Jazz in Leeds - 1940s and 1950s

Chapter in "Popular Music in Leeds"

Popular Music in Leeds

Histories, Heritage, People and Places

edited by Brett Lasua, Karl Spracklen, Kitty Ross and Paul Thompson

Published by: Intellect Books
ISBN: 978-1789388619

Available from local bookshops in Leeds or via Amazon.

Published in November 2023 this is the first academic collection dedicated to popular music in Leeds. It presents critical social and historical case studies exploring Leeds' music and musical spaces, central players - musicians and music industry figures, and key moments in diverse musical scenes in the city. 

Michael has contributed a chapter on Jazz in Leeds in the 1940s and 1950s, a summary of which is below.

The postwar jazz revival thrived in Leeds. Largely inspired by the new influx of records from the USA, local bands learnt the tunes by listening to these discs. The first band was formed in 1946 by art college students who named it the Vernon Street Ramblers after the address of the college. One of its early members was trombonist Ed O'Donnell who amazingly continued to play the same New Orleans style in and around Leeds until his death in 2014, aged 87! Ed's second venture was a band with a mouthful of a name: The Leeds and Bradford Twin City Washboard Stompers. Understandably this soon became the Yorkshire Jazz Band which first recorded in 1949. This outfit included a number of musicians who made their name nationally, including Dick Hawdon, trumpet, Alan Cooper, clarinet, and Micky Ashman, bass. Its leader was a West Indian immigrant, Bob Barclay on tuba. Bob owned a club, Studio 20 on New Briggate and this became the Mecca for the region's jazz fans with music every night. As the Sela Bar it still hosts live music today.

Other regular venues were the Adelphi hotel close to Tetley's brewery, the Royal, the Coburg and the Peel hotel on Boar Lane. Amongst other local bands of the time the White Eagles, led by clarinettist Martin Boland for many years, still continues. There were great characters amongst the early jazz men: clarinettist Al Potts who imperceptibly took his teeth out to play but put them back in to sing. Another clarinet player, Dennis Rayworth, would play while wandering round the room, whilst superb trumpeter, Jim Fuller, always played in a cloth cap. There were scores of local jazz musicians during the 1950s and '60s; surviving oldies, with a few younger musicians, still play at the Leeds Jazz Club which meets every Tuesday at the Mainline Social Club, Pudsey Road, Bramley.