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Rendezvous with famous band leader

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 19, 2014

  • John Williams' signed programme

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MANY Bugle readers will look back with a great deal of affection to the era of the Big Band sound, and Black Country artist John Williams from Darlaston is no exception.

He's been rolling back the years, 60 in fact, to May 9, 1954, to the time he enjoyed a Ted Heath concert, and John has been telling us what turned out to be an unforgettable experience.

"During my National Service I was stationed at RAF Fillongley near Doncaster, and with big band music very much in vogue during the early fifties it was the kind of music we listened to most of the time. The daddy of the big band leaders as far as most of us were concerned was Ted Heath, and when I found out he was coming to The Ritz Cinema in Doncaster to put on a show of 'Ted Heath and His Music', I couldn't wait to see him and the band in action.

"It cost me all of four shillings and sixpence to see the show, but it was a real belter and there was more to come after the last blast of the trumpet. I got the chance to meet Ted and members of his band and they were kind enough to sign their autographs on my programme, which is still a treasured memento to this day. I can still make out Ted's name, of course, and trombonist Wally Smith and vocalist Robbie Britton.

"A few weeks before Ted Heath and His Music came to town, it was the turn of Ken Mackintosh, his saxophone and his orchestra, as they were billed. I met Ken in a pub after the show which was at the back of the cinema. He was a real nice bloke. I also saw Johnny Dankworth and his 20-piece orchestra. Great times, wonderful memories!"

We are also grateful to Harry Hill of Codsall for sending us a copy of a programme of a Ted Heath concert that took place early in January 1954 at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. The picture we have featured of Ted Heath is taken from the programme's front cover.

If any readers have fond memories of the big bands of the '40s and '50s and wish to share a story or two, please contact 01384 567678 or email editor@blackcountrybugle. co.uk.

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