Ellens Double Bass
(Emailled by Carol Powells - Sept 2006)

I received an email from a visitor to this site, who plays the Bass and also sings. She was given to understand that the instument she had purchased had been extensively used by the Ivy Benson Band, and had travelled all over Europe and the UK. These two emails and a good deal of footwork have provided a facinating story of this instrument and it's past. My thanks go to Carol Powells for her (and her husband, Jimmys') efforts in gathering this information and providing a facinating story.

B D Ravenhill
Webmaster

Ellen Park - c. early 1950's

Original email:

Hello! I have just found this website and am really thrilled. I believe I have a double bass that was used extensively in the Ivy Benson Orchestra. I bought it two years ago from an elderly gentleman in Cramlington, Northumberland, where I live. He is a bass player and despite being in his 80's, still plays in 3 bands. He told us that the bass had been owned by a lady who played in Ivy's band. She used it as her travelling bass, as her first bass was heavier and was very valuable. He understood that the bass had travelled all over with the band. It is really battered and scarred but is still in one piece and has a great sound. We believe it to be at least 60 years old. What is really nice is that I play it myself (I am also a singer), so it has ended up being played by a woman again

Second email:

My husband and I have had an interesting day, because we telephoned the elderly man from whom we bought the bass and he gave us the name of the previous owner, who he said was the brother of the lady who had played with Ivy Benson. He only knew the street name in the town of Blyth, where he lived, about 4 miles from us on the coast.We went down to the street and after a great deal of door-knocking by my husband, found a lady who used to live next door to this gentleman; he had by this time had moved on.She took us to the estate where he now lives and it was my long-suffering husband Jimmy (a fine mandolin and guitar player, incidentally) who pressed door bells until we actually found the man we wanted!

He was happy to ask us in and we had a long chat. His name is Jacky Park and his sister was Ellen Park. Jacky is 80 and although very bright and chirpy, it was hard to keep him on the subject of his sister. Ellen was in the band from approx late forties (possibly 1948) to fifties. He had a photograph of Ellen and other band members taken in 1952 I think.

 

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She is sitting next to Ivy in the picture and was a pretty blonde girl. The photograph had been given to Jacky by someone who had apparently got it from a website. I have looked at quite a lot of the photos on the site but didn't see this one. However, as I now know what Ellen looked like, I will look again.

Ellen Park was born in 1924 and grew up in Blyth, Northumberland (my own home town, actually). Her father was very musical and taught both her and her brother to play the double bass. Ellen also played the piano. Apparently her father telephoned Ivy Benson from the telephone kiosk in their street and asked her to audition his daughter. She soon had an audition with Ivy in Manchester.

He remembered when his father and he accompanied Ellen to London to play with Ivy; it had been arranged for her to stay with the family of a trombone player, Laura Jenkins (Laura Lynne - see "Laura Lynnes story" in the "Press Cuttings " section). They had previously met the family, but when they took Ellen back later there was no one at home. Ellen must have had a key, because she was in the house on her own. The father and brother noticed a very strange man in the basement of the house. They thought he must be simple or odd in some way because he stared through the windows with large eyes. They became very worried about leaving Ellen with such a weirdo about.

To test the water, they walked 12 yards down the road and turned round suddenly. As they expected, the strange man had come out of his house and was watching them. Needless to say, they went back and collected Ellen, and took her to their own B&B!

Ellen Park played with Ivy Benson for two spells, over a period of years, during which she toured with the band "all over Europe", including Germany and Ireland. As I previous mentioned, she used the bass I now have as her travelling instrument as it was lighter than her best one.

Ellen married someone by the name of Etherington and lived in Bradford. Sadly she died in 1988 when she was knocked down on a pelican crossing.

From Carol Powells - September 2006