The jazz club at Cooks Ferry Inn at Edmonton in London was started by Harry Randall, the brother of jazzman Freddy Randall. The music was played in a large hall attached to the pub.
Trumpeter Bunny Austin recalls: ‘I first went there around 1946, or early 1947. Freddy Randall had a good band there with Bruce Turner, Eddie Harvey, Lennie Felix and Al Mead. They would play every Sunday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Freddy had a big following of fans, and the place was always packed full on a Sunday night.’
When Freddy was touring, other bands were featured at the Inn including the John Haims band, the Yorkshire Jazz Band, Mick Mulligan, Mick Gill (from Nottingham) and various others.
Cook's Ferry Inn in the 1960s
© Bunny Austin
Bunny Austin tells how In the early 1960s, Freddy Randall was back at the Ferry together with George Chisholm and Lennie Felix and stayed for about eighteen months. Then, around 1963, some of Bunny’s friends – Nevil Skrimshire, Pat Mason, Dave Jones, Alan Wickham, Harry Miller (Shillingworth) and Bert Murray - had formed a band named the Ferry Jazzmen. ‘These boys started off at the Cooks Ferry Inn Hall and the band soon became very popular. Freddy Randall had now left Cooks, but a lot of his followers became new members.’
'They asked me if I would run the door for them,’ says Bunny. ‘Pat Mason said I was the only one they could trust with the money! It was a non-paid job, but it meant I could play in the interval band. I was helped on the door by two ladies, one of whom was my wife – I married her because she had some Teddy Wilson and Benny Goodman records! The other lady was Doris Dunn, known as ‘Doddy’. This remarkable lady worked on the door for Freddy Randall in 1946/7 and then twenty years later was still helping out.’
The early 1960s at Cooks Ferry Inn. Nevil Skrimshire (guitar), Harry Miller (drums), Ted Fawcett (bass) and Pat Mason (piano). 'I forget the name of the instrument Lennie Felix is playing it had keys and he blew into it, and did he swing!'
© Bunny Austin
'Doris’s son was Cliff Dunn, a professional guitar player who recorded with Rex Stewart in the 1950s. The band and the record were called ‘Rex Stewart’s London Five. It had Cliff on guitar, Gerry Moore on piano, Danny Haggerty (bass) and Dave Carey (drums). Gerry was a well-known pianist before the War, Cliff and Danny both played with Freddy Randall, and Dave Carey had his own band, of course. Dave also ran a specialist jazz record and instrument shop over in Streatham.'
'I seem to remember that Cliff Dunn became involved in some religious group in the early 1960s and turned up one time at the Cooks Ferry club in a monk’s habit and cowl, sat in with his Gibson guitar and played some really good jazz. I think the audience thought it was a gag - Cliffie really did become a monk!’
Bunny recalls how one Sunday morning the great Sonny Stitt turned up. ‘His agent asked if Sonny could sit in! Sonny played tenor sax on this occasion, he was changing over from his alto. He had a great blow with the musicians. On another occasion, Joe Harriott appeared (I think he was a friend of Harry Miller the drummer), and Joe played a few numbers with just bass and drums. Richard Sudhalter also appeared at the Ferry around this time – he was a fine cornet player.’
‘The audience at the Ferry consisted of a lot of jazz musicians, semi-pros and professional musicians. I remember that two young lads would sit in the front row, one of whom was Martin Taylor. His dad, Buck Taylor used to bring Martin along, and Martin is now one of the great jazz guitarists.’
‘The Cooks Ferry Inn jazz club came to an end in 1967 due to dwindling attendance, but it was good while it lasted, and I’d like to thank the musicians who let me sit in over the years.’
Eric Jackson takes up the story:
'I first went to see Freddy Randall at the Cooks Ferry Inn in 1949 as an under aged drinker. The only guest musicians of stature I remember were trumpeter Billy Riddick and trombone player Jock Bain, both a big deal at the time. Other fairly regular sitters in were Mac McCoombe, a now forgotten violinist who did appear on a Tempo 12" LP with Al Fairweather, and Goeff Love the trombonist (a.k.a. Manuel and his Music of the Mountains) who played in the Harry Gold band.'
The Gold band appeared fairly regularly and the whole front line were vertically challenged comprising Freddy and Ernie Tommaso with Harry and Laurie Gold. The Pieces of Eight and the Alan Kirby Dixielanders were 'horror or horrors' the only bands to put up music stands.'
Other bands filling in for Randall were Eric Silk and the early very loud and brash Mick Mulligan band which at that time had two banjos and Owen Madocks on the Sousaphone. Also in that band were Bob Dawbarn on trombone and either Pete Hull or Paul Simpson on clarinet.'
Eric remembers that the BBC broadcast 30 minute programmes from the club on its French service hosted by Robin Scott ('recently deceased and eventually a top man at the Beeb').The club was known as the Cleveland Rhythm Club and their 78s could be purchased from a table at the back together with those on London Jazz and Tempo along with the magazine Jazz Illustrated edited by Jim Godbolt, who in later years did the same for Ronnie Scott's Club house magazine. Bunny remembers that the Cleveland Rhythm Club was named after the Road where Albert and Doris Bale lived in Walthamstow. Click here for more about Albert Bale.
'Over the years Freddy had a succession of changes of personnel, among them trombonists Norman Cave and Geoff Sowden and clarinet players Gene Cotteril and Bernie Stanton,' says Eric. 'I remember the drummer Harry Millar who gave the drum roll in the beer drinking competitions and if you made a false start you just had to go and get another pint - it was a hard life. I also remember two women who always seemed to be obscuring the view. They were known as the 'Bronco girls' as they worked in the local toilet roll factory.' Eric also wonders if anyone else remembers how the odd chicken used to wander in from the land outside?
Sadly, Cooks Ferry Inn has long gone. Bunny says: 'It was demolished for road-widening. It used to be where the river Lea goes under the Lea Valley Viaduct, a continuation of Angel Road in Edmonton and this part of the road was also covered as part of the North Circular Road.'
Here once stood ......
John Capes adds to the memories of the club at Cooks Ferry Inn, Edmonton:
In the mid to late 1950's (I cannot recall the precise dates) I and my wife used to go to Cooks Ferry on Sunday lunchtimes when Freddy Randall played with what I suppose must have been a pick up band including Geoge Chisholm, Lennie Felix and Ian Wheeler. We had not been to the Ferry since the forties and it was great to hear Freddy again. I did record two sessions on a cassette recorder but lent these to an acquaintance who left the area (Enfield) without returning them.
George Chisholm at Cooks Ferry Inn
Photograph © John Capes
On one of these sessions I took my Leica camera loaded with 400 asa film and photographed the band. Unfortunately the lighting was low and even more unfortunately a red lamp was used over the stage giving illumination similar to a darkroom! I ended up taking shots at f2 and 1/8th of a second but even so and with forced development the negatives are very thin needing at that time grade 6 hard paper. I have attached a shot of George Chisholm which as you will see is quite grainy.
Albert Craske continues:
'Delighted to find your site re. Cook's Ferry Inn. I have recently been researching Dill Jones whom I remember often 'Guesting" at the Cleveland club around about 1949/50.'
'I was a member of the club (I still have my membership card somewhere). I was around14 at the time and used to catch a bus from Highams Park (Johnny Dankworth's home town) to queue outside the Ferry to be able to get a front row seat. I got to know Harry Miller very well, with all his front as a hardman he was a good guy at heart. I remember he had a clubbed foot which didn't seem to restrict his efforts on the bass drum (In fact, I think some nicknamed him 'leadfoot"). I started carrying a couple of his drums which were stenciled 'The Dill Jones Trio' for him to gigs and at one time had to take them to the Leyton Town Hall where Harry was playing with Freddy Randall. I also remember at that gig, believe it or not, Freddy played one number in the modern style, sailing a little close to the wind in that era. Harry often spoke about Freddy Mirfield and the Garbage Men the group in which Johnny Dankworth played.'
'I also remember that Harry lived in Edmonton where he had a room full of drums and a double bass which he played. As I said, he was good-hearted and offered to teach me the drums for nothing, in return for my drum porting efforts, sadly I didn't take him up on it as I was keen on the trombone (after hearing Geoff Sowden at the Ferry). Subsequently I learnt nothing and have always regretted it. Years later (in the 60s) I went to a Sunday Lunchtime session at the Ferry and as I walked in after so many years, there was Harry in the same position on the stand as ever. I walked up to him asked him if he remembered me (he did, he said) offered him a drink, and like lightning he said "I'll have a large Scotch". I was happy to oblige.'
'Does anyone remember 'Mad Mack McComb' the violinist, The Haims brothers, and of course George Melly who famously mentions Cook's Ferry in his autobiography 'Owning Up' as being a good place to have a 'knee trembler' under the adjacent viaduct arches, 'during the interval'?!'
'Does anyone remember the 'battle royal' between Freddy Randall and Humphrey Lyttleton's bands during a live B.B.C. recording? The hall was split in two with half the audience facing F.R. and the other H.L. I truly thought that Freddy won hands down, but then he was playing at home. Finally I recall waiting for a bus with Harry Miller outside the Ferry on our way with some drums to a gig somewhere, the bus didn't stop, and my God did I learn some inventive expletives from Harry. It stood me in good stead for my time in the Royal Navy when I was called up for National ServiceI!'
'Found some good stuff on Dil Jones, a brilliant pianist but who, like so many other jazz players, died before his time. I will however always remember his young face as he made the Ferry's piano sound superb.'
Alan Davis writes:
'A friend since my school days sent me these two memories of days gone by. We used to go to both clubs/pubs during the 50's and 60's until we were married, wonderful nights. In the early 50's we listened to Bobby Mickleborough, Joe Daniels, Eric Silk, Freddy Randall, George Melly with Mick Mulligan, Christie Bros. Stompers, etc.
Those were the days. Hope these two pictures will add to your collection. '
Alan Davis from Amersham Jazz Club sends us a photograph taken at the Cooks Ferry Inn somewhere around 1954 / 1955.
Alan says: 'It shows my group of friends (forefront) enjoying ourselves on Sunday night. Some of the guys, including myself (in centre grinning) still meet up for a jug or two. I wonder if any one can identify themselves, may be a long shot.'
Do any of those sharply dressed blades recognise themselves? Click the picture for an enlargement.
John Capes sent us this picture taken on a Sunday circa 1965 at Cook's Ferry Inn. John says: 'I did not note the date. The band led by Freddy Randall on trumpet was a pick up group with Lenny Felix piano, George Chisholm trombone, Ian Wheeler (I think) clarinet and Tony Allen drums. They played for a couple of hours that Sunday lunchtime. It looks like night but that is because all curtains were closed and the band was lit with red lighting making it like a darkroom.'
Tony Cash clarifies the question of the clarinet player: 'The Cook's Ferry Inn photo is intriguing: the bearded clarinetist is almost certainly my old, much lamented, friend, Alan Cooper. I didn't know that he'd played with Randall. In 1956, Alan was studying at the Royal College of Art, so any London gig was feasible.' Syd Wardman confirms it: 'Its Alan Cooper alright, I knew him well in Leeds in the 1950's - I recognise that stance.'
Syd Wardman follows up saying: 'I remember a person called Cash, but I dont know whether it's Tony, although this person was a friend of Alan Cooper Cash was a trumpet player - I remember he had a very mellifluous tone similar to Chet Baker. I wonder whether its the same chap?'
Tony Cash replies: 'The Cash Syd refers to is my younger brother, Bernard (known to many musicians as 'Bernie'). Sadly, he died of a heart attack while touring with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany in 1988: there was an obit in the TIMES. At that stage in his career he was playing double bass (jazz and classical) as well as teaching flute and saxophone. But his first instrument was the trumpet on which, from the very outset, he had gorgeous tone, somewhat fatter, I'd have said than Chet's. Bernard and I were both close friends of Alan Cooper who was a couple of years older than me (so three older than Bernard). We were all members of the same Leeds youth club along with a fine jazz pianist, Johnnie Woodhead, now based near Coventry. Pretty well anything I ever learned about playing jazz on the clarinet I learned from Coops. Off and on, for a period of around three years in the 1950s, Bernard and I shared accommodation with Alan off the Fulham Road in SW10.'
It was not just jazz that was played at Cook's Ferry Inn. George Welsh recalls many other famous rock names that appeared there too:
'During the mid 60's I would visit Cook’s Ferry Inn at least once a week where I saw bands such as The Graham Bond Organisation, The Who, The Animals, Alexis Korner, Spencer Davies and so on. Graham Bond was there almost every week and he played jazz and R&B on a Hammond organ, his bass player was Jack Bruce and the drummer was Ginger Baker, both of whom went on to form The Cream with Eric Clapton. In those days those days I used to smoke. The only place in a bus was on top and a couple of time I rode sitting next to Ginger Baker and we talked about music (don't ask me why he travelled by bus, I don't know).'
'Cook’s Ferry Inn was normally quite "roomey" except when The Animals played there and we were stacked like sardines. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce used to play with Graham Bond and I saw them many times at the Cook’s Ferry Inn, I used to get there fairly early and many a time saw all three of then lugging a Hammond organ from the back of their van.'
'The Who would play there frequently and I remember there used to be a cinema in Tottenham (about a couple of miles from the Cook’s Ferry) and above the cinema was an old ballroom, I took my girlfriend (then shortly to be my wife) to a Who gig in the ballroom. The Who were the second act and Dave Berry was the main feature (just after the release of his hit The Crying Game) the total audience was 7 including my wife and myself. During the Who session Pete Townshend wound up Keith Moon who went into an endless drum solo, so Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey joined my wife and myself for a pint!! From an audience of seven to seventy thousand about a year later - simply unbelievable! I'm a little hazy on this but I am fairly sure that during one of the Graham Bond sessions at the Cook’s Ferry Inn, Eric Clapton jammed with them, so if I remember correctly this would be where the first "Cream" number was ever played but I might just be wrong (fairly sure that I am right though).'
'I also got to know Keith West (Unit 4+1 and the writer of Grocer Jack), and the bass player of Unit 4+1 taught me to play in an all-night club called the Noriek Club in Seven Sisters Road, just a few minutes from the Cooks Ferry. They had some great acts play there - some of your readers must have gone there on Saturday nights.'
Noel Livermore writes with the following recollections of Cook's Ferry Inn. Perhaps some of the bands or musicians he noted will spark off memories for others?
'I don’t remember exactly when I first went to Cooks Ferry Inn; probably in 1946 when I was on a Navy course at the Walthamstow College (SWETC). Les Geare, a friend from those earlier days, had something to do with the running of the club I think. I didn’t join until October 1947 when I started at college in London. I used to cycle there most Sunday evenings from my digs off Sloane Street. As I recall it, Freddy Randall was there most weeks, plus a visiting group or soloists. Was it at Cooks Ferry that I first saw George Webb? I kept a diary in those days but didn’t always record who was playing, and probably got some of the names wrong anyway'.
Oct 19 Royce Hart group very good.
Oct 26 Cab Kaye sang
Nov 2 Second group (Rowden Sheppard) good.
Nov 9 Freddy had a split lip. Blueblowers poor.
Dec 14 A good evening, John Haim, Wally Fawkes etc.
Jan 11 Changes in the band.
Jan 24 Freddy absent. Nick on trumpet, Tony on trombone.
Feb 1 Mark White, Graeme Bell, Harry Gold all on the program. Dill Jones also had a go.
Feb 8 Pete Gaskell better than Wally Fawkes!
Feb 15 Freddy fit again.
Feb 22 Den Croker and Ken Walker played.
Feb 29 Beryl B (Bryden? I’m not sure).
Apr 11 John Haim played.
Apr 25 Dill Jones Trio very good.
May 1 (Saturday) Freddy on Jazz Club.
May 2 Dill Jones again.
May 9 Harry Gold pretty good.
May 23 Wally Fawkes played with Freddy. Also Swing Quartet.
Jun 6 NFJO at Mac’s rooms, Freddy and Graeme Bell. Then to Cooks Ferry; John Haim played.
Jun 12 (Saturday) at Victory House, broadcast. Humph OK, the others booed – put up music stands!
Nov 7 Freddy back, new vocalist, Maxine Russell.
Nov 14 Judy J and Maxine sang, Ken Walker there.
Nov 20 (Saturday) Jazz Club at Cooks Ferry. Freddy on form. Also Moffat, Kath Stobart, Doreen Henry.
Dec 5 Nat Stone played until Freddy returned from broadcast. New baritone sax player very good.
Dec 19 Ken Wallbank and Cab Kaye.
Jan 23 Mac McCoombe (violinist) very good.
Jan 30 Roy Vaughan second group. Heard news of John Haim’s death.
May 1 Freddy very good. Beryl (Bryden)’s group OK; “Hurry on Down”
Anne Beaven also remembers Wood Green and the Cooks Ferry Inn:
I used to attend Trinity Grammar School 1958/63 and we spent many happy hours at the Wood Green Jazz Club, dancing the stomp to trad jazz bands. We had to pretend to be 18 so that we could get in. I remember Wood Green Jazz Club as being quite small and dark but with a great bohemian atmosphere.
We also used to dance at Harry Bolt's in Wood Green and the Bruce Grove and Manor House Jazz clubs where during the interval, fabulous blues records were played including Muddy Waters and Lightening Hopkins.
We also used to go to the Cooks Ferry Inn where we saw The Animals with Alan Price and Eric Burdon. The list of great bands and singers that we saw is endless, Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball and many others.
We mainly went to the Jazz clubs to dance and obviously to hear the bands. I don't even remember having anything to drink and certainly not anything alcoholic We very rarely danced with boys, if ever, and would jive with others girls wearing tights jeans and our dad's large baggy jumpers.
John Postgate remembers the early days at Cook's Ferry Inn:
'On April 18 1948 the Oxford University Dixieland Bandits played an interval gig at the Ferry to applause described by one musician as 'sensational'. Playing were: John Lee (t), John Postgate (c), Paul Vaughan (cl), Mervyn Brown (ts), Dave Clinch (p), Jim Hartley (g),Mike Samuels (b), Unk (d). Members of the Graeme Bell band were present because I remember chatting to Lazy Ade Monsborough.'
Whilst Janice Crotts (maiden name Drew) writes from Kansas in the USA about Cook's Ferry in the 1960s:
'I just read your information on the Cooks Ferry Inn and I remember it quite well. I used to go there in the middle to late 60s and remember seeing Long John Baldry, The Cream, Rod Stewart and many others. At half time we used to sometimes chat with the stars, while they had a pint. I still have my card somewhere for the Cooks Ferry Inn and then on the other nights it used to be The Blue Opera Club and I believe I have my card for that one also.'
John Westwood writes to us from Spain:
'Back in the '40s, I played drums with John Haim's Jellyroll Kings
and regularly haunted Cook's Ferry Inn, so your piece in the forum
which I've only just found, is of great interest.
Gerry Haim played sousa with the band, and he lives down the
road a bit from us now.
Pianoman was Dave Stevens, who emigrated to Oz with clarinetist
Paul Simpson. Paul died a few years ago, sadly, but Dave is still
well and truly on the scene.
Gerry and I frequently talk about happy days at the Ferry - and on
the banks of the Lea on Sundays. Derek Neville used to give us
a lift back to the tube station in his huge Ford V8-Pilot station wagon
(you had to squeeze between the sax-cases!); when particularly lucky,
Steve Race who then lived in Wembley, would drive me in his nice
shiny new Standard 8, back almost to my door in Stanmore, where
I then lived. Loads of reminiscences there - some others you can read (click here).'
A further recollection of Cook's Ferry Inn comes from Michael Clarke:
'I used to go to the Cook's Ferry club in 1957-8. My favourite band was Brian Wooley, who played a really hot clarinet. At around this time Kenny Ball started there but I wasn`t impressed - his success rather surprised me.'
If you can add to these memories of Cooks Ferry Inn, please contact us.
This is rather a long shot, but Vicenti O. Osin-Juan Adegbola writes saying:
'I came across the site whilst searching for the name of a guitar duo I
saw at the Cooks Ferry Inn around the late 60's.
Appearing as cavaliers, they played Renaissance and Baroque music exquisitely.
They had a major, and life changing effect on me as this was the
specific event that introduced me to the tradition of "classical"
Spanish guitar, which later lead to my studying music formally.
I cannot even remember the band they supported, as because of their
superb playing, and my near ecstatic enjoyment of their music, they had
become, for me, the major music event of the night.
Regrettably however, I cannot remember their name now, except that it
was noteworthy and intriguing.
I am hoping that I might get information on the bands, organisers,
agents, venue organisers and administrators, anything at all.
Even, a direction or suggestions of where to search would be appreciated.'
Please contact us if you can help.
Stan Goodall writes:
I was fascinated by the info on Cook’s Ferry Inn and reminiscences of other people . I was about 15/16 (late 40’s) when I regularly caught 2 buses to take me from Dagenham to Cook’s on Sunday evenings to listen to Freddy and so many other great musicians. One memory that sticks in my mind was when the band would walk off into the bar and leave Lennie Hastings playing ‘Battle of Hastings’ , which must have gone on for 5 minutes or more – he needed the drink after that.
There were so many great players there and it was nice to be reminded of their names, but to me Freddy Randall was a “natural” , his instrument wasn’t something he picked up and put to his lips – it seemed to be part of his body which could produce different notes and sounds with remarkable range and agility.
I’ve got a cassette of Dixieland Favourites and often play Memphis Blues with Freddy and his All-stars . His muted solo in that makes me chuckle with pleasure, he does everything but make it “talk”. I’m trying to track down a CD of the same number so that it can be played at my funeral, at the end, as they all depart with a smile on their face!
Please contact us if you can help.
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