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The Great Big Bands

Tommy Sampson

I was just eighteen, home on a weekend pass to Coventry from my Royal Air Force camp in Birmingham, when my friend Bunny Roberts called round to see me.

Bunny was a great drummer and arranger, and we’d played in several local bands in Coventry together. He told me that the great Tommy Sampson band had played in town the previous night. This was one of the really tremendous British post war big bands, the most exciting of them all. He’d gone along to to the Arden Ballroom, in Bedworth, to hear them.

The regular drummer, Dougie Cooper, who wasn’t even eighteen, had suddenly gone down with chicken-pox. Sampson had brought along a deputy drummer, but as soon as the band had played one number it was clear that the guy wasn’t going to make it.

Tommy went up to the mike and said, as a joke, ‘Is there a drummer in the house?’

Bunny went straight up and introduced himself. Next minute he was playing in the band, and he was great. Read all the parts, did all the correct fill-ins, played some superb solos and generally brought the house down. Tommy told me all this later on, of course.

Afterwards Sampson asked him if there were any good trumpet players in town, as he would soon be needing a new one. Bunny told him about me, and he said to get up to Redcar, on the Yorkshire coast, the very next day.

I grabbed my trumpet and ran. I had to change trains at about two o’clock in the morning in Birmingham. As I waited on the freezing platform I suddenly saw another great friend, the trumpet player Cyril Narbeth, standing there with his trumpet case.

It turned out that we were both going up to Redcar. I couldn’t have taken the job anyway, being in the air force, but I wasn’t going to let a chance like this go by. I just wanted to see what it was like, to even listen to such a great band.

On the train we talked all night. Cyril had also been at the Arden the night before. He was telling me about the fantastic sound of the band when he heard it. He described all the players at length, and the more he talked the more excited I became.

We arrived at the Pier Pavilion in Redcar at eleven the next morning, just after the Sampson band had started to rehearse.

I just couldn’t believe the sound of that band. It really defies the capabilities of even the best, most modern piece of hi-fi equipment to capture a big band sound as it is in the flesh. That sound I was hearing actually made the hair at the back of my neck stand on end. I was trembling with excitement.

They were playing Stompin’ at the Savoy, real slow. There were four trumpets, led by Stan Reynolds, a guy I had never heard of before, four trombones and five saxes. Bunny was still on drums. I had tears in my eyes just listening to them.

After a couple of numbers one of the trumpet players came off and Cyril went up to do his audition. The man who’d come off stood by me and we started to talk. His name was Bert Courtley, and he was leaving the band to go and play with a group run by a girl tenor player named Kathleen Stobart.

I said that he must be mad to leave such a great band. He told me that it was a great band, all right, but that he’d be able to play more jazz in Kathy’s group, as he’d be the only trumpet player.

Later on he married Kathy, we bought houses near one another, and the three of us became great friends.

While we were talking Cyril had played a couple of numbers in the band on stage, and it looked as if he would get the job. Now Sampson was calling for me to go up and play. Up to now Cyril had been auditioning for third or fourth trumpet, but as soon as I got up there the first trumpet player went off. I don’t know what had been discussed, but I suddenly found myself having to play lead with the band.

I had never played before with such an enormous brass section. To tell the truth I was about ready to fill my pants until I saw the number I was supposed to play. It was a Woody Herman arrangement called The Good Earth.

This was a stroke of luck because it was one of the tunes that I used to hammer out in the bedroom back home with the record player when I was just beginning to learn to play the trumpet. I knew the first trumpet part backwards.

I looked at the music for a moment, pretending to study it. What I was really doing was making sure that it was the same as the one that I already knew all the way through.

‘Right,’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’

The band started. It was a pretty wild fast number, with lots of long loud high brass passages, and I really tore into it. I had nothing to lose, anyway, and if this was to be the only time in my life I’d get to play with a great band I wasn’t going to waste it. When we finished I could see that Sampson, and quite a few of the other guys were quite impressed. The trombone players were looking around at me, nodding.

Duncan Campbell, one of the trumpet players, said ‘How did you do that?’

‘Oh yeah, well—I’ve heard the record a couple of times,’ I said, lying through my teeth.

So I got the job as well. I was to turn up whenever my RAF duties would allow, play fifth trumpet, and double up on first trumpet to give the other guy a rest sometimes.

Apart from Stan Reynolds, the whole of the brass and sax sections were Scotsmen. The rhythm section, with the exception of Dave Simpson, the pianist, was all English.

The Scots quickly became my favourite people. Joe Temperley, one of the tenor players, went on to become world famous. He now lives in the USA. The second alto player, Alan Davey, whom we called Jesus because of his enormous beard, became a successful artist in New York. Henry MacKenzie, the other tenor player, is still a busy session player in London.

When that band folded I went on working for years after with Stan Reynolds, Duncan Campbell, Alec McGregor, George Hunter, Johnny Keating, Jimmy Wilson, Maurice Pratt and many others. Most of the musicians in Tommy’s band ended up in the London session business.

Tommy Sampson himself was the son of an Edinburgh scrap iron dealer, who made his fortune after the war out of surplus tanks, guns and army vehicles. Both Tommy and his dad were devout Salvation Army members. This didn’t prevent Tommy from quickly going through all of his dad’s fortune after he died, within the space of the next couple of years.

The arrangements in the band were all from a guy named Edwin Holland, who lived in some remote place in Midlothian. He was a brilliant accordion player, and a wonderful arranger. He was responsible for the great sound the band had. I don’t believe that Edwin ever arranged for any other band, even after Sampson disbanded, but his scores were unique, so much so that I can still remember most of them note for note.

Edwin had a trademark, a small theme that he used in every arrangement he wrote. Somewhere in the score, often almost hidden, reversed or transposed, this tiny collection of notes would pop up to put his personal stamp on the chart.

As a matter of fact — I never played with any other band that sounded so warm and exciting, or one that had such sensational arrangements as the Sampson band, until I went to Germany and started playing with American musicians. I think that everyone ever associated with the band regrets that it died such an early death. Certainly people still talk about it, even today.

I started to work with the band every weekend. Wherever they were I got there on the train somehow, and played every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. During the week, when I wasn’t playing with the guys in the band, I dreamt about them.  

Joining that band gave me a big boost in prestige in my RAF camp. Just before I joined up I had started working in a band in Hinckley, near Coventry. They kept the job open for me, so that I was now able to play with the band again any night of the week they wished. The only stipulation I made was that they somehow got me back to the camp on time every morning.

The bandleader, who owned a successful building company, solved that little problem by having his chauffeur pick me up at my house at seven o’clock in the mornings to drive me the thirty miles or so to the camp.

The car was a long, black Humber Super-Snipe, the sort of car normally reserved for Air Vice Marshalls and royalty. I sat in the back like a king. When we turned up at the camp gates each morning, the chauffeur, in full livery, peaked cap and all, would stop right in front of the guard-room. The sudden appearance of the car caused the guard to scramble out hurriedly. Then the chaffeur would step out,  open my door and give me a fantastic salute, right under the noses of the MP’s. This, of course, impressed everybody no end.

Now I was walking around with a huge, bright red banner glued right across my trumpet case, that said: TOMMY SAMPSON AND HIS ORCHESTRA. I wasn't exactly king of the camp, but I got pretty damn near to it. After I'd persuaded my Hinckley bandleader to put on a dance in the camp for nothing I received something resembling a freedom of the city.

On that night I played all my party pieces, including Trumpet Blues & Cantabile in the original Harry James key. I played it all on my own, no mean feat, and followed it with various other show-stoppers. Of course, I didn't have a brain  in my head, and I couldn't do that sort of thing today, but my lip was as strong as a horse and I could do practically anything I wished on the horn.

By the time I’d been with the Sampson band for six months I had gotten such tremendous confidence from playing with them that I was ready to take on the world.

We did a BBC broadcast nearly every other week, and Tommy had special lead parts written for me on those jobs. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he was schooling me to take over the brass section one day.

It was a marvellous trumpet section. Stan was a tower of strength, a superb lead player. It was Stan that was responsible for the powerhouse sound the band was getting. Duncan took a lot of the jazz solos, but the man who really impressed me was Alec McGregor. Duncan was a delicate, whimsical player. Alec was the exact opposite, fiery and powerful. Later on he became lead trumpet with the Ken Mackintosh band for many years.

Every time I went to play in the band there were one or two new guys there. Even though it was a great band, there wasn't much money being made, and the married ones were the first to leave. But there always seemed to be a steady stream of great new players ready to join.

All the people who came through the band, then and later—Johnny Keating, Maurice Pratt, Wally Smith, Phil Seamen, Danny Moss, among others, were to play a big part in my later career.

I loved being with those people, but it took a while before I was really accepted into the inner circle of musicians. I found out later that a lot of them were pretty upset that Tommy was booking an extra trumpet player when they themselves were having trouble getting paid every week.

Once they discovered that I was coming along, paying my own fare and hotels, and working for nothing we all became big pals. They thought I was crazy, but suddenly I was OK. I was getting paid as a sergeant in the RAF anyway, and had railway warrants. I was getting invaluable tuition from this job and I knew it.

The line-up, when I joined, was: Stan Reynolds, Duncan Campbell, Alec McGregor, Cyril Narbeth, trumpets; Ralph Hutchinson, Clare Welsh, Bill Paxton, Andy Young, trombones; George Hunter, Alan Davey (later on Lew Warburton), Joe Temperley, Henry McKenzie, Jimmy Waugh, saxes; Dave Simpson, piano; Terry Walsh, guitar; Sammy Stokes, bass; Dougie Cooper, drums; Ann Grey, vocals.

I played every weekend and every day of my various leaves for about a year and a half with the band. For me it was like being in Paradise.

Sometimes Tommy forgot to pay the driver, or couldn’t, and he took the bus back to London, leaving us stranded. After some dances we walked through dark country lanes, carrying our gear, until we reached the nearest railway station.

Once, Tommy booked a furniture van for a trip from Grimsby to a Sunday concert in Oldham. The journey was sheer murder—apart from the discomfort of having to sit on the dirty floor and get bounced all over the place for several hours we were plagued by insects, and half gassed by the exhaust. When we turned up at the theatre in Oldham the driver stopped right in front of the enormous queue forming outside. We made sheep noises while Tommy hissed at the driver to get the hell round to the stage door. I loved all this, of course, because I was doing it all beside people like Joe Temperley and Henry MacKenzie, both of whom I worshipped. It was all experience, of a kind.

Suddenly, without warning, a lot of the guys left to join Ted Heath. I was one of the very few left out of the original band. I don’t know why Heath suddenly needed so many players, but I suspect that a lot of his men went into the rapidly developing London studio business.

Almost simultaneously, I was posted to a new RAF camp near Gloucester. I was as mad as hell. The move put another hundred miles or so on all my journeys to the band jobs, and made some of the rail connections almost impossible.

I’d only been in the new camp a couple of days when I had a phone call from the RAF Records Office nearby in Gloucester. The guy on the phone introduced himself as Tony Hayes. He was the bandleader in the camp there, and he wondered whether I’d like to join the band. I went along to take a look.

It was a small group, with only one trumpet, one trombone and a saxophone. The sax was new, as the previous man, Danny Moss, had just been demobilised. I was impressed. Danny was already well known in the jazz world.

The drummer was Kenny Clare, who later on became one of the most sought after drummers in the world, recording with Ella Fitzgerald and touring around with Tony Bennett. At the peak of Kenny’s career, if he ever walked into a place where the Buddy Rich band was playing and Buddy saw him he used to throw down the sticks and walk off.

‘I’m not going to play with you watching,’ he’d say. ‘You play, and I’ll watch.’ And Kenny would play in Buddy’s place, and bring the house down.

I’d done quite a few gigs with the band, when one day the bass player, a guy named Peter (Peeewee) McGurk, told me that they had fiddled my records to get me posted down there, so as to get me into the band.

When I heard that I was so outraged that I quit playing with the band, but I kept up my friendship with Kenny Clare. When the Sampson band was playing an ENSA tour in Germany that year he used to take me home with him at weekends.

Kenny lived in Leytonstone, a suburb of London. The walls of his bedroom were plastered with huge posters of Buddy Rich. He'd written off for them, never dreaming that he would, one day, meet the great man. Kenny's dad was also a drummer, and played in a local band run by a guy named Les Brown. That was always good for a laugh.

Kenny already knew a lot of people in the jazz business and he took me up to London many times to play in jazz clubs; once even to do a rehearsal with the Les Evans ten-saxophone band.

I had about six months to go in the air force. When they were up I travelled up to the demob centre in Wolverhampton, grabbed my demob papers, told them to keep the fancy suit, and rushed off to London and my new life.

I came out of the RAF straight into the Sampson band, and did my first job in the band on the day I was demobbed. Although it wasn’t a patch on the first band it was still pretty good, with Maurice Pratt and Ken Goldie in the trombones, Phil Seamen on drums and Danny Moss on tenor. Now we only had six brass. In the trumpet section with me were Terry Lewis and the Jamaican Bushy Thompson. Bushy had a whole lot of trouble getting into the boarding houses.

‘No blackies,’ said the landladies firmly, closing the doors.

‘I’m British!’ shouted Bushy, waving his passport. ‘What’s the matter? Are you worried the black will come off on your sheets? Afraid I’ll eat your daughter?’ He was hopping mad, and no one blamed him.

Terry and I used to smuggle Bushy in somehow when we got back in after the job, but it was a damn disgrace, just the same.

Sampson fired all three of us one night in the Isle of Wight. A minute’s notice, he said, making sure that the dance had finished first.  We had been playing opposite the Tito Burns Sextet, with Albert Hall playing a trumpet cornet.

The trumpet cornet has a very beautiful mellow sound, and was ideal for the job Albert was doing, but would have been no good in a big brass section. Sampson didn’t notice the kind of instrument Albert was using, said that we all sounded like the local fire brigade in comparison, and fired us on the spot.

Of course he didn’t mean it, and he’d have been in real trouble if we’d failed to show up the next night. We simply ignored him and went on as usual. I reckon he’d forgotten all about it by then anyway.

After a very short time I got to know all the musicians on the touring circuit. This wasn’t so difficult because a great many of us lived in the same digs in Paddington, in a place known as The Mission.

Like most other boarding houses in Great Britain this was run by an Irish woman known only by the name of Mrs Mac. In the Mission in London there were about eight bedrooms, each with three or four beds in them. You never knew who was going to be in the room with you when you woke up in the morning.

Clothes could be left in various cupboards without fear of theft, although you would often see someone wearing your suit or tie by mistake. Some musicians were always out of town while others weren’t, there was always plenty of room, and Mrs Mac made some wonderful dinners.

Johnny Keating had the top floor with his wife Emily, and there was a spinster named Miss Frost on the first floor.

Miss Frost used to complain bitterly about the noise. What did she expect from twenty or more jazz musicians? She was small and thin, as her name would suggest, and wore black at all times.

Phil Seamen was more upset by this than anyone else, because he was always practicing with his sticks, hammering away on almost anything, the way Gene Krupa used to do in all of his films. One Christmas he decided to teach Miss Frost a lesson, and managed this by lowering, by means of ropes, a portable wind-up gramophone playing a 78 rpm record of Johnny Hodges’ Going Out the Back Way down to her balcony from the room above. He reckoned the title would be appropriate.

That got us all thrown out the next day, even the ones who hadn’t been there. But Mrs Mac needed us more than she needed Miss Frost, and so she threw her out and let us all back in again a week later.

The Mission doesn’t exist any more—there is an apartment block where it once stood. It should have been made a national monument.

Those were happy days. A short trip on the number 15 bus took us to Piccadilly, where all the jazz clubs, music shops, and rehearsal rooms could be found.

Archer Street, just behind the Windmill Theatre, became a meeting place for musicians at Monday lunchtimes. Even the police gave up trying to prevent us from blocking the road after a while. The classic confrontation occurred once when six coppers did their best to move about a hundred of us on while an unhindered smash and grab raid was being carried out at a jewellers in the Burlington Arcade just around the corner.

The rehearsal rooms were without exception ill-ventilated dungeons below ground. Most of the time when we turned up to rehearse we would meet dozens of dancing girls coming out, hot and perspiring in their leotards. Once inside my eyes used to water with the fearful smell. But you get used to things like that. It’s called show business.

Mike Senn: Phil Seamen was a great drummer, unique in his time. We had already heard him playing with Smiling Johnny Smith’s band in Derby. When Doug Cooper left, Tommy did nothing about a regular replacement, but he found another drummer to play the next gig.

We arrived at the Savoy Ballroom in Southsea to discover that Smiling Johnny Smith's band had taken up residence there, and Phil was on drums. Ronnie Keane was also in the band on tenor and it sounded pretty good.

When we went on, the band sounded terrible. Big band drumming is an art in itself, and Dougie's replacement was unable to drive the Sampson band, which, left on its own, had a tendency to slow down—something it didn't do when Stan Reynolds was on lead trumpet, but Stan had left to join the Heath band and Ron was still in the RAF.

We went off in the interval, well brought down. When we returned for the second set, Phil was on drums. There were no drum parts, so John Hawksworth shouted stops and starts to Phil. The band sounded great. We all thought, “Pity we can't have Phil”.

Next morning, we turned up at the coach to find Phil sitting there. We left the other drummer behind and took Phil with us. The rest is history. And typical of Tommy's cheek. (Mike Senn)

Phil had some unusual ways. One of them was the unorthodox way he held his sticks. While other drummers used regular, standard length sticks, Phil sawed about a third off his. He held them both gripped in his fists, pointing downwards. It is supposed to be impossible to play like this, but Phil was one of the best drummers around.

He played on a set of drums he called the Ronson Kit, because of the big ashtray screwed to the top of the bass drum. Phil was highly critical of contemporary British drummers, especially of Peter Coleman, who played drums with Vic Lewis. He called Peter Bludgeonfoot on account of his heavy bass drum technique, although when I played in the Lewis band I found Peter to be a very good drummer, and not particularly heavy-footed.

When he played a solo Phil pulled terrifying faces. In the throes of violent motion his head whipped from side to side as he bent low over the snare drum, snarling horribly and hitting everything in sight. With the terrific vibration it was only a matter of minutes before his drums began to fall apart. I was the only one in the back row who knew how to fix them so I went over and crouched beneath him trying to screw everything together again.

This wasn’t easy because the things were leaping around all over the place under his tremendous assault. I was never entirely successful, and he’d start hitting me on the head with the sticks and cursing. If the front spikes of the bass drum had worked loose the whole kit began sliding slowly forwards off the rostrum, with me on my knees battling valiantly beside it.

I don’t really know whether Phil knew what he was doing at such moments, because when I told him I wasn’t going to do it any more, on account of the physical dangers involved he said he didn’t know what I was talking about.

In the Sampson bus one of Phil’s favourite pastimes was to take a mouthful of Coca-Cola and go and sit in front of Dave Lindup, one of the tenor sax players. Little dribbles of cola came out of his mouth with the jerking of the bus. Dave squirmed around all over the place protesting, because he knew that at any moment Phil was going to squirt the stuff all over him.

Dave’s was also a unique story. Originally a pianist, he had come to London looking for work. The only job open at the time was on tenor sax with Lou Praeger in the Hammersmith Palais, so Dave borrowed a tenor from someone, learned it within a few days, and got the job. This was a tremendous feat, as the saxophone is by no means an easy instrument to learn. As far as I know there are fifty–seven keys to master on the thing, and it usually takes years of practice to get a good sound.

Everyone was having mouthpiece problems. The ones made in England weren’t satisfactory. We all wanted the famous Vincent Bach mouthpiece, made in the USA, but they were unobtainable. Musicians working on the Queen Mary managed to smuggle in one or two, but most of the brass players, both in the jazz and symphony world, had their mouthpieces made by a man named Tom Wray, who had his workshop in a cellar halfway along Shaftesbury Avenue, near Piccadilly Circus. The entrance was hard to find, just one nondescript door among others, and sometimes I wandered up and down for ages looking for it. Of course there were no numbers along there. I began to think it might be a sort of magic shop, because sometimes it was there, and sometimes it wasn’t, if you know what I mean.

Down in the gloom of the basement Tom worked at an ancient lathe in the middle of the most incredible pile of junk and dirt imaginable. He was middle-aged, and wore half-glasses over which he peered at everything—he never actually seemed to look through them. I don’t believe anyone ever saw Tom in daylight, but everyone knew him. He’d made a standard cast of a Bach mouthpiece from which he could fashion exact replicas. It was only necessary for him to make a plaster cast of one’s own mouthpiece—two days later the new mouthpiece was ready, with the old rim superimposed on the Bach cup, throat and bore.

He had a huge pile of plaster casts down there, each bearing the name of a well-known musician. I visited Tom often, each time with special requests—a bit off the rim, a wider throat—whatever it was Tom would stop whatever it was he was doing and give his full attention to the problem. He charged very little for his services, often nothing at all. I asked him once how he could possibly make a living at it. For an answer he showed me a picture in a large book he had of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In one of the elegant rooms were several very beautiful and elaborate chandeliers. ‘There you are,’ he said proudly. ‘I made them.’ He showed me several similar chandeliers that were half-buried in the junk pile, which he had scrapped as not being up to standard. Although most professional players used Tom’s mouthpieces he refused to stamp his name on them.

Tom simply disappeared one day, and, as far as I know, the door, and the shop disappeared with him. No one ever discovered what had happened. We now wended our way, ever on the search for the perfect mouthpiece, to a place in Cripplegate. The area had been almost completely flattened in the air raids but the workshop was easy enough to find among the ruins.

Once there, one climbed a rickety iron outside staircase and rang the bell for admission. A large rusty motor-cycle engine hung from a piece of rope by the door. An equally large rusty iron bolt hung from another piece of string. One rattled the bolt up and down over the fins of the bike motor. This was the bell. If anyone was there you gained entrance. Inside was an exact replica of Tom Wray’s workshop, also windowless, and with an identical pile of junk. Maybe they had bought Tom’s place and transferred it over. It certainly looked like it.

Years later we were finally able to buy Vincent Bach mouthpieces legitimately in the shops. People sent me mouthpieces from America. Bill Ratzenburger sent me Jet-Tones, Al Cass, Giardinelli, Schilke and Irving Bush sent me over boxes of their products. All they wanted in return was a photo of me playing one of their mouthpieces.  As far as I was concerned not one of them was as good as my Tom Wray.

When I joined the Tommy Sampson band in the winter of 1947, most of its members were Scotsmen. With the exception of Stan, Duncan, Henry, and Joe Temperley, none of the musicians made any impact on the music scene in later years.

There is no doubt in my mind that Stan Reynolds was the fire behind that incredible nine-piece brass section. He was thrilling to listen to, inspiring a powerful wall of sound from the brass capable of making one’s hair stand on end. Yet, after he left, although he continued to play as magnificently as ever, Stan never had a job playing lead in a big name band as far as I know, and neither did George Hunter, who led the saxes brilliantly.

It seemed as if the magic for them only existed in the Sampson band, and, when they left, the magic left, too. Dozens of musicians went through that band, because it was a band to enjoy only, there was no money whatsoever to be made there. I played in the band almost from beginning to end. In the end it wasn't too good. Edwin Holland had stopped writing for the band and the new arrangers had little to offer. Some of the scores were now written by Sampson himself.  Without Stan and George, and Sammy, and Dougie, it never sounded the same. Even with Phil Seamen on drums it never sounded the same. Nevertheless I still worshipped Tommy, and had an almost absurd conviction that he would somehow work some magic again one day.

The only explanation I can find, though, all these years later, for the very special sound, the fierce energy, of that band, is in the arrangements, but those same charts, played by others, would sound like nothing at all.

Where was the secret? Not in Sampson, because he had no impact on the style of the band - wisely keeping his mouth shut. As good as the band was, it never made a commercial recording. The only records that exist are wax dubbings, taken from BBC broadcasts by a small firm in New Bond Street. These are in the hands of some of the players, although all of mine have disappeared over the years.

The discographer Tony Middleton has compiled a list of personnel and broadcast dates of the band - this must have been an almost impossible task, as Sampson became a Will o’ the Wisp figure after the band folded, and only recently emerged again, after forty years, in Edinburgh.

Johnny Keating, who played in the band, and wrote some important charts for him in 1948 told me that, years later, he stood right next to Tommy at an Edinburgh Festival, and Tommy didn’t recognise him, even after Johnny told him who he was. I think he must have been joking - it's the sort of gag musicians often pull on one another. At any rate - Tommy knew who we all were all right on the Sampson Reunion of 2001.

The entire Sampson library disappeared mysteriously after the band folded. A popular story is that it was confiscated by a London landlady, in lieu of unpaid rent. Tommy told me, at the Sampson Reunion of 2001, that it had disappeared from a Left Luggage office. It was finally tracked down and bought by Roy Bradley, a London musician, who later became leader of Dr. Crock and his Crackpots. Now, he couldn’t use Edwin’s arrangements in that band, because it was a joke band, so what did he do with the library?

He did nothing, and rightly so. Even if he had gotten together the best band in the world those arrangements of Edwin Holland would never have sounded the same, just as groups of people playing Basie, Herman, Kenton, Florence - even Glenn Miller scores -  never sound like the original bands.

By now Tommy had run through all of his father’s fortune, and probably most of his mother’s too. It was only a matter of months before I left the already dying Sampson band and joined Oscar Rabin’s show band.

[My thanks to Keith Watts, who pointed out a chronological error in this report (see Comments) and to Mike Senn, who not only provided many historic photographs of the Sampson band for the Tommy Sampson Big Band profile, but also drew on his memories to contribute valuable material to this article. Ron Simmonds]

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Copyright © 2001, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved