Page No:104
Page No:111

Chapter 11

Playing in Manchester and London.

From Bristol, we went back to London, to the Palladium, and it was from there that we played for the Jazz Jamboree, on Sunday 24th October 1943 at the Stoll Theatre. It was only for one day, but it went on until the early hours of the morning. We were the only girls' band playing. The men didn't like it at all; they didn't think we should be there because they felt we were taking jobs off them.

In 1944, I was still playing at the Palladium with the Ivy Benson Band. We were recording radio shows, playing late at night and in the early hours of the morning, and they were being broadcast all over the place, as far away as the Far East. We were playing at military bases as well. We went down to somewhere near Southampton, I couldn't tell you where it was; it was all very secret, you didn't know where you were in those days. It was an American camp and we were taken into a big aeroplane hangar and there were bins like dustbins choked full of different types of tinned fruit. You put your ladle in and took out what you wanted. There was food there we hadn't seen since the beginning of the war, because the Americans were fed very well, much better than we were. The band went down very well with the Americans.


After Bristol, we went back on tour again, to Manchester and Stockport, to the Hippodrome there. Ivy was taken ill and was rushed to Manchester Hospital. She was there for weeks and had an operation of some sort.


So we were out of work without her. A man came from Manchester who ran all the music around there and every dance hall, and he said to me' Somebody said you could use a bow. You don't mind if it's not dancehall music do you? Can you use a bow? We're short of a bass player for the old-time dancing in the Belle Vue Hall.' I said 'Yes, I can do that', and he said 'Right, that's you fixed up!'

Norma, my mate who played the saxophone, was added to another band somewhere else, and he found something for us all to do so that we could go on his payroll, and because we were on his payroll they couldn't call us up. So we were safe. Ivy didn't want to come out of hospital and find that she didn't have a band; that was what the worry was.

Playing for the circus

Christmas came along and of course this man had already booked a lot of extra musicians, because extra bands were always needed at Christmas. He'd booked a bass player for the old-time dancing, so he didn't need me anymore, and he didn't know quite what to do with me. He came to me one day and said 'Have you ever played for a circus?' and I said 'Do you know, I think that's about the only thing that I have never done.' He asked if I'd like to try it and I said 'Yes'. So I went to play for the circus, and I've never been so tired in my life!

We played as the customers were coming in and sitting down, all the way through the show, and when they went out again. On Saturdays, there was a matinee in the afternoon for two hours and then we had to be there again at night for another two hours. We had to play as loudly as possible and as fast as possible, so we played