Unity Stompers - Isle of Wight Jazz Band

History

We welcome your memories, anecdotes and corrections, please email them to andy@unitystompers.co.uk

1. The Early Years

The Unity Stompers were formed in 1960 following a meeting in the lunch queue at the old Saunders-Roe Black Knight rocket station on High Down.

There Mike Elliott, Alan Potton, Mike Collins and Dave Head discovered they had between them the nucleus of a Jazz Band - trombone, trumpet, clarinet and bass.

Mike lived near to Derek Tigg who had a banjo (at that time unstrung and unplayed - oh happy days!!!!) and he also enlisted Ray Jolliffe, the drummer in the Gilbert Trio (Derek’s in-laws)

The very first rehearsal took place at the Labour Hall in Newport on 13th July 1960, later moving to the Unitarian Hall, from which they took their name.

Their first public performance was at the Hare and Hounds, to an invited audience of Saunders-Roe colleagues.

By December 1961 the Band had it’s first paid Gig at Rookley WI Hall for the annual Christmas Party of the IW Lambretta Club and not long after that a Gig at Ryde Rowing Club for a barrel of beer!!

 

Folly Inn, Whippingham c.1965

 

Sadly the Stompers lost Dave Head when he went to work in Shoreham but fortunately they were able to recruit tuba player Bram Keat who was to stay with the Band until 1997.

Alan was the next of the founders to leave and he was replaced by Laurie Turner who had previously played with the Medina City Jazz Band. For a short while in 1963 they were joined by young Trumpeter John Patey www.penninejazz.com/aboutus Laurie returning to the Band after a short break.

Mike Collins also left around this time and he was replaced by reedman Terry Sears who eventually took over as leader and indeed lead the Band until 1984. Terry brought with him pianist Hugh Jefferies and trumpeter Cyril Daish who played over one Winter in between their Summer season.

The wonderful pianist,Wally Webster joined in 1972. Wally’s preference was for more modern styles of Jazz but he blended well with the Stompers and his versatility and virtuosity was admired by everyone.

2. The Falcon Years

For many people the line-up of the Band at The Falcon Pub in Shanklin during the 1970s and early 1980s was "The Classic" Stompers. Led by Terry Sears (Reeds) the Band consisted of Mike Elliott (Trombone) Lawry Turner (Trumpet) Derek Tigg (Banjo) Bram Keats (Tuba) Wally Webster (Piano) Ray Jolliffe (Drums) and Dave Norris (Vocals). Every Saturday the small front bar of The Falcon was crammed with Jazz fans out for a good time.

Falcon Inn, Shanklin. 1974

 

Many Island youngsters cut their jazz teeth sitting-in with the Band during this period including Andy Norman, Richard "Spats" White, Mornington Lockett and his brother Dorian.  Read an interview with Mornington at http://www.iowrock.demon.co.uk/profiles/mornington.htm .  In 1981 Mike left to form The Tailgate Jazz Band, specialising in a more New-Orleans style, and was replaced by Dave Bryant who made his debut on New Years Day 1981.

 

3. The Waverley Park

In the early 1980s significant changes occurred, Wally Webster left the Island and in 1983 Lawry Turner also left the Band. John Swaffield ( Reeds) was recruited and for a while the Stompers used a two Reed and Trombone frontline. When Andy Norman left the Army later the same year he joined on Trumpet/Cornet now giving a 4 piece frontline. Early in 1984 Terry Sears left to concentrate on his newly formed Band, Island Swing and Dave Bryant took over as Band Leader. About the same time the Band found themselves invited to play at The Waverley Park in East Cowes where they stayed for several years under the watchful eye of Dave Jones (Washboard Supremo). During the Winter months The Waverley played Host to many Star Guests including Digby Fairweather, Roy Williams, Dave Sheppard, Alan Elsdon, Rusty Taylor and of course Dave Jones’ favourite Beryl Bryden.

 

Waverley Park favourite, Digby Fairweather.

 

During this time the Stompers also played regularly on Shanklin Pier and were probably the last Band to play there before it was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1987.

 

Waverley Park, 1984

 

In 1985 The Stompers won the Traditional/Mainstream section of the Southampton Jazz Competition and recorded 3 cassettes at The Waverley, "Once in a While" (1985) "Summertime" (1987) and "Goodtime Jazz" (1991). The 1989 recording "Saints Alive" was made at St. John’s Church in Ryde.

 

4. What happened next.

For a while in the 1990s it seemed as if all roads led to Ventnor with various midweek spots at The Spyglass Inn, The Mill Bay and Saturdays at The Rose Inn. Friday nights also took the Stompers to The Waterfront at Totland Bay, where they played for several years.

 

In 1992 the band appeared on ITV's "Highway" programme with Sir Harry Secombe.  The band played on Havenstreet Steam Railway station one cold January morning with snow just starting to fall.  You can the Unity Stompers on Youtube here  (the band starts at 3:50).

 

One regular visitor was Nat Gonella who always liked to have a sing with the band.

 

 Nat Gonella with the Stompers 1996.

5. Times they are a changin’.

From 1997 things began to change quite rapidly. Bram Keat who had played Tuba with the Band since 1961 retired due to ill health and Trombonist Dave Bryant decided to make a major career change and train as a teacher.

 

Dave’s studies would mean that he had less time available to play in the Band and so the Leadership was passed to Andy Norman and Nick Collis was drafted in to play Tuba. Nick, although an accomplished Brass Band Musician, had never played Jazz but armed with a folder of Bass parts written out by Andy he quickly settled in and soon learnt to embellish or ignore the music.

 

Nick Collis - a Sue Cooper original.

 

The Stompers lost two very good friends in 1998 with the deaths of Beryl Bryden and Nat Gonella. Nat, who lived just across the Solent at Gosport, was a frequent visitor and often appeared out of the blue to sing with the band.

 

In December 1999 we were saddened to learn of the death of Kenny Baker, another of our good friends and a true "Giant" of British Jazz.

 

In 2002 Ray Jolliffe, who had been the Stompers only Drummer to this point retired due to the deterioration in his health. Luckily Terry Dickinson, who plays in the Bob Howarth Big Band alongside Andy and John, was available to step in at short notice. Terry had been the Stompers first-call dep since Ray first became ill.

Terry, May 2008

 

 

In 2003 the Band was also joined by Keyboard Wizard, Martin Dover. Martin’s work commitments and young family mean that he can’t make all the gigs but mostly when Dave can’t make it Martin can and sometimes we even get both.

 

Another very good friend, Tony Hounslow has been helping out, especially on Sunday Lunchtimes at The Rookley Park where he plays Trumpet and Andy plays Trombone.   Sadly Tony died in January 2005, we shall miss his playing and his unique brand of humour, on and off the stand.

 

Another friend of The Stompers, Bill Boulter, who followed the Band since the very early days also died in mid January 2005, now there'll be nobody in shorts at our December gigs!!!!

 

Sadly the Band's original Drummer, Ray Jolliffe died in April 2007 after a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease. His commitment to the Band and constant good humour and encouragement had always been a driving force in the Band and we will miss him very much.

Ray at Beaulieu, c.1986

 

The sudden loss of Humphrey Lyttleton in April 2008 has deprived us of another good friend. Humph was the "Godfather" of British Jazz and he will be missed by us all.
 

After 49 years there are no signs of the Band fading away, gigs keep coming in and a new generation of Stompers is appearing, led by Andy’s son, Sandy who is now a regular guest on Double Bass and Piano when not away studying at The Royal Academy of Music.

 

 Sandy at Freshwater with Digby Fairweather.  2005

 

At the end of 2009 Nick decided to take a rest from the Stompers to concentrate on his first love, Brass Bands.  The Stompers have been lucky enough to secure the services of Ben Bartram on Bass Guitar/Double Bass and Tuba.

 

January 29th 2010 we learn of the death of our good friend Bryan.  Bryan looked after the band for many years, bringing us drinks and clearing up the spare sandwiches.  Thanks Bryan.....

 

 As we enter 2012 the Stompers are looking forward to a busy year.

 

Calbourne 9th June 2012.

 

3rd November 2012 - sad news that Bram Keat, the Stompers much loved Tuba player from 1961 - 1997, has died.  We miss him.