OBITUARY : Tiny Winters

For the first half of the 20th century British jazz bass players had a notoriety around the world equivalent to that of today's British Rail cuisine. The analogy can be taken further, for our bass players swung like suet pudding. Except for Tiny Winters, who was able to swing with the power of a railway train.

During the late Twenties and throughout the Thirties, Winters was the only British rhythm player who could play on a level with American visitors and with his only European peer, Django Reinhardt. He was among the very few British players - his trumpeter pal Nat Gonella was another - to be respected wherever he was heard, and such was the potency of his playing that the records he made in 1934 with the American giant Coleman Hawkins still sound fresh and vital.

Taught the violin as a child, Winters changed to the double bass because of his fondness for rhythm. He developed a pizzicato style based on that of one of the greatest bass players from New Orleans, Pops Foster. This meant eschewing the orthodox way of plucking the bass and instead mastering Foster's technique of pulling the strings outwards from the fingerboard and releasing them so that they slapped back against the fingerboard, virtually doubling the volume of the note that resulted. The method became known as "slapping the bass".

In the Twenties he worked in the band of Roy Fox and stayed with it when in 1932 Fox retired because of ill-health and the great arranger and pianist Lew Stone took it over. Stone realised that Winters had considerable talent as a jazz vocalist and, because Winters had an abnormally high voice for a man, had him singing cover versions of Ella Fitzgerald's latest hits. When Winters recorded his vocals there was much confusion among record buyers and he began getting fan mail addressed to "Miss Tiny Winters". A French songwriter even submitted a new song to him as "Mademoiselle Tiny Winters". Winters was a gruff and resilient character and these gender confusions bothered him not one jot: "Lew let everybody let their hair down and gave the soloists every chance, which is why I thought that his band was the best I ever played in."

Winters and Nat Gonella had formed a small band within the band called "Nat Gonella and His Georgians", but when Gonella became such a hit he had to go out on his own, Winters stayed with Lew Stone. In 1937 he left to work for another of the great British bands, that led by Bert Ambrose, and also recorded for Ray Noble.

Tiny Winters served in the RAF in the Second World War and afterwards was in constant demand as a session man in the London studios. He was also the first choice of many recording band leaders and was in at the early days of television, later working throughout the series of The Black and White Minstrel Show (1958-78) as well as continuing his radio career.

He played in a series of West End stage productions, including Annie Get Your Gun (1947) and West Side Story (1958), and worked as bassist and featured comedian with George Chisholm, another of the stars of The Black and White Minstrel Show, when the trombonist formed George Chisholm's Jazzers. In 1982 he toured the country with a tribute to Nat Gonella and later fronted Kettner's Five, so called in the hope of getting work in the London restaurant of that name; in fact they played in Pizza Express, like Kettner's owned by Peter Boizot.

Winters continued to play into the late Eighties, leading a Cafe Society Orchestra and his own Palm Court Trio, which performed in the foyer of the National Theatre - two unlikely settings for an unreconstructed cockney. He also wrote his autobiography, It Took a Lot of Pluck, which, unpublished, resides in the National Sound Archive. He retired in the early Nineties, when he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London.

Steve Voce

Frederick Gittens (Tiny Winters), bassist, vocalist and bandleader: born London 24 January 1909; twice married (one daughter); died London 7 February 1996.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn