January 1940...we have a name!
We continue our tale of the Peterhead Kings of Swing in this, the final chapter of our story, which was written by Tom Peter for an edition of the Buchan Observer back in 1968.
Things were moving for the bad as, after a student’s dance in the Masonic Hall on Wednesday, 12, Thursday and Friday, saw us playing as Pit Orchestra for a concert at Cruden Bay and the dance that followed.
We were gaining experience and confidence all the time.
Had a bit of a pack in the Morris 16 I had at the time, beds and instruments inside and the bass on top, but we managed.
Graeme had his own transport for the drums by this time since he had further to come.
A couple of items of no consequence just now; Jimmy moved into the new flats above Hepworths at the top of Marischal Street built on the site of the Picture House and Empress Hall which had been burned to the ground in 1936.
And I was now charged 8d for a haircut - up from 6d!
The month of May saw the start of the various ‘Flannel’ dances and we got rigged out in blue shirts and grey flannels. It was surprising just how warm it was playing at these dances.
Our first was the BB (I assume it to be the Boy’s Brigade) Flannel ‘do’ in the Masonic on the 19th.
In June, Ronnie Sinclair, a younger apprentice with Ali, Sandy, Jimmy and Joe, got an alto saxophone from his father.
The latter had the music and tobacconist shop on Queen Street beside Lawsons the ladies’ outfitters and was organised in the East Parish Church at the junction of Queen Street and King Street.
This was another musical family well known in town, Ronnie’s tomoby sister Gena, in my class in the academy, was a brilliant pianist and the parents both popular singers.
The lades coached Ron for his future inclusion in the band.
I forgot to mention a bit of a setback in April.
After choir practice in the church on a wet Friday evening I was running some of the girls home when, for some obscure reason or other the car ran into a lamp post and sustained considerable damage.
The result was a fine of £2 in court and the car off the road.
But nothing daunted! Sutherland’s had a brown 20hp Austin taxi which I made use of, a muckle big thing it was.
The boys used to say we could almost have our own dance in the back.
This car was ideal for transporting us, bodies, instruments, double bass and all and I see that we hired us a recording session in the Music Hall in Aberdeen on June 17, 1939.
After this new experience and a meal in Strathdee’s the rest of the lads went to the Diamond Street Palais while Jimmy and I went ice skating.
That was my first attempt at skating and I did quite a bit later on in Paisley during part of the war period.
The hire of the taxi was £1 which we reckoned was good value since we got home at 2am.
The recording session was quite interesting and the records were made of slim, aluminium discs, the size of 78s but had to be played with a fibre needle or stylus.
We made one or two sides and I recorded a couple of songs.
I still have the records but being of aluminium, as is that metal’s failing, they are somewhat ‘pitted’ and continuous playing is impossible.
I see that two or three times after this episode Jimmy with his girl Isobel and myself with Evelyn, whom I was ‘walking out’ with at the time, went through to the skating followed by hot dogs and coffee before returning home in the early hours.
There is no record of exactly when we decided to call ourselves The Ambassdors, but in January there was a mention of the fact we now had a name, and music stands in blue and gold and right nice they were too!
The band was well into its stride by the summer and I see that we were playing more or less every Friday evening either in the Masonic or Rescue Halls, interspersed with daundry dances in Strichen, Stuartfield, Maud, Mintlaw etc.
I will remember some of those dances in the country where the crowd would do ‘set’ dances such as the eightsome reel, dashing white sergeant, even the lancers and quadrilles; the band would start off playing but soon couldn’t be heard for the ‘hootching’ and laughter - we just stopped and let the drums carry on - the country folk certainly enjoyed themselves.
And so, this is where we came in, as it were. July 21, 1929.
For the next month or two the diary records that with Alec now on the Ambassadors piano I was free to accept pianist jobs for the army recruiting dances in Longside, Mintlaw, Old Deer and Stuartfield etc, sometimes twice a week.
In fact, at one Mintlaw ‘do’ Alec was on piano with myself on drums. I gather that the country band lads had been called up to the services.
Twice in August of that year I see I took our own band boys through to Aberdeen to hear Ken Johnston (who was later killed in a bnombing raid in London) and his band at the Diamond Street Palais and Sydney Lipton at the Beach Ballroom, which I think was closed shortly after as the war hotted up.
This was on the 30th and was one of our wildere nights, probably due to talk of war and the knowledge that it might be our last outing together.
As a rule, none of us drunk, but this night the lads went to town, as it were.
I had to watch what I had to drink since I was driving - they relied on me to remain sober - but they all, to put it mildly - had one or two or three too many and after helping each other into the car we set off.
The full moon was so bright that I remember driving on side lights only, just like fading daylight and after a session of singing and carousing in the back the crew subsided upon each other in a heap.
This was all right until some time later on when I expect I had dozed off and we all woke up with the car crossing the ditch and running along a steep bank on the wrong side of the road.
They were dumped at each home considerably sobered up round about four o’clock in the morning. We couldn’t really blame Sid Lipton!
Personally, during this time, having spent seven years in the motor and heavy goods vehicle trade, I was keen to get on somewhat and was studying aero engineering at nights.
I had volunteered to join the local TA Group as a heavy truck driver but was not accepted since I didn’t have a heavy goods licence.
And so, when in November an urgent advert appeared for time-served engineers to build aeroplanes, I jumped at the chance and hied me off to Blackburn Aircraft Co at Abbotsinch near Paisley where I was for three years before going to sea in a Combined Operations branch of the services.
Having lost touch with Petehread over the years I never heard what happened to The Ambassadors.
I daresay they suffered the effects of the war too, but at least I left them in good form.