Forty Five Years On: the Victorian Jazz Club looking back

AS the Victorian Jazz Club prepares to celebrate officially its 45th birthday on Saturday 5 October, it is fascinating to look back to the Club’s early, heady days of “Jazz ‘N’ Jug every Thursday night in the Thoroughly Modern Piano Lounge of the Prospect Hill Hotel, 299 High Street Kew, (now Dan Murphy’s) where the entry fee was 50 cents, and the Hotel provided a “range of supper dishes” for 50 cents minimum after 10.00pm to comply with the liquor laws at the time.

Jazzline No. 2, September 1968

Above is a picture of my precious copy of the second issue of the Club’s magazine JAZZLINE. It consists of 16 duplicated pages detailing a bit of the history of the Club, a list of Committee members (some familiar names there) and plans for future activities.

But perhaps most interesting is the aim of the Club which was to provide playing opportunities and audiences for existing bands or regularly rehearsing groups with the accent on traditional styles, although the only real stipulation was that “the music be jazz oriented and played with a reasonable amount of ability and a large amount of sincerity.” There were also to be ample opportunities for “sit-ins” and for groups or individual musicians, who did not meet the criterion of “regular groups”, to perform on special guest nights.

The following 12 bands were registered to play during the first season which began on 12 September 1968:

ROGER BELL AND HIS PAGAN PIPERS
Roger Bell, Denis Ball, Mal Wilkinson, Bud Baker, Robin McCulloch, Mal McGililivray.
Roger re-formed his famous group last year to appear at Geoff Brook’s Steak Cave. Now appearing occasionally at La Brochette.

STORYVILLE JAZZMEN
Allan Leake, Dick Tattam, Paul Martin, John Murray, Graham Coyle, Mike Nelson, Fred Stephenson or Dick Barnes.
Led by Allan Leake and with its obvious accent on experience, this recently formed group shows great promise.

KANSAS CITY SIX
Peter Gaudion and Steve Miller, Mike Longhurst, Len Cobbledick, Peter Grey, John Kent.
Formed by Steve and Peter about a year ago, the band has been doing one night stands and some recent television work.

NICK POLITES PREMIER JAZZ BAND
Nick Polites, Chris Deutscher, Ray Lewis, Andy Symes, Frank Stewart, Lynn Wallis.
Basically a reconstruction of the old Silver Leaf Jazz Band with the addition of Nick Polites on clarinet. Originally formed to play at the Catharina over two years ago, the band has well outlived the job and now does one night appearances around town.

BLUE RIVER ORCHESTRA
Don Standing, Mike Longhurst, Dave Allardice, Jeremy Kelloch, Peter Cass, Peter Scudds, Paul Longhurst.
Formed by Don Standing in the last six months, this group forms an interesting musical contrast to most of the jazz bands in Melbourne.

RED ONIONS JAZZ BAND
Allan Browne, Brett Iggulden, Dick Miller, Bill Howard, Rowan Smith, John Scurry, Conrad Joyce.
Recently returned from overseas, this must be one of Melbourne’s most popular jazz bands, appearing frequently on TV amongst other engagements.

(In the following filmclip of the Red Onions from 1966 we see Mike Edwards on second trumpet and Nick Polites on clarinet.)

FRANK TRAYNOR AND HIS JAZZ PREACHERS
Frank Traynor, Dick Tattam, Jim Loughnan, Peter McKay, Les Davis, Ron Williamson, Jim Beal.
Originally formed from the House Band of the old Melbourne Jazz Club the group have recorded extensively (including football club theme songs) and have many concert appearances to their credit. Doing one night stands these days,they also appear regularly at Frank’s Folk and Coffee House.

THE CHICAGOANS
Steve Waddell, Mal Jennings, Mike Longhurst, Bob Gilbert, Dave Campbell, Geoff Thompson, Clive Champion, Duncan McQueen.
Now appearing regularly on television this group also works on a one night stand basis.

YARRA YARRA NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND
Maurie Garbutt, Dave Bailey, Les Fithall, Willie Watt, Dave Myers, Graham Bennett, Lucille Newcombe.
One of the longest established bands in Melbourne and veterans of many clubs and concerts, this group did a lot to establish New Orleans ensemble jazz in Melbourne. Now taking the bull by the horns and appearing regularly in Melbourne’s discotheques.

BARRY HANLEY GROUP
Barry Hanley, Peter McKay,Ken Sluice, Ken Vatcher.
A very talented quartet formed to play at the Croxton Park Hotel. Still appearing there regularly.

GAVAN GOW’S FOUR
Gavan Gow, Chris Ellis, Hans Karssemeyer, “Gypsy” Bennett.
A well established group now appearing at the Springvale Hotel.

MABEL’S DREAM
Simon Wettenhall, Garry Richardson, Jeremy Kelloch, Ron Cook, Peter Cass, Felix Blatt, Bob Moore.
A young band with great promise in the traditional style of King Oliver etc.

Hope you enjoyed this wander down memory lane!

5 responses to “Forty Five Years On: the Victorian Jazz Club looking back

  1. Jon Karssemeyer

    Hi there, great little piece of history that I was unaware of, if anyone out there has any old pictures and story’s and possibly music of my much missed dad, Hans Karssemeyer, I would deeply appreciate the opportunity to see and hear them. Thanks guys, Sincerely Jon Karssemeyer.

  2. did lucy newcombe sing with yarra yarra jb?

  3. Margaret Andlerson

    The Prospect Hill Hotel in Kew had enjoyed the fruits of the 15th, 18th and 21st Jazz Conventions so the publican Val Ferguson was amenable to the idea of her pub being a jazz venue. Val had made extensive structural changes since the Conventions making it an excellent venue for the Victorian Jazz Club.

    The actual name given to the Thursday Night at the Prospect Hill was Jazz ‘n’ Jug. Then, in 1969 the VJC went to two nights, Thursdays and Fridays with $1 entry charge which was 50 cents for the VJC and 50 cents for supper. In order to stay open after 10.00 pm the alcohol laws said you had to provide supper. The VJC went from 8.00 pm to 12.00 midnight, supper was very necessary.

    The bands were put into two groups house bands and supporting bands. This meant the program would show two bands playing on each night, for example Mabel’s Dream/The Chicagoans; The Kansas City 6/Storyville Jazzmen; Roger Bell and His Pagan Pipers/Brian Cochrane Quartet and so on. To get the Jazz Club up and running the musicians did a half-gig for half pay – hence the two bands. Sit-ins were also encouraged. The venue was well attended as the word got around.

    It was truly a rich time for Australian jazz!

    Marg Anderson

  4. I had been a member of the Melbourne Jazz Club, because I often stayed with Frank Traynor, when I came down from Sydney to Melbourne to play at Lorne each year in the late 1950s – early 1960s; and joined the Victorian Jazz Club in 1969 when I was working at the old Queen Victoria Hospital in Lonsdale Street. In 1969 I played cornet with Mabel’s Dream (Nick Polites, clt; Charles Powell, tbn; John Brown, bjo; Ron Cook, pno; Peter Cass, tba; Bob Moore, dms), playing King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton tunes.
    Hitherto “lost” tracks of this band have been found (Ron Cook), which was well received at the Ballarat 1969 Jazz Convention. The group disbanded when I worked in London in 1970, where I “sat in” with the Red Onions a
    few times. (In the present clip, it looks like Nick Ribush on piano – I had worked with him and Vin Thomas at Lorne).
    I recall the Frank Traynor band working at the Royal Terminus Hotel at Mordialloc (?), and stayed at Frank’s club in Little Lonsdale St., as well as playing with the band, and Roger Bell, at St Silas’s in Albert Park (?) in years before.
    It was at the Prospect Hill Hotel VJC that I first met Geoff Bland, pno, with whom I kept up an association and correspondence until his recent demise in Hobart (2013).
    Many of the musicians of 45 years ago I regard as my long-time friends, many of whom are now sadly departed. I too have just turned 75 (and can hardly believe it), but still recall past days in jazz with zest, and still play, I trust, with verve, mainly at jazz festivals, with previously the New Wolverines, now with the Pelican Club Jazz Orchestra, Instruments of Mass Distraction, Wauwatosa, etc., or sitting in with such as Louisiana Shakers, Bill Haesler, Harbour city JB, or in overseas locations – now mainly Paris.
    As many would know, my wife Wendy had been married to Willie Watt, bjo, of the original Melbourne New Orleans band, Maurie Garbutt’ Yarra Yarra JB, Des Camm etc., now sadly departed (2011).

  5. Fascinating Jane. Bruce and I lived in the Western District from 1959 so we missed a lot of this although he had been in Allan Leake’s very first band the Southern City Seven. I do recall we went to hear Storyville at the Prospect Hill Hotel and in 1975 I began bringing first Storyville and then many other bands to Terang, which I did for ten years before I returned alone to Melbourne and established Jazz Australia!

    Thanks for the real nostalgia trip.

    Diana

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