Terry Lightfoot: Clarinettist and Trad jazz pioneer


Just before the advent of Beatlemania in 1963, the musical crazes were the twist and related dances from America and bright and breezy tunes from British jazz bands, known as Trad. "We can be credited with being the first band to use the word Trad", claimed Terry Lightfoot, who formed his New Orleans Jazzmen in 1955, "Starting in 1959, we made a series of extended-play records which were called Trad, More Trad, Trad Again and Still Trad. I'm surprised we didn't do a Son Of Trad as well."

Terry Lightfoot was born in Potters Bar, Middlesex in 1935 and his brother Patrick (Paddy) two years later. They showed an aptitude for music with Terry playing piano and cornet before settling on clarinet in the school jazz band. Both he and Paddy, a banjo player, were in the Wood Green Stompers but Terry had to leave for national service in 1953. He played with fellow servicemen and appeared on the BBC's Forces Show.

In 1955 he formed Terry Lightfoot's New Orleans Jazzmen, turning professional within a year. They toured with variety shows supporting the American country star, Slim Whitman, and the rock'n'roll acts, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. Lightfoot's personal highlight was playing UK dates with the New Orleans trombonist, Kid Ory, in 1959. The band recorded for Pye ("My Bucket's Got A Hole In It") and EMI's Columbia label ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus").

Paddy joined his brother after his own national service and the band became a very popular touring act, well placed for success alongside Ball, Barber and Bilk in the Trad boom. Although jazz was associated with beards, sandals and duffle coats, all these bands were smartly dressed and Lightfoot looked a city gent in a neat suit and tie. One unusual record, "Slab's Blues", featured four clarinetists – Archie Semple, Terry Lightfoot, Acker Bilk and Sandy Brown.

In 1961, following Kenny Ball's lead with a frenetic "Samantha", they recorded another Cole Porter from High Society, "True Love", with Terry taking a gravel-voiced vocal. "It was a waltz originally and we put into 4/4" Lightfoot told me, "but we did that kind of thing all the time. We did a lot of standard jazz tunes like 'Dippermouth Blues' but we also did Chopin's "Polonaise in A major". We found that we couldn't play that in A, so we did it in B flat but I don't think anyone noticed."

The band's most successful single was with a tune from an African musical in the West End, "King Kong", written by Todd Matshikiza. They appeared on Granada TV's Trad With A Twist alongside Chubby Checker and had residences on both Morecambe and Wise's and Des O'Connor's first TV series. Their stage favourite, "Big Noise From Winnetka", was a popular single and they performed "Tavern In The Town" in Dick Lester's film It's Trad, Dad! (1962).

Lightfoot knew that the Trad boom would not last. "Jazz bands were almost totally acoustic," he reflected, "and to have an amplified instrument in a jazz band was almost unknown. I can remember playing for a dance at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton and the Beatles were on with us. It was obvious that their music was going to have a hell of a big following although it was totally alien to me."

Paddy Lightfoot played with the band until 1961 and then joined Kenny Ball for 10 years. In 1966, Lightfoot disbanded his band and became a publican. He soon returned, joining Paddy with Kenny Ball for a year and then striking out on his own. The brothers played together in the 1970s and then became publicans of different pubs. Lightfoot returned to performing regularly in 1983 and featured his daughter Melinda as a vocalist.

Terence Lightfoot, clarinettist and bandleader: born Potters Bar, Middlesex 21 May 1935; married (three daughters); died 15 March 2013.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(that's not Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home