Strike up the Band!

In those days before TV took over our lives (and yes there was life before television) people organized their own entertainment. Music took a major role. Most Wolverton residents (and if not most, certainly many) had a piano in the front room, used by children for piano lessons and by some neighbour or relative at parties or festive occasions for a sing-song. sually the piano stool housed a small library of sheet music published by Boosey and Hawkes and probably bought from Fred Anstee on Church Street.

There were six outlets for the musically gifted in those days: the church choirs, variety shows, concerts, dance bands, brass bands, and banquets.
Church choirs were well subscribed. I can only speak from my own experience as a choir boy at St Georges in the 1950s but this choir had sixteen boys and about a dozen men. The choir practised on Thursday evening and performed Sunday Eucharist and Sunday Evensong, so it was quite a commitment.
In the 1950s we were in the last days of the Variety Show, although we did not know it at the time. This was a full evening’s entertainment of a mix of acts, comics, jugglers, singers, conjurers and probably acts involving animals. The Variety Show transferred to TV in the early days – Saturday Night at the London Palladium was a prime example – but eventually withered as people lost interest. In Wolverton someone would organize such an event at the Works Canteen or the Top Club. The acts would come together according to their billing and then reappear the following week at Bletchley or Newport Pagnell. I know my father did quite a number of these shows in the 40s and early 50s until he was able to focus his singing career as an after dinner singer.
Those with a more serious interest in music could attend concerts which were organised periodically. Often they would feature oratorios; orchestral concerts were rarer.
In the early 50s we were still in the era of the big band. There was no amplification and a good sound for a dance band could only be achieved through numbers. Labour in any case was still quite cheap in those days, so a good sized semi-professional dance band could be readily assembled for saturday night performances. Two bands I recall from those days were the Tommy Claridge band and the Joe Lovesey orchestra. The Rhythm Aces, featuring the musically talented Dytham brothers, Doug and Sid, was smaller but more jazzy. Leslie Bray, who had that earthy baritone so popular with jazz bands back then, sung with them.
Music for public functions was provided by the brass bands. The Wolverton Town Band and the New Bradwell Silver Band, were, as their name suggests, based in their respective communities. The Wolverton Band was led by Bill Blackburn. I think they regularly performed at half-time at football matches and big occasions like Remembrance Day and Christmas. They marched through the town on Carnival Day of course.