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    Chris Watfords Elite Syncopators



                                       The Chris Watford's  Story

                          The Chris Watford Story of bands etc:
                        I was a founder member of the Dolphin Jazzband, down in Hastings, buying
                          my first simple system clarinet in December 1954 at the ripe old age of
                          19, which I thought was too late to start ! The previous summer, I had
                          seen the bands appearing at the White Rock Pavilion on a Sunday evening,
                          including those of Ted Heath; Jack Parnell; Harry Gold; Carl Barriteau;
                          Basil & Ivor Kirchin, Sid Phillips, Humphrey Lyttelton, and Ken Colyer,
                          and whilst working in Tunbridge Wells, I started buying 78rpm records
                          from Barnards, in Camden Road, and from another record shop round by the
                          Central Station. I preferred the smaller bands, and started saving up to
                          buy my first clarinet- for 5 !



                          The Dolphin Jazzband;
                          Pete Treger tpt, Brian Towers tmb, Chris Watford clt, John Collinson piano, Geoff Coates bnj,
                                    Alan Whitmore dms / WashBrd  and John Griffiths bass Ted Bishop bnj on Candy Lips

                         To hear the lads click on to the title:

                         Squeeze Me  ( Bob Rae tpt   recorded Railwaymens Hall, St. Leonards-on-Sea   10th October 1959

                         Here Comes The Hot Tamale Man    recorded Angel Inn, West Hill, Hastings   2nd April 1962

                         Grandpa's Spells                               recorded Angel Inn, West Hill, Hastings   2nd April 1962

                         The Entertainer                                recorded Market Hall, George Street, Hastings   7th April 1962

                         Candy Lips                                     recorded Angel Inn, West Hill, Hastings   16th April 1962


                          The Dolphin Jazzband's front line of Brian Towers(tmb);Pete Treger(tpt) and Chris Watford(clt) at
                                     one of their summer sessions in St.Clement's Caves, Hastings.(1961).
                                                          from the John Powys collection

                         Each summer, we played three times a week in the St.Clements Caves to
                         hundreds of mainly foreign students, plus a Saturday residency in our
                         own Club. Despite having day jobs, we also managed a weekly residency in
                         Eastbourne, plus the occasional sortie to places like Lewes;Brighton;
                         Deal, and to Dover, where we first met trombonist Bod Bowles.

                         In September 1956 I was transferred to work in Aldershot for a year,
                         which gave me the opportunity to hear the Ken Colyer band in its heyday
                         in London. I met a lot of jazz musicians who were to become lifelong
                        friends, and joined Mike Casimir's band  for a short while before
                        joining Barry Campbell's Unity Jassmen in London.  Barry had been taught
                        to play trumpet by Mike Peters during his National Service, and our
                        front line was completed by the Kent-based trombonist John Finch. I had
                        to leave the band when I was moved back to work in Hailsham at the end
                        of the summer of 1957, but not before I had also joined the Zenith
                       Jazzband in Southend, travelling down there every other Tuesday for
                       heir residency in the London Hotel.

                       Chris Watford's Washboard Wizards - personal:
                       Chris clt + alto, Pete Treger tpt, Geoff Coates 12-strg guitar, Alan Whitmore Wshbrd.
                       Informal session 4th June 1962 Anchor Inn, George Street, Hastings.
                       East Coast Trot

                       Once back in Hastings I rejoined the Dolphin Jazzband, and having formed
                       a stong friendship with the John Kelk Eagle Jazzband in Canterbury, I
                       frequently played at their Club in the Rechabites Hall, Pound Lane. 
                       When I heard that their trumpeter, Keith Button, wanted to retire, I
                       wrote to Barry Campbell up in London, and presuaded him to give up his
                       job as a silk screen printer and move down to Canterbury, and he enjoyed
                       leading the band until he moved away in the 1960s.  Down in Hastings, we
                       steadily improved, recording for Steve Lane's VJM label in West London
                       in 1961 and 1962. The band then broke up, and trombonist Brian Towers
                       and I reformed as the Jazz Caverners,


                             Jazz Caverners Rehearsal at Angel Inn 1965 - Pete Kitcher tpt, Brian Towers tmb
                       Chris Watford clt, Ted Bishop piano, Roy Martin and Geoff Coates bnj, Ian Scriven bass
                       and Reg Lower drms:
                                 Swipesy Cakewalk       Rickety Dan       Coal-Smoak    - click to listen

                       with the help of some fine jazzmen
                       from Eastbourne. This band recorded for VJM in 1966, after which I left
                       the band, moved to Hildenborough, and formed my Elite Syncopators to
                      play similar Classic Jazz in the Tonbridge and Maidstone areas.


                            Willie The Weeper       Mabels Dream       Doctor Jazz        Till We Meet Again

                       This circa 1972/73 from left to right:

                Brian Craig tpt, Sam Weller tmb, Nicola Watford piano, Chris Watford clt and Nobby Willet bnj.

                                          To hear the Syncopators click on to the above titles


                      By 1975  I had moved to Upminster in Essex, and with London musicians such as
                      Dennis Field or Ben Cohen(cornets) or Ken Sims (trumpet), and Kent
                       banjoist Nobby Willett, we had a residency at the Blue Boar Inn,
                       Southend.  A year later, I suffered a brain haemorrhage, which stopped
                      me playing (forever, I thought), and also led to me taking early
                       retirement at the age of just 40. Shortly after that, my wife departed,
                       leaving me to bring up our two young children- grim days indeed !

                         Twenty years later, I went to a concert by my old friend Sammy
                        Rimington, who asked me where I was playing those days. I told him I had
                        been very ill, but he said that I looked pretty good to him. Fired with
                        enthusiasm I went home, started sitting in with local bands up in the
                        East Midlands, where I had been living for some years, and found that I
                         was fit enough to play again.  I joined a poor band in the Leicester
                         area, got them a gig at the Burton-on-Trent jazz club because I believed
                        that they would improve with rehearsals, but found that they did not, so
                       not wishing to lose the gig, which was still some way off, I formed my
                        own band as The Dallas Dandies, which was the name of an early Johnny
                        Dodds group. I used some good Birmingham based musicians, and my old
                         trumpeter Brian Craig came all the way up from Tonbridge to help out.

                       After the 20-year layoff, I had forgotten how to hold the clarinet, and
                       I must have played far too many wrong notes as I gradually got my
                        technique back into gear.  I was virtually unknown in the Midlands, and
                         promoters didn't want to book an unknown band, so I decided that the
                         best way to get back on the scene was to book the best trumpeter in the
                         Midlands, Gordon Whitworth, to front the band, as he had a strong
                         personal following wherever he played.  To a certain extent it worked,
                        but I had a real stroke of luck when my old friend Jerry Card asked me
                        to do a gig for him, as his band was double booked. This was a
                        commercial gig for BP at their service station in Orpington, to launch
                        the opening of their new Express Shopping facility. The money was good,
                       so I was able to employ some fine musicians, including drummer Colin
                       Bowden.  This session, outside , where motorists would file past us on
                       their way in to pay for their petrol, went down very well, and the Area
                        Manager recommended us to BP's Promotions team,saying that he preferred
                        our style of jazz, so we went on to play at some fifty similar Openings
                       all over the country, culminating in putting out six separate bands at
                       Filling Stations in the Milton Keynes area simultaneously about a year
                         later.  Despite regular breaks, these were long sessions lasting from
                        10am until 4pm, often in inclement weather, yet at no time did any of my
                         musicians ever look at their watches and want to stop.  I think it was
                          because the line up was always different, and the musicians were often
                        finding that they were playing with friends who they hadn't played with
                         for several years.  It gave me a great chance to get to play with some
                         fifty of the top musicians on the scene, and to develop my own playing.

                        Dennis Armstrong became my regular cornettist for  a time, but in 1998 I
                       augmented the Dallas Dandies to do a tour of UK jazz clubs playing all
                       of the quite highly arranged tunes that had been recorded by King
                        Oliver's Creole Jazzband back in 1923, to mark the 75 Anniversary of
                         those Classic recordings. My trumpets were Brian Craig once more, still
                        living in Tonbridge, and Mike Daniels from Cambridge.  They met in a
                       field off the M11 near Stansted Airport to rehearse the two-trumpet
                        breaks and codas in Brian's camper van, and there are videos of that
                        tour which may eventually see the light of day.

                        Soon after this, I decided to form a George Lewis-style band, with a
                        different personnel, and I called this the New Orleans Standard-Bearers.
                         I enrolled my old friend Bill Stotesbury on banjo, who had played with
                         my Elite Syncopators before leaving to join Ken Colyer for eleven years.
                         I dug out Graham Paterson for piano, who was very rusty but still played
                         just like Alton Purnell. That gave the band a distinctive sound, and
                         when Graham passed away I was very lucky to obtain the services of a
                           virtually unknown pianist , Peter Tabois, from Grimsby, who stayed with
                          me until I eventually retired in 2004. It was difficult to have the same
                         trumpeter, as both Tony O'Sullivan and Ken Sims were both in demand with
                         other bands, but with the help of other fine trumpeters such as Pete
                         Smith, who took over in the Delta Jazzband when Sonny Morris sadly died,
                         I was always able to have memorable sessions.

                         Concurrent with running that band, I also formed the Chicago Feetwarmers
                         with soprano sax legend Charlie Connor, from Cambridge. I heard him for
                        the first time at his local Sunday lunchtime session in his village of
                        Isleham, out in the Cambridgeshire Fens, and invited him over as guest
                        at my local residency at a pub near Stamford. He phoned me the day after
                        our session to say that he believed there was a certain magic
                        understanding between us, and as I had also thought this, it became the
                        beginning of a wonderful musical experience for both of us that lasted
                       until I retired- although our friendship continued until the day that he
                       died. I retired for many reasons, in 2004, but whilst I would have liked
                       to have continued for another year and learnt a few more interesting
                       tunes, one can never achieve all that one hopes to do in life, and I am
                       very glad that I was able to have a second bite of the cherry and have
                        another decade playing the music I loved . I still have various
                       recordings available, so if interested please email me for details at




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