because apart from being an
excellent soloist, he wasn't averse to being an integral part of
the rhythm section.
I was sorry to hear the news about Tom when Arthur Stead phoned me on Tuesday. The last time I spoke to him about a month or so ago he was awaiting an operation on his heart and was hopeful this would enable him to start playing again, so to hear this news was quite a shock.
I first met Tom in the late 1990s when he was deputising with Malcolm Webb's band in Bingley, his style really drove the band along and in my opinion made all the difference. Over the following years I got to know Tom much more, having a mutual interest in both Jazz and Railways. He was always willing to offer advice and help if he could. Although he knew me as a Trumpet player, he was also aware I played the piano, and he set about persuading me to sit in on the piano with the Forest Jazz Band and gave me invaluable advice on band piano playing.
Tom was a true gentleman and my thoughts are with Et and his family at this sad time.
- Mark Croasdale
I shared with Brian Legan & John Rothwell the passing of Tom. They knew him well and spoke very highly of him. I never knew him but was fascinating to read his story. Thanks for posting it.
Tom Culbert was an important man in my life with The Quayside Hot Stompers the best and most interesting band I have ever played for. We played lots of tunes that nobody else did, along with the late Alan Duckles' knowledge of classic jazz and the ability to play them out of his head. Wherever you now rest peacefully lots of us are thinking about you both.
I was very sad to hear of Tom Culbert’s passing. My first serious gigs were with Riverside Jazzmen on Sundays at Octagon theatre in Bolton and Fridays at the Aspinall arms around 1985. I was 17 years old at the time and was always kindly encouraged and assisted by Tom and Ron Payton to launch into improvised bass solos. Later when i moved to Paris, Tom would always question me about the Parisian musiciens he played with back in the 60’s. He was so passionate about the history of this music and really got into the details of the different tunes like nobody else, he will be sadly missed.
Listen to Tom playing Perfect Rag from his CD - 'From Rags to Stride'
See also My Life in Jazz by Tom Culbert