TONY STANDISH 1931-2016
Lifelong champion of traditional jazz
Tony Standish, who has died aged 85, was a lifelong devotee of blues and traditional jazz who inspired many local record collections.
By Rick Sjolund and Peter Haby
Tony Standish, whose lifelong enthusiasm for traditional jazz and blues inspired many a local record collection and who is remembered as a mentor to many, has died aged 85.
He was born in Richmond on December 7, 1931, the only son of Jack and Enid Standish. His early years were spent in Aspendale and he attended school at St Bede’s in Mentone.
Tony Standish, enthusiast for traditional blues and jazz Photo: Supplied
His interest in jazz began in the 1940s and he became friends with trumpeter Bob Barnard, whose band played at the Mentone Lifesaving Club. In 1949 Tony was a founding member of The Southern Jazz Society and contributed articles to Australia Jazz Quarterly. He also recorded the Alfrey Street Stompers in 1952 that featured the brothers Bob (trumpet) and Len Barnard (drums) and Nick Polities (alto sax), who would all go onto world acclaim in the field of traditional jazz.
In the mid-1950s Tony left Australia and travelled to America. After working in Canada to finance his travels, he and his friend Jim Hanna bought a car and travelled through the US and Mexico and eventually arrived in New Orleans.
Tony’s time in New Orleans was spent with some other jazz enthusiasts seeking out the bands associated with the “New Orleans Revival”. An American jazz enthusiast, Bill Russell, had started recording the traditional jazz bands still playing in New Orleans, and his recordings had aroused interest in the continuing jazz tradition.
Tony spent a lot of his time photographing the brass bands, places of historical importance to jazz history and general life in New Orleans. Many of the photos are now in the Hogan Jazz Archives at Tulane University in New Orleans. He also sent articles to Jazz Journal.
Tony then travelled to England. In London, he landed the dream job for a young jazz fan with journalistic ambitions, becoming assistant editor of Jazz Journal, England’s premier jazz magazine. Tony’s interviews with visiting blues and jazz musicians, such as Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim and members of the George Lewis and Kid Ory bands, are still cited today.
In 1959 he set up Heritage Records to reissue blues records from the 1920s and jazz recordings from the early 1950s of the George Lewis band from New Orleans. He reissued titles by Charlie Patton, Memphis Minnie, Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ramblin’ Thomas. He also issued albums by Joel and Lightning Hopkins, The Black Ace, Snooks Eaglin and Buster Pickens. These later albums consisted of tracks recorded by researchers Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz in Texas and New Orleans during 1959 and 1960. These records were very influential in the English blues and jazz scene of the time and today they are highly regarded and very collectable.
In 1960 Standish also led the way when he co-published Eureka – The Magazine of New Orleans Jazz with fellow jazz historians Bill Colyer and Graham Russell. It featured many articles by Standish and photos taken on his initial journey to the birthplace of jazz.
In 1963 he returned to Australia with his wife Barbara, who he met in England, and their daughter Kate.
Tony opened his Heritage Record Shop above Frank Traynor’s Folk Club in Little Lonsdale Street. It was only open on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, but soon became a meeting place for devotees of traditional jazz, blues and folk music.
For young enthusiasts, it was a slightly intimidating first experience as all the customers standing around talking seemed to know much more about the music. However Tony was keen to pass his knowledge on and his recommendations helped form the start of many record collections. It was a great place to meet and after closing time, many of the customers went with Tony to the Continental Hotel to continue conversations about music, football, cricket and politics.
Tony was keen to pass his knowledge on and his recommendations helped form the start of many record collections
Tony started a jazz club in the Continental Hotel. The band featured Frank Turville on trumpet, who had recently returned from a successful tour of Europe as a member of the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band. Turville’s international reputation inspired Melbourne’s Yarra Yarra Jazz Band and Geoff Bull’s Olympia Jazz band in Sydney.
Standish recorded the Bull band in 1971. His last release on his own label Heritage, now highly prized by collectors, was by the bluesman Smith Casey, an inmate at Clemens State Farm, Brazoria, Texas, who recorded for the Library of Congress in 1939.
During this time Tony’s day job was assistant manager of Ramsay Surgical Medical Bookshop. He was promoted to manager and in 1975 decided to open his own medical bookshop with two of his colleagues. The bookshop, Standish Prideaux & Pye, opened just two doors down from the Ramsay shop in Berkeley Street, Carlton, very close to the Melbourne University Medical School. The shop became very successful and expanded into library supply.
Tony had friendly relationships with many medical librarians around Australia, contributing greatly to the success of the business. In 1995 he sold his share in the business to his remaining partner, Michael Prideaux.
Tony retired to Mount Martha and started a small mail-order record outlet, Standish & Co. This enabled him to re-establish his many contacts with traditional jazz collectors, and he imported many CDs that customers were having difficulty finding elsewhere. The internet also enabled him to contact his old friends from England, Europe and the United States.
Tony’s other great love was gardening, and he spent much time tending the native plants he was so enthusiastic about. He was also a long-suffering Richmond supporter who longed for a resurgence in the club’s fortunes.
Tony passed away on December 17, and is survived by his wife Barbara, daughters Kate and Jane, and son Marty.
His passing was acknowledged by many overseas blues and New Orleans jazz collectors.