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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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The music makers

MILLOM author and musician Allan Hodgson is now based at Workington but has captured memories of his earlier life living near Hodbarrow Rocks in two books.

Today he takes a look at his musical career in the days when Millom and Haverigg were full of airmen and soldiers.

He writes: “I learned to play the drums when I was 17 years of age and my first semi-pro engagement was with Eddie Parrott from Concrete Square, Haverigg, who was an excellent piano accordionist.

“It was in the Social Centre hut near the old Rising Sun at Haverigg, which was known as ‘The Honkey Tonk’.

“My fee was 10 old shillings (50p) which was almost my fitter’s apprentice wages at Hodbarrow Mines.

“That led on to deputising for Dick Chappell with the Serenaders and Pat Cornell when he went on leave from the excellent nine-piece RAF Millom station band, lead by LAC Bob Caisley who was a superb multi instrumentalist.

“When demobbed, he lived at 84 Grammerscroft, Millom and mostly tuned pianos for a living plus sax playing at nights.

“There was a breakaway RAF band called the Rhythmics, led for personal profit by LAC Charley Tribe, a brilliant alto sax player.

“Bob Elliot was their drummer, so I deputised for him too.

“Jock Waugh played piano and Maurice Weston string bass.

“Nearly all the RAF musicians in both bands were ex-professionals out of the likes of the Ambrose, Maurice Winnick, Billy Cotton, Oscar Rabin and Geraldo dance, concert and broadcasting big bands.

“Eventually Charley was posted and he very kindly gave me the his library of music along with the regular Monday night bookings in the Palace Ballroom at Millom.

“So, at the drop of a hat, I had become a band leader and dance promoter as all the band’s RAF men had been posted away too.

“My deputy was my brother Frank who was a very capable drummer.

“My experiences with such fine musicians was a tremendous learning curve.

“I’ll always remember Charley Tribe walking over to me and saying: ‘This is how I want you to play a tango’ taking my sticks and beating a very staccato beat on my drum.

“I was also in the Millom Home Guard Band and did a Workers Playtime broadcast with Harry Pelleymounter and his band in the Tin Chapel on the Mainsgate Road corner in Millom.

“Next it was my turn to join the RAF and I had the pleasure of playing with the station bands of RAF Wilmslow, RAF St Mawgan, RAF Fairford, RAF Credenhill Hereford and RAF Leeming.

“By now I had learned to play the string bass so it was an extra skill that proved most useful – as if a band had one, it often lacked the other.

“In addition I sang blues vocals which were useful for concert work.

“After demob I found the music scene in Millom had changed with Tebo Taylor and Chico Greenwood holding fort with their bands.

“Once more I did deputy work and some dances in the country with Harry Pelleymounter and Eddy Sandy.

“I then moved to Carlisle through promotion in my insurance work and later to Workington, where I’m now based.

“I formed The Satin Doll Rhythm Club here, playing mostly jazz buskers.

“Later I played charity engagements for my daughter Vivien at the Horse and Farrier at High Bentham.

“With Ron Graham, we did concerts for pensioners and at Kirksanton for the Haverigg lifeboat.

“My co-musicians here were Joe Edwards on sax, David Needham on bass guitar, Richard Hunter on trumpet, Nick Telfer on clarinet and Little June and Edna Stead on vocals.

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