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Chapter 10
Playing with the Ivy Benson Band in Bristol.

I carried on going to Manchester and then Ivy's band became the resident BBC dance band in Bristol. Jack Payne was the first one to do the job, then Henry Hall and then Ivy Benson. Ivy contacted me because she'd heard I now played the trumpet and she asked if I'd be second trumpet player. I said 'You must be joking!' and I thought 'I'm never fit to do that.' But she said 'You'll be fine. We'll have plenty of people to help.' A girls' band had never had a job like that before, and they had to get it right, otherwise the men would be down on them like a ton of bricks.

I thought 'I'm not playing a bass anymore. I'm not being stuck with that great big instrument and having people sitting on it and putting things on it and damaging it. I'll play my trumpet and I can put it in its case, pick it up and take it home with me.' So I went down to Bristol as Ivy's second trumpet player, but it didn't last very long. Ivy didn't like the bass player she had and she asked if I'd go back on bass, just for a few days because she had another girl coming. I went back for a few days' rehearsals and then this new bass player came. But she didn't last very long at all, and Ivy said 'I'd rather have you', and she asked if I'd go back. So back I had to go on bass and my trumpet went, I'm afraid.

I liked my trumpet; I used to play about with it. It was such a good one, and everybody had said 'Fancy having a King trumpet with a Rudi Muck mouthpiece!' It was the best you could have, but I sold it to a man in Crewe and I've regretted that day ever since. I wish I'd never sold it, but I did, and that was that.

Clifton Parish Hall was our studio in Bristol. We had to take it in turns to fire watch, because it was still wartime, and we had to have training to do this fire watching. There was a brick-built air raid shelter in the grounds of a school nearby, which was filled with smoke and we had


to learn to crawl in at one end on our stomachs and crawl right through it to the other end. We learnt that when any building is full of smoke, there are four inches of air at the bottom that you can breathe; so our noses had to be right down on the ground. I've never forgotten that.

The next thing we had to learn was to jump out of a first-storey window into a pile of sand. Our drummer said 'I'm not jumping through a window into a pile of sand! If I break my ankles, I can't play.' So she refused to do it; but we all did it apart from her.
We'd take it in turns to stay overnight in the studio - two at a time - to do the fire watching. There was a double-tier bunk there and we could sleep in it if we wanted to, but there were mice running round the floor, so no one liked the bottom bunk!

I lived in some digs at the bottom of St Paul's Road in Clifton in Bristol. The landlady was called Mrs Hooper; she was very good. I had a nice room there, with a double bed, so my sister or my mother could come down any time they liked and stay as long as they liked. Mrs Hooper came to me one day and said 'Elsie, I've had a complaint about you', and I said 'A complaint, why? What have I done?' 'Well', she said, 'there's a woman who lives on the floor above and she asked me "Do you know what that girl does for a living?" I said "No. I don't ask people what they do for a living, I've no interest", and she said, "Well, I'll tell you. She goes out late on Friday and Saturday nights and she comes back in the early hours of the morning." I said "Oh I didn't know. I'll find out".' So the landlady said to me 'I'm sorry to ask you, but what do you do?' I said 'I'll get you a ticket. Would your husband and son like to come with you? I'll get tickets for the three of you and you can see and hear what I do for my living.' So they came to Clifton Parish Hall and we did our usual half-hour show and she said to me 'I'm so sorry to have come bothering you. That woman obviously has a rotten mind. She thought the worst and she shouldn't