Bands from the past and present
Here is the chronology of the San Jacinto Jazz Band's formative years
1957 - 1960
photographs from the Geoffrey Sanders collection and captioned by Ronald
Spring 1957 saw the genesis of a Herne Bay Band that lasted for
approximately five years. Starting as the ' Heebie
Four ' ( HJ4 ), the San Jacinto was the product of Herne Bay's C of E Youth
Fellowship,three of whose members
Ron Woodward, Pete Danby
and Ronnie Blake were long - term St John's choristers and the fourth
recently moved to Herne
Bay from Rochester, Kent. 'Heebie Jebbie Four' rehearsals took place at the
North School Room in
William Street with approval of the Church Elders. 'Affordable' instruments
were initially used:
Ron Woodward (kazoo),
Pete Danby (penny whistle/recorder), Ronnie Blake (ukelele) and Geoff
chairs/ vicar's tom -
tom). In September Pete bought his first clarinet, aspiring to a musical
career in the Army ( in the
footsteps of his Uncle
Oliver). Simultaneously, Ronnie Blake bought a guitar ( partly to secure a
place in the Simon
Langton School Skiffle
The 'Heebie Jeebies' first public performance was at a Church charity
concert in November 1957 (captured in a good
photo) .There are few (or no)
photographs of the group playing during 1958, but Ronnie Blakes's archives
Vic Caira became associated
in March (sitting in first on G-banjo) and by June Vic had joined on
trumpet when Ron
Woodward gave up blowing on
doctor's orders and switched to bass. Mike Cole (trombone) joined in August,
the embryonic 'trad' line-up.
The San Jacinto Jazz Band was re-launched under that name on Christmas Eve
in time to perform in
Theatrecraft's 'Cinderella' pantomime at the King's Hall (playing 'Theres
a Tavern in the Town' and
'Canal Street Blues' as a
The San Jacinto Jazz Club (as distinct from the band itself) was established
in February 1959, with Vic Caira as lead
player/manager, it began Sunday
night sessions at the premises of Muriel Hasland's Dancing School behind the
Hotel on the corner of High
Street and Beech Street. From that point forward there is a fairly good
record of photographs,
press cuttings, posters, etc,
although for much of the band's history of exact gig dates and changes
of personnel are
not known. However, from July
1959 to May 1960 Ronnie Blake did keep a detailed band diary (an initiative
unfortunately petered out as he
prepared for university).
To conclude, the abiding image of 1957 - 1960 is one of heroic enthusiasm in
the face of communication difficulties
typical of an era before
widespread motor-car, telephone and gadget ownership. Committee members
delivered notes to musician's
houses, or patiently met successive trains, never being quite sure whether
had been told the venue of a
rehearsal or a gig. The time, energy and resources devoted to acquiring the
microphone and amplifier
seems scarcely believable fifty years on. In 1960 the bands highest gig fee
was £2-17s-6d per
head, the 'Two Ronnies' had to
apply for special strings allowances and the stylistic implications of
replacing Pete Danby
with 'Chico' Thompson (alto
sax) and Ronnie Blake with Mart Gallagher (banjo) were hotly debated.
The band's history after 'Jazz Saturday' (1960) is for others to tell.
Ronnie Blake 2008
Pete Danby Ron Woodward Geoffrey
Sanders Ronnie Blake
Founder members of the SJJB posing in the foyer of the
The Heebie Jeebie Jazz Group at St. John's Church Hall, Sea
King's Hall, Herne Bay, Kent on Saturday 20th February 1960
Street, Herne Bay, Kent, Thursday 28th November 1957 (a fund-
(night of the Grand Jazz Band Ball in aid of the World
raising event in aid of the C of E Children's Society)
Ronnie Blake (tea-chest bass), Ron Woodward (mute trumpet)
Pete Danby (clarinet), Geoff Sanders (drums, and a hint of the
1, All the performing musicians received a gig fee of £1,
Vicars tom-tom). A fifth musician, Peter Matchett (accordion)
leaving £28 to donate to the WRF charity.
2, Ronnie Blake appears to be wearing his dark suit (recently
acquired for university entrance interviews)
1, The original Heebie Jeebie Four
evolved within Herne Bay's
C of E Youth Fellowship at the North School Room In William
Street, three of whose members were also St. John's choristers.
2, The concert programme bills Ronnie Blake on guitar, so he
either chickened out or was simply having a break on the bass
when the photo was taken.
Club Session on the East Cliff Slopes by the
Al Fresco Club Night on the slopes as notes
King's Hall, Herne Bay, Sunday 5th July 1959
on the left Sunday 5th July 1959. Geoff definitely
Backs of heads: Pete Danby clt, Jerry Rickwood
has bongos, Ronnie Blake is on his dad's banjo
and Vic Caira (tpts) Mike 'Lofty' Cole (tbn), Geoff
while the rhythm section is augmented by William
Sanders (drms, including bongos); rest of the
Arthur Cole on E-flat 'Melophone' ( one of the many
rhythm section off-picture, left. Dancers on
'alternative' instruments for which he became famous).
promenade are Mary Woodward and Sylvia Perrin.
Photographs taken by Miss Lyn(ne) Sykes.
1, The female right leg next to Ronnie Blake is probably that
1, The decision to hold a Club session Al Fresco was
of Mary Woodward.
taken in the light of very hot weather (leading to a
2, This session took place not long after Bill Cole joined the
downpour just after the session ended!)
SJJB fraternity, having been introduced by his namesake,
2, Band archives record that Lyn Cockett danced
Mike 'Lofty' Cole. The two (unrelated) Cole(s) were approximate
in the sea.
contemporaries at Faversham Grammar School and the
shorter of the pair (William Arthur Cole) was known
ironically as 'Tex' (for his love of guns Burtie Butler). It
became an unspoken practice in the SJJB to always address
and refer to W.A.C. as 'Bill' or 'William' (though the Kent fans
doggedly clung on to his American nick-name until he joined
the London jazz scene as a professional.
Sunday Club night at the Victoria Hotel, probably early autumn 1959. Core
rhythm section plus Vic Caira (obscure
at rear on tpt), Mike Cole (tbn), Bill Cole (assisting on banjo) and Jerry
Rickwood (smoking behind the piano). (Pete
Danby was presumably present but off-picture right).
the assumed dating is based on two observations:
1, Bill is using Mr Blake senior's banjo ( abandoned by Ronnie Blake for
guitar later in the year)
2, Vic still appears to be the band's regular trumpeter.
The San Jacinto Jazz Band, Grand Jazz Band Ball, King's Hall,
erne Bay, Saturday 20th February 1960. The classic
seven-piece line-up, marking an important transitional stage in the group's
evolution. Jerry Rickwood (tpt) was now
musical leader but Mike Cole still incumbent on trombone. This is the only
picture of Roy Gaston-Williams playing
professionally with the SJJB. Soon both Mike and Roy were, for different
reasons, to quit the band.
1, Ronnie Blake's archives state that Mike left the band in January 1960, so
this may have been his last gig with us. As Mike was
due to take up a place at university later in the year, Sean Maple took over
around this time.
2, Roy soon moved 'across' to join the Tishomingo Jazz Band which
played in the Dixieland / Mainstream style he preferred.
Sunday Club night at the Victoria Hotel,
(Muriel Hasland School of Dancing), spring 1960, The classic six-piece San
Jacinto Jazz Band line-up: (left to right) Ron Woodward (bass), Sean Maple (tmb),
Jerry Rickwood (tpt), Pete Danby (clt),
Geoff Sanders (drms) and Ronnie Blake (gtr).
1, The date is almost certainly after
February 1960 because Ronnie Blake is
strumming into a makeshift microphone (supplied
that month by Phil Bennett, a modern jazz pianist who Vic and Roy knew as
rail commuters to London)
2, The band appears to have moved its 'stand' from the gable (south) end of
the room to the longer (west) side with windows.
3, What has happened to Geoff's bongos which seem to have been deleted from
4, Picture on the right is possibly taken later in the evening as the
placard behind Jerry appears to have come away from its wall
Prelude to Pete Danby's wedding at St John's C of E Church, Herne Bay,
probably 29th September 1962
left to right: Bill Cole, Ron Woodward, Pete Danby, Ronnie Blake (best man)
and Geoff Sanders.
photographer: probably Scrivens.
The exact date is difficult to verify as invitations, the service sheet and
related correspondence have been mislaid.
Sadly Pete is no longer in touch with any band member and Janet (divorced
from Pete) died several years ago. Both
were only children and the whereabouts of their own offspring is also
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