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25 cents?! Ha! No, no... I wouldn't pay 25 cents to go in nowhere! - 1933's Gimmie A Pigfoot by Bessie Smith

Author Topic: Broonzy British Benefit Concert  (Read 2020 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Broonzy British Benefit Concert
« on: November 19, 2005, 01:00:15 AM »
I came across the following in Jazz Journal whilst searching for something else. I pass it on without comment but as the writer notes the intentions were laudable. In 1958 I guess 1,000GBP was a substantial sum of money. Any Brit here "of an age" to have attended either of these events?
Good Health, Bill
? About the only laudatory thing one can say about the two benefit concerts held in London in aid of Big Bill Broonzy was that they raised about ?1,000 for him. One must admit. of course, that this was the object; but the undertones of ill will that were sparked off were surely unnecessary.
? ?We will say no more about them at this stage, mainly because they would no doubt be libelous, but also because it is time that the wounds were allowed to heal.
? ?The concerts were curious affairs. The first one at the Coliseum was organised by H. Croft Associates, and was distinguished by some great jazz from the Lyttelton Band. Humph had his band and the guest stars who appeared with him at the theatre some two hours before the concert started. This was the sort of unselfish gesture that one associates with benefit concerts. During a collection amongst the audience, three prominent figures were pushed through the curtains to speak on behalf of Bill. One can only assume that a very poor briefing had been given, because the overall effect was hardly calculated to have us all digging in our pockets. Sandy Brown came for ward to harangue us in his thickest Hibernian accent with a lengthy anecdote about how Bill was used to drinking a bottle of Scotch a day, and we were left with the impression that our money would immediately upon receipt be turned into bottles of Scotch for Bill. Next Humph appeared and accused us of being insincere. His speech was a little involved, but the gist of it seemed to point to the fact that if Bill had made a recording of Hound Dog, and made a lot of money, we wouldn't have supported him now. Very true. He wouldn't have needed it. Lastly, through the curtains came Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She, of course, went off on a different track, and ended with a statement which can only be summarised as follows: "The good Lord's will will be done, and he will provide". In other words, don't bother to give any money, everything will be alright.
? ?On the following Friday, the midnight matinee at the Dominion took place. This raised ?500, almost entirely through the drawing power of Lonnie Donegan, Chris Barber and Ken Colyer. Certainly the people who came to help Big Bill ? other than the artists and the NJF [National Jazz Federation - BH] officials who organised the concert ? were very limited. This became apparent when Chris Barber stepped forward at the end to explain that they couldn't carry on playing any longer much as they would like to. "There is a penalty clause in our contract with the Theatre" he said "which means for every minute that we go on playing, money is being taken from Big Bill".?"So what", yelled someone in the front row.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Broonzy British Benefit Concert
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2005, 04:55:51 AM »
What a fascinating insight into those events and those times. I think a thousand pounds in those days was quite a fortune - probably the equivalent of about fifteen thousand now.

Offline Richard

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Re: Broonzy British Benefit Concert
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2005, 05:14:53 AM »
A very English happening !
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Broonzy British Benefit Concert
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2005, 10:05:26 AM »
A very English happening !
Indeed so. Sister Rosetta was touring Britain with Chris Barber at the time,?hence her timely participation. Here's a brief, anonymous review of another "very English happening":

Four months ago Sister Rosetta Tharpe took Britain by storm and hot gospelled her way up and down the country. Amidst rapturous applause she started her tour at Birmingham's Town Hall. Comparisons may be invidious and a repeat performance on such a scale probably out-of-the-question but I still feel something of an anti-climax, a feeling of having seen it done better before, about the show put on for April 8th here. This time Sister Rosetta Tharpe was accompanied by Mick Mulligan's Band and rather than say harsh words about them and more kind ones about the Barber band. I will content myself with saying that even Sister had to work for her applause. The band opened the show and got away to a fine start with "Royal Garden" and, "Yellow Dog". But they had "let the audience cool down somewhat by the time Sister came on. On the previous occasion many people came who would have come anyway to hear Chris Barber; even so, a better job was done then getting the audience into a good frame of mind.
I missed the spellbound hush which previously accompanied "Peace in the Valley" and "By and By" was spoilt by the band. Best offering of Mick Mulligan was the featured clarinet solo of Ian Christie in "Shanty in Old Shanty Town".
A small audience was partly explained by the fact the Easter Tuesday is a holiday in the Midlands. We had expected to hear Sister Rosetta Tharpe a fortnight earlier but continental dates intervened. It is good to report that enthusiastic audiences welcomed her in Spain, Sweden, France and Germany.(Jazz Music May-June 1958)

Offline GerryC

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Re: Broonzy British Benefit Concert
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2005, 08:36:40 AM »
I'm not of an age to have attended either of these concerts (I don't think they let many 10-year olds into jazz concerts in those days  :'(...) but just to put the amount raised into context: the ? in 1958 was worth about $4. As a factory worker, my father earned about ?15 per week after deductions in 1958. In 1968, when I worked for an insurance company for a year before going to university, I earned about ?45 a month. When I started teaching in 1971, my starting salary before deductions was ?948.Per year. So those who attended the Broonzy benefits were generous people, despite whatever political shenanigans were going on backstage....


Gerry C
I done seen better days, but I'm puttin' up with these...


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