|Monty, Graham, Eddie, Phil Robertson and myself left London Airport at 3.45 p.m. on September 21st. We settled into our seats and decided to play cards until we reached Montreal, which was a scheduled stop for refuelling on our way to Los Angeles. I won a couple of bob on this part of the journey which was not much return for all the effort, so I don't think I'll turn professional gambler. We were not allowed out during our brief stop in Montreal and we decided to get a little shut eye. Phil awoke with a mouth like the proverbial you know what, which was not surprising when you consider that he had inadvertently cleaned his teeth with a free sample of shaving cream. It was a comfortable flight but very cloudy most of the trip and we arrived in Los Angeles at 8.40 p.m. local time, but 4.40 a.m. G.M.T.
Chris and Ottilie. who had arrived a few days earlier, were at the airport to meet us and we quickly cleared customs with the exception of Graham who had left his hold-all containing some whisky in the customs shed. For this lapse Graham had to pay the porter a dollar to retrieve his drink, which meant that it would have been cheaper to have purchased it in America. Our next move was to hail a couple of taxis to take us to our hotel. Chris and Ottilie, however, made their way to the hotel in a Lotus Elite sports car which Chris had managed to hire from a local company for a few days, and we were not surprised to learn that he had already collected one parking ticket. It was a 10-mile drive to the Sands Sunset Hotel which is on Sunset Boulevard (shades of Gloria Swanson), and after a hamburger and a drink in the bar I retired to bed leaving Monty glued to the television, the time being 1.30 a.m.
The next morning I was up at 7.30 and after breakfast some of us went to the bank and on to the post office. Next we stocked up with cigarettes and then returned to the hotel for a swim in the hotel pool. The temperature was 80 deg. so we decided to make the most of it. In the afternoon we paid a visit to the Hollywood Bowl, which is a fantastic place seating 20,000 people and we saw the bill, which included Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and the Teddy Buckner All Stars. There was quite a lot going on in Los Angeles but I felt very tired and went to bed at 8 p.m.
On the Friday morning I woke up at 7, just cannot get used to the change in time. Nor. for that matter, can Monty who was sharing a room with me. Dick Smith had arrived the previous evening as well as our American road manager with one car. I bought a pair of sun glasses, had a swim and generally lazed about waiting for the evening's concert feeling very nervous. Count Basie opened the show followed by the Firehouse Five, Teddy Buckner and then us. We played Chimes Blues, Panama Rag, Stevedore Stomp, Lord Lord Lord, Blues Before Sunrise, Come Along Home To Me and This Little Light Of Mine. Louis Armstrong closed the show and was really tremendous. Joe Darensbourg and Teddy Buckner complimented the band after the show. The promoter, too, was very pleased with our performance and said we could return anytime we liked. After the concert we went back to the hotel and after a cooling drink we went off to see Sarah Vaughan who was appearing in town. What a great artiste she is, her show lasted until 2 a.m. after which we all returned to the hotel and bed.
The following review of the Hollywood Bowl concert was published in Vol. 6, No. 12 of the Chris Barber Club booklets.
Allen Seifert of Cincinnati, Ohio sends us this extract from a review of the band's spot on the Hollywood Bowl concert. It was reviewed by Paul Affeldt.
Next came the part of the evening I had been waiting for, and it certainly was no disappointment, Chris Barber's band was even more than I had expected. I have been a Monty Sunshine fan ever since his work on the Ken Colyer album, "New Orleans to London" and fortunately Monty was with Chris's fine group. They also had a tough row to hoe in following the Firehouse Five, and when they kicked off on "Panama Rag", there was a small amount of unease and uncertainty, but they steadily gained confidence and soon had the entire bowl hanging on their every note. This group was true to what I've grown to expect from English Bands, they were earnest, swinging and musicianly in their every note. There wasn't a second of sloppy or tired sounding playing here. This is a group that takes New Orleans Jazz as seriously as Bolden himself must have and they played the most spirited and closeknit honest Jazz of the evening. As most English Traditional groups and also the early N.O. men, they used no piano, nor was it missed in the least. Chris Barber played a style that I could not pin down as a copy of anyone, it was just great trombone in the New Orleans Tradition. Pat Halcox, played fine lead trumpet, nice tone, nice ideas and absolutely nothing sloppy. Monty on clarinet reminds me a lot of Larry Shields, whom I consider one of the greatest clary men who ever blew and certainly one of the most distinctive. Monty soars high register around and over every instument and holds things tight as only the clarinet can do. Also with them was one of the finest girl vocalists I've ever heard. Ottilie Patterson has a slightly hoarse, low voice and the best grasp of the blues style I've heard in years. This was especially apparent on her great "Blues Before Sunrise". I missed Louis Armstrong and group because I wanted to get backstage and interview Chris and his group but I don't think I really missed too much from what I could hear during the interview. Jazzwise I believe better work came from Chris and Crew, and they are making a 7 week tour of the states. If you have any possible way of getting to hear them, don't pass it up, I know you won't be sorry. This group is really fine and a credit to the kind of Traditional Jazz we've come to expect from England.
The next day we left Los Angeles which is a wonderful place being very clean, spacious and prosperous looking. The weather, too, was wonderful, though I understand they do get rain. We travelled along the coast road which is very reminiscent of Spain, bound for San Luis Obispo. The journey took 4 hours which included a stop for a snack and along the way we ran into patches of sea mist. We played at a dance in the California Polytechnic College which is quite a new place and pleasantly situated on a hillside. After the dance we booked in to the Ranch Hotel. This hotel reminded us all of the hotel in the film "Psycho" and we all joked about it. Monty even dressed up and jumped out of a cupboard scaring the pants off Phil Robertson.
The next day was Sunday and during the night the clocks had gone back one hour, which meant that we were now 9 hours behind London time. After breakfast we set out across the hills to Las Vegas. On the way we stopped at a filling station, the owner of which had recently married a Bristol woman who was very surprised to see us. We arrived in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. and booked into the same hotel as on our last visit. After a swim we went to hear Harry James at the Flamingo Club. From here we visited several casinos but I had no luck and after marvelling at the fantastic signs I went to bed. Chris had had some luck at the Sands where he won 28 dollars.
I turned out of bed at noon the next day and joined the others who were swimming in the hotel pool. The temperature was 95 deg. and after a couple of hours swim some of us went off to have a little flutter. My luck was better on this occasion for I won 23 dollars before going back to the hotel to write some letters. Monty arrived back in time for tea and calmly announced that he had won 200 dollars. How about that! After our meal we went along to the Sands to see Sammy Davis, who was tremendous, and also the Jonah Jones Quartet who were also very good. During the evening Monty sneaked off and when I returned to the hotel I learned that he had brought his winnings up to 500 dollars.
The next day was our last in Las Vegas and by the time I awoke most of it was over as you can well judge by the fact that I had breakfast at 5 p.m. I had another swim before paying my last visit to the casinos on this trip. The temperature had risen to 1O2 deg. today, but after a little flutter I retired to bed just a little down on the few days. Las Vegas can be a very expensive town from a gambling point of view, but the cost of living is surprisingly low.
The band's next job was in Laramie and we set out across the hills and desert which border Nevada and Utah. These hills are a hunters' paradise being stocked with deer and cheetahs. The car in which we were travelling had taken quite a hammering during our travels and was now found to be in need of a new engine. This meant that we would have to continue the journey to Laramie by train. The nearest station being Cedar City, we made our way there and booked into the railroad hotel where we were met with the strange sight of cowboys watching "Wagon Train" on TV. After breakfast on the Thursday morning we traveled by bus to the connecting station at Lund. Here, in the middle of nowhere, we whiled away the time by talking to a prospector and a railway engineer who told us that the trains could be up to one and a quarter miles in length. We boarded the train at 1.30 in the afternoon. This branch is known as the Union Pacific and runs from Los Angeles to Chicago. Our journey included a night trip across the Rockies, which are magnificent by moonlight. I awoke at 6 a.m. on the Friday feeling just a little stiff. The scenery had now changed to rolling prairie and Laramie was reached at 6.45 a.m. Phil Robertson met us at the station and took us to the hotel where we slept until noon. In the afternoon we paid a visit to Snowy Mountain, which is about 30 miles away, after which we played a concert in Laramie before a very enthusiastic audience. Laramie is some 7,000 feet above sea level and the temperature is cooler here - around the 60 deg. mark.
We were all up at 10.30 the next morning and set off through real Indian country to Fort Collins. It was here that we played the half time spot of a university football match and later at the university dance which ended at midnight.
On the Sunday we left for Boulder and played an afternoon concert which was very enjoyable. Afterwards, Graham and I went off for a meal and Graham's salad was about the biggest I have ever seen. From Boulder we travelled to Denver where, after some relaxation in the bowling alley, we stayed the night. I had managed to get hold of a Sunday paper but was a little annoyed at not being able to find the English football results.
On the Monday, Monty went off fishing whilst I stayed in bed and read the papers before going out on a shopping spree with Graham. I had another session in the bowling alley with Dick Smith and then we all met up at the house of an aunt of Chris for a party. In the garden of the house was a trampoline on which we all had a bounce. Although this proved very exhausting we nevertheless had a very enjoyable evening.
Monty was up early again the next morning on another fishing jaunt and caught some rainbow trout which Chris took to his aunt. Eddie and I spent the day relaxing and watching TV.
We left Denver at noon the next day for the 450-mile journey to Waverly. On the way we stopped for a drink and I had to convince the barman that I was over 21 (it seems that everyone carries identity cards for this purpose). Then we were off again on the last stage of our journey to Waverly. The countryside in the mid-west is rather uninteresting, consisting mostly of corn fields. In Waverly we had great difficulty in finding hotel accommodation due to the fact that a cattle congress was in progress. We were eventually forced to backtrack 17 miles out of the town to find a hotel. After a meal we changed and drove back to Waverly for a concert. This was another of the places visited on our last trip and the people were very pleased to see us again.
Early the next day we travelled to Chicago where we again experienced difficulty in finding accommodation. We eventually settled for a motel on the outskirts of the city and after a quick change we travelled to Valparaiso to play at a dance. We had cut it rather fine but eventually arrived in time for the job which was a college dance - and a very good one, too. Afterwards we went to downtown Chicago but were all a little disappointed that neither Duke Ellington nor Muddy Waters were playing.
The next day, Sunday, saw us at the Red Arrow Jazz Club in Stickney, where we met up with some friends from London. Don Ewell and Clancy Hayes paid the Club a visit during the session, which was a long one lasting from 8.30 p.m. to 2.30 a.m. The whole audience were very delighted with our playing and we were immediately booked for a return appearance later in the tour. Afterwards, we again went to downtown Chicago but only managed to catch two numbers of Muddy Waters' session. In Muddy's club we met Albert Wynne and Chris, Ottilie, Eddie and myself went back to his house for early breakfast. Little Brother Montgomery, whom many of you will have seen in England, popped in for a little chat about old times. On the way back to our motel Chris managed to run out of petrol and we eventually got to bed at 8.30 a.m.
Monday was a day off and we were all invited along to Muddy's club where a band called Buddy Guy were playing. Chris and I managed to get a sit in and Ottilie sang a few numbers which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed. It was an early call again next day for we had to travel 500 miles to Toronto, eventually arriving at 5 a.m.
On Wednesday we gave a concert at Eaton's Auditorium in Toronto and met Richard Burton (Look Back in Anger), who was appearing in a stage play called Camelot. Richard invited the band back to the Variety Club, where we had a little session which ended with the band playing, and Richard Burton singing, "Land of My Fathers". All in all we had a great time.
We travelled all day on Thursday to Bloomington, Indiana and arrived at 3.30 a.m. Friday we played a dance hall which, although it was rather small, had a very cosy atmosphere.
On Saturday, we took in a football game before our evening concert which was shared with the Brothers Four before a very large audience. The next morning we motored to Indianapolis where, in the evening, we played for the Jazz Society in the university. The band were very well received here and we met many friends made on our last visit.
On Monday we travelled the comparatively short 120 miles to Louisville, Kentucky, for a most enjoyable concert after which we drove to Bowling Green for an overnight stop.
The Alabama College at Montevallo was our next port of call for a concert date. This concert took place on the Tuesday evening and a wonderful time was had by all. We stayed the night in the art master's house and Dick Smith and myself slept in the ladies dormitory - quite legally of course.
We next drove to Monroe, Louisiana, for afternoon and evening concerts on the Thursday, both of which were well received.
On Friday we motored to New Orleans, arriving in the early evening. This gave us time to freshen up before visiting the clubs and bars. During the evening we heard the Octave Crosby band which was most enjoyable. The next day we paid a visit to Bill Russell's shop, and in the evening we had a jam session in the bar opposite with Johnny Wiggs on cornet and Ray Burke on clarinet. It was here that we met a singer called Lemon (I never found out his full name) who claimed to have written the words of "Ugly Child", a number which Ottilie has recorded.
Chris's comments on the session with Billy & De De Pierce and Paul Barbarin:
This session in New Orleans was our first encounter with American black musicians for the purpose of joint recordings. Billie Pierce plays a rather old fashioned style of piano, except in the blues, when she introduces modern influences. She sings in the bluesy vaudeville tradition, a little like Clara Smith. Graham Burbidge dropped out for awhile to let Paul Barbarin take over the drum chair, and so did Pat Halcox, for De De Pierce is a trumpet player in the early New Orleans style. However he and Pat joined forces on a couple of numbers, which was very interesting. De De, who incidentally is blind, is very rhythmical in his style, and punched out his notes in a jerky, twenties style, yet, because of this he is an extremely effective lead for a New Orleans Band. The result of this injection to the band's sound of these New Orleans pioneers was startling. The authentic, slightly archaic feel of New Orleans was there immediately, with Paul Barbarin's heavy parade drumming giving a real New Orleans core to all the numbers we played. I would have liked more time to talk about the numbers and perhaps to try a complete range, just to see how they came out, but the party/session atmosphere did not allow it. Surprisingly enough, though, we found we had got a mutual repertoire, those old pop tunes that got worked into the New Orleans repertoire were familiar to all of us.
Sunday was a memorable day for all of us for we witnessed a street parade in which the Gibson Brass Band were taking part. We followed the whole parade quite awestruck. In the early evening we heard a band led by Kid Thomas playing on the quayside for people embarking on the riverboats. To round off the day we played at the New Orleans Jazz Club annual concert with Tony Almerico and his all stars plus Buglin' Sam DeKemel. As last year, we were again introduced by the British Consul General in New Orleans, Mr. H. G. Maitland.
On the Monday we visited the Consul General's house which is one of the few plantation style mansions to be seen in New Orleans and we were taken on a tour of the mansion which proved very interesting indeed. In the evening we played a session with Billie and De De Pierce and Paul Barbarin.
We left New Orleans on Tuesday for Evansville, Indiana, where, on the Wednesday, we played a concert with the Pete Fountain Band.
We travelled to Cincinnati on the Thursday and booked in to the Sinton Hotel and the next evening we played a concert in the hotel. We stayed in Cincinnati overnight and the next evening we heard a concert given by the Earl Hines band which everyone enjoyed immensely.
Sunday, and back to Chicago again for a return visit to the Red Arrow Jazz Club where we were honoured by a visit from Lil Armstrong and Edgar Smith who both enjoyed the session as, it seemed, did everyone in the club.
We were now in our last week of a very exhausting tour and after a somewhat uneventful concert in Toledo we travelled to Maryland where we had the unusual experience of giving a concert in a college containing all coloured students.
Friday and Saturday were our last two dates of the tour and on both these days we played at the Central Plaza, New York. On each performance we shared the bill with a band led by Conrad Janis which included such names as Max Kaminsky, Tony Parenti, Micky Sheen, Claude Hopkins, Herman Autrey, Gene Cedric and Panama Francis. During the Saturday performance J. C. Higginbotham called to see us and the house was literally brought to its feet when Sister Rosetta Tharpe arrived and sang "The Saints" with both bands combined. This, undoubtedly was a fitting end to a really wonderful tour.