Memories of musical experiences on campus continue to stir alumni memories. In this post, Les Eastham (BA Sociology, 1969) recalls the Jazz ‘N’ Blues Soc, and some of the legendary musicians who played on campus 50 years ago.
I too have happy memories of Hull University 1966-69, some of which match Ed’s, plus others. (See Ed Bicknell’s post here). I can picture the SU building as he describes it, with the “Buttery” straight ahead as you entered the building (Newcastle Brown Ale was a favourite of mine – couldn’t handle that now) and the East and West Refectories. I also remember a room upstairs where they had occasional discos and folk nights – I’m sure I saw “The Young Tradition” with Peter Bellamy, also the films, especially “Marat/Sade” which made quite an impression. One of my abiding memories of the SU reception was the old chap with a military bearing (possibly not that old) who would make announcements over the PA for you, except he often sounded as if he hadn’t put his teeth in.
I remember Ed’s time as Jazz Club organiser and Chair of Ents, although, even before that, I was aware of him when he sat in with the Victor Brox band during the Freshers’ Week of 1966, when they arrived for their gig minus a drummer. However, the band that stood out for me during those first few days of that autumn term were “The Move”; musically very tight and if I remember correctly, they were so good that they were re-booked to appear again within weeks and turned up in subsequent years – I definitely saw them at the Skyline Ballroom when for a spectacular finish they axed a TV set at the end of the set.
Of the artists that Ed mentioned, I also recall seeing Ralph McTell, including a concert at Needler Hall, blues pianist Champion Jack Dupree, on several occasions, and of course, local legend, Michael Chapman. The first event I organised after taking over the running of the Jazz and Blues Society was a concert with guitarist – singer John Renbourn, supported by Michael. For some reason, John didn’t show and Michael did the whole evening on his own. I gave a full refund to the few folks who left before the gig and offered a half refund to those who stayed; the majority declined the refund, as Mike was so good. I met him years later in the 1980s and he said that it was the first time he’d headlined!
I remember introducing Muddy Waters on stage, with Otis Span on piano and Paul Oscher on harmonica; when I mention this to current blues fans they think I’m joking but I still have the autographed ticket. Another visiting American was Jimmy Witherspoon, who had previously been in a car accident, was in much pain and was walking with the aid of sticks but left them in the wings during his performance; what a trooper – two encores!
Of the bands Ed lists, I recall seeing most of them, having very fond memories of Robert Palmer with local support band “Mandrake” doing a cracking version of Traffic’s “No Face, No Name, No Number”. I didn’t see Hendrix – no idea why or how I missed that gig but I recall other Skyline events, one union ball in particular, where Georgie Fame and band were ready to take over from Ben E King (two stages in the same room) and they played along with him on the last number of his set from the other end of the room – great!
Another Union Ball, 1967 I believe, was headlined by the Alan Bown Set (see the poster – typical graphics for the time. If you look carefully, you can see a famous face). I also remember seeing Cream at the Skyline ballroom when they played on a very low platform and I stood only feet away from Eric Clapton.
Regarding Pink Floyd; I didn’t see them at the Lawns but I have a very clear memory of seeing them in June 1967 at the College of Commerce in Hull (just off Beverley Road) when Syd Barrett was still in the band. The Alan Price Set were playing in the Union building, but I’d heard of Pink Floyd through the International Times “underground” newspaper, which was sold very discretely round the union, and persuaded a few friends to go along (possibly including Pete Rowntree who played guitar with Ed in the university jazz trio / quartet). It was the first time I’d seen a liquid light show, which is why it stands out.
Regarding the Jazz and Blues Society events, I still have a few items archived away, including letters of thanks from pianist Michael Garrick, posters and ticket stubs. Does anyone else remember the poetry and jazz events, which were quite fashionable at the time? I also have a telegram from an agency apologising that blues band “Chicken Shack” were unable to make a booking. I rang them and they offered new artist Duster Bennett instead. He was a fabulous one-man band, singing and playing guitar, harmonica and drums simultaneously; also a lovely chap. Before the concert I took him back to my student house on Cranbrook Avenue and treated him to beans on toast (I might have thrown in a fried egg too). There were some great jazz nights in the union building; the Mike Westbrook band, Don Rendell, Dick Morrissey, Graham Collier and more. We had the cream of the British jazz scene visiting us and along with rock, folk and blues, I discovered a lot of brilliant music during those three years. Of course there was other music, including the Gilbert and Sullivan Society but that’s another story for another day.
(c) Les Eastham, 2016
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