Eleanor "Lena" Kidd, from Leven in Fife, joined the Ivy Benson Band in 1945 at the age of 21. She was the first Scot to join the band. Lena learned to play the accordion at the age of 13 from Jimmy Shand (famous accordion player). Her father, Len Kidd, was the drummer in Jimmy Shand's dance band at the time. Lena later learned alto sax and clarinet and she played regularly with the Arcadian Dance Band.

The audition came about when a man approached her and said "I like your playing. I know Ivy Benson; how would you like an audition?" She coolly replied "I would like that very much, thank you."

Lena auditioned in Glasgow in May 1945 and Ivy was so impressed with Lena's playing that she played with the band the very next day in Manchester.
When she auditioned, her main instrument was accordion, doubling with alto sax and clarinet. Under advice from Ivy, Lena quickly changed from alto sax to tenor, and with great success. From then on the tenor sax was her first instrument, doubling on accordion and clarinet.

Lena toured with the band till 1953 including the overseas tours, entertaining the troops in Germany, Holland, the Middle East and Egypt. During her time in the band, she was possibly the only member of the band, besides Ivy, that attended every overseas tour that the band played.

In 1953 Lena left the Ivy Benson Band and joined the Gracie Cole Orchestra. Gracie, trumpet player, was previously also a member of the Ivy Benson band.

Lena formed her own band in 1956, which was originally called the Lena Kidd Quartet. The band eventually became the Lena Kidd Seven. She toured with her band, including France and Germany, until the mid 1960s when she decided to call it a day.

In 1970 she married trumpet player Ray Willis. When he suddenly died in 1978, Lena moved back to Leven. She continued to live there, playing in small jazz bands in the 80s.

Lena died on 21st November 2003

Click here to see Lena Kidd's photographs.

Lena Kidd

Played Tenor Sax, Accordian, Alto Sax and Clarinet

1945 to 1953


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