One of the Benson Girls.

(from Eunice Cox - Evening Post
17July 1984)


Eunice in 1984, with her Beuscher Alto Saxophone

Women's Lib was still a gleam in eye of the feminists; employers never ever advertised for female bricklayers or tyre fitters but if you could blow a trumpet or play the saxophone you could still beat the boys…... in an All Girl Band.

Memories of the Golden Years of the All Girl Band have been revived for Bulwell-born Mrs Eunice Davison, who now lives at Chapel St. Leonards, by a show at the Birmingham Rep called "The Silver Lady", the dramatized life story of Ivy Benson. Mrs Davison, then Eunice Cox, played alto and baritone sax in Ivy's All Girl Band for seven of its prime years. Before that she played for 18 months in the Gloria Gaye All Girl Band. With Ivy she traveled most of the Middle East, entertaining troops as part of Combined Services Entertainment. Nearer home they played the Moss Empires circuit and or a while had a regular Sunday night spot at the London Palladium. Eunice enjoyed these spots, because afterwards she had time to get to St Pancras to catch a late train to Nottingham for a weekend at home.

She comes from a musical family. Her brother, Colin, still has his own band in Nottingham and specialises in reviving the Big Band sounds of Glen Miller, Benny Goodman and the like. Both owe a lot to their mother, a talented pianist and founder of Mrs Cox and her band, which played in Bulwell and the Victoria Ballroom. When Eunice joined Ivy Benson in 1944 she had already worked, as a teenager, with Jimmy Honeymans band.

Ivy had 17 regular musicians, plus vocalists, but for special "Ladies Nights" she gathered guest stars such as Dorothy Squires, Lana Morris, Renee Houston and Jeanne de Cassalis. The biggest date in Eunices career was at Butlins, Filey, in 1949, when the Ivy Benson girls were playing at one end of the camp and the Charles Amer Band was playing at the other. Four of Ivys girls met and married musicians from the Amer band, and Eunice was one of them. Eric Davison was a Bass player, and after they married in 1951 Eunice played for a season with the Amer band - the only woman among some of the country's finest dance band players. Then she and Eric went into hotel management and settled on the Lincolnshire coast
Eunice still keeps in touch with Ivy Benson, who still has a small band on the road. Ivy is a show biz veteran

 


who hates to talk about her age. Eunice also skips a couple of notes when that touchy question arises, but admits she is rather older than Ivy.

She doesn't go much for rock music, preferring instead the big band music of Syd Lawrence. And she sometimes still hankers for the days when she lived out of a suitcase and played the saxophone every night.

Like a host of local musicians, Eunice trained in Nottingham before the war when every street had its dance band and the slogan was, "If she's beautiful, she dances".Those tuneful 1930s, when Nottingham
was the swinging Queen of the Midlands, have been
researched by Mr Les Cripwell, of Lowdham, himself a former member of Billy Merrin's band and its unofficial historian.

If you think some of the names present groups choose are odd, then savour these: Ted Bee and his Buzzers, Pullens Stompers, The Footwarmers, Bert Flukes Clapper Band …, to name but a few. Mr Cripwell lists no less than 58 places, which offered dancing from the 1920s onwards. They include five big ballrooms accommodating 1,200 dancers. Four public baths were fitted with dance floors in winter, and most school-rooms, church halls and works canteens had dancing. Boots offered three dance halls- Pelham Street, Trent Bridge, and Boots Pleasaunce, Wilford Lane. Billy Merrin and his Commanders were at the Palais; Fullerton Wills at the Victoria; Vincent Norman at Greyfriars; Eric Harrington at the Ritz, Angel Row; and Rube Sunshine at the Elite.

The Mikado and Lyons cafes, Long Bow, all provided light music, as did Yates's Wine Lodge. Local musicians quickly made the big time. Cyril Stapleton and Joe Hitchenor went to Henry Hall. Trumpeter Lew Dunn joined Billy Cotton. Roy Hatton joined Edmundo Ros and Stan Richmond joined Debroy Somers.

Syd Bartle, a drummer from Newark, joined George Elrick, and at least three local players, John Cox, Arthur Johnson and Rudd Wardle, joined the Al Washbrooke Band. Local musicians helped the Billy Merrin Band make national name for itself.


Flashback to the late Forties - Eunice is second from the left.

Every big band had its signature tune, and Les Cripwell can recall most of them. Here are a few: Ambrose - "When Day is Done", Billy Cotton - "Somebody Stole my Gal", Henry Hall - "Here's to the Next Time", Charlie Kunz - "Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie", Syd Lawrence - "Evening Serenade", Sydney Lipton - "I'll See You in my Dreams", Stanley Black - "That Old Black Magic", Victor Sylvester - "You're Dancing On My Heart", Geraldo - "Hello Again" and "Lady of Spain".