Ginger’s jazz days

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I was sorry to learn that Ginger Baker had died. He was in my band, The Storyville Jazzmen (later led by Bob Wallis) back in 1956-7. We were very much into purist New Orleans Jazz at the time, and used to brainwash young Ginger with Baby Dodds’ records.

I can still see him striding about in baggy cord trousers, muttering tom-tom fills to himself. I can also remember helping to carry his drums (we had no transport) through the long pedestrian tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich, en route to George Webb’s jazz club at the Shakespeare Hotel. He’d get very shirty if we messed about, giving them the odd friendly thump or two.

Whilst with the Storyville Jazzmen he recorded a few times for Doug Dobell’s 77 Label, backing (amongst others) Bob Wallis, Acker Bilk, McDuncan, John Mortimer and Dick Heckstall-Smith. In summer 1957 when the first Storyville Jazzmen split up, Ginger and I joined Terry Lightfoot’s band.

After that, when the traditional jazz boom began to recede, Ginger moved onwards, outwards and upwards (certainly financially) via the developing genre of bluesy R&B, and then into international rock fame, as is well known. He always retained an association with jazz. He dedicated his 2010 autobiography Hellraiser to (amongst others) “my four great heroes that I idolised as a young musician: Phil Seamen, Art Blakey, Max Roach and Elvin Jones, who all became dear friends”.

Hot tempered all his life, but without doubt an exceptional and swinging drummer in any musical setting, Ginger was justly rewarded with fame and fortune.

Hugh Rainey, Wickford