Jerry Allen e-mailed me from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, wondering if anyone remembers what he calls ‘these two characters clowning around’.
Which is fair enough because he is one of them – the one on the right in the picture on the right.
Jerry’s approaching 70 now and he would love to hear from ‘any dinosaur jazz fans’ from Portsmouth still out there who remember him.
The picture was taken at what then was called The Modern Jazz Club at the Sunshine Inn, Farlington, in the late 1950s.
The bass player is Sammy Seall, who came up with the idea of launching the club. Jerry ran it for nearly 12 years.
Jerry says: ‘The club’s opening session in mid-1957 was held at the George and Dragon under the Oddfellows Hall in Kingston Road.
‘The opening group consisted of Mike Treend on piano, Sammy Seall on bass and Tony Hart on drums, plus anyone who wanted to sit in.
‘The club rapidly gained popularity and after several moves around larger, grotty back rooms in various local pubs it eventually moved out to the Sunshine.’
Jerry says that once there, in more conducive surroundings, the club grew in popularity and was eventually able to regularly bring the country’s top jazz musicians, such as Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, down from London.
He adds: ‘Over the years the original founding musicians moved on and the Bill Cole Quartet became the resident group for many years. With R&B, rock ’n’ roll and pop music in general gaining rapid popularity, very few of the younger generation were interested in modern jazz.
‘So in the hope of enticing just a few of them to our Monday evening sessions the club moved back into town. After several successful years at the Railway Hotel, Fratton, and a short spell at Ricky’s Club in Goldsmith Avenue, numbers gradually dwindled.’ By late 1968 Jerry was finally forced to close the club.
But he vividly remembers one of the highlights. ‘One Saturday morning I cycled to Southampton and dug out Nat Gonella, an older mainstream trumpeter, from semi-retirement. Nat said he didn’t think people wanted to hear him play again, but I’m pleased to say he played a highly successful session to a packed house at the Sunshine supported by a whole bunch of older fans and older local musicians, half of whom I did not know.
‘After that session Nat was back on the road again, playing for many years until he retired and died in Gosport.’
Jerry recalls that the music reporter for the then Evening News in the mid ’50s was Mike (Spinner) Knipe who also played drums at the club on various occasions and went on to a long career with The Times.
Jerry and his family emigrated to South Africa in September 1970. He adds: ‘I’m still an avid jazz fan and regularly attend concerts put on by the students of Nelson Mandela Bay University.’
Anyone who remembers Jerry can contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.