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Bebop Spoken There

Orrin Evans: “I’d like to see a younger audience and an audience that looks more like me at the clubs.” – (Down Beat November 2014).

Kevin Flanagan: "Besides, I'd got sick of playing jazz to people who looked like my father." - (Straight No Chaser Issue 0ne Summer 1988.)

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Today Wednesday August 16

Afternoon
Vieux Carre Jazzmen - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
Maine Street Jazzmen - Tynemouth Metro Station, Station Tce., Tynemouth NE30 4RE. 1pm. Free.
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Evening.
New Orleans Jazz at the Village Hall - Springwell Village Community Venue, Fell Rd., Gateshead NE9 7RP. 8:15pm. £3.
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Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. £1. 8pm.
Billy's Acoustic Blues - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free (weekly).
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Tees Hot Club - Cleveland Bay, 718 Yarm Rd., Eaglescliffe TS16 0JE. 9pm. Free.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Monday, June 12, 2017

George Heaviside Remembers John (Mighty Joe) Young

It was only a few weeks ago that I came across the 'Bebop Spoken Here' articles about the death of John and the nice tributes from some of those who had known him. The lateness in my discovery was due to having lost contact with John after I was married and moved away from the NE in 1956.
My wife and I wandered around and lived in sixteen homes in thirteen counties with our family. Currently Sheila and I are retired and have been rusticating in the Cotswolds for nearly twenty years. (Sheila got to know of me from the regular letters I wrote to John whilst doing my National Service in BAOR.)  We first met in person at a Coronation Jazz Party in Dennis Reah's parent's posh bungalow in Low Fell.  That was 64 years ago and we have now been married for 61 years!)
I was born in Whitley Bay about the same time as John - 1932 - and first  met when he was working in the laboratories of Messrs Houseman and  Thompson in Jesmond and I was in my final year at Whitley Bay County  Grammar School.  (My parents were living in Bellingham but I stayed with  relatives in Whitley to complete my six years at the Grammar School.)
John and I met about 1949 in the Newcastle Jazz Club above a pub (aren't they all?) in Melbourne Street near the railway. We had a common interest from the start - Jazz music - and this led to a broader friendship and my eventual marriage to one of his co-workers - Sheila (nee) Wood.


John and I started to meet quite regularly at weekends and holidays. I 
guess our love of music was the basis but this soon flourished into wider interests.

We made several trips to London Clubs to listen to the likes of Lyttleton, Barber, Sunshine et al, who were in vogue in the 50's - a great time for Jazz revival.  We would travel by a late train on Friday and return by an early train on Monday. I don't recall sleeping anywhere other than resting in late night cafes!   Not enough money!


Musically I had piano lessons from two Whitley Bay teachers - both of whom 
went mad!   (At the end of the War my mother went out to Auction Houses in  Whitley and bought a lovely white baby grand for about £50.  I didn't settle with the piano but it was enjoyed by an Uncle living next door.)

Whilst I had been collecting records for a while, what launched my practical involvement in Jazz was when, on my sixteenth birthday, I was was given a surprise holiday at Billy Butlin's Filey camp where the Squadronaires were resident for the season. I listened and danced to them and their Dixieland group about three times a day for a week.   During this time I got to know George Chisholm. It was his influence made me buy a golden Bb Flat Tenor Slide trombone and case with my birthday money.

Remember the several music shops on Westgate Hill?   After a few lessons from the left-handed 1st trombone - Freddie Mercer - with George Evans Orchestra at the Oxford Galleries, I sat in with Joe's newly-formed group.


After the film 'Mighty Joe Young' came out in 1949, someone attached the name to John and it stuck.  I don't recall it being his choice. Names I recall from that era include Dennis Reah (?) (pno), Brian Clarke?(clarinet), and Johnny Handle (cornet). Dennis was a keen Jelly Roll Morton stylist, Brian was rather introverted, soft spoken, quiet clarinettist. John. of course, was the driving force on Banjo - also a quiet but a positive influence on the rest of us.


I also recall Ron McClean on Trombone. Ron had a nice style.   He 
told me of one occasion when he gave an audition over the phone for one  group by playing in a booth in Newcastle! Ron was an interesting  character - often seen walking through town carrying his case. He  invariably invaded your personal space to talk to you. This came about  for two reasons; when standing next to a Dixieland group blasting away on  stage you had to be close and shout to be heard. And his work as a welder
in the shipyards also influenced this stance when having a conversation - regardless of the environment!

As a group - or various combinations of the members  - we played around -  paid and unpaid - in a variety of settings on Tyneside and south  Northumberland. Rye Hill Youth Club, King's College Refectory,  rehearsals in the Arcade on Sundays, for strippers in a Working Men's Club up county and anywhere else that would let us in!

The style was invariably New Orleans/Chicago/Dixieland: what's the tune, 
what's the key - off we go! We certainly enjoyed ourselves and the  various audiences/dancers did too. We were not all that polished but  neither were the original New Orleans men! I also recall playing slide  trombone from the back of a wagon going through the streets of Newcastle collecting for Rag Week!

Outside of music I have to thank John for introducing me to a variety of 
authors. John was an avid reader. He had me reading Sci-Fi by such as  Asimov and Bradbury, and the classics - Plato and Socrates!   I was ever  surprised that he was happy working in a Laboratory when I was convinced
he would have benefitted from a University education. But then his life was devoted to music and that was his choice.

I knew that he later went to work in the Tech in Bath Lane. I am sure  this was a sensible choice of employer. It would have given him more  freedom to follow his musical interests in his own time - rather difficult when working for a commercial organisation.

We were normal teenagers and had some strange interests. Whenever a 
Gents was refurbished or a new one opened, we would pay a visit to inaugurate the event! We frequented the YMCA and often just sat  listening from the Balcony of the Oxford Galleries - especially when there  was a guest group such as George Melly with Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. (At  one time John's younger sister Rona went out with Phil - the lead sax with  the Evans Orchestra. Later he was replaced by an older man from Jesmond.
One of my lasting recollections of Rona was seeing her in a yellow Austin Atlantic - hair and scarf flying behind whilst speeding through the town!)

We also formed part of the audience at the BBC in Newcastle where one of their Saturday Jazz Club sessions was being recorded.   Occasionally we  would go to the Odeon to listen to visiting bands such as Harry Gold's Pieces of 8 and Ted Heath.   Our listening tastes were reasonably broad compared with our playing preferences.


When I started to go out with Sheila we introduced John to a girl whom Sheila had known since their days together in prams and later at infant and junior schools. The four of us were practically inseparable and John was on the verge of getting engaged - we even bought presents - but it was not to be.   Music was still his great love. I was interested to read that he did marry twice. I didn't know if there was any 'issue'. It would be nice to have met his wife.


It was sad to read that in later years dementia seemed to have caught 
up with him.  One blogger suggested that perhaps there was a hint of lung  cancer. My money would have had this as a certainty. John was a hardened nicotine slave when I knew him: stained moustache and fingers!

I don't recall him having a craving for Newcastle Broon - we didn't need any stimulants to have a good time.


A favourite haunt was the News Theatre at the top of Northumberland Street 
- the one where you could walk right through to the Haymarket.   We made  weekly visits to enjoy the cartoons and shorts. Its a wonder we didn't get thrown out because of our unsolicited interruptions!

At one time John, Dennis and I thought about buying a car between us. Only Dennis and I had full licences.   But we could never agree on who should have it and how the costs would be shared1   I would occasionally borrow the Vauxhall from the bookkeeper where I worked with the RAC. we four would pile in on a weekend or Bank Holiday and end up having a picnic in the sand dunes near Seahouses or somewhere up in the Cheviots like Alnwick.


I hope that my memories have been of interest to those people who knew John as a musician.  I was delighted to read of his several forays into different styles and how well he was received in Newcastle and Tyneside as well as far away as Darlington and Carlisle. At least these jottings have helped me to bring closure to a friendship that formed an important part of my early life.


I apologise if I have not accurately recalled some names and places. 
Time has that effect on memory.
George Heaviside.

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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