Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Jazz king Kenny learnt his first licks in our city
IT might have been Midnight in Moscow, but it was school lunch break in Worcester for Trad Jazz legend Kenny Ball, who has died at the age of 82.
Because back in the late 1930s, the Ball family – father, mother and nine children – moved from Dagenham, in the east end of London, to the city after Mr Ball senior, a master bookbinder, took a job with printers Ebenezer Baylis.
By then Kenny, who was the youngest of the brood, could already play the harmonica and many years later recalled the Sunday afternoon singalongs of his childhood, with the whole family joining in on a variety of instruments.
Which no doubt livened up the peace and quiet of the secluded Foxwell Street no end. Kenny’s name appears on the school’s admissionsregister as number 1,945, although there are no details as to when he joined or left the establishment.
The Balls returned to London before the outbreak of the Second World War and Kenny joined the Sea Cadets, eventually becoming a bugler and starting his love affair with the trumpet.
He acquired his first proper instrument for £10 at the age of 13 via an advertisement in Melody Maker and set off on a career that would turn him into one of the powerhouse players of British jazz.
The Kenny Ball Jazz Band went on to score several hits in the British pop charts of the 1960s, its best known being Samantha and the million-selling Midnight in Moscow. It was also a regular on television and appeared in five series with Morecambe and Wise. With a lively, energetic style, the band remained one of the most popular acts on the jazz and light entertainment scene for four decades.
It had another connection with Worcestershire too, because for most of the 1990s, Kenny Ball topped the bill at a jazz festival held at the unlikely venue of The Flyford Arms pub, Flyford Flavell. The licensee at the time, Peter Stephens, was a keen jazz fan and booked Kenny 10 years in a row as the main attraction. About 400 fans used to turn up to hear jazz in a marquee.