Jackie Flavelle

Jackie Flavelle played string bass and electric bass in the Chris Barber Band from May 1967 to July 1977. Here's what was written about Jackie in an early-1970s Barber tour and concert programme:

Three years with the band, Jackie brings with him that wide range of experience which is common to almost all Irish musicians. He learned the rudiments of music in a flute band. Inspired to take up the bass by the skiffle boom and Lonnie Donegan in particular, he has worked in rock groups, Dixieland bands, and that peculiarly Irish phenomenon, the showband.

Much scorned in hip pop music circles, showbands are in fact incredibly versatile outfits which demand high all-round standards of musicianship. Their repertoire can include everything from sentimental Irish ballads and Dixieland warhoses, to copy versions of the Top Twenty. Everybody sings and versatility is all; it's not a bad way to learn how to project to the public, particularly for someone with jazz in his soul like Jackie.

By the time he could play well he was organising modern jazz clubs in Derry and Belfast and causing a furore by introducing the bass guitar to rather more hidebound listeners and musicians. Working in a showband he was spotted by John Slaughter and Chris together and deemed to be "right" for the band.

Because there are four instruments in the rhythm section Jackie has more freedom to move around than he otherwise might have, which enables him to deploy his considerable finger style technique to advantage on bass guitar. His dancing lines add considerable variety and a great deal of sublety to the section, and his whole conception is light years on from the dear departed days of Mr. Plod, the archetypal British bass player.

The following article was written by Jackie Flavelle's daughter, Lisa, for the Belfast Telegraph in June 2004. It's reproduced here by permission of Lisa Flavelle and the Belfast Telegraph.

Bass player Jackie Flavelle has made music all his life and my exposure to his vast array of influences continues to shape my relationship with music. Born in north Belfast, as a young boy in the 1940s he played flute in his school orchestra and with The Ulster Amateur Flute Band, who were world champions several times in the 1950's under conductor William Flavelle, Jackie's uncle. Dad then joined the Dave Glover Orchestra in 1959, playing double bass and then moving to bass guitar - when it was first invented!

Before joining the Chris Barber Jazz Band in 1966 he enjoyed stints with other showbands like the Johnny Quigley All Stars and Johnny and the Jokers from Londonderry and the Swingtime Aces from Athenry, Co Galway. With Barber, Jackie toured the world and played with many leading musicians, including Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Ray Nance, Wild Bill Davis, Dr John and even The Doors. One of his most memorable gigs was at the Reading festival, playing on the bill alongside Free, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. For 12 years he had a residency at London's trendy Marquee club, at the height of the swinging sixties.

Dad released a solo album on York Records called Admission Free in 1972 and while on tour between Berlin and London wrote a song called "Home in County Down", which was subsequently recorded by Armagh bard Pat Woods, Malachi Doris and others. He returned to Northern Ireland in 1978, but continued to play with high-calibre jazz and blues artists, including Philip Walker and Guitar Shorty. Jackie's always involved in a number of musical projects. He recently led Blues Experience and is currently a member of local jazz ensemble, Giant Steps. He also plays with blues band The Essence and country outfit The Half Stoned Cowboys. Since 2002, he has been a member of The Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra with Willie Drennan, playing at concerts and cultural gatherings, and he continues to present Jackie's Jazz and Blues on Downtown radio, Friday nights at 9pm.

If you fancy experiencing some of the magic of live blues and jazz, Flavelle's Music Club meets every Tuesday in the Rotterdam Bar, showcasing the best talent, and you can hear Saturday afternoon blues every week with The Essence, at The Old Priory Inn, Holywood.

Two by Two: Jackie and Lisa Flavelle
Jackie Flavelle ('66 going on 19') mixed with some of the biggest names in music during his career as an international jazz player. He was friends with Rod Stewart and appeared alongside Jimi Hendrix. But when his two daughters, Lisa and Melanie, were born, he decided to leave the music scene and relocated to Donaghadee. Jackie began a new career at Downtown Radio, but he has also kept up his music, playing jazz and blues every week. Jackie tells Judith Cole how a shared love of music has helped forge an extra close bond with Lisa.
By Judith Cole featureseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
30 April 2005

The best decision I ever made in my life was to give up my career as an international jazz musician and come home to Northern Ireland to bring up my daughters. My wife, Noreen, and I lived in London when I was a member of the Chris Barber showband, but it was not the ideal place for a young family. We moved to Donaghadee - quite a change - but I was able to bring up my girls in such a way that I knew them.

Now I play in Lisa's husband's band and love spending time with our grandson, Ben, who's seven. He has definitely inherited the family's love of music and we bought him a drum kit recently which he's showing great promise on! I'm lucky in that I seem to have lived several lifetimes and had many enjoyable careers.

I grew up on the Antrim Road, Belfast, with my Uncle Billy after I was orphaned at the age of five. My mother died when I was a baby and my father was killed in the Second World War. I vaguely remember seeing him in 1943, when he came home on his last leave. I was lying in my cot in the sitting room and I just recall a tall man in uniform.

My uncle was very musical and conducted the Ulster Amateur Flute Band, the North Belfast Male Voice Choir and his church choir. This is probably where my interest in music came from. I played the flute from an early age and was in the school orchestra at Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

As rock' n' roll was born in the 1950s, it was a very exciting time. My first job was in accountancy at York Street flax linen company, now Yorkgate, and from there I moved on to Bleach Green which is now the Dunadry Hotel. I started to play gigs at the weekends and joined the Dave Glover dance band, which had a residency in Portrush. In 1964 Chris Barber and his wife, international blues star Ottilie Patterson, were in Belfast and happened to attend a gig I was playing at in Newtownards. Later, we played support to Chris' band in Ballycastle and he offered me a job. Noreen and I had only been married a year then, and I was delighted because it was a chance to play jazz, which I'd always loved.

It was an exciting time to be part of the music scene and I met a lot of international stars like Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney and David Bowie. Rod was a friend as he knew Ottilie well and used to get up and sing with the band. I played on the Dixie Toot track on his Smiler album. But I don't like talking about my past or name dropping - I live for today and tomorrow and always have done.

When our two daughters came along we realised that bringing up two children in London wasn't the best thing for them. I vividly remember leaving the band in 1977 - we were just finishing a tour and the other members got on to a plane for London and I, for Belfast. I was really apprehensive and couldn't eat but I have never regretted it.

I got a job at Downtown Radio as a DJ and then started my own programme, became a programme co-ordinator and then Press Officer. I was also a music journalist for the Sunday News.

Although blues and jazz are my greatest love, I have an open mind towards music. I even worked with Lisa on one of her DJ house records which sounds like 'boom boom boom boom?' I still play most nights - I'm in the blues band Essence and all the guys are about two generations younger. We play at festivals and various venues around the country. Lisa's husband, Tim, has a great contemporary acoustic soul band called Sushi and I play bass for him. The boys all say I'm there because he's my son-in-law but he actually likes me playing bass better than anybody else!

Copyright © 2005, Belfast Telegraph. Reproduced by permission.

Music: The mid-1970s Chris Barber Band had a very distinctive sound: tight and innovative as far as arrangements and solos were concerned, but very relaxed and confident in the rhythm section -- not least because of Jackie Flavelle's approach to the electric bass. Here's a good example: Jazz Me Blues from the 1975 recording, The Great Reunion Concert, which includes a short bass break.

Visit Jackie Flavelle's web page at Downtown Radio.

Jackie Flavelle Photo Gallery
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