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Dick Hawdon Today

John Robert Brown

My near neighbour, friend and former boss, is trumpet player, sometime bass player, and former Head of the Jazz Studies Department at Leeds College of Music, Dick Hawdon. He's 75 this year, and Jazzmine have reissued three CDs from the 1950s that feature him with Don Rendell and Tubby Hayes.

We chatted recently, and began at the beginning.

"During the war there was the Yorkshire Jazz Men, when we were all about 16, 17. The band was never ever recorded, of course. Then there was the Yorkshire Jazz Band. Then I came to London. I had my own band for a bit, then worked with Chris Barber, followed by the Christie Brothers. They had a disaster and the whole thing packed up. Back to the International Book Shop, in Charing Cross Road. During the 1950s it was a hotbed of authentic New Orleans jazz.

Don Rendell took a gamble on me. He took me out of working in a record shop, and said, "Do you want to earn a living doing this?" After that came Tubby Hayes.

Dick laughs when I ask him about Tubby.

Everybody knows about his playing. He was a bit of a hooligan, wasn't he, really? he says. Just a bit. Mostly we got on very well. We had our differences. Everybody did. I actually came to blows with him on the stand at Wisbech, once. The main reason was that there were more people in the band than there were in the audience. It was a lovely, shouting, little band, with lovely people like Harry South, Pete Blannin, Bill Eyden, Mike Senn and Jack Sharpe.

Then came a stint with Basil Kirchin, followed by the Dankworth band. Kirchin's was an interesting band. Stan Tracey was the pianist for a long period. Basil Kirchin was the drummer, of course. Stan used to say that Basil's drumming was like sailing a battleship through a sea of Mars bars. Stan gave me a good bit of advice. "If you don't feel very good, there are two things you can do: pull up your socks, and tighten your shoelaces. You'll feel better straight away."

Kirchin was progressive, as much as he could be. Dankworth plucked me out of the Kirchin band. Douggie Roberts had left Dankworth. They tried Dizzy Rees to replace Douggie. The first rehearsal, he was two and a half hours late. So he didn't get the job, and I did. The visit to Newport was a year after I joined, 1959 I think. I know it wasn't the year of the 27 choruses. I'd loved to have been there for that.

We travelled to the States in some ancient Dakota, nothing like flying these days. It was like being on a train, everybody wandering up and down. A bar there, but the band was well behaved - couth, kempt and shevelled. Kenny Clare kept saying, "Just think. All the time I'm getting nearer and nearer to Buddy Rich."

We flew in to Idlewild. Clark Terry met us. Newport was the first gig. Then we did one out at Lewisohn Stadium, and one at Birdland. Louis Armstrong played with us at Lewisohn. He had just returned from Italy, and it had just been announced that he had emphysema. He didn't have his trumpet with him. He walked along our trumpet section to choose whose instrument he would borrow, as he couldn't be seen playing anything other than a Selmer, the company that sponsored him. He used Stan Palmer's.

Then we did a whole week of double concerts with the Ellington band at St. John Terrell's Music Circus in New Jersey. That was absolutely fantastic - a huge tent with seats all around. I was talking to Johnny Hodges at the side, by the wire. Two blue-rinsed ladies came up.

One said to him: "Could you be a good boy and get me Duke's autograph?"

"Madam, how can I be a boy? I'm 52," he said, and walked away.

I wondered what had offended him. It took me five minutes to realise that it was the "boy" bit.

Dizzy came on the bus with us, with Junior Mance. It was so nice to see all of these people. The only contact we'd ever had with American musicians was when Norman Granz bought them all to the Kilburn State for the Canvey Island Flood Relief concerts, in 1954 I think. That was Jazz at The Philharmonic, with Lester Young, Stan Getz, Flip Phillips, Charlie Shavers, and the Oscar Peterson Trio. On that occasion the real surprise was that Lester came on without a hat. He shuffled on. He had gout in both legs.

Kenny Clare had the room that Lester used to live in, where we stayed in New York.

He asked the maid, "What was Lester like?"

"Oh, he liked a drink," she said.

By then Clifford Brown had gone. He died while I was with Tubby. Like losing a brother. At one point I was deeply influenced by him. In fact, what's noticeable in that Quintet that's been released with Tubby is that I sound more like Jimmy Deuchar than Clifford Brown, because I hadn't yet got the Brown bug. Jimmy taught me everything I knew. He was a year younger than me, but he'd been playing modern jazz for years. He was a brilliant guy. His range was limited, but his sound and his ideas were great. He was a great arranger. Lovely arrangements to play.

John Dankworth suddenly decided that instead of being on a salary I ought to go pro rata. It doesn't sound much, but my cop as lead player was twelve pounds for the gig. If you got five gigs, that was fine. But if you got one, it didn't pay for your house or your car. He broke the band up to start with, for about eight months. Then it was to be all jazzers when it came back. Of course, we didn't know that he was going to ask us back. One would guess, but there was no guarantee. So I did six months with Harry Gold at the Hammersmith Palais. Then I went back with John. He'd got the "seven' out of it by then. I was in the trumpet section. Derek Abbott was going to come back, but he'd got a job with Jack Parnell in the studios. So John said, "Right, you're it." I was it.

But then (this was around 1962), it was getting silly. There were no gigs. Don Reed, John's manager, was managing Terry Lightfoot. "Look," he said. "I can see you're not earning anything. At least we can guarantee you a decent living with Terry, all round town."

There was a big boom then in the Trad thing. Roy Williams and I joined at the same time. The work was supposed to be all around town. Then it started to become popular, and we were off on the bloody road again. Going up the A1 in the snow, New Year's Eve. They'd just started the motorways. Before, with John Dankworth, there were no motorways at all. For a gig in Liverpool you left Alsop Place [behind Baker Street, where all the bands used to meet] at around 8.30 am. You didn't get back until 7.30 the next morning.

After that I did stints with Oscar Rabin, Sid Philips and Phil Tate. There was always another band somewhere who wanted someone who could play.

last gig in London was at The Talk of the Town. I'd been with Max Bygraves at the Prince of Wales for a year. Much as I love Max, it was seven shows a week. So I went to The Talk of the Town. It started off with good acts like Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Matt Monro and Buddy Greco. But eventually it got around to Tom Jones and Cliff Richard. I was really getting heartily fed up with it.

My sister was working with Joe Stones, Director at Leeds College of Music. She told me that Joe was thinking of starting a jazz course. I rang Joe, and was invited to see him. I got a part-time job. Three days at The Talk of the Town, driving up to Leeds in my mini, doing three days teaching, and driving back. Peter Ind and Bernard Cash were the stars of the show at Leeds. They had a row with Joe, walked out, and left him high and dry, just with Bryan Layton. Joe said, "Do you want to come and do it properly?" That was 1967. It was the first full-time jazz education in Europe.

The colleges at Manchester and London Guildhall poo-poohed it at first. They soon realised that we were on to a winner. The Leeds Music Advisor thought it was disgraceful and did his best to put the mockers on it. I can't remember his name. But Joe Stones steamrollered over everything, including us! It was absolutely great, wasn't it? I'd only just left the profession. I had my finger on the pulse, who was who, what we ought to do. Getting people into bands and playing off parts was the main thing. Joe had no money. He wouldn't even let me go on a Head of Department's course to learn how to manage, probably because he didn't want me to know. Ignorance was bliss.

We had no model. We shaped it together, the guys in the department. If I'd had my way it wouldn't have been shaped quite like it was. Because of Joe Stones and the music advisors we had to make it look as if it wasn't jazz! Which is why it was called a Light Music Course. We couldn't say, "We now have a Jazz Course."

I made it like the profession. You were chucked into a band, given a part, and you played it. Visitors included Nat Adderley, Tony Coe, Graham Collier, Harry Edison, Tal Farlow, Art Farmer, Bud Freeman, Mike Gibbs, Johnny Griffin ("Might Mouse"), Thad Jones, Jimmy Knepper, Dick Morrisey, Jim Mullen, Barbara Thompson, Stan Tracey, Dick Wellstood, Ken Wheeler, Bob Wilber, Roy Williams, Kai Winding.

I retired in 1992. Now I either listen to Yo Yo Ma, or Katherine Battle and Wynton Marsalis, or I listen to the King Oliver Band, Louis Armstrong, Henry Allen. And I enjoy family, friends, former colleagues and gardening. I haven't had the trumpet out of its case - haven't seen it - since Bill Charleson's retirement party, two years ago. I just listen. I don't miss it at all.

What would I do? I don't want to go to the pub and play with a local band.


Modern Jazz at the Royal Festival Hall London, featuring Don Rendell Sextet. Jazzmine JASCD 627.

The Swinging Giant Volume Two. The Tubby Hayes Quintet. Introducing the Jazz Couriers. Jazzmine, JASCD 617.

See the Tubby Hayes Quintet playing "Suddenly Last Tuesday"

This article first appeared in Jazz Review. Used by permission.
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