rand-dad Chapman had been a military bandsman with the Gloucestershire Regiment in the early 1900's and had a piano in his house when I was small.

I think he twisted Mum's arm to buy one and send me to a piano teacher, so when I was 7 years old I started with Mrs. Nurdin who gave lessons from her home just round the corner in Derham Gardens.
I never wanted to practice, but preferred to be out with friends in the road outside which caused endless rows and complaints from Mum.
When I was about 11 and in the final year at primary school prior to taking the "scholarship" as it was known in those days (later called the 11+ ), the choir mistress told me that there was a music scholarship available at the Guildhall School of Music which would supply free tuition. This would involve spending 4 hours on Saturday mornings at the Guildhall, free train tickets as well. In my 11-year-old wisdom, I reasoned that if the lessons were free I wouldn't be told-off for not practising!! So after, as it happened a lot of practice, I went to Chelmsford and played in front of a panel and an audience "The Parade of The Tin Soldiers" by the German composer Leon Jessel (1871-1942) written in 1911, It was difficult, but I mastered it and enjoyed playing the piece. It must have shown because I got the scholarship, one of only six out of a hundred.

At the same time that I started at the Royal Liberty School, a grammar school as it was called then, I had to go the Guildhall School of Music on Saturday morning and attend classes from 10 to 1.30. These involved a lot of theory, music appreciation and ended with half an hour of piano class. It was interesting for a while, but after a year I was bored and wanted to move on to more interesting things, so I played truant and spent Saturday mornings at the Tower of London, train-spotting at Euston and Kings Cross and to complete my education visited the Science and Natural History Museums frequently.

I was only about 13 at this time. I did this for about 6 months before being found out.

I started to get interested in popular music and then discovered Traditional Jazz. At that time in the early 50's it was becoming very popular, especially around the universities. The top trad bands of the time were Humphrey Lyttleton and Ken Collier which later was formed into the Chris Barber band when Ken Collier left the group. Lonnie Donnegan who popularised skiffle and Monty Sunshine, the clarinettist who later became famous in his own right developed in the Chris Barber lign-up.
Humphrey Lyttleton , the trumpeter was my hero. His father was a master at Eton and so Humph went there. He was destined for big things in the establishment, but he wanted to be a jazz musician, especially in a type of music that was associated with smoky clubs and low living.

About this time I was working on Saturday mornings with a greengrocer with a van, delivering green grocery to the customers door. We used to talk and after finding out my interests, told me he had played trumpet in a brass band. His name was Mr Patchett and he was very kind. Out of the blue he offered to lend me his trumpet. If I learnt to play it and liked it, I would then buy my own. I persevered and learnt to play after a fashion. Later I found a trumpet teacher in Romford who really started to teach me. No tunes, just exercises to strengthen the lip muscles and breathing. His name was 'Bunny' Lazell and he played most evenings in clubs in London. By now I was ready to buy a trumpet and I asked him to go with me to get one. The shop-keeper was open mouthed when Bunny tried it out, especially the high 'C' he played for about a minute. He gave his OK, but said that the mouth-piece was no good and he took me to a friend who hand turned mouthpieces for all the top trumpeters, so I started on a good footing.


We had a school orchestra at the Royal Liberty so there were plenty of musicians about and of course several interested in Jazz. I had found out that in London I could buy musical arrangements that could be used for groups from a trio to a 40 piece orchestra. I bought one called "At the Jazz Band Ball" and a few of us got together and started to practice. At school we were divided into four 'houses'. The original group were all in the 'Romans'. On Friday afternoons we met, not in our usual classes, but in our house group. Every 4 weeks we would meet as a 'house' that is all the members from the 1st to the 6th form in the great hall and just do something, maybe a talk or a bit of acting. It wasn't long before we started to perform as a band in front of our mates, and to our amazement they were ecstatic. Not because we were top class, but because we were playing 'forbidden' music at a school which had high traditions. For this we had to thank our geography master Harry Askew. He was one of those characters who made schools like ours so successful. He had represented England as a long-jumper at the 1948 Olympic Games held in London, so of course school athletics improved enormously. We later had all-England schoolboy champions at the triple jump and sprinting, but what was more important to the story was that he had played piano and double bass in his university jazz band, so he was happy to join us and encourage us. I'm sure that without his help we would not have been allowed to continue at school, but we had an open-minded head-master called Mr. Newth, nick-named the newt. When I look back, I realise how good he was.

Graham Bond, who became a leading rock musician in the 60's and had a tragic end, was a founder member with me as we were in the same class and in the same house. At 12 yrs old he had played the organ at his church and was a natural musician. He played piano with the first group, but after Bruce Radley bought a tenor sax, Graham decided he wanted one too so we persuaded him to get an alto sax. We found another pianist who was called Knight. Another lad joined us on drums and another showed up with a trombone. Howard Carter, an experienced classical clarinet player, also started with us, so with our master Harry Askew on double bass we had a good line-up.
Right from the start we realised that it was important to have a good solid beat, that kept going whatever the lead instruments were up to. We managed to achieve this even with amateurs like ourselves. We became popular at school and even played for the yearly dance that we held with the local girls grammar school. It was funny. Our headmaster showed his face and then discreetly went off home, but the headmistress of the girls school stayed all evening and even went onto the dance floor to admonish any girls who danced too closely!

The school orchestra was run by Mr. Holmes, one of the French teachers. I wasn't interested in joining as I was into jazz rather than classical music. One day as I was walking down the corridor Mr. Holmes came the other way. When he saw me he stopped and said that he had heard that I played the trumpet. As I replied "yes" he asked why I wasn't in the school orchestra. I told him that I wasn't interested in classical music. His reply was that if I went to this school I had to be in the orchestra. End of discussion!
As it happened I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the Christmas concerts when we played carols and light music. One day, we went into Romford and played during a lunch hosted by the Lord Mayor of Romford. There were about 50 dignitaries and visitors and we played light music, palm court orchestra style, without any rehearsal. We just sight read from the music handed out. This was more my style.

Bunny Lazell, the trumpet teacher, introduced me to a guy who ran a semi pro band in Ilford, he allowed me to sit in with his big band as second trumpet, and I played at the Ilford Palais several times. There we had 4 saxophones, 2 trumpets, a trombone and full rhythm section of piano, drums and double bass. It was truly exhilerating to play in a big band with about 800 dancers below. I wasn't paid, but the experience was invaluable. One night I remember, towards the end of the evening we played a latin-american number. There was a couple, who were quite good and they ended up dancing alone as the other dancers stopped, formed a circle and watched. What fascinated me, still a sixth former, was that the girl was stunningly attractive and was dancing in a sensual way and her partner was the ugliest man I have ever seen, his face looked like a gangster, (which he probably was) and he had an embarrased half smile. When we started our last number I noticed at least six policeman gradually move into the hall, including one with an alsation dog. I asked my fellow trumpet player what was going on and he said that fights always started at the end of the evening. Remember this was in the days of the Kray brothers who operated only a few miles to the West nearer the East End.
I did get a couple of small paid gigs with the band and also made some pocket money with several lads from school playing at weddings and a couple of Masonic Ladies Nights that Bruce Radley's father organized.

I thought seriously about becoming a professional musician, but decided on Engineering instead.