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Give the drum some

December 17, 2010

Jack-Shaw - CopyThe 1927 picture of the Kit Kat Dance Band from Wellington is one of the most striking in Blue Smoke. It came from the Turnbull Library collection. The band is elegant, dressed in tails, with satin sashes across their dicky shirts. Ted Marchant the violinist and saxophonist is even rakishly posed sitting on the grand piano.

The other saxophonist, Will Ashworth, must have taken over the band, suggests this detail from a picture just received from Steven Shaw of Auckland. The complete image shows his grandfather, in dinner suit, posing at the same kit, though Marchant’s name is replaced by Ashworth’s on the drumhead. It gives an idea of what happened to the drum-kit after its 1920s heyday putting the rhythm into dances at the Wellington Star Boating Club.

My Grandfather Jack Shaw was a drummer and my grandmother a pianist; they were entertainers in Blenheim — although he had fulltime work he also filled in for passing vaudeville acts touring here from Australia and the USA . Mostly they played the parties and functions in Blenheim and Marlborough. He was also heavily involved in the brass band scene.

When they shifted to Auckland in the mid-1950s there was a public notice in the Marlborough paper about a civic farewell for them.

I still have my grandfather’s side drum (snare), tom tom and bass drum, which originally bore the Kit-Kat band artwork that can be seen in your book – I have attached a photo of him at the drum kit, must have been when he first bought it, we think late 1920s, early 1930s. We don’t think he played with these guys as he would have been younger than them and living in Blenheim. We presume he travelled to Welly to purchase it.

When I was a kid (60s/70s) Christmases involved the grandparents on piano and these drums; my dad’s a trumpeter and the aunties were all classically trained singers. They cranked out Tin Pan Alley songs right through Christmas day.

The artwork in the photo is slightly different as it says Will Ashworth rather than Ted Marchant, so it might not be the exact same bass drum … but now I know its history thanks to the Marchant/Ashworth connection.

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