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.
- Leonard (Len) Arthur Barnard
Leonard [Len] Arthur Barnard AM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 23 April 1929 — d. Sydney NSW 5 November 2005) piano/drums/bandleader.
Len was the drummer in his mother’s dance band from the age of ten. He took up piano during the 1940s and worked with local dance bands. Introduced to jazz by his father, Len formed the South City Stompers in 1948, playing piano with the band for several years before moving to drums. His popular band had a weekly radio series, regular dances and Sunday nights at Mentone Lifesaving Club from late 1949 until early 1955 and recorded regularly. In March 1955 it embarked on an ill-planned and financially disastrous Australian tour and was forced to disband in Queensland five months later. He then freelanced and worked with Graeme Bell in Brisbane for a year before returning to Melbourne and the commercial dance band scene. He recorded jazz albums for Swaggie Records and during 1970-1974 was keyboard manager for Yamaha and studied in Japan where he devised its Australasian organ course. Len moved to Sydney in March 1974 and from then on worked as a drummer with Judy Bailey, the Col Nolan-Errol Buddle Quartet, John Sangster, the Ray Price Quintet [sic] (1974-1975), Tom Baker’s San Francisco Jazz Band (1975-1979), Galapagos Duck (1977-1989) and younger brother Bob Barnard’s Jazz Band (1980-1983). In the 1990s as a freelancer also played with the Cafe Society Orchestra, Graeme Bell’s All Stars, Marie Wilson’s Band and residencies with the Bob Barnard and Bob Henderson groups. Over many years Len also featured in support bands for visiting US jazz stars including Dick Cary, Ralph Sutton, Kenny Davern, Peanuts Hucko, Benny Carter, Dan Barrett and Bob Wilber and became a featured guest artist at festivals and concerts until shortly before he died.
- Robert (Bob) Graeme Barnard
Robert [Bob] Graeme Barnard AM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 24 November 1933) cornet/trumpet/composer/leader.
Bob gained experience with the Mordialloc Brass Band, played with his mother’s dance band at fourteen and was an original member of brother Len Barnard’s South City Stompers/Jazz Band (1948-1955). He moved to Sydney in 1957 and worked with the Ray Price trio and the Port Jackson Jazz Band. On his return to Melbourne in late 1958 he joined Kenn Jones Powerhouse Band (1958-1962), the Max Collie band and freelanced. He moved to live in Sydney with his family in 1962 as a founder member of the Graeme Bell All Stars (1962-1967). Following extensive recording and studio work Bob formed a band in 1974. It toured Australia, Asia (1977), UK and Europe (1980) and the US in 1976, 1978 and 1982 and held residencies at Sydney hotels, restaurants and clubs, the Rocks Push and played jazz festival and concert circuits. In 1985, as a quartet, it played a long residency at the Orient Hotel in the Rocks. Bob has a deserved international reputation and regularly tours overseas as a featured soloist and freelances locally.
- Donald (Don) Vernon Burrows
Donald [Don] Vernon Burrows AO, MBE:
(b. Sydney NSW 8 August 28) multi-reed player/composer/educator/arranger/bandleader.
Don played flute at school and at the age of twelve was captain of the Metropolitan Schools Flute Band. He studied at the NSW Conservatorium in the early 1940s, turned professional in 1942, was principal clarinet with the ABC Sydney Orchestra in the mid 1940s and worked with Jim Gussey’s ABC Dance Band and other groups including those led by Kevin Ryder, Wally Norman and Bob Gibson for extensive work in Sydney nightclubs. He went to Canada, the US and England in 1950-51 and on his return resumed nightclub and session work and was with the Col Bergerson band at the Trocadero. His long musical association with George Golla began in 1960 at Club 11, he led groups at El Rocco and was a member of the Australian All Stars during the mid 1960s. During the 1970s-1980s he held long supper club residencies at Sydney’s Wentworth and Regent Hotels, was a member of the Australia Council and, after initiating the Jazz Studies course at the NSW Conservatorium, and was appointed its first director in 1980. Extensive worldwide touring throughout his career included the US, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea, Europe, the UK, India, the Far East, Egypt, Iraq and Brazil. Regular musical support and tours with celebrated visiting jazz artists to Australia consolidated his international jazz reputation. Don move to semi-retirement in rural Victoria, became ill and returned to Sydney.
- Graham Francis Coyle
Graham Francis Coyle:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 10 August 1932) piano.
Classically trained, Graham worked with a dance band in the late 1940s, discovered jazz, joined Martin Finn’s Black Bottom Stompers and worked casual musical jobs. He moved to Shepparton, Victoria (1951-53) and played with the Goulburn Valley Jazz Band. On his return to Melbourne he joined Len Barnard’s Jazz Band (1953-1955). He was a founder member of the Melbourne Jazz Club Band (1958-1965), with Frank Traynor (1961-1967), Max Collie (1958), Alan Lee (1959-1961) and Kenn Jones (1958-1963). He moved to Canberra ACT in 1969 and played with the Fortified Few, Mood Indigo and as soloist at the Press Club (1976-1981). On his return to Melbourne in 1980 he joined the Storyville Jazzmen and toured the UK and Europe with Bob Barnard’s Jazz Band that year. He worked with Kenn Jones (1984) and Swing Shift (1985). He left the Public Service in 1987, became a professional musician and worked long residencies with Khyatt’s Khortet and Hotter Than Six (later to become the Fireworks Jazz Band) and made annual trips with it to the US, Europe and Japan. Graham freelanced widely and as a soloist and retired musically in 2005.
- Robert Warwick (Wocka) Dyer
Robert Warwick [Wocka] Dyer:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 6 June 1928 — d. Nagambie, Vic. 22 September 1955) trombone/piano/vocalist/composer.
‘Wocka’ was a lovable jazz extrovert who sat in occasionally with the Graeme Bell band at the Uptown Club during the lead up to the First Australian Jazz Convention in December 1946. He was a founder member of Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders in mid 1947 and played and recorded with this group until killed in a motor accident while returning from a band engagement.
- Kenneth (Ken) John Flannery
Kenneth [Ken] John Flannery:
(b. Sydney NSW 15 May 1927) trumpet/bandleader.
Ken caught the jazz bug as a teenager and studied trumpet. He was a founder member of the Port Jackson Jazz Band in 1944 until volunteering for the Army in June 1945. He joined its Australian Entertainment Unit and the Troubador Unit five months later entertaining troops in North Queensland and New Guinea. After the unit return to Australia he transferred to the Eastern Command Military Band in Sydney in August 1946 and worked with the Port Jackson Jazz Band when on leave. Following his army discharge in January 1947 the Port Jackson Jazz Band was reorganised as a cooperative (with Ken as musical leader and Ray Price as manager) and played dances, concerts and recorded until Ken left in September 1947 to make a three-month jazz pilgrimage to the US. The band reformed in March 1948 to public acclaim but disbanded in July during a disastrous country tour to Brisbane. Ken reorganised the Port Jackson Jazz Band under his name in September 1948 for concerts and it briefly regained its popularity. Ken, who had handed leadership to Jimmy Somerville resigned in July 1949.
Apart from an ABC broadcast reunion in late 1949, attendance at the 4th Australian Jazz Convention and occasional Port Jackson Band jobs, Ken worked with the Billy Weston and Ralph Mallen big bands, Les Welch, led a trio, was with Frank Coughlan’s small group at Christies in 1951, the Ray Price Dixielanders during 1952 then joined the Paradance and Metronome dance circuits. He rejoined the Port Jackson Jazz Band when Ray Price revived it in late 1955 and apart from a year in 1957-58 while in the TV studios was with the group until another breakup in October 1962. He also joined the Les Welch orchestra for the ATN7 Tonight variety programme in late 1955, stayed in the studios when Tommy Tyco took over and was out of jazz from 1962 until 1985 when the Port Jackson Jazz Band was reformed for special events, club appearances and concerts. Ken was also a member of the NSW Police Band from 1972 until his retirement in 1992. He then joined John Fearnley’s Pacific Jazzmen, including its mid-1992 US tour, and freelanced. When the Port Jackson Jazz Band reunion group broke up in 1999 Ken retired from music.
- Henry (Harry) Ernest Harman
Henry [Harry] Ernest Harman OAM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic.19 December 1927) string bass/tuba/banjo/guitar/bandleader.
Harry discovered jazz in 1946, learnt guitar and attended the December 1948 Australian Jazz Convention then moved to Sydney in 1949. He took up tuba then bass, formed the Paramount Jazz Band in 1952 and founded the Sydney Jazz Club in August 1953. He had joined the Port Jackson Jazz Band in 1956 and eventually left the Paramount band in 1958. He left the Port Jackson band in 1960 and rejoined the Paramount as its banjo player until becoming a member of the Graeme Bell All Stars in 1962 shortly after it was formed. Harry remained with the All Stars until 1976 and musical retirement. He returned to jazz and the Eclipse Alley Five (1981-2010), was a founder member of Trevor Rippingale’s New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra in 1984, John Fearnley’s Pacific Jazzmen, fronts Harry Harman’s Gentlemen of Jazz and currently freelances regularly as required.
- Keith Hounslow
(b. Perth WA 19 September 1928) Pocket cornet/trumpet/flugelhorn.
After discovering jazz on records at school, and with little formal training, Keith took up trumpet in 1945 and joined the newly formed West Side Jazz Group working local dances and parties. He attended the 2nd Australian Jazz Convention in Melbourne in December 1947, moved there in mid 1948 and joined its vibrant jazz scene. He was hired as the baggage boy for the by US cornet player Rex Stewart’s Australian tour with Graeme Bell’s Australian Jazz Band in 1949 then moved to Adelaide SA where he played and recorded with the revamped Dave Dallwitz Southern Jazz Group (1950-52). On his return to Melbourne he worked with Doc Willis, Splinter Reeves, and Frank Coughlan at the Trocadero (1952). Played with Brian Brown at Jazz Centre 44 (1955-58), the Downbeat Club and The Cellar. From 1956 he also worked in TV film production and in 1962 worked as a documentary filmmaker. A founder member of the Datsun Dixielanders (1974 -78) he also played with Frank Traynor’s Jazz Preachers (1975-83) and formed the duo McJad with Tony Gould (1977-82). Keith moved to Sydney then Kiama NSW in 1984, worked at Soup Plus, Don Burrows Supper Club and the Basement, freelanced and led small groups. He fronted Keith Hounslow‘s Jazzmakers from 1987 to 1997). He retired from jazz and compiled, wrote and produced My Jazz Life, a 6-CD set. He currently lives in retirement in Melbourne, Vic.
- Richard (Dick, Pog(son)) Hughes
Richard [Dick, Pog(son)] Hughes:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 8 July 1931) piano/vocalist.
Pianist Willie McIntyre introduced Dick to jazz in 1941 and took him to the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946. He started playing drums and piano about this time, worked musically with Max Collie, Ken Owen and John Tucker and was president of the University Rhythm Club (1950-1951). While in London as a journalist (1952-1955) he played with the Cy Laurie and Sandy Brown bands and interviewed US and British jazz stars for ABC National radio. Dick settled in Sydney in February 1955 and worked with the Ray Price Trio and Port Jackson Jazz Band (1956-1962). He led a quartet at the Macquarie Hotel in 1962, toured with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 1965 and from 1966 until 1986 held residencies at the Windsor Castle Hotel, Adams Hotel, French’s Tavern, the Journalists’ Club, with his Famous Five at Soup Plus (1977-1987) and worked as a piano soloist. He was a member of the Port Jackson Jazz [Reunion] Band during the 1990s and, from 2008, has worked and recorded with his daughter singer-entertainer Christa Hughes. He is now in musical semi-retirement and has been a radio presenter on Fine Music 102.5 since 2005.
- Francis (Frank) Walter Johnson
Francis [Frank] Walter Johnson:
(b. Melbourne, Vic 22 May 1927 — d. Nambour, Qld. 16 October 2000) trumpet/vocal/composer/bandleader.
Influenced by the Graeme Bell band in 1945 Frank formed a band, helped organise and played at the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946. From May 1947 his Fabulous Dixielanders held a nine-year residency at Collingwood Town Hall and from 1948 to 1955 had three regular weekly jobs plus one-nighters, ran a jazz club at the Maison DeLuxe Ballroom in Elwood and recorded extensively. Frank presented a weekly 3UZ jazz record programme with monthly live-to-air studio concerts and, with Bob Clemens, organised Downbeat jazz concerts at Melbourne Town Hall. The band broke up in 1956 after its trombonist Warwick Dyer was killed in a car accident. Frank fronted other groups and took a quartet overseas in April 1962. On his return he led bands for another ten years. He moved to Ipswich, Queensland and musical retirement in the early 1980s apart from casual gigs and the annual AJC. Moved to Noosa in 1987 and helped initiate the annual Noosa Jazz Party. He was knocked down by a car at the Noosa Jazz Festival on 3 September 2000, never regained consciousness and died in hospital six weeks later.
- Geoffrey (Geoff) William Kitchen
Geoffrey [Geoff] William Kitchen:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 23 October 1929 — d. Melbourne, Vic. 26 January 1986) reeds/ cornet/composer/bandleader.
Geoff took up clarinet in 1944 and was a founder member of Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders (1945-1951). He played at the First Australian Jazz Convention in 1946, was with Tony Newstead’s band (1947), at Leggett’s Ballroom (1951-1952), led a quartet (1952-1954), freelanced (1955-1957) then to went Sydney and Bob Gibson’s Ford radio show. He returned to Melbourne as a staff arranger for GTV9 (1959-1965) then joined a media music production company (1965-1976). His band, Jazz Foundations, was formed in 1976 and in the late 1970s he played at Potters Cottage restaurant, with his own group and Dick Tattam’s band. From 1983 he ran a music production company and worked as a duo with guitarist Bruce Clarke. Geoff was president of the Music Arrangers Guild of Australia from the early 1970s until his death.
- John Grant (Johnny, Darky) McCarthy
John Grant [Johnny, Darky] McCarthy: (b. Sydney NSW 6 January 1930) — d. Sydney NSW 6 October 2011) clarinet/alto, soprano & tenor saxes/flute.
John developed an interest in jazz in his early teens and took up clarinet at age 15. He joined the Riverside Jazz Band in 1947 and played with them until 1953, apart from two weeks with the Melbourne-based Frank Johnson Fabulous Dixielanders in 1951. From 1950 he worked with the Port Jackson Jazz Band on a casual basis, becoming a full-time member in 1955. In 1958 he was also with the Ray Price Quartet but left both groups in October 1962 to join Dick Hughes’ Quartet and later Graeme Bell’s All Stars in the mid 1960s. For over 20 years he played with, then led, the Paddington-Woollahra RSL Club house band. In 1973 he worked and recorded with Bill Haesler’s Washboard Band and became a founder member of Bob Barnard’s Jazz Band in 1974. After leaving Bob in 1986 he freelanced, led small groups, was a member of the Port Jackson Reunion Band and worked with Geoff Bull’s Olympia Jazz Band (1990-2006). John retired musically in 2007.
- Nicholas (Nick) Polites
Nicholas [Nick] Polites OAM:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 2 July 1927) clarinet/alto sax.
At age eleven Nick discovered jazz and instinctively realised that he wanted to play music. His parents bought him an alto sax when he was fourteen, taught himself to play it and almost immediately was offered a job with Russ Marshall’s Dance Band. He switched to clarinet at sixteen and was a member of the Varsity Vipers at Melbourne University. He joined the Manny Papas Band (1945-1946), played at the First Australian Jazz Convention, was with Allan Bradley’s Rhythm Kings (1946-1950), John Sangster’s Jazz Band in 1950 and in 1951 replaced John Tucker in Frank Johnson’s Fabulous Dixielanders at Collingwood Town Hall, and stayed until it disbanded in 1956. Nick was invited to join the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band in 1957 and led it from 1958 until 1961 when Kevin Shannon took over. The MNOJB toured the UK and Europe from September 1961 until in disbanded in London in April 1963, Nick returned to Australia via New Orleans, was with the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band from 1964 to 1966, formed his New Orleans Stompers, rejoined the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band (1971 to 1973) then reactivated the Stompers. He became a member of Ashley Keating’s Louisiana Stompers in 1994 and still plays regularly with the band. Nick recorded with the Frank Johnson Dixielanders, the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band, the Yarra Yarra Jazz Band and the Louisiana Shakers.
- Raymond (Ray) Arthur Price
Raymond [Ray] Arthur Price:
(b. Sydney NSW 20 November 1921 — d. Redcliffe, Qld. 5 August 1990) banjo/guitar/bandleader.
Ray played drums with the Price family orchestra during the late 1930s, became interested in jazz after Army service in Australia and New Guinea (1940-43), took up banjo and briefly studied bassoon at the NSW Conservatorium. He worked with several bands before joining the Port Jackson Jazz Band in 1947. He studied double bass at the NSW Conservatorium in 1949, joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1950-1956) and worked with the National Ballet and ABC orchestras. He formed his Dixielanders in 1952, reformed the Port Jackson band in late 1955, led a trio at the Macquarie Hotel in 1956 and later a quartet at Adams Tavern. After the break-up of the Port Jackson Jazz Band in October 1962 Ray initiated a high school jazz lecture and concert series that ran until 1980. He led quartets and quintets, moved to Port Macquarie until ill health forced his retirement in 1982. It improved in 1985 and he played numerous PJJB reunion concerts and events in Sydney then returned to Port Macquarie and final retirement.
- John (Johnny) Grant Sangster
John [Johnny] Grant Sangster:
(b. Melbourne, Vic. 17 November 1928 — d. Brisbane, Qld. 26 October 1995) cornet/trumpet/drums/percussion/composer/arranger.
Bitten by the jazz bug in 1945 John bought a cornet and formed his first band in 1946. Although he attended the First Australian Jazz Convention that year he did not play but became very involved with the second AJC in 1947. His first records were made during the 3rd Jazz Convention in 1948. He joined Graeme Bell’s Australian Jazz Band as drummer and occasional trumpet player for its second European tour (1950-52). When the Bell band disbanded in late 1952 he remained with Graeme working in Brisbane from 1955 to 1956 including an entertainment tour for the Occupation Forces in Korea and Japan. He and Graeme returned to Sydney’s commercial music scene in 1957 and when Graeme retired temporarily from music in 1958 John freelanced and joined the Ray Price Port Jackson Jazz Band on drums. He also worked with the Ray Price quintet on trumpet in 1962-1963. He began a long musical association with Don Burrows that included recordings, Expo 67 (Montreal) and Expo 70 (Japan). He worked with Tully and the Nutwood Rug Band, led a quartet at the El Rocco (1961-1967) and was with the band for the stage hit Hair (1968-70). During the 1970s he worked as a composer for film, television and radio and started Rain-Forest Records. He moved to Brisbane, Queensland in the late 1980s and although ill continued composing and performing at festivals, concerts and the annual AJC.
- James (Jimmy, Jim) Anquetil Somerville
James [Jimmy, Jim] Anquetil Somerville:
(b. Sydney NSW 14 November 1922) piano.
Jim studied piano from the age of seven, became hooked on jazz listening to 2UE and the ABC in 1938, attended Sydney Swing Club recitals and bought records. He performed at Sydney Tech High and the German Club, made his professional debut on New Year’s Eve 1939 with the Mosman Swing Club Band and worked with it during 1940. He was a full-time student at the NSW Conservatorium in 1941 and played as a pianist at the 2KY Jazz and Swing Club from 1943. During 1942 to 1945 he worked with Giles O’Sullivan’s band at the Booker T Washington Club entertaining African-American troops. He was an actor for the Sydney University Dramatic Society, led a band at the Actors’ Equity rooms, was intermission pianist at Carl Thomas’ nightclub in 1942, composed music in 1944 for an Australian play, and again in 1945 for a season of Moliere plays at New Theatre and contributed a series of articles to Music Maker and arts journal ARNA. Jim replaced pianist Kevin Ryder in the Port Jackson Jazz Band in April 1947 that soon after became a co-operative with Ken Flannery as nominal leader. The band played at the 2KY Radiotorium, the Ironworkers Hall, and for concerts, dances and balls, made live broadcasts and recorded two 78s in June-July 1947. It disbanded in September 1947 when Ken Flannery made a jazz pilgrimage to the US, while Jim went into Ellerston Jones’ Rhythm Club. In March 1948 Ray Price re-formed the band for concerts at the NSW Conservatorium. It then played the first Sydney Town Hall Battle of the Bands concert in April, a King of Swing concert, a late-afternoon State Theatre engagement, a lunch time Jazz Jamboree and recorded six titles for RCP.
Following a disastrous tour through New England NSW to Brisbane in June 1948 the co-op broke up.
Jim stayed in Brisbane for a while then returned to Sydney and a trio at the Golden Key nightclub. He and Clive Whitcombe formed the Jazz Rebels with Georgia Lee as vocalist and it played a Jazz Battle Town Hall concert in November 1948 with Jack Parkes’ Riverside Jazz Band. In September 1948 Ken Flannery reorganised the Port Jackson Jazz Band under his name for concerts and functions. Jim re-joined in January 1949 but the jazz revival was unraveling. Ken, who had handed leadership to Jim, resigned in July 1949 and it toured for concerts at Lithgow, Canberra and Goulburn. But jobs were scarce and Jim also worked with the Riverside Jazz Band. In late 1949, a reunited Port Jackson Jazz Band including Jim, Ken and Ray Price made an ABC Thursday Night Swing Club broadcast and (minus Ray) attended the 4th Jazz Convention in Melbourne in December 1949. From March 1950 the Port Jackson band played concerts at Sydney and Parramatta Town Halls, a short Theatre Royal residency in Brisbane in April-May 1950 then drifted apart, to be revived at a later date.
Jim stayed on, led a trio/quintet at hotels on Queensland’s Gold Coast then returned to Sydney to work at Reg Boom’s Coronia Club, where he met intermission pianist Marcia Nasser and married her in March 1952. Jim worked with Jack Maittlen at the Roosevelt Club for a year then in late 1953 Gaby Rogers hired him for a duo grand piano act and started what became a six-and-a-half year engagement at the Kinneil Restaurant in Elizabeth Bay. When Gaby resigned in 1955, Marcia joined Jim for a dynamic musical partnership until 1959. He also played and recorded with the Ray Price Dixielanders in 1954. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Jim arranged and copied music, worked in the studios and held a long residency (1965-1979) with Johnny McCarthy’s band at the Paddington-Woollahra RSL Club and worked with the Peter Lane Big Band in 1973. In 1984 he joined the Harbour City Jazz Band, played with Kenny Harrison’s band Compass in 1985 until engaged as the house pianist, six days a week, at David Jones’ City store. He toured the US in 1998 with Trevor Rippingale’s New Wolverines including the annual Bix Beiderbecke Festival. Jim retired from David Jones in 2003 and currently lives in Mollymook on the NSW South Coast.
- Thomas Francis (Frank) Traynor
Thomas Francis [Frank] Traynor:
(b. Murrumbeena, Vic. 8 August 1927 — d. Fitzroy, Vic. 22 February 1985) trombone/piano/bandleader.
Frank studied piano as a child, discovered jazz, switched to trombone and formed the Black Bottom Stompers in 1949. He joined Len Barnard’s Jazz Band (1950-1953), Nevill Sherburn’s Rhythm Kings (1954-1955), was with Frank Johnson’s band in 1955 and freelanced. When the Melbourne Jazz Club opened in 1958 he led the house band that became his Jazz Preachers from 1961. At this time he opened Frank Traynor’s Folk and Jazz club in Exhibition Street, Melbourne and it played an important role in the 1961-1976 development of the Australian folk revival. His popular Jazz Preachers recorded extensively and held long residencies in Melbourne until ill health forced Frank’s retirement in 1983.