Kenny Ball trumpet
Probably the greatest test of an artists success is his durability. For more than forty years Kenny Ball has flown the flag for his particular brand of traditional jazz all over the world. It is a tribute to his stamina and musical integrity that Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen are as popular today as they were back in 1960 when they had their first chart hit with Samantha.
From that time on hit after hit came pouring out until the final tally was fourteen top thirty records eclipsing even Kennys idol the great Louis Armstrongs total - an achievement which has never been equalled by any other jazz artist and which included Midnight In Moscow, a top 2 in both the UK and USA.
Their popularity was enhanced further by their four-year spells on the 'Morecambe and Wise Show' and 'Saturday Nighl at the Mill' both ot which were viewed bv millions.
Today mention the name Kenny Ball and everyone knows who he is. He is identified with great jazz but also wonderful entertainment, for Kenny, like Louis Armstrong, believes in making jazz attractive to the general public.
His records continue to sell. At time of press he has 19 CD's currently on sale! His records continue to sell in the hundreds of thousands!
At the Box Office, where it really counts, Kenny is also still a major attraction and festival promoters have now re-discovered his crowd-pulling strength. With over 200 dates a year he continues to appeal to both old and young audiences. Now, his reputation has spread to the Continent where he is in continual demand, playing more than 50 dates throughout Europe each year.
His tours with other jazz giants sell out at even the largest venues. If any proof was needed here it is - that Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen are, undoubtedly... the most successful British jazz band ever!
Forty-one years and going strong! 1999 sees Kenny Ball And His Jazzmen celebrating forty-one very7 successful years in the music business still playing entertaining jazz and still (as they say) 'pulling them in'!
Yet, as an Australian newspaper was acute to point out the band is playing with the energy and enthusiasm of teenagers. A list of
Kenny's achievements would look good on a pop band's CV.
Eight years on national TV on the legendary 'Morecambe and Wise' series and on the
popular 'Saturday Night at the Mill', fourteen hit records including a No. 1 in the UK and USA with Midnight In Moscow,
innumerable national tours and radio series, two Royal Command performances and even a special appearance at Buckingham Palace for the wedding ball of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
So 41 glorious years playing the music he loves leaves Kenny a very contented man especially as his popularity seems destined to continue for as long as he chooses to carry on.
Another 41 years would be a little too much to expect but the mileage is far from running out.
John Benson bass & vocals
Originally from North London and now living in Hertfordshire, John first showed an interest in the clarinet in the mid 1950s. In order to join his brothers skiffle group he acquired a guitar, which led to playing many other styles of music. He switched to double bass in 1965 and soon formed his own jazz trio playing in various venues predominantly in the London area whilst working during the day as a computer programmer for the Daily Telegraph in Fleet Street. Turning his attention to music on a full time basis in 1975, John had brief spells with the Brian Knight Blues by Six Band and the Monty Sunshine Jazzband before joining Kenny in 1977 replacing Vie Pitt who joined Chris Barber. Apart from the double bass and dealing with the 'on the road admin' for the band, John is interested in astronomy and is very keen on sailing.
Nick Millward drums, vocals
Born in Birmingham Nick was given his first drum kit at the age of 5 and was soon to be inspired by the likes of Gene Krupa, Ed Thigpen, Dennis Chambers and in particular the drummer he has styled himself on, Buddy Rich. Before joining Kenny in 1999, he toured the world with many other bands, starting with an American rock cover band. Nick turned professional when he became a member of the Pete Alien Jazzband, with whom he played for 5 years. He was later with Terry Lightfoot, then the First Class Sounds band featuring Digby Fairweather. In addition to all this, he also runs his own trio or quartet which allows him to display his vocal talents.
John Bennett trombone
John, a founder member of the band, was born in East London 'within the sound of Bow Bells'. He started out in jazz at an early age as a self-taught boogie woogie pianist, and regularly picked the lock of the school piano with his nail file in order to give lunch-hour recitals to his fellow pupils. This was severely frowned upon by the educational authorities of the day, though it did earn John a lasting place in his schools underground hall of fame. Later on he took up trombone, and while stationed in London on National Service with the army, John spent his off-duty evenings sitting in with bands at various jazz clubs in the Soho area. He went professional with the Terry Lightfoot band in 1956, and there met Kenny Ball who was also to join that band eighteen months later.
Andy Cooper clarinet, vocals, superstar!
Born, Elgin Scotland 1942. Started playing clarinet at school in Oxford. After leaving Art College at Cambridge, he turned professional in 1963, playing with the London City Stompers, Charlie Galbraith All Stars and the Alan Eisdon Band with whom he toured with his idol Edmund Hall.
He joined Kenny Ball in 1967 and in 1968 recorded I Wanna Be Like You! from Walt Disney's Jungle Book which has now become his trade mark! He recorded a successful Jazz-House CD with his son Paul in 1995 which he really enjoyed doing. When touring commitments with Kennys permit, Andy tours with his Europe Top 8 Band. His hobby is living for fun and fun for living!
P.S. Andy says: "I enjoy being an idiot!"
Hugh Ledigo piano
Born at the beginning of the Swing era, Hughs original love was classical music, but his brothers success as a jazz-band-leader lured him across the tracks at a tender age. His musical tastes still embrace Bach and Debussy, Bix and Duke. After years of jazz and nightclubs, Hugh became MD for London's prestigious Showboat Theatre-Restaurant before joining the famous Pasadena Roof Orchestra. After belatedly completing his formal training with the concert pianist
Eileen John, Hugh joined the ranks of Kenny Ball's Jazzmen in November 1987. He is equally at home playing Dixieland through to Be-Bop and beyond, and classical music - but only behind locked doors!