This page is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Clem, who passed away 2nd November 2008.
Clem was a fine New Orleans style jazz trumpeter known and respected on the traditional jazz circuit right across Europe.
Also he was my jazz mentor, a father figure who got me started playing the music we all love.
Below is a tribute first from my own experience, and then a resume of his long and distinguished career playing jazz music.
The expression ‘a gentle giant’ was invented for Clem – it describes his way of life and his music. His trumpet playing had a gentle, lyrical and intimate quality that was very attractive and drew you in.
I love musicians who play that way.
I first got to know Clem at Peter Gascoigne’s Vieux Carre sessions at The Golden Lion, Winlaton Mill, in the mid 70s. Somehow he found out I was trying to get into playing jazz and he went out of his way to get me some sit ins with that band.
Then he used to pick me up and take me to play with The Mainstreet Jazzmen at the Corner House, Heaton, where he played bass. He did that for three or four years.
So Clem really, single handedly, got me started playing jazz.
When Clem was asked to reform his band to play at The Golden Lion in the late 70s, he asked me to play guitar. We had seven very happy years there.
When the jazz started at The Black Bull, Blaydon in 1984 Clem came in on bass, with Bill Smith on sax and Marshall Walker on drums. The first seven years when Pauline was landlady, were magical. The jazz sessions were followed by late night soirees when Pauline, Clem and the inner circle would hold court with discussions on every topic under the sun.
This accompanied by perfectly kept ale and crumpets toasted on the open coal fire. Great memories. Weekly jazz continued at The Black Bull up to 1998 and at that point the quartet disbanded although the jazz club continued on at another venue. It is still running to this day and now thankfully back at the original venue, the Black Bull, thanks to the very supportive pub management.
Clem had kept in regular contact with me since and retained a caring interest in my own playing and musical welfare.
My friendship with Clem has meant such a lot.
Clem’s own passion for jazz started in the late 40s. He liked all types of music and all styles of jazz but was specially fond of early forms of jazz music. He particularly loved the playing of trumpeter Bunk Johnson.
His first regular job was on piano, in the early 50s, with The Louisiana Jazz Band. They had a residency at what then was The Conservative Club in Blaydon.
Around 1952/3 he formed his own band, now playing trumpet.
In 1954, at Kings College Jazz Club, a ‘jazz band ball’ featured Mick Mulligan’s Jazz Band with George Melly plus, - The Clem Avery Jazzmen.
He managed to get a residency at The Alexandra, in Heaton. This was at the birth of The Alexandra Jazz Club which, along with Melbourne Street, The Royal Arcade and The New Orleans Jazz Clubs, became a top local jazz venue. Clem’s band regularly played at all these venues.
After his career break in the RAF he reformed his band and continued to build quite a reputation and following, right up to the mid 60s.
Jazz players certainly have their ups and downs.
One riverboat shuffle from Newcastle up to Ryton was a classic. The drummer lost a cymbal overboard when loading the gear. They might have guessed then it was not going to be a good day. When they got to Ryton and moored up, they went to the local pub for a pint and time ebbed away. When they got back the boat was already disappearing down stream. Somehow they got back to the quayside in Newcastle where Clem had the delicate job of talking to the organisers and trying to secure the bands fee.
Clem entered his band into a UK wide jazz band competion in 1963. The final in London was judged by Humphrey Lyttleton and Chris Barber – they were pipped at the post and came second after winning the regional heat.
Clem was very proud of that band and those 10 years or so were a great time for him.
From the mid 60s to mid 70s, in addition to his jazz gigs, Clem was playing regular non-jazz music, mostly on fender bass, in clubland.
This was in a showband and also a C&W band.
Then in 1978 Clem joined Brian Carrick’s Heritage Hall Stompers. This led to many gigs in Europe – specially in Germany and Belgium.
Things then really opened up for Clem – he worked a lot for Somerset based Roy Kirby and his Paramount Jazz Band.
This band featured top players from all over the UK and some European musicians. Gigs followed in Europe as well as round the UK.
He also played in trombonist Reg Wall’s New Orleans Ragtime Band – this included British Counsel sponsored gigs in Norway.
So the late 70s/early 80s were a very busy and rewarding time for Clem.
By the early 90s Clem was still playing bass at Blaydon Jazz Club but not doing so much on trumpet.
Then fate took a hand leading to a wonderful renaissance, in the form of Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band. Dave and Mac formed the band 1995 – Clem joined in 1998.
It’s great he did join because this band has been the perfect platform for Clem’s way of playing. He was good for them and they were good for him! Their gentle, ego-less,'ensemble style' version of early jazz, always played with an infectious danceable rhythm, is a delight.
The band was and still is hugely popular at clubs and festivals UK wide.
They have played The 100 Club in London, top fests such as Bude, Keswick, Ayr, Seaton in Devon, Hemsby in Norfolk. They toured Denmark, Germany, did gigs in Malta.
Sometimes they played to audiences of 1000 with everyone up dancing and a standing ovation at the end. What wonderful experiences.
Clem was a unique and very special character - the local jazz scene has lost a much loved player and ambassador.
A nice thought to reflect upon - - -
When musicians play they give a little of themselves.
It’s the gift of music.
For over 50 years Clem has certainly given a great deal of himself to a great many people, to players and jazz fans.
What a lovely thing to do with your life.
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Below are more tributes/information/anecdotes. If you have any nice Clem anecdotes, interesting information on bands, gigs, personnel etc. please E Mail me via home page.
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From jazz pianist Bill Harper(now retired to France) - - Clem was one of the true gentlemen of jazz. I knew him from the late 50's and worked with him in various outfits on many occasions over the last 50 years or so, both on trumpet & latterly on bass. The Sunday morning sessions at the City Vaults, Newcastle, with the Ronnie Young band were the stuff of legends - the mix of musicians was extremely eclectic, including Charlie Carmichael & Eric Gamblin, both also sadly deceased. Although Clem's real love was pure New Orleans jazz( he was extremely knowledgeable on the subject), he could hold his own on bass, playing in dixieland, mainstream & bebop without a problem.
He was a very sound musician with a good ear, a fine sense of humour & in all the years that I knew him, I never ever saw him lose his cool or say a wrong word about anyone.
He was one of the nicest guys to be around & will be greatly missed
by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
And from jazz singer Anne De Vere (Anne Harper) - - Many happy nights at the Black Bull with Clem manfully getting his head around my arrangements.
Bill has paid tribute but I wanted to add my own thoughts - Clem was a really decent and lovely man and took the trouble to give us a copy of, of all things, a tape by none other than - - - Frank Crumit - he of The Prune Song. His interests were truly eclectic and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.
From Pauline, ex landlady Black Bull (now resident in France) - - I no longer live in the UK and was very saddened to receive a call from my Mum with the sad news about Clem.
I very much enjoyed the Thursday night jazz sessions at the Black Bull and Clem must have enjoyed the pub too as he came to treat it as his local, well respected by all. We got to know his family too.
From John Taylor, jazz fan - - I attended Clem's humanist funeral on Friday. Almost every north east jazz musician was there to play their respects to one of our all time greats. Every spectrum of musician was there, from Mighty Joe Young to Clive Grey, Jim Birkett through to Mike Durham - to name but a few. Roly gave a heart felt eulogy about Clem's music.
A humanist family friend also spoke about Clem. He spoke about his interests in life and memories started to flow back for me. I knew I had something in common with Clem - we both had the same style car when we started motoring, a Vauxhall Viva. He kept his going for 30 or more years. A sign of the man - he had great stamina.
Friends in jazz,
Some more happy memories of Clem from John Taylor - - Hi Roly,
I have a few more memories of Clem Avery.
In the 60's as a teenager living in Ashington I was a member of the local church youth club. On Sunday nights after the club finished we made our way to the Portland Hotel to listen to the Clem Avery Jazzmen. His was the very first live jazz band that I ever heard.
Recently we had the first ever reunion of that church youth club and I could not believe it when I found that Clem had died on the same weekend.
In true Chris Barber style they did a few skiffle numbers at interval time. My favourite number was a train song 'The wreck of the 97' with Clem transferring to guitar (and Terry Harvey on 12 string?). As far as I can remember line up was as follows:-
Clem tpt. Lawrence McBriaty trmb. John Saxelby clt. Terry Harvey gtr. Bill Coles bs. and I think the drummer may have been Jackie Denton.The band always played till 10 minutes after closing time and even if I was the only one left in the room they still played on.
I remember Clem's Viva work van (with the Murray & Swanson? logo on the side) being parked outside the Portland. Also I think Clem's wife, Barbara, travelled with the band. I must have been a right groupie as I had a George Lewis record played on BBC jazz record requests - dedicated to John Saxelby.
After asking the band where else we could listen to jazz they directed us to the New Orleans Club on Forth Banks, Newcastle. Thanks Clem and Co. for a great introduction to jazz. - - -
Friends in jazz, John Taylor, Ashington
From Colin Aitchison, jazz musician Hong Kong - - so sorry to hear the news of the death of Clem Avery. As you know Lance, Clem did go back along way, when my father Hughie Aitchison and he used to play on the Tyneside jazz scene in the 1950's, and of course those great years when I was a boy taken by my dad to forth banks New Orleans Jazz Club in the 1960's, to hear and meet all of these great characters on the jazz scene at that time.
I myself did go through a music course with Clem at The College of Arts And Technology in Newcastle in the early 1970's. He was always a warm and gentle man, and a very knowledgeable musician. It was just a couple of years ago that I took my wife, Jeannie, over to see and meet him playing with the Rae Brothers, and after all the years since I had last seen him he was still the same warm and talkative Clem. I'm sure he will be very much missed on the local jazz scene. Many thanks Lance for keeping me up to date.
Note from Roly - - Check out Lance's website archive of the local scene 'Bebop Spoken Here' - see links. Colin is a fine pro. jazz trumpeter/trombonist now resident in Hong Kong where he leads The China Coast Jazzmen. His late father Hughie was also a fine trumpeter, a significant and much loved player on the local scene.
From Alex Baird, jazz fan - - It's was with great sadness that I heard about Clem Avery, to me one of the greatest jazzers in the north east and an institution in the jazz world of the region.
I would never had known but for your web site as have lost touch with a lot of things due to family commitments etc.
He was always in the forefront of the great jazz revival in the Fifties and I always remembered the Clem Avery Jazzmen. He had a good band and played everywhere, they always had a good audience and a following of fans.
Note from Roly - - check out Alex's own website www.jazzmemories.bravehost.com - for nice memories of jazz in Newcastle in the 50's - Royal Arcade and Melbourne Street Jazz Clubs etc.
From Jack Goodwin (for many years trombonist with Vieux Carre) - Hello Roly, I came across your web site quite by chance today and learned that my old pal Clem Avery had passed away last month.
I was an original member of the Vieux Carre Jazz Band along with the late Peter Deuchar. We found a room at the Alexandra Social Club, Heaton Road, managed to get posters from many of the London Jazz clubs to decorate the walls of the room, and with candles on the tables, opened the Alexandra Jazz Club. It was around that time that Clem began to sit in with the band and eventually Peter Gascoigne took the trumpet lead and stayed with the Vieux Carre until his recent death.
I played trombone with the band until I gave up playing due to both marriage and job commitments.
Clem and I took our instruments with us when we went to Orange, in the south of France around 1953, to stay with friends of mine, just in case we managed to sit in with any of the French trad groups, a hope which never materialised unfortunately, but we lived in the French sunshine for about 7 – 8 weeks.
I recognise the faces in the black and white photos on your site. Playing with Clem, there’s little Denis Rae on piano, my old Heaton Grammar classmate, John (later Mighty Joe) Young on banjo, Brian O’Byrne on clarinet (what became of him – he was very good), Pete Welsh on drums and Brian Richardson on trombone. I played with them all and to see them again brings back many happy memories.
Later Clem joined the RAF playing in a military band and based, I seem to recall, at Leeming, North Yorks. During a spell of leave, he accompanied me and my new wife to see Stan Kenton’s band playing at Newcastle City Hall.
I also knew John Saxelby, Clem’s brother-in-law, and remember when John died that everyone got together to give John a traditional New Orleans style send off at the cemetery. Great memories and thanks for paying tribute to Clem on your web site.
Best wishes, Jack Goodwin - 22/12/2008.
From Bill Walton (banjo player in Clem's early bands) & wife Enid - a lovely lovely man. Many, many happy memories of gigs and social times.
Bill and Enid Walton - 12/2/2009
From Ingrid & Finn, Denmark - we miss Clem at the gigs we have heard latest. No one can do his collective feeling for the music and playing same.
By the way – the boy to the right at the second photo is our grandson Peter, as the photo is from the childrens after school club, where Rae Brothers played on the day off.
If you see him today, you would not recognise him. 15 years and very close to 2 mtr. - 20/04/2009.
From Terry Wilks - bass player now resident in Australia - Hello Roly, great to pick up on this web page but really sad to hear about Clem’s passing away. You may recall that I used to sit-in and sometimes dep on bass guitar. It was Clem who got me started re. jazz and clubs. It was you who lent me your chord guide book so I could follow the songs when I didn’t know them. I still have a photocopy of it at home today. Clem used to also get me to dep with his resident band at his CIU Club (Annitsford) when he went away to the Breda Jazz Festival, Holland.
I continued playing the clubs as a trio, then duo (vocal/bass) then solo act (vocal/keyboard) until I left the UK in 1989.
I moved to Australia in 1989 till 1996. I worked with a few bands doing the hotels (read ‘pubs’), including one called the “Dinosaurs” (I was the youngest member)! Then back to the UK (1996 – 1998) for two years to catch up with family, and again doing the clubs as a solo act (‘Terry Thin’). Mind the club scene had changed somewhat, but it was money, and I still enjoyed it! Then back to Australia in 1998 to present.
I’ll say it in a few simple words: Clem was a one-off, a gentleman (in all the ways), a mentor to so many, and a fine musician. We’ll have to have a pint with him when we get up there ourselves (and a ‘blow’).
From Bill Bell of Newcastle - great memories of times with Clem. Here are some nice recollections on Bill's involvement with local jazz and his other activities - - -
I was asked to join Clem when I was playing bad bass for Ian Brown's first band - at St. James and Basils church hall, Fenham. Ian trumpet of course, Trevor Johnson an piano and me on £10 bass with a crack in it!
I also played with Don Armstrong, Brian O'Byrne clarinet, Gordon Andrews cornet, Johnny Handle piano and Jack Goodwin trombone, on Sunday practice sessions in the Royal Arcade Hall (demolished 1960ish for the new roundabout). That is what we did for weeks and then played at the Students Union - all, except me and Brian, were students at Kings college. We also did a Tuesday night jazz club at the Royal Arcade.
Brian was an engineer with Parsons and I was articled pupil surveyor for 5 years on £0 per week.
Clem invited me to join his band at the Alexandra, I think it was every Tuesday. It was on the top floor od the working mens club of that name on Heaton Road. We could buy beer downstairs! Around that time I bought new, really good bass fiddle for £40 - very expensive at he time!
Brian Richardson trombone, Pete drums, Joe banjo and I think John Saxelby clarinet. Peter Deuchar used to sit in at odd times, tall slim good looking with both a jeep and a motor bike to his name. Just out of public school as I recall and a very nice guy.
That was regular event and went on until Clem was called for National Service - Joe assumed command because I think he had been with Clem longest!
We earned about £2.00 a night there! We did one-off performances at schools and HMS Calliope to the point where I recall my perosnal income was £10 a week - and I had £2 a week from my Father's business as a fictional assistant yard man as well as a TR3 sports car - which is how I got about so much, as with the hood down the fiddle would fit in with up to 2 thin passengers!
The band did very well with talk of going professional at one time - we also did suppprt bands for all the big boys, Barber, Mulligan, Acker Bilk, Humph etc.
We finished up doing a sunday night jazz club at the Willy Wouldhave Cafe on the edge of the beach in South Shields for a long time and that is the last time I played with Clem when he came back from the RAF Leeming bar and sat in once. By then Brian had gone to Canada with his wife.
We were good pals and often raced our cars when it was quiet - he had tuned up an MG TC which did go very well. He was a competent engineer and would obviously do well wherever he finished up.
The band then was Pete drums, Norman Healey-Creed trombone (ex the Gateway Jazz Band Carlisle), Mike trumpet and Trevor clarinet - no piano of course.
I also played occasionally for the Panama and knew them all well, especially Ronnie.
I ran out of deferment from National Service and did my two years in Germany 1958-1960. On returning sold the fiddle, threw my rugby boots away and went into the family business, as planned, as qualified surveyor and - another long story.
I am now a consulting structural engineer here in Newcastle.
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Below are some interesting facts about Clem. Also photo personnel data. If you have any nice information please E Mail me via the home page.
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Clem was born 12th February 1933. He was 75 when he passed away. He liked good pint, specially real ale - he loved German beer. He owned a beautifully kept 1979 Vauxhall Viva 1300GLS Estate which was his pride and joy - was member of the Owners' Club etc. He was very knowledgeable on many topics - particularly history. Was very well read.
Clem played a Courtois trumpet - he loved that instrument. Lance Liddle (Bebop Spoken Here) recalls Clem buying it and is fairly sure he went to Paris to get it.
Clem's spell playing in the CIU clubs was from the mid 60s to mid 70s. He played fender bass with The Burt Brown Showband which also included jazz trombonist Herbie Hudson. He was also in a C&W band which included a great 'Chet Atkins style' guitarist Jimmy Hornsby. When they played the Johnny Cash song 'Ring of Fire' Clem silmultaneously played bass with his left hand and the trumpet intro with his right hand. How cool is that?
The band which won the 1963 UK competition was Colin Kingwell's Jazz Band. They played brilliant arrangements of Jelly Roll Morton repertoire. Dave Rae saw Colin recently and they were reminiscing about it.
When Clem joined Brian Carrick's Heritage Hall Stompers he took Colin Dawson's chair. Dawson had left to persue a very successful career abroad with his own band and enjoys an international reputation.
An endearing trait of Clem's was 'the pause'. When you had a conversation or phoned him up he seemed to think long and hard before he spoke. He chose his words carefully - everything would be grammatically correct, etc. Drummer Billy Shield recalls phoning and chatting, only to become aware of a long 'silence' on the other end of the line.
After a while he had to say 'Clem, are you there?'. After a pause came back the reply 'I'm just rolling a cigarette'.
Clem studied music for three years, full time, at Newcastle School of Arts/Technology. This would be around 1972 to 75. He gained his diploma and became a 'Licenciate of The Guildhall School of Music'.
Clem's brother-in-law was the late John Saxelby, a fine jazz clarinetist. It was indirectly through John that Clem got to know his future wife Barbara (John's sister). Clem and Barbara were married over fifty years and in fact celebrated their Golden Wedding just a few months ago.
Clem's first regular band, The Louisiana Jazz Band featured the late Ronnie Robinson on clarinet. When Clem left to persue his trumpet aspirations, Johnny Handle took over on piano. Johnny then played piano in Clem's own band before going on to become a major figure on the local folk scene, singing and playing accordian. He was in the legendary 'High Level Ranters'.
Local jazz trumpeter Ian Brown had a dance band in the 50s, it included the late Trevor Johnson on piano. They wanted to extend their repertoire from written dance arrangements into jazz material so Clem gave Ian his own jazz chord book. Ian still has a copy of it. Trevor went on to play great jazz sax/clarinet and was much loved and respected on the local scene. Ian is still active on the jazz circuit.
Clem took his band to a recording facility in Pudding Chare, Newcastle where you could cut vinyl 78s. A few tunes were recorded. I wonder if anyone has those recordings?
PS. 23/08/2010 - Jack Goodwin, who has paid tribute to Clem (see above), has advised of a recording he has - 'Clem, Johnny Handle and I cut an acetate 78 at the Quayside recording studio (Manor Records I seem to remember) – one title 'Skip To My Lou' which I still have, albeit terribly hissy the last time I heard it. I don’t now have a 78 rpm player. The three of us were playing guitars and singing just for a change.
The Navy Club, March 1973 - - Below is just a part of a press article by Mike Maurice, on the local scene. Amongst the most esoteric of Newcastle's hidden worlds must be that of vintage jazz (broadly consisting of Dixieland, New Orleans and Ragtime). Since the demise of the New Orleans Jazz Club, Forth Banks, the scattered legion of jazz fanatics still come together in mysterious Lovecraftian premises.
One may witness such gatherings as for example the Navy Club, Bigg Market, which at my last visit was a sparsely decorated room shaped like the front of a battleship with a small stage at one end over which is hung a life saver, the whole being decorated in a battleship grey and navy blue. The whole mood is a classical 1930s Players advert.
One may turn up at such an impromptu gathering and encounter clarinet, trumpet, tuba, washboard and banjo playing, appropriately enough, 'Salty Dog'.
The musicianship could well be excellent, featuring the mellow supple clarinet of John Saxelby with that 'aged in the wood' timbre and the hot exciting trumpet of Clem Avery, a piratical figure whose weekly spot at the New Orleans Jazz Club was not to be missed. Most of these guys have been playing around together for more than a decade for the sheer love of it.
Reedman Steve Andrews, reminiscing about Clem's great playing, recalled that he helped out with the inaugural session of the legendary Savannah Syncopators, it was on 22nd Feb 1975. Clem took the lead trumpet chair with Eric Miller on second trumpet. Very happy memories.
Brian Richardson was the trombonist brother of the late Dougie (bass player). Brian emigrated to The USA - he shipped an old Rolls Royce and when he got there he renovated it - he still has the car. PS from Roly. I was guesting at Carlisle Jazz Club 26/2/09 with Steve Andrews Quartet. It was mentioned a trombonist would be sitting in for a couple. Who? Brian Richardson! Over from California for a holiday. Brian joined the band and played some elegant, melodic trombone. A fine player. In the break he talked with great affection for those days with Clem's band.
He still has the Rolls he took over and now a Bentley which he also restored. It's a small world. Brian has now sent some old b/w photos - scroll down to see them.
Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band - original personnel Clem tpt, Mac clnt, Jim Blenkin tbn, Dave bjo, John Robinson bass, Jimmy Stewart drms. When Jimmy passed away subsequent drummers have been Bob Embleton, Kenny Milne, Gordon Pettit.
The colour pics on this page are mostly Clem with Rae Brothers Jazz Band (personnel as above) but the six old b/w pics have the following personnel (numbering the pics 1 to 6 left to right and coming down the page) - -
Pic 1 - Dennis Rae pno, John (Mighty Joe) Young bjo, Brian O'Byrne clnt, Pete Welsh drms, Clem, Brian Richardson tbn. Brian is the brother of bass player Dougie.
Pic 2 - Brian Richardson tbn, Clem, Brian O'Byrne clnt, Joe Young bjo.
Pic 3 - John Saxelby clnt, Pete Welsh drms, Clem, Brian Richardson tbn, John Wheatley tuba, Johnny Handle pno and looking on, Jack Goodwin (trombonist with Vieux Carre). Jack thinks this was at The Alexandra Jazz Club.
Pic 4 - same personnel as Pic 1.
Pic 5 - Clem pno, Ronnie Robinson clnt, other personnel unknown.
Pic 6 - same as Pic 1 except banjo player unknown, possibly Billy Walton?. Clem in typical posture when he was blowing.
My sincere thanks to the original Vieux Carre trombonist Jack Goodwin for personnel info.
Pics 7 to 10 - these photos of The Confederate Jazz Band are from Brian Richardson. Brian tbn, cousin Ernie Richardson bjo, Clem pno - others unknown.
Clem reformed his band around 1977 to take a weekly residency at The Golden Lion at Winlaton Mill. The line up was Clem tpt, Ronnie McLean tbn, Danny Dunbar clnt, Chas Coles drms, Johnny Duncan bass, Roly Veitch gtr. When Danny Dunbar left Bruce Bakewell took over on clarinet but then he moved away and Eric (Jonty) Clegg came in. The sessions ran for about seven years and were very popular. They were in a small, downstairs room ideal for jazz.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT - sincere thanks to Dave Rae for kindly sending me all the above photos plus the two just below, also lots more in the gallery (view via home page) and kind permission to use them on this website. For ten wonderful years Clem was an integral part of Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazz Band (run by brothers Dave(bjo/vcl) & Mac(clnt/tpt/vcl) - they are hugely popular at traditional jazz clubs and fests all over the UK and beyond.
Trombonist Brian Richardson played with Clem in the early years - he now lives in The USA. He sent me more photos (see below) of The Confederate Jazz Band with Clem on piano, Brian tbn and cousin Ernie Richardson bjo. Jack Goodwin has kindly contacted me to advise the clarinet player is Ronnie Robinson. Other personnel unknown - if anyone looking at these knows, please E Mail me.
From Steve Vincent, London - Thanks for putting up this tribute. You have produced a wonderful, affectionate and entirely accurate picture of the Clem I knew. He was effectively my surrogate dad throughout my late teens, and helped launch my musical career. I worked with him, as his apprentice, at a firm called Murray Swanson, repairing ansafones and driving all over Northumberland and Co Durham. I was 17 when he helped me choose my first guitar– a Fender Strat – which took me many, many months to save up for, and when I eventually found my niche playing bass, be donated his Burman speaker cabinet to me. I remember the night when I had been to watch bands at the Mayfair and Clem always welcomed me to stay at his home in Winlaton, where Barbara was always ready with a sandwich for me. He was a truly wonderful man, gentle, thoughtful and a fantastic musician. We had a lovely working relationship and he was a true mentor to me. I miss him, as I’m sure everyone who ever had the privilege to know him must.
For what it’s worth, I went on to play in many bands – none of them jazz! I have played in rock, blues, punk bands, and these days I tour London pubs with my singing partner playing acoustic guitar – and it still doesn’t pay! But I will thank Clem forever for getting me started on this road.
More info from trombonist Lawrence McBriarty - in 1963 Clem entered his band in a national competition - 'Guards Amateur Jazz Band Competition' the final to be held at Richmond, London with the overall winner going on to a jazz festival in Switzerland. Clem's band won the regional heat and got to the final in Richmond where they came second. Quite an achievement. The band members were Clem tpt, Lawrence McBriarty tbn, John Saxelby clnt, Billy Walton bjo, Dougie Richardson bass and Gordon Herrick drms. The winning band was run by Colin Kingwell and a cine film of the event, now on DVD, is lodged with The National Jazz Archive.
From Peter Coles, youngest son of drummer Alan 'Chas' Coles, who passed away in 2007.
What I remember most about Clem was just that he was an extraordinarily nice man. He was tall and rather thin with a thoughtful disposition, a wonderfully laid back attitude to life and a fine dry sense of humour. He was very knowledgeable about many things besides music too. I often sat talking with him in my Dad’s shop in Benwell (where Clem worked on a part-time basis for a while). History (especially local history) was a speciality of his and he was never short of stories to tell. Thanks for writing such a nice piece about Clem. He was a lovely man and a fine musician.