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A 15 YEAR OLD GUITARIST AND JAZZ FAN...


At the recent 'Songs For Ghosts' launch party, I was honoured to have a few fans over from the United States. An amazing thing that they would travel so far to attend the event.

One of those American fans was a lady called Diane who was kind enough to bring some special gifts to me backstage, one of which was a vintage copy of the American jazz magazine 'Downbeat,' dated January 14th 1965. It contained a previously unpublished interview with Jean Cocteau, speaking about his enthusiasm for jazz music.

'Downbeat' magazine also marked a certain time in my own life. I may have mentioned this before, in an old diary entry, but I'll relate the tale again here as it illustrated how jazz was already an intrinsic part of my musical life at a relatively young age.

When I was a teenager, my parents owned a cedar wood chalet on the East Coast of Yorkshire. It was located at 'Golden Sands Chalet Park' on the edge of the small seaside town of Withernsea. It stood a few yards from the cliff's edge with beautiful views of the sea. At night I would fall asleep to the gentle sound of waves breaking on the beach, with Withernsea's lighthouse illuminating my bedroom every few seconds as it's beam swung in the direction of the Chalet Park.

During the summer season, we would go there every weekend, and spend our annual two-week holiday there too. I was very fond of the place.

Walking back from the town to the Chalet Park I would pass a small newsagent's shop which sold the usual newspapers, cigarettes and sweets, plus brightly coloured tin toy buckets and spades and little flags and windmills for children to play with on the beach. Such simple pleasures...

But this newsagent also stocked a number of American superhero comics and, amazingly for such an out of the way, not very cosmopolitan resort, they displayed copies of the imported 'Downbeat' magazine in their racks too.

I vividly remember buying a particular copy of 'Downbeat' on one of those family holidays in Withernsea. It was in the summer of 1964 and I was 15 years old. I'd stopped at the shop to buy a couple of superhero comics and saw that they had the special 'Guitar Issue' of 'Downbeat' in their magazine racks. The front cover featured Wes Montgomery whose playing I loved and whose records I owned.

I bought the magazine and avidly read it, cover-to-cover, when I arrived back at the chalet. It contained interviews with Wes and other great jazz guitarists including Herb Ellis and George Van Eps. It also had a feature on bluesman Mississippi John Hurt.

One of the things about 'Downbeat' was that it featured adverts by American guitar companies. These ads hadn't appeared in British magazines so they were of special interest to me. Gibson, Gretsch and Guild, (the three big 'G's) all carried ads in the magazine.

Amazingly, I still have that copy of 'Downbeat' in my possession. It's a bit worn but intact. It's dated July 16 1964 and serves as a fond reminder of my 15 year old self and my love of jazz.

So, here's a scan of that very magazine with scans of the Gibson, Gretsch and Guild ads that were in it. Oh, and a scan of a Fender ad from the 1965 'Downbeat' that Diane brought me as a gift from America at the launch party the other week.


Here's the first one for Gibson guitars...


Here's the Gretsch Advert...


One for Guild guitars...


Here's the last one, a Fender ad...



© Bill Nelson 2020

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