Eunice Davison has many golden memories of her years in the glittering
world of showbiz.Those were the years towards the end of World War Two
when Eunice' still only 18, played the saxophone and clarinet with
the celebrated Ivy Benson's All Girl Band.
Edna Wayne, Eunice Cox, Norma Cameron, Irene Boynton and Lena Kidd.
Eunice is now living
at The Phoenix Residential Care Home, Chapel St Leonards and recently
she was given a very special surprise and an op-portunity to reflect
on her musical career with one of the most popular bands of the Forties
and Fifties. In those far off days, Eunice traveled to many parts of
the world with Ivy and the girls, enter-taining troops who were still
overseas. Now, with the help of her friends, Sue and Peter Stapleton,
Eunice has been able to hear the band again and her own performance
on a new CD. Recently the Target featured Peter Stapleton's hobby -
Peter's wife, Sue, is activities officer at the Phoenix Centre and the
couple have made it possible for Eunice to hear again, the music that
she played, many years ago.A new company is currently reproducing on
CDs, the music of the big bands and Peter had located a CD on which
the company has featured the music of Ivy Benson's and her Girls' Band.
Sue had taken the Centre's CD player into Eunice's room and Peter set
things in motion while Eunice sat quietly,wondering what surprise was
When she heard the first bars of "I cover the Waterfront"
the amazement on her face was a joy to see. At the sound of the alto
saxophone she said, excitedly "Thats me!" Then followed "I'm
in the mood for love" and "If I had my way" with Eunice
finding it difficult to keep a dry eye.
Said Peter "The reproduction of the music of these bands of years
ago is as good now as it was when we first heard it!'' It was s a huge
surprise to Eunice and a greeat pleasure to watch her as she sat back
in her chair and listened to the loveley sounds of Ivy Benson and the
Born in 1925, Eunice
was only 14 at the out-break of the Second World War and was still at
school. She had hoped to go to college but eventually, she went to a
girls' school until she was 16 and then studied at evening classes.
Said Eunice: "I loved music and always wanted to play an instrument.
After leaving school, Eunice would be found at the Victoria Ballroom,
Nottingham, every Tuesday night, where she enjoyed old time and modern
In the 1930s, Eunice's mother, Nellie Cox, had her own band. They were
known as Mrs Cox's Boys and included Colin, Eunice's brother who is
well known in Nottingham and further afield. It was from Nellie that
Eunice and Colin inherited their musical talent and they never wavered
from their desire to be come professional musicians, despite the fact
that their father would have preferred them to follow more conventional
In those early days. Eunice had started playing thee violin at the Church
Hall. "Then I took up the clarinet and later the saxophone"
she said. I was trained on the saxophone by Jimmy Honeyman, well known
band leader in Nottingham ballrooms".
Soon Eunice was playing at different venues in Nottingham and all the
money she earned was put into a bank account for her "musical future".
When she was 18, she used the money to buy a new saxophone. "I'd
a waited a long I time for that!" she said.
Eunice's music teacher was Bert Tyler and she had played alongside him,
as lead violinist, when he was conductor of the 'pit' orchestra at Nottingham's
In 1945, when Eunice was playing with Gloria Gaye and her Girls, she
went to Derby to see Ivy Benson who was appearing in the town. Eunice
plucked up courage to seek an interview with Ivy. "I never actually
attended an audition with her" said Eunice. "I just went along
and asked if I could do a number with the band. l was placing that night."
said Eunice. "I could play anything by ear and I was invited into
the band room."
Eunice was thrilled to see the empty instrument cases, beautiful dresses
and silver shoes scattered around and longed to be a part of it."That
was really, the start of my career with Ivy," she said, "and
although I was sad to leave my parents, I was des-perate to join the
band!" Eunice said, "The band had toured the world during
the early years of the war. It was dangerous but the troops loved Ivy
and the girls.
Eunice also played the baritone saxophone but, as the photograph shows,
it was almost bigger than Eunice, who said "I stuck to the Alto
sax instead. Remembering those bygone days, Eunice reflected "It
was wonderful when the curtain went up and we saw all the troops sitting
there waiting for us.They cheered when we appeared and despite the war
we enjoyed a lot of parties after the show was over". Eunice revealed:
"We were not too popular with leaders of the other big hands and
there was jealousy, but the musicians in those bands were always very
courteous to us."
The Viennese Ballroom, Skegness 1948.
Ivy was extremely talented; She played clarinet, baritone saxophone,
piano and other instruments "much better than !" said Eunice
with a smile. Eumce met her late husband, Eric at Butlins, Filey, while
she was still with Ivy's band. Eric was manager of the resident band
at the camp.
They were married and lived happily together for many years, eventually
moving to Chapel St Leonards where Eric was for ten years, secretary
of the old Chapel St Leonards Football club. Eunice treasures the gold
medal that was presented to Eric for his services.
When Eric died, some years ago, Eunice remained in Chapel St Leonards
where they had spent so many happy years together. Now she is living
quietly in the residential home, happy in the knowledge that Sue and
Peter can bring to her the lovely music of Ivy Benson that was part
of her life many years ago. "I have so many wonderful memories"
said Eunice. "They are always with me, and now I can hear again
the music that was my life and which I love so much".