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Profile:

Eric Silk

 

This page is the beginning of a Profile of jazz musician Eric Silk. Please contact us if you can add any information at all about Eric.

In July 2016, Roy Headland wrote:

I recently discovered the few recordings of Eric Silk's Southern Jazz Band packed with tightly performed tracks which must have been meat and drink to the lindy hoppers in London in the 50's and 60's. I can't find much information about Eric but it seems he wasn't commercial and a New Orleans purist in the Colyer tradition. I would like to know more about him and how he ended up. I believe he was in the insurance business and played the banjo and perhaps was destined for obscurity! It seems incredible, listening to his band, that he didn't merit his own entry in John Chilton's Who's Who of British Jazz (at least not in the 1998 edition that I have.)

Alan Bond says: 'I have just come across the piece about Eric Silk and I can tell your correspondent that virtually all of The Southern Eric Silk Down South albumJazz Band's recorded output is available on Lake records CDs (click here). There is some tremendous musicianship in what was always a tight little band. Their regular venue was the Red Lion at Leytonstone and it was two trolleybuses and a tube ride for us to get there but, oh boy, it was worth it. I can categorically state that the band was NOT in the Ken Colyer mould as Eric was very much like Steve Lane in his appreciation of 'classic' jazz rather than the revivalist New Orleans style. The outstanding sidemen in the band were Dennis Field, Alan Littlejohn(s) and Harry Lock but in later days Dennis Field had the trumpet chair all to himself. Among the other members of the band down the years were Teddy Layton, Ken Shepherd, Don Simmons, Pete Tamplin and Jack Gilbert.'
2016.9

[Until recently there was a track online of Eric Silk and the Southern Jazz Band playing Blues My Naughty Sweetie (Gave To Me) but this has since been taken down. The only track on Youtube is from the BBC JazzClub and the sound and recording quality is very poor (click here). However, I did find online the photograph below of Eric Silk and his Southern Jazz Band, but the personnel are not named. If anyone can send us more information about Eric, please contact us and we'll share it - Ed].

 

Eric Silk and his Southern Jazz Band

 

Eric Silk and the Jelly Roll Kings

John Westwood writes:

I remember Eric Silk playing with us in the Jellyroll Kings back in the late 40s. A little digging produced this picture, from when Jellyroll Kingsboth Eric and Dave were with the band. 

Eric Silk was a member of John Haim's Jellyroll Kings. He played with the band for nearly a year, up to the time of John's untimely death in January 1949 at the age of 19. After the funeral service, Eric, with the rest of the band members, went to Pete Payne's recording studio in South London where they joined Freddy Randall in playing a tribute blues.  This recording was issued on Delta 6, with the 'B' side containing one of the Delta 6 albumfirst "Jellyroll Kings"' recordings. 

At this time, most of the band's members were still schoolboys (having previously been titled "John Haim's Jazzin' Babies"). No other recordings of the band had been commercially released, so its place in the history of our music hasn't been preserved.  But Delta 6 was, at the time, reviewed by Rex Harris, writing in the Melody Maker, that "it gives no indication of the lusty sound which the band made in the flesh".

Before forming his Southern Jazz Band/Serenaders, I had the pleasure of playing drums with the band in 1947/8, and still have ​a BBC recording made of a performance at Wimbledon Palais in January 1948 which does give some hint at the sort of excitement we were able to generate. John was a hard task-master and unlike most of the other developing bands at the time, made no attempt to copy - or even hint at - the masters whose 78s we all studied so avidly.  Although he played the cornet, John was most keen on the sounds produced by, amongst many others, the gas-pipe clarinet of such as Ted Lewis, Boyd Senter, Wilton Crawley etc.  Titles recorded by these artists considerably influenced the band's repertoire! 

I had to leave the band in September 1948 to do my National Service - ​where ​postings gave me the opportunity to play with many of the then-emerging bands, including Ray Foxley's Levee Ramblers, the Yorkshire Jazz Band, Manchester's Saints Jazz Band and Smokey City Stompers etc.  On demob. I joined Chris Barber's first band but gave it up in favour of the security of a career in sales, (click here for more detail).

John's brother Gerald went on to attempt to keep the band on the road, but its members dissipated - Eric forming his own band, Charlie Connor likewise, Dave Stevens emigrated to Australia where he still, in his 90s, plays regularly, as does now 85-years-young Gerry Haim in Spain.  No-one knows what happened to Ron Dixon, and I no longer play regularly (but do still enjoy the odd 'sit in' when permitted!).
2016.10

 

David Stevens writes: 'I played with Eric in John Haim's Jellyroll Kings, and later in his own band - The Southern Jazz Band. About eight years ago, my wife Anita and I spent some weeks in Italy.  In Venice one day, there was a sudden rainstorm, and we took refuge in a small cafe. It was full, the only seats available being at a table with a young couple occupying two of the seats.  We excused ourselves and sat down, and we started talking.  Finding they were English, I mentioned that so was I. I'd also mentioned that I played with jazz bands. The girl said "You might have heard of my uncle, he had a jazz band..." Yes, you guessed his name – Eric Silk!'

 

John Westwood also sends us this picture of the 'B' side of the Jellyroll Kings recording - None Of This Jelly Roll, and sends us his memories of that time:

'Before forming his Southern Jazz Band/Serenaders,Eric Silk was a member of John Haim's Jellyroll Kings. He played with the band for nearly a year, up to the time of John's untimely death in January 1949 at the age of 19. After the funeral service, Eric, with Jellyroll Kings recordingthe rest of the band members, went to Pete Payne's recording studio in South London where they joined Freddy Randall in playing a tribute blues.  This recording was issued on Delta 6, with the 'B' side containing one of the first "Jellyroll Kings"' recordings.'

'At this time, most of the band's members were still schoolboys (having previously been titled "John Haim's Jazzin' Babies"). No other recordings of the band had been commercially released, so its place in the history of our music hasn't been preserved.  But Delta 6 was, at the time, reviewed by Rex Harris, writing in the Melody Maker, that "it gives no indication of the lusty sound which the band made in the flesh".'

I had the pleasure of playing drums with the band in 1947/8, and still have ​a BBC recording made of a performance at Wimbledon Palais in January 1948 which does give some hint at the sort of excitement we were able to generate. John was a hard task-master and unlike most of the other developing bands at the time, made no attempt to copy - or even hint at - the masters whose 78s we all studied so avidly.  Although he played the cornet, John was most keen on the sounds produced by, amongst many others, the gas-pipe clarinet of such as Ted Lewis, Boyd Senter, Wilton Crawley etc.  Titles recorded by these artists considerably influenced the band's repertoire!'  

'I had to leave the band in September 1948 to do my National Service - ​where ​postings gave me the opportunity to play with many of the then-emerging bands, including Ray Foxley's Levee Ramblers, the Yorkshire Jazz Band, Manchester's Saints Jazz Band and Smokey City Stompers etc.  On demob. I joined Chris Barber's first band but gave it up in favour of the security of a career in sales. (Click here for more detail on the Chris Barber website). John's brother Gerald went on to attempt to keep the band on the road, but its members dissipated - Eric forming his own band, Charlie Connor likewise, Dave  emigrated to Australia where he still, in his 90s, plays regularly, as does now 85-years-young Gerry in Spain.  No-one knows what happened to Ron Dixon,  and I no longer play regularly (but do still enjoy the odd 'sit in' when permitted!'

John has also found these brief clips of Eric Silk recorded lived at the BBC in 1951.. As John says: 'Dreadful quality, but interesting' as is the announcer's voice in 'proper' BBC pronunciation of the time. John says that there are also some tracks by the band on Spotify - just search for 'Eic Silk Jazz'.

 

 

Eric Jackson says: Hi Ian I have been following the Eric Silk items as I used to see the the band at Wood Green and the Cooks Ferry. Harry Lock and Alan Littlejohn have been mentioned and knowing them well I can say that they were not totally commited to the cause as their real love was the style of music played by the Condon crowd, Butterfield and Hucko etc. Both Harry and Alan were regulars at the Sunday jam session at the Tally Ho in Kentish Town where the fare included such as C Jam, Watermelon Man and Carribean Clipper. Another member of the Silk band who sat in from time to time was clarinet player Harry Purdy who then played Tenor.

 

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