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January 8th 2005 from Stan Reynolds
I'm so impresed with your product on the Coda Club. It makes me wonder why you played the trumpet - so much talent, I'm gob-smacked.

28th April, 2005
Letter from Colin Stuart, London

Dear Ron,

I recently bought a Burbank Benge (serial # 4670) from an old friend, Leon Calvert, who told me that it had originally belonged to you. You mention playing Schilke in your articles and the photograph of you playing a trumpet definitely isn't a Benge, so I wonder if Leon's memory (like most of our own) has slipped. He kept it as a spare for many years and it's in pristine condition.

The trumpColin, Alan, Ronet is in good company as I often play with Ronnie Hughes who has an identical model. The attached picture was taken on Sunday 24th April with Alan Downey on lead. That's me on the left with Ronnie on Alan's left. I'm playing with Stan Reynolds and Cliff Hardie tonight. All these old friends of yours send their warmest regards and best wishes.

It was Leon who put me on to your web site which I think is a wonderful history of the business, and I'd like to offer my sincere congratulations to you for the terrific job you've done as webmaster.

Warmest regards,

28th April, 2005
From: Ron Simmonds

Hi Colin,

I was the London contact man for Elden Benge in the 1950s. I sent him all the details I could find of the French Besson, and in return he sent me a whole load of his trumpets to sell in the UK and Germany. I used mostly a Medium Large and removed all the lacquer from the bell in order to get it to ring a little more. Stuck it in a pot of boiling water. Played it for about twenty years. I believe that Greg Bowen was the last owner of that one. He bought it from a guy I sold it to in Berlin. Great trumpet, but I had my sights set on a Schilke, Bill Chase model, and that's the one I've played on now for about thirty years.

Funny thing - Ronnie Hughes was the first ever to get hold of a Benge in England in the early 1950s. I don't know where he got it from but he showed it to me one day and it was unplayable. We later discovered that the tube from a Harmon mute was jammed tight right up inside the bell pipe. Ask him about that - he'll remember the hilarity when we found that out.

Please give Leon a hug from me when you see him. I'm only now realising just what a superb trumpet player he was. Surrounded at the time by dozens of superb trumpeters it was hard to pick one out, but he was one of the best.

I can't find you in the archives - where have you been playing before this?

I just heard from Tina Pratt, Bobby's widow, that trumpeter Billy Burton is alive and well in Sydney and has just taken over a big band called the Kings of Swing. Hawkesworth and Mac Minshull are also around somewhere in Sydney, not sure where just yet. I think Mac is in a street band. Both Billy and Mac were presumed dead many years ago.

Cheers, Ron

30th April, 2005
Letter from Colin Stuart, London

Hi Ron,

Many thanks for the history of the Benge - it's still delightful to play, quite bright, even though Leon had it silver-plated, The valves are as good as new.

I'll remind Ronnie of the harmon tube story when he gets back from his holiday home in Minorca next week. We have several gigs lined up together with my regular band, the Len Phillips Big Band, which are farewell concerts to Denis Lotis, who is retiring in September with his new wife, to live in Tasmania.

Leon called me a few minutes ago from Fort Lauderdale where he's on holiday with Ida for a couple of months. I got him an introduction to ex-Basie trumpeter Paul Cohen who runs a big band in the area and who has invited Leon to sit in. I passed on your best wishes and he reciprocates in full.

My background? I'll keep it brief. After years of piano lessons I bought a trumpet at the age of 12, taught myself to play after a fashion and started doing gigs in the Cambridge area 2 months later. My first pro job at the age if 15 was with Stan Cox's band at the Embassy Club, Belfast in 1945 with a weekly salary of £15, a fortune in those days (with a pint of Guinness at a shilling...) I was called up in 1948 and stayed in the army for 17 years, not as a musician, and transferred to the Foreign Office for a further 33 years. I spent most of my career in the Far East playing with dozens of bands, symphony orchestras, brass quintets, and lots of jazz groups.

The day I retired I joined the QE2 on lead for a total of 33 weeks. I did a stint with Harry Gold before his retirement and have been so lucky over the years to play with many fine players, the late lamented Kenny Baker, Derek Healey and Charlie Evans, also Nigel Carter, Paul Tongay and Butch Hudson, and among the younger guys, Stuart Brooks, Graham Russell, Andy Cuss, Craig Wild, Andy Greenwood, Jim Lynch... I learned as much as I could from them and enjoyed every minute of it.

Later in May Derek Watkins is due to be the guest soloist with the Len Phillips band, and early in June Barry Forgie has kindly invited me to the BBC band's rehearsal with James Morrison before his UK tour. Then off to Bangkok on 19th June to attend the annual ITG conference being held there this year.

Ron and ColinYou're so right about computers, they're a fascination in themselves and incredibly helpful in video editing to DVD, music with Sibelius 3, and for the occasional enquiry when you want to know just how old your Benge trumpet is.......!

One more pic for you, Ronnie and me giving it one with our two identical Benges.

Warmest regards,


1st May, 2005
From: Ron Simmonds

Hi Colin,

Interesting that you'll be playing with Dennis Lotis. I'll be seeing him at a concert in the Benidorm Palace next month. Don't know whether I'll be playing in the band, but I wrote the opening number of the show, so I'll be there to hear how the guys get on with it. I can ask Dennis then why he is going to Tasmania.

Tommy Sampson brass section 1948You also mention Charlie Evans. Charlie was, and probably still is, a printer by trade, and came into the Sampson band for the German tour they did in 1948. Very good player indeed, but I think he went back to printing and I never saw much of him after that tour. (Click the pic to enlarge)

That was a small fortune - fifteen pounds a week. At that time I was getting five pounds for six nights and two matinees at Neale's Ballroom in Coventry.

Thanks for the great picture. I'll certainly be able to use that.

Cheers, Ron

May 1st 2005 from Stan Reynolds
I went to the Heath reunion..I only stayed for a drink as the Coda Club was on later. The guys I remember there were Don Lusher, Johnny Gray, Tommy Whittle, John Keating, Johnny Edwards, Bobby Orr, Duncan Campbell, Ted Barker, Tony Kinsey, Ronnie Hughes, Roland Shaw, Derek Boulton, Tony Harrison...the rest were all the ones who used to stop us getting to the bar.  If I have missed anyone I am sure you will find out.

Jackie Armstrong has got lung cancer and is starting his treatment this week at the Marsden. He was in good spirits today as he is now at home. It must be a relief to be out of the hospital. He is going two days a week now for treatment. I hope I can send you some good news next time.

3rd May, 2005
Letter from Colin Stuart, London

Hi Ron,

Denis recently married a young Australian girl, Bronwin, who I believe comes from Tasmania, hence the connection. Denis spent some time there last year and obviously liked what he saw. We are performing at the Pavilion, Worthing, on Saturday, and at Herne Bay, the following week.

I played with Charlie Evans in the Peter Coe band between 1980 -81. Peter, who was a gifted graphic artist, was also a professional tenor player who had paid his dues with Georgie Fame on the road with the Blue Flames - that's him on the original recording of Yeah, Yeah. He formed a big band with Charlie's help and was resident at Ye Olde Leather Bottel pub in Merton every Sunday evening for many years. The band won the BBC Rehearsal Band of the Year competition three years running, which was odd because they never rehearsed!

Charlie was a lovely man who had virtually retired from the profession by then. He was Managing Director of Date-A-Day Diaries which meant we got a wonderful party at Christmas with a present of a diary for each band member! He had great chops with the unsettling habit of muttering 'up the octave' to the trumpet section - we often took Apple Honey 'up the octave' - most of us tasting blood.... Charlie was unfazed and could go straight to Chick Corea's La Fiesta without a break. I left to go to Singapore at the end of 81 and Charlie died of stomach cancer the following year.

When in Singapore I ran a big band called 'Singapore 17' and Johnny Hawkesworth joined the band en route to Australia (you mentioned him in a previous E-mail). He was making LPs for De Wolfe butJohnny Hawkesworth couldn't find the right musicians in Singapore hence the move to Sydney, where I understand he did extremely well. The attached pic is of Johnny playing with my band at the 1983 Singapore Jazz Festival - it's digitized from a VHS broadcast tape hence the poor quality.

Incidentally, I played with Mike Smith before his departure for Spain, and I eventually took the band over as MD for several years. I visited Spain only once recently, to Fuengirola, where I played with Peter Coe with Ray Moore on piano and Ken Englefield on bass - happy days!

Warmest regards,

2nd May, 2005
Letter from Terry Drummond, Coda Club, London

Ron, Of interest to you will be that I've arranged to meet and have a quick interview with Sammy Nestico in a couple of weeks, hopefully going to attend a session, but that's still in the air.

I attended the Musicians Golf Associations dinner — I'm not a member but get asked to play as a guest occassionally, met a lot of old friends — Paul Eshelby, Brian Rance, Trevor Barber, John Barclay and Ian Spencer. There were three Generations of the Macintosh Clan — Ken, Andy and Andy's son. Also there were Sheila Healey, (Derek's widow) and Eddie Blair, who came up from the coast for the evening. Dave Tanner played the guitar for us very nicely.

My own band is playing at the Rayners Hotel, Sunday Lunch on 22nd May. Line-up will be Bobby Orr, trumpet and drums (not at the same time), Don Innes, Duncan Campbell, Stan Reynolds. Then, from the younger generation, Dave Runcle, trumpet, (going to be a great player, can do anything) and, from the Squadronaires, Andy Watson, trombone, Phil Mercer, tenor, Pete Jones, alto.


Terry Drummond is a member of the Coda Club Committee and is the club's News Editor

15th June, 2005
Letter from Terry Drummond, Coda Club, London - meeting Sammy Nestico

BBC Maida Vale, Studio 3
The Radio Band was full of old friends and some new faces that I did not recognise. It was nice to renew mSammy Nesticoy acquaintance with Martin Shaw, a fine trumpet player, and Nigel Carter, Brian Rankine, Tony Fisher. Good to see Gordon Campbell again playing great trombone. My old pal Vic Ash was there, along with Martin Williams, Colin Skinner and Jay Craig, a man who is doing wonders for the Big Band scene. There in the middle of all this stood the man himself — Sammy Nestico. Sammy is, like most of us, a little silvery about the hair; his face is that of a highly intelligent man, with a good sense of humour, and gives one the impression of boundless energy.

The first tune we heard was a piece written by Jeremy Lubbock called Grace. I had previously heard this played on a Quincy Jones album featuring Toots Theilemans. Sammy had arranged this in his own inimitable style, with broad sweeping harmonies and voicings that pulled every exquisite tone colour out of the orchestra.

Grace started with a simple solo piano intro, using the talents of Martin Williams to embellish the moderately slow melody, with lush harmonic backings from all sections.

The second item was a somewhat livelier Tangerine. Starting with a great brass riff with the melody floating over the top, it also featured a nice jazz solo from trumpeter Martin Shaw. I noted that Sammy's first priority was always to get the feel of the piece, and I have noticed, working with quite a few American MDs at the Palladium, that they all emphasise that getting the feel before anything else.

During the interval we talked to Sammy, who was full of anecdotes and good stories. He mentioned how much he enjoyed working with the radio band and in particular Gordon Campbell on trombone, whom he likened to his friend Dick Nash. This pleased Gordon no end, as Dick was his idol.

Sammy also reckoned that the amazing Mark Nightingale should be paid by the note. Mark had been at the session the previous night and had obviously been in his usual incredible form.

Nestico worked for the great Billy May as his orchestrator for 12 years. On one occasion he was sent home with an urgent score to be completed for the following morning. When he got home Sammy discovered that Billy had given him a blank score with no music at all on it. He phoned Billy, who suggested he should write the score in the Billy May style. When it came to the session the next day, and Billy got to the Nestico score, he stopped the Band and shouted, “What’s this—Count Basie?” Sammy was aghast until Billy turned around with a wink and said, “Only kidding.”

The final tune of the morning was an original composition from Sammy’s latest CD called Cool Breeze. This was a Latin-based number. Just before they started Sammy turned to drummer Tom Gordon and smiled. “Make me sound good, Tom,” he said. His way of showing his admiration for the band.

1st Feb 2005  from Jack Dawkes
I've just been looking at the Coda Club site. Great stuff and it could possibly throw  up somFreddy Staffe interesting things in future.  Re my photo — Freddy Staff has had a knee operation a few months back. Duncan Campbell had a heart valve replacement around Christmas time. He phoned me to tell me that he had just come home and was feeling good, not realising that I was taking the call in Lanzarote on my mobile.  I hope it didn't cost him too much.   BBC are running some programmes called JazzBrittania with lots of good archive stuffgoing back to the old Archer Street days.

31st May 2005
Been looking at your Minstrel in Spain saga. Great stuff and I see that all that paella hasn't dulled your sense of humour!  Re Harry Parry - I did a spell with him before joining the Squads and he did have a trumpet player. His name was Pat something - a nice player with a Bobby Hackett style.  A very good alto player named Jimmy Williams completed the front line. 

June 6th 2005
I'll tell Duncan Campbell you now have his CD. He has just had a bit of an operation on his face - this is after he has had a new heart valve, plus the fact that he has been issued with NHS digital hearing aids which need adjusting badly, so. adding it all up. he is not working 100% at present.

I have offered to let him come to my place and he can see your website.  I went to the funeral of Bridget Lamont last Friday and there was quite a gathering, Don Lusher, Ronnie Hughes, Don Lawson, Kenny Wheeler and of course both the Duncan Lamonts Snr and Jnr. Jack Honeyborne was helped out with the music at the wake after the service.

June 7th 2005
I agree that most hearing aids aren't much good for music, but I have recently acquired a pair of  aids by RN Resound Air which are quite revolutionary in that they have done away with the ear moulds which block out normal sounds, so that one receives sounds via the microphones, and also outside sounds without any whistles and squeaks, plus the fact that you can use the telephone without any bother. They are very tiny (behind the ear) and pretty well invisible and made in Denmark.  

I went to the Jay Craig Orchestra concert last Sunday and he puts on a great show.  Lot of nostalgia stuff - Les Brown, Charlie Barnet, Kenton, etc and Tommy Sampson got a good plug, but the musicianship is superb, all top pros, playing for beer money.  I think it could be quite a success as he already has quite a big following with the people who like big band music.

June 7th 2005 from Ron Simmonds
Yes, that must have been a heartbreaking day for everyone at Bridget's funeral.

As regards Duncan Campbell's CD - probably not a commercial recording because there's no company or licence data on it. I thought he was sending it for me to review on the website, but I guess it's because he loves me! The record is beautiful - what else did I expect? Please give him a hug from me.

Digital hearing aids are no good for a playing musician. I had one a few years ago. It was very expensive, perfectly adjusted digitally to my hearing abilities and useless for playing the trumpet. A man at Siemens in Berlin told me years ago that it would be almost impossible to make a hearing aid that was perfect for a trumpet player. My analogue hearing aid works fine for me, though, bright, clear and loud. Duncan should go back to his old analogue if he's having trouble with the digital. By what you say he seems to be using two of them. Bad business. I did that many years back and it almost drove me crazy. You can never get the balance right. Must have one ear free to keep your sanity.

I'm orry to hear about Duncan's heart repairs - but what is he having done to his face? Hope they haven't changed it. We want the old Duncan face!

If you show him my website he may never leave your house. There are a thousand pages in there, but no photos of Duncan. Get him to give you one to send me. He's a Coda Club member, right? I'll put his picture in there. Got several of Ronnie Hughes already.

July 18th 2005 from Jack Dawkes
Hi Ron,  Just a mention of a session yesterday - a band called "The Wright Stuff" - leader is tenor player Don Wright - which was outstanding and included a few band leaders such as Pete Cater, Pete Long (who runs bands such as 9.20 Special and a tribute to Duke Ellington orchestra)  but the highlight was a female singer called Anita Wardell in company with the great alto player Peter King. Talk about mastery of your instrument... Absolutely awesome.

Someone showed me an old LP of the Squads recently and there was just one track recorded in the 1950's with you on the list of personnel and Tommy Maxwell, Don Honeywell, Don Innes etc.  I left in about 1952 so it must have been fairly soon after that.

July 19th 2005 from Ron Simmonds
Nice music going down in your area. Peter King playing great as usual. I remember him once asking me, in the early 1950s, to give him a lift in my car to some gig we were on. I was well into Formula One at the time and we were in the country. After a great deal of dicing and a few heart-stopping bits of power-sliding around the corners of the narrow country lanes he asked me politely to stop the car and got out in the middle of nowhere.

"Thanks very much. I'll walk from here," he said. I managed to persuade him to get back into the car by promising to drive more carefully. I never forgot that, and ever since that episode I've always driven more sedately with the feelings and fears of my passengers in mind. You can tell Pete when you next see him. Bet he hasn't forgotten that.

That Squads recording you mention was probably Don Innes's composition Riot in Rio. We had Jimmy Watson and Tom McQuater in for that one. I was in awe of both of them. It was the first time I'd ever met them and I had to play lead on the session. The beginning of a long friendship.

I was also very fond of Tommy and Nancy Maxwell. They used to live nearby in Shepherd's Bush, so I spent quite a lot of time in their apartment. I lost touch with Tommy after I moved away to Norbury.

It is very, very hot here - well over 30 degrees, even at night. It hasn't rained for ages. Some idiots have started a fire ten miles long in central Spain. Very dangerous situation. It only take a couple of goons like that to wreck the place.

Eric Delaney is touring the UK at the moment; been there since the beginning of June, playing quite often with the new Squads, he tells me. Says it's a very good band. He lost all his music not long ago - put it down somewhere and forgot where. I had to rescore a couple of numbers for him from memory, stuff like Leave Us Leap.

I hear from Bob Adams quite regularly, Dougie Robinson now and then from Portugal, Pete Warner, Brian Short, Stan Reynolds and Mike Senn on occasion. Also Lew Smith in Perth, Australia, Alan Dean and Don Rader in Sydney and a host of others spread out all over the world. Pete Myers and Bob Efford in LA, of course.

July 19th 2005 from Jack Dawkes
I'll be seeing Peter King next Saturday, so I'll mention the "white knuckle " car ride.  Mike Senn is a name from the past as he used to run a jazz thing up in North London (Manor House) which I did several times with him - very enjoyable. While I was playing on his gigs I had to do some film work at Pinewood and I booked Mike's rhythm section which was Pete Bray, drums, Denny Termer, piano and Danny Hagherty, bass to make up the quartet. The film was with Frankie Vaughan, Tony Britton and Ann Heywood and one of these days I'll send you a photo of the group if I can find it.

August 3rd 2005
I've had some E Mails from Peter King and I'm glad he is now in touch with you, as I'm sure he has some interesting stories to tell - he is such a nice chap to talk to, a real gent.  I went to see him at the Bull's Head, Barnes with the Stan Tracy Quintet and enjoyed some great music, in addition to delivering your message re the car ride.  He is also being featured at the moment on the BBC programme called "Jazz Britannia", lots of archive stuff on the developement of the British Jazz scene over the years. 

The power of the internet was revealed to me recently when a James Bond addict from America contacted the shop and asked if I would autograph some photos - stills from "Goldfinger"- in which there was a night club scene and yours truly had a small band and I was fronting on tambourine! He had presumably read the precis on your website and identified me in the film somehow.  It shows that you are well read around the globe.

I was very sorry to hear about Jackie Armstrong, who I first met in the Crusader Club, Hamburg, just after the war. There was a Forces band in residence, and I did my first broadcast with them on double bass! At that time we used to go into the BFN radio station where we listened to some special recordings sent from the States and when we heard Woody Herman's Goosey Gander we just couldn't believe it. Remember this was in 1944/5.  

A memorial service to celebrate the life and music of the late great Robert Farnon was held in St Pauls Church Covent Garden on Sunday the 24th of July 2005.

The afternoon started with some of Robert's well-known beautiful compositions.  Amongst those who attended were Coda Club members Tony Harrison, Stan Reynolds, John Keating, Lucy Reeve, Stephen Nee, Jo Marney, Sheila Tracy, Jack Parnell, Peter Hughes, Duncan Lamont and Roy Willox. There were many other musicians and friends too numerous to mention.

The service commenced with Robert's composition Journey into Melody and there was a welcoming address by the Rev. Dr. Julian Davies. Among the guest speakers were Malcolm Laycock, whose choice of music was Sarah Vaughan singing How Beautiful Is Night, Iain Sutherland – Finale from Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra and Robert Farnon's manager Derek Boulton, who chose Country Girl sung by Tony Bennett.  After a blessing by the Rev. Davies the congregation retired to the music of To A Young Lady. The music and recordings were provided by the Robert Farnon Society.

July 2nd 2005 from Mike Senn
Talking about Leon Roy's band - was Tony Kinsey on drums, and Pete Pittersen in the horns? I remember the relief band at one time was the Melfi trio, with Stan Tracey on accordion!

Thinking of Leon, you remember what he was like. At a party in Dennis Ackerman’s flat, there was one of Leon’s paintings on the wall, very good. Someone touched it, the paint was still tacky. We asked Leon how that was. He replied, “It’s a secret formula”

There is a long obit for Basil Kirchin in today’s Independent. Like you, I was surprised by the amount of music that Basil had composed. When I was with him, he couldn’t read music. When he wanted to write something, he would come and sing in your ear, which rapidly became tiresome.

I remember Lennie Metcalfe, he used to play with us at Manor House and around the Flamingo etc. When I first knew him, he and Leon used to turn up in Leon’s father’s greengrocery van.

5th August 2005
Jean made one of her periodic calls to Johnnie Gray yesterday, to tell him of Irene Miller’s death.

He said that Malcolm Laycock on the BBC2 Big Band programme had said that Jackie Armstrong had died, and mentioned the comedy routine that he and Johnnie used to do with Ted Heath on Sonny Boy. Since then people have been ‘phoning Johnnie to see if he is still alive! He is 85 now, had two knee replacements.

We heard that Irene had died after a fire, do you know any more?

15th August 2005 from Ron Simmonds
I've been receiving some information from Irene's cousin Jason. Best source at the moment is on Jazz Professional at News In. I worked for many years with Irene in Jack Parnell's band. She was a lovely girl, great singer and a good sport. She wrote me just before the fire and was as chirpy and joyful as ever.

News Flash August 18th 2005
Pete Warner is now in Vancouver visiting a family member. While he's there he'll meet up with Art Ellefson and Roy Bull, and my old school buddy in Coventry, drummer John Spencer, who is driving up from Seattle with his wife Jean. Jean used used to live two doors away from me in Coventry when we were teenagers. In between us lived a kid called Billy Tallon, who later became the Queen Mother's butler.

30th August, 2005

You all know about A Great Day in Harlem - click the title there to go to the website. Eric Delaney has told me that Harry Conn was also there when that classic photo was taken, but is just out of camera over on the left of the picture. Eris has a video of the occasion where Harry is very evident. There's a great photo of Harry at the bottom of the Coda Club Gallery page.

Bess and Cliff
The photo of Bess and Cliff really brings back the memories. Bess is the widow of George Harris who played tenor sax with Geraldo for about 10 years from 1940-1950. Cliff Dunn played guitar in the Tommy Sampson band in 1949 when Johnny Hawkesworth was on bass and Dougie Cooper on drums. (Photo by Lee Harris)

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