You wouldn’t read about it: delving into our jazz past

ONE of my more innocent pastimes is reading back issues of jazz magazines. A recent piece of bedside reading was from the Sydney Jazz Club’s incomparable Quarterly Rag, the Pre-Convention Issue for 1962.

Cover photo: Ian Cuthbertson
leader of the Paramount Jazz Band

In those days the SJC had regular gigs every Friday and Saturday night at the Ironworkers Building, 188 George Street, Sydney. The Saturday night gig was on two floors with two bands, all for the price of one entry fee.

On Page 15 there was an extract from the Melbourne Sun reporting on the 25th Anniversary of the Melbourne University Rhythm Club:

The Melbourne University Rhythm Club, probably the oldest jazz club in Australia, will celebrate its 25th anniversary at a concert in Wilson Hall tomorrow [date?] night. And playing in Tony Newstead’s group will be nine men who have between them 21 university degrees: Tony (trumpet) with four degrees; George Tack (clarinet), one; Ken Ingram (trombone), three; Ade Monsbourgh (alto sax), two; Willie McIntyre (piano), two; Russ Murphy (drums), three; Bill Tope (banjo), three; Keith Cox (bass), one; and Bill Miller (wash-board) two degrees.

The Melbourne University Rhythm Club was established by Ade Monsbourgh and others in 1937, so the silver anniversary would have been in 1962. Here’s a photo of Tony Newstead’s Southside Gang from Bruce Johnson’s Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz which includes several of the musos mentioned in the Sun article.

Tony Newstead's Southside Gang c. 1950


Lineup: David Ward (tbn), Tony Newstead (tpt), Don Reid (dms), Ray Simpson (gtr), Will McIntyre (p), George Tack (clt), Keith Cox (bs).

THEN there was an announcement that THE NAT OLIVER JAZZ CLUB was moving to new quarters.

It is just over 5 months since “Nat Oliver Jazz Club” opened at 408 Kent Street. Having gained just on 1,750 members in that time, the club is now moving on to better premises in a far more central position in the city.
THURSDAY 1ST NOVEMBER 1962 “The Nat Oliver Jazz Club” opens at The Suzie Wong Restaurant in the Boulevarde Arcade – between King, Pitt and Rowe Streets.
The club will be run basically as it is at present. Nat Oliver’s New Orleans Jazzmen playing the four nights Thursday to Sunday, with vocalist Mary Lane, Friday and Saturday nights.
The club will be open at 7.30pm each night and there will be an admission fee of 6/-.
Espresso coffee, iced drinks, meals etc. will be available, but members are not under any obligation to go the further expense of buying a meal.
It will be the Nat Oliver Jazz Club on these four nights, and the aim of the band and the club will continue to be “to further the interest and appreciation of traditional New Orleans Jazz.”

Here’s a picture of the band from p. 30 of the magazine, all in their 20’s. How many jazz clubs nowadays have a membership of over 1,000 I wonder?

Nat Oliver's New Orleans Jazzmen


Lineup: Oliver Hetherington, Dave Hetherington, Des Bader (bj), Don McCormack (drms), John Bates (tbn), Ray Dermody (bs), Mary Lane (vocals).

9 responses to “You wouldn’t read about it: delving into our jazz past

  1. Ive just found out of NAT’S..passing…Shocked isn’t the word…i last saw Nat…2009 He came to see me in Scarborough…We went for a long walk on beach…..Time has a way of getting away from us …and Special People..im so happy to have had Nat..in my life and there will always be a special place for you in my Heart….Susan-Aneva Cayley……

  2. The cassette is from 1982

  3. When I was 20 years old I worked at the Marble Bar in the Sydney Hilton.
    The highlight of my week was when the Nat Oliver Jazz Band played.
    I still have the cassette they made , wonderful music & nice fellas .

    • Hello Graham,

      Should you digitalise this cassette, would it be possible to get a copy of this music ? My mother lost all of her recordings, including the ones where she sang, when she moved back to Belgium, so it would be a wonderful present to her if I could find some actual recordings from the time – if she would be “in” the recording that would make it magical !

      Any other ideas where I could get/request/beg/purchase other recordings from would be much appreciated !

  4. Hello there, I’m the son of Mary Lane (actually called Mary Charpentier) who stopped singing after going back to Belgium with me (and a divorce that was coming). Great to see my mother in those pictures ! She mentioned the Suzy Wong restaurant several times when she told me of that period.

    Would it be possible to have a digital copy of these pages / pictures so that I can print them out and show them to my mother ? She would be *absolutely* delighted !!!

    Thanks, Alex Boschmans.

  5. I was going through some old photos with my son yesterday. Having found several snaps of what was by then called “Nat Oliver’s Jazzmen”, I googled “Nat Oliver” and thus learned of his death. It has really ‘thrown’ me.

    I first heard Ollie when he sat in with ‘The Paramount Jazz Band’ at the Sydney Jazz Club. I remember the Kent St. club where he first let me sit in on drums. For some reason (to really test me out?) he always made the first tune of the set “Snake Rag”. This tune has more breaks in it that I’ve had hot dinners, so for a drummer, it really was a test! I hung around the band for so long (the word “stalking” comes to mind) that eventually I was invited to join it. This would have been in 1965 or 1966. We played four nights a week at Adam’s Jazz Room, and even had a one-and-a-half minute appearance on the Don Lane Show on Saturday night telly – to advertize the up-coming Jazz Convention in Sydney. By then Dave was in Melbourne and Kevin Wilkinson played clarinet. The other muso’s were John Bates, Dave Robison (0n banjo), my brother Col and later, Alan Fidler, on bass.
    Among others, I have photos of the club when it was at Suzie Wong’s on the night Acker Bilk came to jam after a concert in the old Sydney Stadium. One of them is of Acker and Dave doing a “catch-me-if-you-can” thing.
    I left the band to start my own quartet for a while, before heading for England where I have lived ever since. I was inactive musically for quite a long while, but eventually played for some time in Essex with a band which sounded just like its name: ‘The Louisiana Steamboat Jazz Band’ and a marching band called ‘The Superior Jazz Band’ (superior to what?) , but also fronted a (non-jazz) group called ‘The Best Band Here Tonight’. (You will appreciate this name was based on the assumption that we were the ONLY band present!)
    I don’t think I ever met you, John, unless you were playing at the Kent Street Club at that time (?) I certainly remember you, Dave.
    This comes with every good wish.

  6. Hello, Dave. I know it’s been awhile (about 40 years) but it would be great to get in touch somehow; Warwick Farm rehearsals, Sydney Jazz Club 1957/58?, P’matta Boys Junior High, transporting my drums on public transport? Sound familiar. Were they calling me Dutchie then?
    Hope to to hear from you!

    John Holland

  7. Dave Hetherington

    That photo was (I think) at The Kent Street Club……..my, how the years have passed…..I can still hear the band in my head. Happy memories. Dave

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