LUMINARIES OF AUSTRALIAN JAZZ
Compiled by Bill Haesler OAM
Luminary. noun: A person who inspires or influences others, esp. one prominent in a particular sphere; a famous person; a celebrity.
- Graeme (Gay) Emerson Bell AO
Graeme [Gay] Emerson Bell AO:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 7 September 1914 — d. Sydney NSW 13 June 2012) pianist/bandleader/composer.
Graeme studied classical piano as a child and was introduced to jazz by his younger brother Roger. They formed a dance band in 1935, played for local dances and functions until jazz took precedent and in 1941, with like-minded friends, formed Graeme Bell’s Jazz Gang. WWII broke up the group and he worked for the American Red Cross in North Queensland. On his return to Melbourne in 1944 he and Roger established Graeme Bell’s Dixieland Band (later renamed Graeme Bell’s Australian Jazz Band) a local leader in the emerging worldwide jazz revival. In December 1946 it and other enthusiasts organised the First Australian Jazz Convention. The band toured Czechoslovakia, France and Britain in 1947-1949, made a second tour of the UK and Europe in 1950-1952 and, by mutual consent, broke up in September 1952. For the next ten years Graeme was a show business personality assembling groups for concerts, stage shows and functions including a Combined Services Entertainment concert party tour in 1954-1955 entertaining the troops in Korea and Japan.
He led bands in Brisbane, moved to Sydney and its commercial music scene, taught piano and opened an art gallery. Graeme returned to jazz in June 1962 with his All Stars, a Festival Records contract, a TV series and long residencies. For the next forty years his All Stars recorded, broadcast and played festivals and concerts throughout Australia, PNG, New Zealand and China. He also made guest jazz appearances in Europe, Britain, USA, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Japan. By 1999 he decided to slow down musically apart from special appearances and concerts. The Graeme Bell Reunion Band (an augmented All Stars) was formed in 2003 for festivals, concerts and recordings. During his 90th birthday celebrations the next year he announced his final retirement and organised a farewell tour with the band.
- Roger (Badger) Emerson Bell
Roger [Badger] Emerson Bell:
(b. Melbourne, Vic 4 January 1919 — d. 17 June 2008) trumpet/drums/washboard/composer/leader and Graeme Bell’s younger brother.
Discovered jazz in 1932 while at school, began playing drums in 1935, co-led a dance band with Graeme and took up cornet in 1938. Apart from a brief period in 1943 during the war his musical activities were always co-linked with Graeme’s jazz bands (1941-52). When the Graeme Bell Australian Jazz Band disbanded in September 1952 he freelanced, formed his Pagan Pipers and worked with Max Collie, the Melbourne Jazz Club Band (1958-65) and Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers (1961-67). He made overseas playing trips in 1976 and 1981 and was active musically and at Jazz Conventions into the mid 1990s. Roger was also a prolific composer and recording artist.
- Marie Harriett (Marie Benson)
Marie Harriett [Marie Benson]:
(b. Sydney NSW c.1928 — d. c. April 2003) vocalist/entertainer.
Marie learnt piano at an early age, started as a teenage acrobat, contortionist and singer, worked with Jim Gussey’s ABC band on Variety Bandbox and Hit Parade. During WWII she toured with the US Army Service Band Base Section 7 and concerts with Bob Hope and Jack Benny and sang at the Booker T Washington Club with Giles O’Sullivan. After the war she worked at the Bondi Esplanade and the Roosevelt Club, was with Les Welch and toured with the Port Jackson Jazz Band in 1948. As Marie Benson she went to England in July 1948 and, apart from a brief return holiday, worked as a singer with the Stargazers vocal quartet and bands including the Todd Foster orchestra, Stephane Grappelli, the Dutch Swing College Band and Johnny Dankworth. During the fourteen-year stay in London she recorded extensively for the BBC, Columbia, Esquire and Philips. On her return to Sydney in January 1962 Marie became part of the club and jazz scene and retired in the mid to late 1960s. She recorded locally with the Port Jackson Jazz Band (1947 as Marie Harriett), Elleston Jones (1947), Les Welch (1948), the PIX All-Stars (1962) and Graeme Bell (1962)..
- Malcolm Bills
(b. Peterborough, SA 30 November 1925) pianist.
Although his mother was a classical pianist Malcolm studied piano reluctantly. He went to boarding school in Adelaide in 1938 and a cadetship with the RAN, but did not pass the physical test and returned home. To Adelaide University in 1942 to study dentistry where he met pianist Colin Taylor, Bruce Gray, Bill Munro and Bob Wright and joined the Adelaide Jazz Lovers’ Society. He became its first live performer playing boogie woogie piano, formed Malcolm Bill’s Dixielanders in 1943 using Bruce Gray, Bill Munro and Bob Wright and expanded it to a seven-piece working band in September 1944. He disbanded it in late 1946 to complete his university studies. By this time some of the band members had also become the nucleus of the Dave Dallwitz Southern Jazz Group. After graduation in 1947 he set up a dental practice in Whyalla SA and was involved with the music scene there. He moved to Adelaide and part-time music in 1966, joined Derek Dalton’s Phoenix Jazz Band in 1972 and recorded with it in 1974. Malcolm put bands together for parties, birthdays, weddings and the Australian Jazz Convention when it was in Adelaide up to 1993 then retired from its jazz scene.
- Joan Blake (nee Joan Saunders, Joan Testro)
Joan Blake: (née Joan Saunders, Joan Testro):
(b. Redfern NSW 2 October 1923) singer.
Joan was born into a show business family. Her father Stan was half the singing duet The Joy Boys (Tilton and West) and her mother, Maggie Buckley, was a popular vaudeville artist from 1920 to the early-1950s. Joan grew up with her aunt and uncle, had a senior secretarial position with the NSW Police Dept and became a successful semi-professional radio singer. She deputised for her mother at a wartime charity show in the 1940s that led to a contract with the George Patterson radio unit and using the stage name Joan Blake appeared on the Jack Davey radio show. Her subsequent professional radio career included performances with Bob Dyer’s 2UW variety show, George and Nell (George Edwards and Nell Stirling), the ABC’s Variety Fare, Stella Lamond and Max Reddy, the Cashmere Bouquet Show, 2GB, Regal Zonophone recordings with George Trevare’s Orchestra (1943-44) and performances with Leo White’s ABC orchestra. In 1946 while visiting her comedienne mother performing at the Tivoli in Perth WA she met and married Rex Testro the Juggling Jester. She stayed, joined the Mack and Testro Follies, and toured with it through WA for about a year before returning to Melbourne and Victorian tours with the pantomime Sinbad the Sailor. She then retired to raise her family. Joan recorded a private CD in 2003 and still performs occasionally at private functions. Joan was born into a show business family. Her father Stan was half the singing duet The Joy Boys (Tilton and West) and her mother, Maggie Buckley, was a popular vaudeville artist from 1920 to the early-1950s. Joan grew up with her aunt and uncle, had a senior secretarial position with the NSW Police Dept and became a successful semi-professional radio singer. She deputised for her mother at a wartime charity show in the 1940s that led to a contract with the George Patterson radio unit and using the stage name Joan Blake appeared on the Jack Davey radio show. Her subsequent professional radio career included performances with Bob Dyer’s 2UW variety show, George and Nell (George Edwards and Nell Stirling), the ABC’s Variety Fare, Stella Lamond and Max Reddy, the Cashmere Bouquet Show, 2GB, Regal Zonophone recordings with George Trevare’s Orchestra (1943-44) and performances with Leo White’s ABC orchestra. In 1946 while visiting her comedienne mother performing at the Tivoli in Perth WA she met and married Rex Testro the Juggling Jester. She stayed, joined the Mack and Testro Follies, and toured with it through WA for about a year before returning to Melbourne and Victorian tours with the pantomime Sinbad the Sailor. She then retired to raise her family. Joan recorded a private CD in 2003 and still performs occasionally at private functions.
- Sidney (Sid, SJ, Brom) Joseph Bromley
Sidney (Sid, SJ, Brom) Joseph Bromley:
(b. Ipswich, Qld. 7 June 1920 — d. Brisbane, Qld. 11 March 2004) drums/clarinet/bandleader/broadcaster.
Sid discovered jazz in the late 1930s, took up clarinet in 1940 and formed the Brisbane Swing Club. He was on active war service with the Army (1940-46) then restarted the Brisbane Swing Club in 1946 (renamed the Brisbane Hot Jazz Society in 1947) using his band, the Canecutters and playing drums. It disbanded in 1952. Worked at Story Bridge Hotel in 1955 with Earl ‘Tich’ Bray and Len Barnard, started the Brisbane Jazz Club in 1957, was a founder member of the Queensland Jazz Action Society (1970s) and was a long-time radio broadcaster from the mid 1950s. He retired musically in the early 1960s, but remained an organisational force in Australian jazz until his death in 2004.
- Francis (Frank) Coughlan
Francis [Frank] Coughlan:
(b. Emmaville NSW 10 September 1904 — d. Sydney NSW 6 April 1979) trumpet/trombone/vocal/composer/arranger/bandleader.
Frank started playing professionally in Sydney and Melbourne from 1922, worked with Jack Hylton’s orchestra (among others) in London, England (1928-29) then led the Trocadero band in Sydney and Melbourne from 1936 to 1970, apart from several absences during the 1940s and 1950s and wartime service as an army bandleader (1943-45). He retired from music shortly after the Trocadero officially closed on New Year’s Eve 1970.
- David (Dave) Frederick Dallwitz AO
David [Dave] Frederick Dallwitz AO:
(b. Freeling SA 25 October 1914 — d. Adelaide SA 24 March 2003) piano/trombone/violin/bassoon/composer/artist.
David studied violin as a child, moved to Adelaide with his family in 1930, developed an interest in jazz and trained as an artist and art teacher at the South Australian School Of Art (1933-1937). He joined, then led, the popular Southern Jazz Group (1945-51) and retired from jazz to concentrate on art and pursue his interest in classical chamber and symphonic music and composition and formed the Flinders Street Revue Company. He returned to record his jazz and ragtime music for Swaggie Records (1972-85). The Dallwitz South Australian Jazz Band toured the USA in 1987 and Dave continued to lead his small group, big band and ragtime ensemble at concerts, festivals, the Australian Jazz Convention and for recordings up until his death.
- James (Jim) Hutchinson Davidson
James (Jim) Hutchinson Davidson:
(b. Balmain NSW 6 August 1902 — d. Bowral NSW 9 April 1982) drums/bandleader.
While at school Jim played cornet and euphonium in the local cadet corps and church bands, moved to drums in 1919 and formed a jazz quartet with friends. Joined the Sydney vaudeville circuit in 1922 and worked with Jimmie Elkins’ band in the pit at the Lyric Theatre and at the Wentworth Hotel. He then worked as deputy bandleader with Jack Woods (1928-1931) at Ambassadors restaurant until it was destroyed by fire in February 1931. He joined Gordon Rawlinson’s band at Smith’s Oriental/Ginger Jar cabaret and took over the jazz quintet when Rawlinson left, led the Palais Royal Moore Park dance hall orchestra for winter seasons in 1933, 1934 and 1936, a two-week season at the Melbourne St Kilda Palais de Danse in 1933, made regular 2UE radio broadcasts, played numerous social events and recorded for Columbia. He returned to Melbourne to form the ABC Dance Band for national broadcasts and public performances (January 1935-mid 1936). He swapped drums for a bandleader’s baton at the Palais Royal in Sydney, from March 1937 led Sydney’s ABC dance band until it was disbanded in November 1940, then joined an AIF concert unit touring the Middle East, South West Pacific and Australia. He helped form a joint Australian-US entertainment unit and finished the war in 1946 as lieutenant colonel in charge of the Australian Army’s Entertainments Unit. After a brief period with the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney he became musical director for Harry Wren Enterprises until joining the BBC in London as assistant head of Variety (1948- 1964). On his return to Australia, he worked briefly as a consultant to the ABC and renovated several old Sydney houses until retirement to Bowral NSW.
- Geoffrey Benjamin (Benny) Featherstone
Geoffrey Benjamin [Benny] Featherstone:
(b. Browns River [Kingston] Tas. 30 July 1912 — d. Melbourne, Vic. 6 April 1977) drums/trumpet/tenor horn/trombone/tenor sax/clarinet/piano/vocal/bandleader.
His family moved to Melbourne c.1918 where Benny attended Melbourne Grammar and played trombone with the school orchestra and its Footwarmers band (1926-1927). He was the drummer with Joe Watson and His Green Mill/Wentworth Hotel Orchestra (1929-1931) and recorded with them and the Beachcombers (1930). During 1931-1933 he worked with bands led by Maurice Guttridge, Les Raphael, Ern Pettifer, Geoff Smith and the 3DB Radio studio band. He went to England in mid 1933 where he heard and met Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and played a short engagement at the Silver Slipper Club. On his return to Melbourne he joined Art Chapman’s New Embassy Band and led a group at Rex Cabaret (which included Frank Coughlan). He went to Sydney in late 1934 to front Ben Featherstone’s Famous Band for a twelve-month residency at the Manhattan Club/Cabaret but returned home when the club went bankrupt after eight weeks. Led the Commodore Cabaret band and was with Art Chapman’s orchestra at Wattle Palais until reforming his band in late 1935. From mid 1937 he worked with popular dance, swing and show bands including those led by Harold Wray, Charles Rutherford, Bob Tough, Don Rankin, Mick Walker, Bob White, Bill O’Flynn, Mickey Powell and Claude Carnell. He contributed to the legendary Fawkner Park Kiosk jam sessions on weekends and led his own swing quartet, sextet, Six Stars of Swing and Dixielanders (with Roger Bell and Pixie Roberts). He joined the merchant navy in late 1943, played in American Servicemen’s clubs in Queensland, was in Oakland USA on VP Day (15 August 1945), then disappeared from the music scene, became a shipping clerk (1958-1975) and was inactive musically except for occasional jam sessions at parties and a Bob Clemens’ Downbeat Town Hall Concert in 1954.
- Bruce Athol Gray
Bruce Athol Gray:
(b. Adelaide SA 18 August 1926 — d. Adelaide 3 May 2010) clarinet/saxophones/bandleader.
While at school Bruce studied violin and played fife before moving to clarinet as a member of the Adelaide College Of Music Military Band and a jazz quartet with pianist Colin Taylor, Bill Munro and Bob Wright. Worked with Mal Badenoch in 1943 and joined Malcolm Bills’ Dixielanders that eventually became the basis for the Southern Jazz Group (1946-1950). In late 1949 he formed his All Star Jazzmen that played radio broadcasts, Tivoli Swing Shows, Palais Royal functions, balls, society events and jazz clubs. He arranged and worked with orchestras at the ABC, Channels 7 and 9, featured as a clarinet soloist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s, recorded for Swaggie Records, attended annual Australian Jazz Conventions, played local and interstate jazz festivals and had a long musical association with Bill Munro, Bob Wright, John Malpas, Don Anderson, Tas Brown, Keith Conlon, John Hall, Jerry Wesley and Alex Frame.
- Donald (Don) Harper
Donald [Don] Harper OAM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 18 March 1921 — d. Bulli NSW 30 May 1999) violinist/baritone sax/bandleader.
Don studied violin as a child, worked with local big bands during WWII, led Don Harper and His Music in Melbourne at St Kilda Town Hall (1944-54) and a quartet at the Galleon Coffee Lounge. To England (1954) and worked in broadcasting and prestigious clubs and hotels. Returned to Australia (1962-66) for study at the NSW Conservatorium, toured Australia as a soloist and with visiting artists including Dave Brubeck and worked for television, radio, hotels and clubs. Returned to the UK, composed theme and background music for the BBC and was music director for the London Weekend Television World of Sport. He returned to Australia as head of jazz studies at Wollongong University NSW (1983-90), formed the Australian Chamber Jazz Ensemble and continued to play with small groups until retirement in the mid 1990s.
- Barbara James
(b. Wynard Square, Sydney NSW 17 July 1907 — d. Sydney NSW 29 March 2004) vocalist/saxophone/xylophone/banjo/bandleader.
Barbara was born into a musical family. Her banjoist father Will, who taught her to play xylophone, saxophone and banjo led a jazz band at the Wentworth Ballroom in 1922 and later at the Bondi Casino where he gave Frank Coughlan his first professional job. She worked three seasons on the Tivoli Circuit from age eleven as Barbara James, Child Xylophonist and made regular appearances with her father’s band. The family moved to Katoomba NSW in 1926 where she played and sang with her father’s group at guesthouses and the Casino Dance Hall – and met young pianist Reg Lewis.
She joined Tommy Kane’s band at the Carlton Hotel, Brisbane Queensland featured as the Personality Girl Saxophonist and, after a tour to Broken Hill with Humphrey Bishop’s Stage Company in 1930 returned to Sydney. Barbara, Reg Lewis and Will James appeared on 2FC radio as Barbara James and Her Boyfriends. Now a popular singer she worked with Keith Collins’ band at the Palais Royal in 1932 led a small group at the Cavalier Restaurant in 1933 until she and Reg Lewis joined Art Chapman’s Orchestra in Melbourne at the New Embassy cabaret and later played with Benny Abrahams’ band. To Sydney in 1935 at Grahams’ Restaurant, then back to Melbourne in April 1935 with the Hal Moschetti band at the Palais de Dance. She married Reg Lewis in November 1936 and both joined Frank Coughlan’s Trocadero Orchestra in Sydney in July 1937 and worked with other orchestras there. In 1941 Barbara left to concentrate on radio work. In 1946 she and Reg toured Singapore, Malaya, Burma and Hong Kong with an ENSA [Entertainments National Service Association] troupe then went to England and Europe in 1949 for six years where they worked with the Harry Roy orchestra. As Lewis and Lee, and also Barbara and Reg they toured US military bases, seaside resorts, variety theatres, cabaret and featured on radio. On their return to Sydney in May 1955 they worked at the Colony Club for six months, appeared at the Palais de Danse in Melbourne for eighteen months and hosted the radio series Between You And Us. After returning to Sydney in 1955 and casual club engagements they retired in 1959. Barbara James recorded too infrequently under her own name and with Jim Davidson, Frank Coughlan, Dick Freeman, Reg Lewis, Abe Romain, George Trevare, Albert Fisher and Johnny Tozer [Reg Lewis].
- Leonard (Len, aka Al Leonard) Arthur Lindsay Maurice
Leonard (Len, aka Al Leonard) Arthur Lindsay Maurice
(b. South Melbourne, Vic. 10 March 1900 — d. Aspendale Vic. 12 August 1952) singer/radio announcer.
Born Leonard Morris, he aspired to an operatic career, joined the Grand Opera Company in his late teens and in 1918, for theatrical reasons, changed his name to Len Maurice. He married in 1919 and the family moved to Brisbane, Queensland where he joined the JC Williamson Opera Company, went into musical comedy as a baritone on the Fuller circuit, moved to Sydney and toured Australia and New Zealand with JC Williamson Ltd. An Australian recording pioneer his first records were made with bands led by Jimmie Elkins and Eric Pearse in late 1926 and, under his own name, remained a prolific and popular Columbia artist until October 1933. As Art Leonard he is credited with being Australia’s first Country Music singer. He left the stage and joined the 2KY radio network in Sydney as a radio announcer in 1933, moved to Melbourne and 3UZ and 3AW (1934-35) before returning to Sydney where he ran an advertising agency (1937-38), worked for 2UE then quit it all to manage a hotel in Mallacoota, Victoria in 1944-1946. He purchased the hotel in 1951 but suffered a heart attack and forced into early retirement.
- William (Willie, The Lion) McIntyre
William (Willie, The Lion) McIntyre:
(b. Benalla, Vic. 24 May 1919 — d. Melbourne, Vic. 11 September 1987 – pianist.
Willie took up piano in his teens, moved to Melbourne in 1937, formed a dance trio with saxophonist Laurie Cowan and drummer Wes Brown and joined the local jazz scene in 1938. Following war service with the Army in Queensland, Papua New Guinea and New Britain (1942-1946) the jovial Willie became intermission boogie woogie pianist and blues shouter at Graeme Bell’s Uptown Club and worked with the Varsity Vipers. He helped organise the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946 and was a co-founder of the Portsea Trio in 1947 with Bill Miller on washboard and clarinettist George Tack. A fun band, it played society and college work and featured at jazz concerts and the annual AJC. He was also a founder member of Tony Newstead’s South Side Gang (1947-1955) then joined the Barons Footwarmers led by Lou Silbereisen, worked with the Jim Loughnan quartet and trio, Pixie Robert’s Trio and George Tack’s Jazzmen. During 1946-1949 he recorded as a piano soloist and with Tony Newstead, Geoff Kitchen, Keith Hounslow and George Tack, was inaugural president of the Southern Jazz Society in 1949, a musical friend and mentor to pianist Dick Hughes and quietly retired from the Melbourne jazz scene in the early 1960s.
- William (Bill) Henry Miller
William (Bill) Henry Miller:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 22 February 1914 — d. Melbourne, Vic. 20 November 2012) washboard/record producer/writer/solicitor.
An important and influential contributor to jazz appreciation within the Melbourne traditional jazz community during the late 1930s-1940s, Bill discovered jazz while at school and built up a vast collection of jazz records while reading law at Oxford, England in 1933–1938. Using the records he scripted the 3UZ programme Jazz Night (later renamed Swing Night) from 1939 until late 1941, founded Jazz Notes magazine in 1941, served in the Army (1940 –1942), pioneered the recording of Australian jazz with his Ampersand label in 1943, helped establish the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946 and was founder-editor of Australian Jazz Quarterly (1946-1954). He organised the Portsea Trio in 1947 for jobs at Portsea, concerts, society and college work and early Australian Jazz Conventions. Bill retired from the jazz scene in the 1960s, but returned during the early 2000s as an advisor to the Victorian Jazz Archive.
- Adrian (Ade, Father, Lazy Ade) Monsbourgh
Adrian (Ade, Father, Lazy Ade) Monsbourgh AO:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 17 February 1917 — d. Nathalia, Vic. 13 July 2006) valve trombone/trumpet/clarinet/alto sax/banjo/vocal/recorder/composer.
Ade was brought up near Echuca, Victoria, returned with his family to Melbourne in 1925, had piano lessons at age eight, became interested in jazz via radio in 1932 and with school-friend Roger Bell developed his interest in the music, learnt to play banjo and formed a band in 1935 for local dances. He mixed with the Bell brother’s circle, took up trombone and trumpet and co-founded the Melbourne University Rhythm Club in 1937. In July 1943 he joined Roger Bell’s Dixieland Band, which came under Graeme Bell’s leadership in late 1944 and, except for periods during Army service in the Army from 1940 and the RAAF (in 1944-1947 where he spent 4-5 months in Sydney), was with the band until it broke up in late 1952. Ade became a musical advisor for the music publisher Allans Music and in 1951 he and Pixie Roberts set up the Pan Recorder Company in Camberwell, Victoria, manufacturing wooden recorders for school children. In late October 1953 he replaced Frank Traynor in Len Barnard’s Jazz Band but left in February 1955 just prior to its ill-fated 1955 Australian tour. He freelanced during the late 1950s, joined the Melbourne Jazz Club house band in 1961 and worked with Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers. Ade had a long musical friendship with the Tom Pickering band in Tasmania and the Southern Jazz Group in Adelaide, SA and is often referred to as “the father of Australian jazz” as a tribute to his unselfish encouragement to young jazz musicians over many years.
- William (Bill) Munroe
William (Bill) Munro:
(b. Adelaide SA 1 October 1927 — d. Adelaide SA 10 January 2005) trumpet.
Bill played trumpet from 1940, joined Malcolm Bills’ Dixielanders (1944) then the Southern Jazz Group (1945). Attended the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946 and recorded with the SJG until it disbanded in 1950. Played with the Bruce Gray All Stars from the mid 1950s, led his Jazz Six from 1957 and worked with the Campus Six (1962-76), the Climax Jazz Band (1975-83) and bands led by Billy Ross, Neville Dunn, Maurice Le Doeuff, various Dave Dallwitz groups and recorded extensively. Illness forced him into musical retirement in 2003.
- Beryl (Pat) Newell
Beryl (Pat) Newell:
(b. western NSW unknown date — d. late 1950s) pianist.
Beryl Newell studied piano (Hons,) at St Joseph’s Convent School, Forbes NSW. Living in Waverley, she won the Manly Daily Song Competition on 19 April 1923 for written music to the poem “Manly By The Sea”. During 1926 she worked on radio 2KY with singer Amy Ruwald (Des Tooley) and in November-December that year (as Patsy O’Neill) performed at the Garden Theatre, Adelaide SA. She returned to Sydney and with vocalist Shirley Cooke had an entré act at the Lyceum Theatre. Beryl Newell was, remarkably for the time, appointed musical director for Parlophone in September-October 1928 and remained with the company until 1932 when EMI merged Parlophone, Columbia and HMV. During that time she recorded eight piano solos and also with singers Des Tooley, George Sorlie, John Warren, Clem Williams, Sylvia Post Mason, Barbara James, Jack Davey and musicians Abe Romain, Frank Coughlan and Cliff Clarke. She did stage work at the Prince Edward Theatre and in May 1932 appeared on Paramount’s One Hour For You radio programme on 2UE relayed to 3AD, 4BK and 5AD. Beryl married Theodore Franklin Best on 6 October 1936, after which nothing is known regarding her career.
- Isidore Anthony (Tony) Newstead
Isidore Anthony (Tony) Newstead:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 1 October 1923) trumpet/bandleader.
Trained as a pianist Tony took up trumpet in 1940 with lessons from Frank Coughlan. He played with Don Banks, Keith Atkins, Charlie Blott and others until active service in the Army then the RAAF in Australia and New Guinea from 1941 to 1946 where he met jazz like-minded musicians Sid Bromley, Don Reid and Willie McIntyre. He joined the Varsity Vipers in 1946, attended the First Australian Jazz Convention, was president of the Melbourne University Rhythm Club and formed his Jazzmen in 1947. The band, renamed the South Side Gang, was a caretaker for various musical jobs for the Graeme Bell band while it was in Europe during 1947-1948 and was an important contributor to Melbourne jazz up to 1951. The South Side Gang reunited in 1954-58 then Tony moved to the UK and USA for post-graduate study in telecommunications where he heard and played with his jazz idols. On his return he freelanced and worked with bands led by Kenn Jones and Allan Leake. From 1970 to 1974 Tony was with the World Bank in Washington USA, led the Potomac River Jazz Club Band and appeared at the Manassas Jazz Festival in 1972 and 1973. He worked as an executive with the Hong Kong Telephone Company (1977-1984) where he formed a jazz band. Back in Melbourne he freelanced regularly up into the late 1990s and semi-musical retirement.
- Ian Philp (Nog) Pearce
Ian Philp [Nog] Pearce OAM:
(b. Hobart, Tas. 22 November 1921 — d. Hobart, Tas. 8 November 2012) trumpet/piano/trombone/composer.
Ian studied piano as a child and, with his brother Cedric and Tom Pickering, discovered jazz in 1936. He took up trumpet in 1937 and the next year formed the Barrelhouse Four with pianist Rex Green. Ian served in the Army (1942-1946) and after the war the group resumed playing. Ian moved to Melbourne in 1947 to study at the conservatorium, became a member of its jazz scene and swapped trumpet for trombone. He worked with the Tony Newstead and Graeme Bell bands when required and recorded with the Bells in 1948. He went to the UK with Don Banks in 1950 and played with the Mick Mulligan band, George Melly and others. On his return to Hobart in 1956, Ian worked as a soloist, formed a mainstream quartet then reunited with Tom Pickering to co-lead the Pearce-Pickering Ragtime Five/ Good Time Jazz Band until Tom’s musical retirement in 1991. He continued to lead the band for its Wrest Point Hotel Casino Sunday engagement until 1997. That year he toured the US with Steve Waddell’s Creole Bells. Ian became involved with numerous Australian Jazz Convention and other jazz committees over the years, was well respected on the Australian jazz festival circuit, featured regularly on ABC broadcasts, recorded extensively and was a generous mentor to young musicians. He played up until his death following a short illness.
- Tom Mansergh Pickering
Thomas (Tom) Mansergh Pickering AM:
(b. Burra, SA 8 August 1921 — d. Hobart, Tas. 26 November 2001) clarinet/tenor sax/vocal/composer.
Tom’s family moved from South Australia (via Albury) to Sandy Bay, Tasmania in mid 1932 where he discovered jazz on radio with schoolboy neighbours Cedric and Ian Pearce. He studied clarinet (a school-exam bribe provided by his father in 1936), became a bank clerk and, with the Pearce brothers and pianist Rex Green, formed the Barrelhouse Four in 1938. It played for local dance and social functions and at the Fouché coffee lounge, formed the short-lived 7HO radio Swing Club and made an ABC broadcast with the quartet in 1941. He took up tenor sax and joined Max Humphries’ dance band at Radio Hall until transferred to a bank in northern Tasmania for a year where he played with the local dance band and met like-minded jazz musicians in near-by Launceston. WWII enlistments broke up the group and Tom went into the Army in October 1941, stationed mainly in Hobart as an ordinance clerk. On army education trips to Melbourne and Sydney he discovered mainland musicians playing jazz that resulted in lasting friendships with the Graeme Bell band and its jazz colleagues. In December 1945, following his army discharge, he regrouped the Barrelhouse Four playing what jobs came its way. It recorded ten titles (mainly unissued) for Ampersand at 7HT in late 1946 the band attended the First Australian Jazz Convention in Melbourne. In early 1947 Ian Pearce and Rex Green moved to Melbourne, Tom joined the Stan Huntington big band at the Belvedere Ballroom, became a librarian at the State Library of Tasmania and formed the Barrelhouse Jazz Band, a 7-piece cooperative playing Saturday-night ‘Jazz For Dancing’ at the 7HT theatrette, later called the Jazz House. The band also played at City Hall and other on-nighters. In 1949 he changed the name to Tom Pickering’s Good Time Jazz Band and it moved to the Hobart Town Hall, By this time the popular band was playing 2-3 nights a week plus social functions and university revues.
When Ian Pearce returned to Hobart in 1956 the Pearce-Pickering Ragtime Five was formed for an ABC radio series, items from which were later issued on Swaggie LPs.
When jazz gave way to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the early 60s it was back to small groups and pub jobs. Tom led trios and quartets with long residencies at the Hadley, Claremont, Prince of Wales, St. Ives and Tattersalls hotels, the Stork Club, joined Ian Pearce for a series of ABC broadcasts and recordings, played concerts, social events and band reunions. In Feb-March 1971 the Ragtime Five made an Army sponsored tour of Vietnam, entertaining Australian troops. He became the Parliamentary Librarian in 1974, was awarded a Churchill Fellowship overseas research grant and in March-July 1979 toured the US, UK and France to play and study jazz music and its history. Upon his return he suffered two heart attacks but on his recovery continued playing. In 1981 the Pierce-Pickering band accepted a five-week Sunday afternoon engagement at Wrest Point Hotel Casino. Jazz On Sunday lasted seventeen years, supported by local enthusiasts, visiting musicians and international jazz stars. Tom’s day job at the Parliamentary Library ended with his retirement in 1986. In 1988 a tribute concert was held at Hobart’s Theatre Royal to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tom Pickering-Ian Pearce musical partnership and, although unwell following a mild stroke, he attended this packed event. Sadly, ill health eventually forced his musical retirement in 1991. Tom Pickering was undoubtedly the unofficial father of Tasmanian jazz.
- Adrian (Abe) Romain
Adrian (Abe) Romain:
(b. Wellington, NZ 27 August 1005 — d. Sydney NSW 21 August 1994) saxophone/clarinet/trumpet.
Abe studied violin, then saxophone from age twelve and became a professional musician touring NZ with JC Williamson Ltd. He worked with Charles Dalton’s Orchestra and a Pacific cruise ship orchestra before moving to Sydney in 1925 to join Cec Morrison’s Gloom Chasers and Merv Lyon’s orchestra at Ambassadors nightclub. He stayed when Al Hammett took over the band and recorded with the band for Columbia in December 1926. He moved to Melbourne in late 1927 and worked with the Millodians at the Green Mill dance hall, then to the Brisbane Trocadero and the Roy Baird band. Back in Sydney in 1929 he recorded with Des Tooley, George Sorlie and Sidney Burchall. He and his family moved to London in February 1930 where he worked with Herman Darewski, the Kit Kat Band and played and toured the UK, Ireland and the Continent several times with Jack Hylton. Back in Sydney in early 1933 he joined Sam Babicci at Romanos Restaurant, took a band into Graham’s Cabaret, then led bands at the Ginger Jar, Palais Royal and the Bondi Esplanade dance hall before he and the family returned to England in mid 1936. He joined Harry Roy’s orchestra until badly injured in a car accident. On his recovery he rejoined the band for its April 1938 tour of South America. In August 1940, following the outbreak of WW II, he returned to Australia, worked with Sam Babicci then took over the Trocadero orchestra from Dick Freeman from January 1941 to September 1946. In late 1943 he also became program director for radio 2UE. When the war ended he took a holiday to the US via NZ.
He returned in January 1947, became a disc jockey at 2GB, joined the Paradance suburban dance circuit until moving to Melbourne in January 1948 to lead the State Show Band Theatre orchestra for a year, returned to Sydney’s State Theatre and alternated yearly until late 1951. From 1953 he worked in Sydney at the Celebrity Club, the Capitol Theatre, the Tivoli Theatre, 2GB as Jack Davey’s musical director then as a 2GB executive until retirement in early 1974.
- George (Fatso, Tacka) Tack
George (Fatso, Tacka) Tack:
(b. Melbourne CBD Vic. 14 May 1919 – d. Melbourne, Vic. 25 September 2002) clarinet/alto & tenor sax/vocal.
George took up violin while at University High School, came under the musical influence of Ade Monsbourgh at University (1939-1943), switched to clarinet and formed a trio with pianist George Fong and Russ Murphy on drums. He played sessions at the Musicians’ Union Rhythm Club, was a member of the Varsity Vipers, worked with the Graeme Bell Dixieland Band at the Uptown Club in early 1947 deputising for Pixie Roberts who had broken a leg. In 1947 he co-founded the Portsea Trio with Bill Miller on washboard and pianist Willie McIntyre playing society and college work, jazz concerts and the annual Australian Jazz Convention. He was also a founder member of Tony Newstead’s South Side Gang (1946-1958) then worked casual jobs until retiring from active jazz playing in the early 1960s. George recorded with Keith Hounslow, Tony Newstead and Roger Bell and as a close member of the Melbourne jazz inner-circle was a popular jazz concert compère and made guest radio and television appearances with Graeme Bell.
- Des Tooley (nee Amy Ruwald, Joan Desmond)
Des Tooley (née Amy Ruwald, Joan Desmond):
(b. Redfern NSW 29 October 1896 – d. Long Bay NSW 5 April 1957) singer/pianist.
Very little is known about Amy Ruwald/Des Tooley. She studied piano at an early age, worked at Sheila Lockard’s School of Dance in the early 1920s and with Sheila (a tap dancer) on the vaudeville stage as Joan and Sheila Desmond. From the mid 1920s she taught piano and elocution and played in dance studios. In 1926, she worked for 2KY as singer/pianist Amy Ruwald and with pianist Beryl Newell as Des and Dot. After marrying Lionel Tooley in 1927 she shortened her earlier stage name and, as singer Des Tooley, signed a Parlophone recording contract that resulted in nearly thirty popular records from June 1929 to February 1933. By 1930 she was known as The Personality Girl, The Girl With The Unusual Voice (a deep-sounding contralto) and eventually The Rhythm Girl. Her unique small group recordings occasionally featured Abe Romain or Al Hammett (reeds), Cliff Clark (banjo), Frank Coughlan (trombone) and, on most, pianist Beryl Newell. During this period she became a radio celebrity, broadcasting from 2GB and with Lyn Christie and his ABC Dance Band for vaudeville shows and concerts on 2BL and 2FC. From 1933 she worked almost exclusively on radio. During the war (1939-1945) she entertained the troops with Jack Davey shows and as a member of Harry Yates Camp Shows.
After the war she worked in Sydney clubs until alcoholism and ill health forced both her and her husband into retirement. He died in 1954 and, sadly, she died penniless and alone in the NSW State Reformatory for Women. A play I Love You Tooley written by Prue Hemming and featuring Jacqy Phillips and Peter Douglas was performed at the Troupe Theatre, Unley SA in January-February 1985. All of her recordings have been reissued on several CDs.
- Cyril (Cy) Francis Watts
Cyril (Cy) Francis Watts:
(b. Fitzroy, Vic. 25 October 1913 – d. Sydney NSW 1986) piano/trombone/trumpet/arranger.
Cy was a self-taught musician and arranger who discovered jazz on records in 1931 and, in 1936, began working in a trio with saxophonist Tom Crowe and drummer John Parker. He joined the RAAF in 1940 and in mid 1943, when on leave, was the pianist with Roger Bell’s Dixieland Band at the Heidelberg Town Hall and the Palais Royale until Graeme Bell returned from working with the American Red Cross in North Queensland. He played cornet for a while until taking up trombone with lessons from Harold Broadbent. When Ade Monsbourgh joined the RAAF in 1944 Cy took over on trombone with the Graeme Bell Dixielanders then worked with Bill O’Flynn’s Orchestra. At this time he learnt to read music and wrote a tutor. He rejoined the Bell band at the Uptown Club on trombone, with Ade on alto sax, until the band left for Czechoslovakia in mid 1947. He then freelanced on the dance band circuit, provided arrangements when required and recorded seven sessions with his Jazzmen for Jazzart during 1948-1950. He taught himself navigation, bought a 30-foot ketch and in 1954 sailed to New Zealand, and Tasmania. The boat became his home in Melbourne until moving to a berth on Sydney Harbour. He gave up music in 1979, became a recluse and retired to the NSW Blue Mountains.
- William (Billy) James Weston
William (Billy) James Weston:
(b. Sydney NSW 13 March 1922 — d. Sydney NSW 17 June 2002) trombone/trumpet/composer/arranger/bandleader.
Billy lived in Perth WA as a child, toured with the Youth Australia League band then joined the Collegiates dance band in 1937. He moved to Melbourne, Victoria in 1939 worked at the 40 Club (later renamed the Trocadero Palais) with Bob Gibson in 1940 and led the band at the Plaza coffee lounge (1941). He served with the Army Entertainment Unit (1943-46) and on his discharge in Melbourne worked with Tom Davidson’s orchestra, moved to Sydney in 1947 and the George Trevare band at the State Theatre in 1947 and freelanced. After a brief period on the Queensland Gold Coast he returned to Sydney in 1948 and the Ralph Mallen Gaiety band then led a modern big band there and for concerts from 1949 to 1953. He also worked with the Fred McIntosh orchestra at 2GB and played with Gaby Rogers at Romanos before moving to Melbourne in 1954 with the Ice Follies, Frank Smith’s group at The Embers and session work. Billy returned to Sydney and the studios in the early 1960s, coached young musicians, conducted bands and retired in 1984.