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
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.
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
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
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
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".