ALDBOURNE BAND HERITAGE PROJECT TRANSCRIPTION
JESSE JONES BY DAVE ASTON
DAVE: Right, we’re recording. I just have to say that this is a recording with JESSE Jones, Ashley Jones’s son. We’re going to record some stuff to ask you about…a few questions about Aldbourne Band.
DAVE: And this has been sponsored by the Lottery grant, which we’re interviewing people who were associated with the band. So that over with, we’ve got some papers to sign. We’ll do that afterwards. We’re just going to have a chat now. So I’ve got a lot of your history, Jesse, about, you know, you’ve had a lot of articles printed about you, but just tell me when did you first start banding? You know, when did you first join the band?
JESSE: When I joined the band?
JESSE: Well I joined the band in 1959 and I’d played with them five times beforehand.
JESSE: You have to remember that in them days, back in them days, their main priority was contesting, rather than doing concerts.
JESSE: And um..the first time somebody come and asked me if I would help them out to play on the march prior to a contest they were doing down at Chippenham.
JESSE: Cyril Barrett’s father, Barney Barrett, was the drummer, but he’d been ill and the doctor forbade him to play. Well I was in the Salvation Army at the time…
JESSE: …so I broke the rules by helping the band out.
DAVE: Did you? Were you excommunicated for that?
JESSE: Oh yeah, nearly! Couldn’t play with side bands in them days. And then the second time I must say that Wilf Jerram was the musical director of the band at the time.
JESSE: The second time I had a visit from the new musical director, Joe Alder, and Joe asked me to come and help them out at a concert. Now they didn’t do many concerts and this concert in Gloucester Park was a big job for them.
ASHLEY: In fact, three buses went down from the village on that. In fact, the series of concerts in the park in Gloucester, Black Dyke come down and did one…
DAVE: Did they?
ASHLEY: …oh, there was all the top bands and Aldbourne were actually asked to take part because one of the bands couldn’t make it or something.
DAVE: So was that a bit of prestige, that?
ASHLEY: Oh yeah.
JESSE: And I played down there, and I must admit…I want to say this. It’s funny. After the concert, Eric Barrett was the one that was the Secretary – he come to me and said, ‘How much do we owe you then?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to have something in your can and he gave me five bob,’ but when I carried the drum off through the High Street, they never offered me anything!
DAVE: So you got a UNCLEAR [0:02:50.8] job you got paid for and a hardworking job you UNCLEAR [0:02:53.0].
JESSE: And we get to 1959 and I’d done three jobs for them in that year. I’d left the army then. One was in UNCLEAR [0:03:06.0] Gardens where Richard Price lives now, and they opened the gardens up, the band played and any money collected went to the band fund. And I helped them out on that job. Then the next one was the carnival concert with the hall in the opposite way round to what it is today.
JESSE: And we played their UNCLEAR [0:03:28.6] night – the band’s UNCLEAR night.
DAVE: So what did…
JESSE: And the next one was at the church concert – Christmas concert. And it was that night that Eric Barrett persuaded me to join the band.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah. Did you need much persuading? Were you happy to join?
JESSE: Well I was happy to join but there was a thing to the tail on that and I’m convinced that Eric Barrett and Jim Palmer, who was a member of the band…
JESSE: …connived to get me into the band because I joined in the December 1959 and in the March 1950 they made me Band Sergeant.
JESSE: So I’m going to tie a…
DAVE: I’ve got some pictures here I’d like you to look at, which are…I’ve been looking through all the pictures and I found some…I just told Ashley before we come in, I found a picture of you. I think…are you on that? Are you on that football ground one?
JESSE: Barnes. Jim Barnes. Harry Wootton. That was at the County Ground, wasn’t it?
ASHLEY: We did play out there. I was on there. Yeah, David Wootton… David Whitson’s on that. This isn’t that old, this isn’t. No, that’s right.
JESSE: Is that…
ASHLEY: ‘Cause Les UNCLEAR [0:04:52.6]
JESSE: We settled down in front of the Stratton Bank.
ASHLEY: Yeah, we were there but we’re not actually on that photo.
DAVE: Oh, you’re not. Alright.
DAVE: I’ve got…I’m showing Ashley and I’m showing Jesse some pictures which I’ve brought with me. Do you recognise yourself on that one there? Which is a picture of an outdoor do? And what I’m going to do is I’m going to put them in order so I can refer to them.
ASHLEY: We did some counter-marching.
DAVE: Oh yes. I can remember it well ‘cause Don said, ‘If we’re going to march, we’re not just going to march down and play at different parts. We’re actually going to march and when we get down to the town end, everybody’s going to turn left and walk back on theirselves,’ and we counter-marched for the first time ever.
JESSE: I suppose you’ve been told who all the players are.
DAVE: I know, but I’m always happy for you to tell me who they are.
JESSE: That’s Tim Barrett sat on the end. And whatshisname, the second trombone player…
ASHLEY: I don’t know. Let me have a look and I’ll soon tell you.
JESSE: I can’t think of his name.
ASHLEY: That’s Dave Whitson.
JESSE: Dave Whitson, that’s right.
ASHLEY: Yeah. And Ricky Bendle.
JESSE: And Dave Whitson. He went on be a professional trombone player.
ASHLEY: I know Ricky Bendle is not with us now but he was well…
JESSE: No, and then Ricky Bendle.
ASHLEY: No, Dave Whitson, he was with the English Brass Ensemble.
JESSE: John Bendle. Eric Barrett. Luke Alder.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I’ve got a story but we can’t tell it with that on!
DAVE: We can always edit it out!
ASHLEY: He frightened me to death once, Lukie Alder did, when I eight or nine years old. I was sat there.
JESSE: Came out good.
ASHLEY: I was completely fascinated by him. Never seen anybody by him.
JESSE: And what’s the name of the third cornet player down? What’s his name?
ASHLEY: I don’t know. Let’s have a look. That’s…um…oh, that’s a girl playing.
JESSE: No, no!
DAVE: A girl! Good grief!
ASHLEY: Oh, Ron Crockett!
JESSE: Ron Crockett, that’s right. Yeah, there’s a girl at the back!
DAVE: Who’s Ron Crockett?
ASHLEY: The third man down on the front.
DAVE: Oh right. Okay. A lot of them have wrote them on the back.
JESSE: Ah, they’re all on the back. Ashley Jones, Ron Crockett, Ken UNCLEAR [0:07:08.9], Pete West…I wonder where Ian Comley was then?
ASHLEY: I don’t know.
JESSE: He’s not on there.
DAVE: I’ve got a picture here, Jesse. Do you want to look at this one?
ASHLEY: Oh crikey, yes.
JESSE: Yeah, yeah. Harry Mason.
DAVE: Jesse, do you want to look at that?
JESSE: They haven’t got my name on there, have they?
DAVE: Oh, I know you. Was that the march for the British Rail march or something? Do you remember? Is that you on the drums there?
JESSE: That was a band I arranged to lead the procession from the railway works to the town.
DAVE: What was that about?
ASHLEY: Well things like we used to…Dad used to put a band together at Christmas in the railway workshops to play carols…
ASHLEY: …incidental music while all the blokes had their dinner and things.
ASHLEY: Well every now and again they’d ask Dad, ‘Oh, could you put a band together for a march job to do so-and-so for the trade union,’ and all that sort of stuff.
JESSE: That’s Don Keene banging the bass drum.
ASHLEY: Is there? It certainly is.
DAVE: There’s a picture there. That’s a small picture, that, with you in it on the drums.
JESSE: That’s me there.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Good.
DAVE: Is that in the…that’s in STEAM, isn’t it?
ASHLEY: That’s in STEAM, yeah. Again, they had a two-day open day in the railway workshops…
ASHLEY: …and father’ll tell you the story. It’s quite funny, really. Tell…Dad…Dad…tell Dave the story about the band being put together for the railway workshop open day.
JESSE: I was asked by the Personnel Officer if I would get a band…would our band come and play at the open days. Well I said, ‘Of course we will.’ We weren’t getting paid but we had a free meal and a look round the factory. You know, free look round.
JESSE: And the Manager called a meeting of all different heads of department and he had a lackey by the name of Pete Wickes
DAVE: Lackey – good work, Lackey!
JESSE: Lackey. And they were deciding how, organising the open day thing. And Harry Roberts, the Manager, he was a north country bloke, by the way, he turned round to Pete Wickes and he said, ‘I want to build an advertisement. Put it around the factory. Have it done straight away, quick.’ And Peter said, ‘Oh, we can’t do it like that.’ He said, ‘If the bloody Aldbourne Band can have their noses around my factory,’ he said, ‘I can!’
ASHLEY: He said, ‘Get Jesse Jones to do it. He’ll sort it out!’
DAVE: So did you work at British Rail then?
ASHLEY: All his life.
DAVE: All your working life was with British Rail, was it?
DAVE: What did you do there? What was your job?
ASHLEY: What did you do in the railways, right from beginning to end?
JESSE: Oh. What did I do in the railways?
ASHLEY: Yeah. You were a boilerman…
JESSE: I started off as a labourer at fifteen years of age. And when I was sixteen I started my apprenticeship as a boilermaker, in what we called the ‘big shop’, the old new shop, which is now houses and all that sort of thing. And then after four years there I got transferred to the boiler shop, which I’m afraid is now causing a lot of problems since.
ASHLEY: He used to work in the boilers.
DAVE: Actually in the boilers?
ASHLEY: Oh yeah. No ear defence or anything.
JESSE: I had two operations for mastoids and the specialist said I wasn’t to go back into the boiler shop ‘cause it’d be detrimental to my health, and he wrote me a letter – I’ve still got the letter – to take into the management. So I took it in there and I got transferred back down to the new shop. And then I got made Chargeman of the gang I was working on. Then I got made Boiler Inspector down in that shop. And then I got transferred to the Planning Office.
JESSE: We were doing snowploughs for the regions and we converted trial tenders into trial snow ploughs. I planned that job and then I had to progress it. And then I stayed on the Progress Office for quite a while, then a job came up for training. They wanted Module Controllers to train the youngsters and I applied for the job and got that.
DAVE: Did the British Rail have a band there as well? Did they have a brass band?
ASHLEY: Where did the railway band…were they an integral part of the works or were they always outside of the works?
JESSE: Outside the works.
ASHLEY: Yeah, I thought they were.
JESSE: The British Rail, they were the staff association.
DAVE: BRSAs, yeah. I’ve seen the contest results.
JESSE: And then they went to Swindon Brass. And then they went to Pegasus.
ASHLEY: Pegasus, yeah.
JESSE: And that’s what they are now.
ASHLEY: They’ve been sponsored by numerous people in Swindon.
JESSE: Pegasus don’t have anything to do with it now, mind. But they have kept the name.
DAVE: The lady who’s doing the history has spoke to somebody about this concert the band did, which I think…did you have something to do with that? Silver and Songs?
ASHLEY: Mmm, probably.
DAVE: Do you remember anything about it? She’s been speaking to them about it and your name was mentioned so she asked me if I’d talk to you about it. I’ve got the actual programme somewhere.
ASHLEY: Can you remember organising this?
JESSE: Yes. Let me go and get my glasses.
ASHLEY: Silver and Song. Yes, it does ring a bell.
DAVE: Who’s that bloke there?
ASHLEY: The second one in? That’s me.
DAVE: Good-looking bloke!
ASHLEY: I can tell you who all these people are on all these photos.
DAVE: I thought I’d brought…
JESSE: Let me look at that one again, Ashley.
ASHLEY: Now that’s the band…we used to take the junior band into the railway workshops.
ASHLEY: That’s the railway workshop’s staff canteen. And when I first started playing, I used to cycle in of a…of a dinner time at Christmas to go and play in the band. The band was an amalgam of us, British Railway Band, the Swindon Salvation Army, Gorse Hill Salvation Army…’cause all these people all worked in the workshop. And Dad used to wander round and say, you know…at dinner time…
DAVE: Stop working…
ASHLEY: You got a free dinner as well for it and I used to go in and play. Well eventually what Dad then did with Don Keene, he organised…
JESSE: Can I tell you…
DAVE: …for the Chippenham Band to go in and do it. So that’s what that picture is there.
JESSE: Right, can I tell you a few things about some of the things that’s happening today that I organised?
JESSE: When I first joined the band in 1959, I got made Band Sergeant. That put me on the committee. Well in the summer, the Chairman, Bertie Palmer, used to stand up in front of the band and say, ‘Well it looks as though the weather’s going to be fine for the weekend. We’d better play out.’ Well bearing in mind, Dave, that the majority of the band lived in the village, so it didn’t take long to spread the word round. So I had an idea that we could make a regular job of this, so I proposed at one of the committee meetings that we organised a concert on a fixed date, that’s the first Sunday in the month of June, July, August and September.
DAVE: So this is the Pond Concerts, is it? So you started the Pond Concerts?
ASHLEY: Oh yeah, yeah. Well we used to play at the pond, but it was…
DAVE: Ad hoc.
ASHLEY: Very ad hoc.
DAVE: But then you formalised it to be a regular thing.
ASHLEY: That’s it.
JESSE: I used to get bills printed and get free advertising in the Advertiser, Swindon Advertiser. And…
ASHLEY: You’ve also got to remember, when we first started doing it, it wasn’t four. We used to do about six or seven through the summer, didn’t we?
JESSE: No, we only ever done four. Only June, July and August and September.
ASHLEY: Wasn’t it…
JESSE: No, we’ve only ever done four.
ASHLEY: I think I’d have to disagree. Never mind.
JESSE: We used to go from the carnival through to November doing nothing bar rehearsing for the November contest.
JESSE: That’s the Reading contest.
JESSE: So I thought, well it’d be a good idea if we put a concert on during that period. So in October, some Saturday in October, we…I started the concert…the first one I raised £1000 sponsorship for the first one. I got us…
ASHLEY: Just from the…
DAVE: That’s a lot of money then, wasn’t it?
JESSE: I got a certificate in the other room that Cyril Smith presented me with.
ASHLEY: And when I was Secretary, I did exactly the same thing for one of the Wyvern concerts.
ASHLEY: I raised all the money for all the costs from organisations in the village, and in the programme the whole of the centre page and the preceding pages and the one behind it was all advertising for village companies.
DAVE: I think you should know, the Pond Concerts still provide the band with thousands of pounds of money from people going.
DAVE: So we’re still very reliant on the Pond Concerts.
JESSE: Another thing I did, Dave – I thought of putting on a concert in the Wyvern.
ASHLEY: St John Ambulance.
JESSE: And I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to cost something.’ But I don’t know whether they do it now but at that time, if you did it with a charity, you got the Wyvern at a reduced cost. So I twisted the St John’s Ambulance member…
DAVE: I’ve still got a programme for that in here.
ASHLEY: They weren’t in the railways!
JESSE: We did that and we had three or four. I had Ronald Tandy from Radio Oxford used to come down and compere two of them. Johnny Morris done another one.
DAVE: I’ve got some of there somewhere.
JESSE: I went to Johnny when he lived in a converted barn just outside Hungerford. My wife and I went up there together one Saturday night and I talked to him about would he come and do the job. Well of course he originated from the village, I don’t know whether you know that or not.
DAVE: UNCLEAR [0:18:41.4] told me the…
JESSE: He was from the village. Of course he had a bit of a leaning towards Aldbourne. So at the end of the conversation he said, yes, he’d do the job. I said, ‘Well how much is it going to cost us, Johnny?’ being he’s a professional. ‘A couple of bottles of whiskey in the boot of my car’ll do,’ he said!
ASHLEY: That’s quite true. The band put Johnny Morris on the road, ‘cause they used to broadcast years ago in the 40s and they actually gave him his start on the radio.
DAVE: What did he do? He did an animal show, didn’t he?
ASHLEY: That’s right, yeah.
DAVE: I remember it when I was a lad and I watched the programme.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s right.
JESSE: And a lot of other things I’ve done, organised for the band. We did a lot of broadcasts for Charlie Chester’s show. And I used to organise the school at Pinehurst.
JESSE: I went to the…I’m crafty – I went to the caretaker first and told him what I had in mind, and he said, ‘Well that’s alright. I’ll help you,’ he said, ‘But you’d better see the headmaster.’ So I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll do that.’ So I went and saw the headmaster, he said, ‘Well you’d better go and see the caretaker!’ But we did several contests…broadcasts at Pinehurst.
DAVE: We’ve got some of those tapes.
DAVE: I’ve had them put onto CD, so they’re all on things like that now. There’s loads of them. Everything you gave us has all been.
ASHLEY: Sam on Sunday broadcasts as well, in the mornings.
JESSE: Dave, when the band went to the Albert Hall in 1981, we also went to Derby to the Embassy Rooms to take part in BBC2…
ASHLEY: Best of Brass.
DAVE: I’ve got that too.
ASHLEY: And we also did a Radio 3 broadcast that year too.
JESSE: I also have copies of this programme we did on Radio 3.
DAVE: Well we’ve got that as well. So we’ve had that put onto a DVD. I’m going to take that back with me, ‘cause I want to put it onto a…all the tapes you gave us and all the records, we’ve had put onto disc. So we’ve got a record, a copy of those, and you can have all the originals back, and the tapes.
ASHLEY: Oh, thank you.
JESSE: I’ll tell you what you can do. You can give them to Ashley.
DAVE: Oh, he can have a listen to them.
DAVE: But all your original tapes, they’re back here now.
JESSE: Well anything to do with the band I would give to him.
DAVE: Right. And the records as well. We’ve had that put onto disc. We already had some of those. Don Keene had copies of them, which is great.
DAVE: So tell me about the Upham Road concerts. That’s another…was that another of your ideas? At Emmanuel’s? Upham Road?
ASHLEY: Upham Road, Emmanuel Church? Emmanuel Church concerts?
JESSE: Yes, the concerts. I did the first one there and a lot more besides. And the funny part of it was, it was done through ex-bandsman, George…
JESSE: George Cooke. He used to be in the Salvation Army. He was my Junior Bandleader in the Salvation Army and he had a mate who played for the British Rail Band and then he went back to…if there was any left altogether went to Upham Road, and he said to me in work one day, did I think I could get the band to come to Upham Road and do a concert. And that’s when we done the first one. And we were under strict rules – no applause.
ASHLEY: It was so strange.
JESSE: And I blamed one man for that. Since then I’ve had to apologise through Geoff Glee.
ASHLEY: That’s right.
JESSE: I thought it was the vicar, Ross Brown, but it wasn’t Geoff assured me he would have been in favour of applause. It was the Elders, the Church.
DAVE: They didn’t like it being used as a concert venue.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s right. Absolutely.
JESSE: And then the second year we went, I got a chap from the Salvation Army to be the Chairman.
ASHLEY: Yeah, Miles.
JESSE: He was the Managing Director of Howard Tenens. How I always used to try and get a Chairman to put their hand in their pocket. I mean, that’s typical, isn’t it?
DAVE: It’s a constant fight, isn’t it, to keep a band going?
JESSE: Anyway, I forgot to tell this Chairman about no applause. After the band played the first piece, he went [SOUND OF CLAPPING].
ASHLEY: Not only that – he stood up and clapped as well!
DAVE: He wasn’t whooping, was he?
ASHLEY: He was that sort of person!
JESSE: Well when I retired, Ashley took over then, and he followed me as Secretary of the band.
DAVE: Right. I’ve got lots of minutes of meetings and things. They’ve all been filed and copied and they’re going to be stored away. So we’ve actually managed to get quite a lot between about 1940 and today of all the documents.
ASHLEY: Have you? 1940?
DAVE: The earliest copy of something I’ve got is 1937. That was a letter from Boosey & Hawkes asking for twelve shillings!
ASHLEY: Well you won’t get anything prior to 1922…
ASHLEY: …and I can tell you the story about that another day.
DAVE: Okay, we can have a bit of a chat about that.
JESSE: Going back to 1981, I made the draw for the band in the Albert Hall in the dungeons of the Albert Hall.
ASHLEY: Yes, I remember it, yeah.
JESSE: And we drew number three, but we were in good company. Black Dyke, Grimethorpe, EverReady were all around us.
DAVE: You were surrounded!
ASHLEY: Black Dyke played two, I think. Grimethorpe were four. We were three.
DAVE: What was the test piece?
DAVE: Blitz? By Bourgeois.
ASHLEY: Yeah. Derek Bourgeois.
JESSE: We had virtually a full Albert Hall to play to…
DAVE: I don’t like playing in the Albert Hall. I’ve played there a lot. You sit there…you probably remember it. You sit there and it sounds like you’re sat by yourself.
ASHLEY: Yeah, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?
JESSE: I’ve played twice in the Albert Hall. When I was in the Salvation Army band. Once here, they have a Bandmaster’s concert…convention.
JESSE: And they invite about three or four bands from the region, along with the staff association band as the…you know, the International Staff Band.
DAVE: The International Staff Band, yeah.
JESSE: Yeah. And Swindon was invited to take part and I played that night on the…
DAVE: I did a concert once there with Besses’s and it was the International Nurses’ Convention!
ASHLEY: Oh crikey!
DAVE: But there were 5000 nurses in the convention! I was hoping I was going to be ill but I wasn’t!
JESSE: Dave, I’m going to tell you and I don’t know if you ever know this, but when you left Bessie’s, I have The Bandsman every week still, and when you left Besses’s there was a marvellous write-up about you and Janine.
DAVE: Was there? I didn’t know about that. I’ve never seen that.
ASHLEY: Yes, saying what wonderful servants you were to the band. Tireless workers and…
JESSE: That’s what I…
ASHLEY: They gave you and Janine a glowing report when you left the band.
DAVE: I love history. I mean, I love band…that’s why I’m involved in this. I love to see where bands were hundreds of years ago and how things have changed. It’s incredible that bands like Besses’s who are 200 years old in five year’s time. In five year’s time they’re 200. And Aldbourne’ll make 200 as well. I like to see that length of time.
ASHLEY: And Aldbourne’ll be 200 a lot earlier than you think.
DAVE: Is it?
ASHLEY: Oh yeah.
DAVE: Oh right. Is there evidence of an earlier band then?
ASHLEY: 1835, yeah.
DAVE: Oh right.
ASHLEY: In fact, you can from the west…I’ve got a lot of information about pre-Aldbourne Band as well.
DAVE: About pre-Bunce-Brown, was it?
DAVE: I’ll have to see that.
DAVE: You can save that for when I talk to you later.
ASHLEY: Yes, I will.
DAVE: So who taught you to play then, Jess? How did you learn to play? Who taught you to play?
ASHLEY: Who taught you to play the drums?
JESSE: Joe Summerhayes.
DAVE: Joe who, sorry?
ASHLEY: Joe Summerhayes.
JESSE: He was the senior band drummer. I was…
ASHLEY: In the Salvation Army.
JESSE: …besotted with percussion.
JESSE: As a young lad of seven or eight, I used to sit on the platform with the percussionist in the army and he used to let me play the bass drum.
JESSE: He’d have his band on my hand and then gradually he let go and let me do it on my own.
JESSE: And George Cooke, who we was on about just now, Junior Bandleader, came to me one day and he said, ‘Jesse, would you like to learn to play the side drum?’ and I said, ‘Well yes I would.’ He said, ‘Well leave that to me and I’ll arrange it.’ Well he arranged it with Joe UNCLEAR [0:27:55.7], who was the band’s side drummer and, ‘You need to go to lessons.’ Now him and my father cooked up what I had to learn to play on – a wooden pot with rubbers on both sides. I, as you know, I trained about eight or nine kids in this room…
JESSE: …to play. And one of the greatest things I…for me, we went to…we went to Pontins down at Brean, and Calne Silver were playing in one of the lower sections and their boy was the one I taught, one of the ones I taught. And my wife and I went to hear them play their test piece and we were still sat in there waiting for the next section when he came up with the adjudicators remarks to show me that on the bottom was, ‘Good percussion.’
DAVE: That was you.
JESSE: And he said, ‘I thought you’d like to see that, Mr Jones.’
DAVE: So what would you say, and I ask this question… what was the greatest piece of performance you can remember the band did? Is there one performance that stands out from all the rest of them?
JESSE: Well I think 1981 down the Colston Hall, ‘cause…
DAVE: It was Shining River, wasn’t it, yeah?
ASHLEY: Yeah. We played superbly that night.
JESSE: When we came between Sun Life…
ASHLEY: And Camborne.
JESSE: Camborne. We were in between them. One was seven. We were…no, one was eight, we were nine and the other was ten. And we played it. A fortnight beforehand, Don Keene was very nearly despairing of even going, because it didn’t seem to knit, did it, Ashley?
ASHLEY: No, the bit at the end with all the blimin’…
DAVE: Da-da-da-da-da, yeah, I know the piece.
JESSE: And all those instruments that was involved, like the flugel, the solo cornet and trombone…
JESSE: We had them sat in the centre.
ASHLEY: We sat in a group of five in the middle of the band.
JESSE: And, Christ, there was a…and I think that must have been about the most satisfying thing that we’ve ever played.
DAVE: But you remember it as if it was still yesterday when you…you know when you’ve won, when you come off the stage, you know you’ve done a good performance.
ASHLEY: Yeah, it really was, ‘cause we got a standing ovation for it.
JESSE: The bandsmen had tears in their eyes when the results came up.
DAVE: Well I was in 1987. I played for Darwin Band and we won the Grand Shield.
ASHLEY: Oh right.
DAVE: But we didn’t think we’d come anywhere. We all went in for the results and we thought we’d beat Swinton who was conducted by David King. Topped it – we beat them by three points, so we’re all sat there. ‘And the Grand Shield is Blackwell and Darwen!’ We all went…we couldn’t believe we’d won that!
DAVE: But we did play really well so it…So what’s some of the worst bits of banding you’ve…what’s been your worst memory of banding? I know it’s a horrible question to ask but just trying to find some contrast, you know?
JESSE: Contesting-wise, I think the worst I ever…our band played – I never played myself ‘cause there was no percussion – down at Weston.
JESSE: Down on the Frogs of Aristophanes.
DAVE: Which is a good thing. We’re just talking about frogs.
JESSE: At the end of Bob Barnes, that was.
DAVE: Was it?
ASHLEY: That particular contest.
JESSE: The first time I ever broached openly…’cause he started off wrong, didn’t he, Ash?
ASHLEY: Yeah, yeah.
JESSE: He got the beat wrong.
DAVE: Da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da.
JESSE: And it was terrible and we were last and deserved to be last.
DAVE: Yeah, it’s not fun coming last. But somebody’s got to be last, haven’t they?
ASHLEY: Well they have. But you feel bad as well.
JESSE: But I’m taking it away from Bob Barnes. Bob Barnes was a good musician and the band always gave a musical performance…
JESSE: …wherever we went.
DAVE: What I’ve been doing over the last two months, all the contest things, like Doncaster…all the remarks and what they thought, I’ve been able to get onto a website called Brass Band Results. I might have put 1000 pieces of information in about banding and banding round. All the results, who won the solo cornet prize. It would be really good to go through all this. ‘Cause I’m not from this area. I can tell you about the north-west, but I’m getting, you know…Saturday night, Don Keene came down to the band room and we let him conduct us.
ASHLEY: Oh, great.
DAVE: But it’s a long time since he’s conducted and he’s a good conductor.
ASHLEY: Oh yeah, very neat and precise.
DAVE: Yeah. And with all these people learning how to conduct, and Don took us on one piece – Shepherd’s Song – and it was really good to see, you know? But he’s still getting up and having a go.
JESSE: Dave, there’s another piece that I’m very fond of remembering. 1962. Is that right?
ASHLEY: Symphony of Marches.
JESSE: No, no. ’62. We went down…well I’ll tell you the story. I belong to the Reading Guild and the Reading Guild was the first organisation to allow percussion to play at a contest.
ASHLEY: That’s right.
JESSE: And I come back and told our bandmaster and Bob wasn’t very keen on it – I could tell that. He said, ‘Well you’d better come to practice.’ Well I always did go to practice anyway. So I went to practice. Right up to the night before he still never said whether I was going to play or not, so I loaded the drum up on the bus the next day. We stopped off on the way and had a rehearsal. I played. He still never said whether I was going to play. I took it for granted. Well we were sat up in Town Hall at Reading, my wife and I, and it was the first contest that Ashley and I played together in the contest.
ASHLEY: New World Symphony.
JESSE: And we were drawn seven out of sixteen bands. Number one came on and never played with the percussion. Number two came on and never played with the percussion. Number three came on and played with percussion. Bob was sat behind me with his wife. He tapped me on the shoulder. He said, ‘Alright Jesse, you can play!’
ASHLEY: Yeah, it was that close.
DAVE: Well I was going to ask you about that because Life Divine, you know, Life Divine, one of the greatest pieces ever written, allegedly.
ASHLEY: Yeah, yeah.
DAVE: Unless you’re a horn player and it’s really boring.
DAVE: It’s got a part for one cymbal and bass drum has that.
DAVE: You know, and how did you feel? Did you not feel a bit sad that they went off to play at the contest and you weren’t allowed to play?
JESSE: That’s the New World Symphony.
DAVE: Yeah, and we’ve got a recording of that, haven’t we? I’ve took a copy of that.
JESSE: And on the bottom of the remarks was, ‘Good percussion.’
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s right.
DAVE: Well it’s funny if you look now at percussion, the pieces we play now, we need five percussionists.
ASHLEY: That was 1964.
DAVE: That’s a long time to be in the cold, isn’t it?
ASHLEY: Well if you think about it, that’s the first contest officially that percussion was ever played. 1964.
DAVE: So you were nearly the first ever percussionist.
DAVE: Nearly. If you got an early draw.
JESSE: Dave, I did…not a survey but I…pestered a lot of well-known people in the brass band world about getting percussion in, including Harry Mortimer of UNCLEAR [0:35:33.1].
JESSE: And the only person that was against it was Bert Sullivan that played solo euph.
JESSE: And they had two of the best percussionist in the business at the time.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah.
DAVE: It’s a strange world, isn’t it? How times change. But I think for a long time…if you look at orchestras, they always have massive percussion. Why couldn’t brass bands?
ASHLEY: Well every piece with percussion had a player, didn’t it?
ASHLEY: They never shared.
JESSE: It’s like Ashley said. They’re writing pieces now with the percussion, aren’t they?
DAVE: I played timps for one piece last night.
JESSE: Did you?
DAVE: Some of the conductors were playing so I let them play my horn and I played percussion. I love it. I love banging a bit!
ASHLEY: I played timps at a contest once.
DAVE: Did you?
ASHLEY: Yes. Down at Yeovil.
DAVE: We’re going to run out soon and I don’t want to type…what you’ve said to me has been absolutely brilliant. What we’re going to try and do is we’re going to get a transcript of it and I’ll give you a copy of the transcript. But what I’m going to try and do is do a display with you talking over the top of perhaps some pictures. We’ll find pictures that talk about the thing that you were telling us about…
DAVE: …and we’ll have a voiceover of you talking over the pictures.
ASHLEY: Lovely. Smashing.
DAVE: It’s good to capture your voice ‘cause in 200 years time when we’re all pushing up worms, accents change and times change…
ASHLEY: That’s it.
DAVE: You know, you’ve got a broad accent, a bit like me – it’s a lovely voice to listen to.
ASHLEY: Well we’ve got it now where we wish we’d spoken to players years ago, ‘cause they could have told us about the very early band. ‘Cause they would have known people whose fathers were in it, you know?
DAVE: Yeah. Well we can still try and dig some of this out.
DAVE: But it’s a bit like…
JESSE: It might be interesting to know, Dave, that when I first joined the band, I said they used to go contesting quite a lot. And if it was a long choice, you could rest assured they played Lorenzo.
ASHLEY: Or Peter Schmal.
JESSE: And the New World.
JESSE: Yeah. One of them three. But invariably Bob used to go for Lorenzo.
DAVE: We used to use Lorenzo a lot when I was at UNCLEAR [0:37:47.3].
ASHLEY: Yes. That’s the piece we played the first time we went to the Grand Shield, in the old St George’s all in…
DAVE: In Manchester.
ASHLEY: …yeah, in the old boxing ring.
DAVE: Oh what, at Belle Vue?
DAVE: God, yeah.
ASHLEY: Belle Vue, that’s what I meant.
DAVE: I only ever played at Belle Vue once. They pulled it down shortly after that.
ASHLEY: That’s it, that’s it. They did after went.
DAVE: Yeah. Okay. I remember Belle Vue. There was a section started at eight o’clock in’t morning.
ASHLEY: There was about twenty-odd sections, weren’t there?
JESSE: Do I have time to talk about something else?
DAVE: Oh, you carry on.
JESSE: James Sheppard misunderstood me. I’ve got a walking-out uniform which I don’t suppose I shall ever use again. It’s nearly brand new. I’d like to give it to the band. Now I offered it to James. He said, ‘We gave you that.’ But they didn’t. I bought that myself.
DAVE: Oh, right.
JESSE: And Martin Holstead, who’s the…
DAVE: Property Manager, yeah.
JESSE: He should have known that ‘cause he was the one that did the ordering for me.
JESSE: But that walking-out uniform’s there for the band if they want it.
DAVE: Well I’ll not take it off you now, but I appreciate that and I think it’s good to know that.
JESSE: I mean, you get change of personnel, don’t you?
DAVE: We do, especially when they’re my size!
DAVE: I always had to buy my own jacket whenever I’ve gone to band, but…alright, well thanks, Jess. I’ll make a note of that and I’ll tell Martin to make note that you’ve got one.
JESSE: I’d like the band to have it, rather than…
JESSE: And I’ll tell you something else, Dave. Now this is between us now. When I go on, there’ll be a direct donation to the band. Not to the Friends of Aldbourne, but to Aldbourne Brass Band. I put that in my will only last week.
DAVE: Bloody hell, Jess.
ASHLEY: Gawd, you haven’t spoken to me about that. [LAUGHING]
DAVE: We’ll look after you! That’s a long time off yet!
JESSE: I’ve got a lot to do before then. I’ve got to catch my father up, to start with.
DAVE: How old was your father, then?
DAVE: I don’t want to catch my dad up. He was 62 when he popped off. I’ve only got five years left at that rate. Right, I’ll tell you, I’m going to end it now. I’m going to end this conversation, which has been 40 minutes long.
ASHLEY: Has it?
DAVE: And it’s flown by.
ASHLEY: We could do that ten times more.
DAVE: We could, but I don’t want to tax you with it all at once, and I also have to realise that we’ve got to go and get all this typed up.
ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s right.
DAVE: So a four-hour conversation…poor typist!
ASHLEY: Yeah, a long time.
DAVE: Thanks very much, Jesse. I really appreciate your talking to me. What I’m going to do now is go through all this stuff we’ve got back and we have to sign some forms.
[SOUND OF DOORBELL]
DAVE: So well done.
JESSE: Bring her in. That’s my cleaning woman.
DAVE: Is it?
END OF TRANSCRIPT