The Ivy League

"Ah, yes - you're the girl who plays the trumpet". The number of times I've had that said to me!" "No" I replied patiently, " it's the trombone".

"You must have played with Ivy Benson" is the next inevitable comment - which just goes to show what an unassailable pedestal Ivy placed herself on with her all-girl band. Others tried it, but none succeeded to the same extent. Almost every girl musician worth her salt has worked with Ivy.

I joined Ivy Benson straight from the Royal Academy of Music - green, innocent and knowing absolutely nothing about dance music. Discovering that I had to read hand written manuscript was a great shock. I'd only ever read printed parts, and had great difficulty in sorting out which note was which. Fortunately, Ivy was a good teacher, and by the end of two weeks playing at an Ideal Home exhibition in Edinburgh, I was beginning to get the hang of things.

Our next gig was at an American Base where they fed us before we went on the stand. This was 1956 and I'd never seen or imagined steaks that size. So I ate this enormous T bone steak and soon wished I hadn't. After a couple of hours playing we took our break - and back came the T bone steak!

We arrived back in London at 4.30am with a coach call at midday for a concert in Felixtow, from which we arrived back at 2.30 am. If this was show business I was beginning to wonder if I could stand the pace.

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We arrived back in London at 4.30am with a coach call at midday for a concert in Felixstow, from which we arrived back at 2.30 am. Worse was to come. Like the night we played Leeds, finished at midnight and arrived in Blackpool at 3am. One look at our digs and the four of us sharing one room decided that no way were we going to get into those beds!

I stayed eighteen months with the band, and it was great fun, apart from the travelling. Four or five one-night stands a week with no motorways meant many hours spent in the band coach. The hardest job from the playing point of view was three weeks playing at The Tabaris in Dusseldorf, where we worked from 4.30 to 6.30 and 8.30 to 12.30 daily seven days a week, with one late night a week until 1.30 am. I don't think I ever felt so tired in my life - before or since.

But I wouldn't have missed the time I spent with the Ivy Benson Band and when, one night last February, I found myself playing with a seventeen piece line-up at Crayford Town Hall, with revolving glitter-ball, quicksteps, foxtrots and waltzes, the memories came flooding back.

And I thought - Gee, they were good days……….

Kind permission of Sheila Tracy
and published in the
"Crescendo" magazine 1987