At The Jazz Band Ball

Philip Oakes was a British journalist, poet, and novelist brown in Burslem in 1928. His father, a travelling salesman, died when Oakes was 4, and his mother developed a brain tumour when he ย was 8. All this led to a difficult upbringing and lasting conflict with his mother.

Today I finished reading the third of his autobiographical trilogy which forms the title of this post. The subtitle, ‘A Memoir of the ’50s’ is not strictly accurate because it really occupies the 1940s.

There is no doubt that the author’s early life contributed to his later relationships, especially with women, about which he is honest and revealing. He displays a lively journalistic style in describing his early adulthood, his needs, his errors, his lessons, and his influences. There is a rich vein of humour. He hadn’t minded his post-war call up for National Service, which I narrowly missed.

It was as the ’50s turned to the ’60s that I was into my jazz period, so I was intrigued by Oakes’s friendships with the likes of George Melly and Mick Mulligan. Although I could only find much later versions like this one of one of Melly’s standard performances I did enjoy his much more athletic presentation some 50 or so years earlier on a stage I don’t remember – possibly Croydon’s Fairfield Halls. Oakes also celebrated this turn in his book.

One of the author’s friend’s favourite recording was Muggsy Spanier’s

Perhaps it was Bill Maddocks’s early death in a car accident that suggested Philip Oakes’s ย tribute title.

Ian returned home to Emsworth soon after lunch. Becky stayed on another night. The three of us dined on more of her tasty pasta bake, pizza, and salad, with which I drank Patrick Chodot’s Fleurie 2018.


  1. I saw Mick Mulligan and George Melly playing and singing in the very early 60s at a concert in a London park (I forget which) which the old LCC used to promote on a regular basis. The concerts were either free or cost 6d, I think.

      1. Indeed…My son recently brought out a case of
        old albums he had rescued from our “sort and toss” mission when we moved this year. To my delight and surprise, our 17 yo granddaughter wanted a few! I realized how many good albums there were but we are glad to give to to family.

  2. Oh my now you have me thinking. When was my last ball? I suppose it was 1979 in Munich, it was a Faschings Ball. Goodness that was fun. I better make sure I never tell my husband about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. This era of music always reminds me of Saturday lunchtimes as a child when my mother would listen to Frank Wappat’s Thirties Club show on BBC Radio Newcastle. The music was from the 30s, 40s and 50s. I can smell the bacon frying in the back kitchen … ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Thank you for the song links! I enjoyed listening to them on this cold winter night. A lot of people sang/recorded Frankie and Johnny, but loved this version! Made me grin! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I love bio and autobio books! I love learning about people and their lives…their struggles, successes, choices, influences, etc!
    YAY for Jazz…Jazz Bands…and Balls!
    HUGS!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I enjoyed the story despite not knowing who these people were. (That’s a testament to your writing ability, Derrick. How about a book of your own?)

  6. There’s nothing better in life than a good biography is there. I enjoyed your clear description of this Philip Oakes and his contemporaries. No I had never heard of him either so I learnt something too.

  7. I am impressed when someone can honestly write about themselves introspectively. And especially when they can do it with a touch of humor. I might enjoy these books as well. I didn’t know anything about Philip Oakes and appreciate the introduction.

  8. I hadn’t heard of Philip Oakes but I am sure I’d love his autobiography. I always loved George Melly though, and enjoyed the links very much! Thank you, Derrick!

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