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My father wanted me to be a mechanic. I wanted to be a musician.It transpired I was not good at either

Leaving school at 14 after being evacuated three times, I lasted out nearly a week in a Wanstead garage the shortness being due to crossing the thread while changing a spark plug on the guvnor's Jaguar SS. An office job (post boy) in the shipping world of Leadenhall Street followed. When an air raid sounded, I often did fire watch duty on the roof. If a plane was spotted approaching, an alarm bell was rang and the staff (and bell ringer) would scurry down to the basement. A skylight on the roof gave access to the telephone room where the office girls would meet for morning coffee. I couldn'tt see them but could vaguely hear through a hole in the window frame woodwork. Borrowing a large funnel from mum’s kitchen I jammed the pointed end into the woodwork and was able to hear the girls through the horn end. I liked to think that this was my first venture into sound amplification. The voluptuous Miss Gray (a dead ringer for Jane Russell) told stories about how her GI boyfriend couldn'tt keep his hands off her, whilst a stunning beauty, Miss McDougal related tips on how to juggle two GI boyfriends and her Scots Guards fiancée. His name was Hamish. Whenever this name crops up, Miss McDougal's image comes to mind. When Miss McDougal walked down Leadenhall Street, lamp posts would wince as gentlemen walked into them. I had no experience of grown-up girls before and it was all heady stuff for a fourteen-year-old boy, my blood temperature often soared! Once I was so engrossed I totally missed a Heinkel bomber passing over. Of course, when the typists got back to their desks, butter wouldn't melt in their mouths!  US Lines (provider of Liberty Ships) was situated at 38 Leadenhall Street. The Managing Director was Clinton Hiram Kemp; I could forge his signature to this day. He mysteriously came and went with a brief case chained to his wrist. Was he CIA? Did the CIA exist then?  US Lines telephone number was Royal 6677. Funny, I remember that to this day while not sure of my own mobile number. When my dad was invalided out of the army in 1943, I reluctantly left the shipping industry to help dad who had found an empty shop adjoining the Rex cinema in Leytonstone High Road. Here, Scott's Buffet was born. Dad and I worked all night for (what seemed like) weeks decorating, making and fitting counters and generally getting ready for the launch. When air raids subsided a huge new window was installed without shatter glass strips. One morning, after cleaning this beautiful window a V2 rocket fell nine hundred yards away and blew the entire window outwards - my charmed life had begun. (See
War. What is it Good For?).

The buffet was a great success and became a haven of rest for American Air Force personnel, thanks largely to mum's superb coffee and cuisine, which she insisted had to be of a standard as if feeding her family.

Being close to the Burghley Hall, a popular dance hall hot spot of the time, the alternating bands would spend their break times in Scott's Buffet and in one of these breaks I fortuitously met boy wonder drummer Kenny Clare, later to be voted 2nd best drummer in the world by Metronome Magazine (it was always difficult to top Buddy Rich). Years earlier, I did two paper rounds and a milk round on Saturdays to enable me to purchase a second hand John Grey drum kit. Dad thought I was demented. I did gigs in a quartet most weekends, often carrying my kit home from the bus station as anti-aircraft guns on the Wanstead Flats hammered at unseen German airplanes overhead. Later, I further experimented with the clarinet and trombone. - both doomed. Dad would shake his head in disgust, You should have learnt a trade boy. His opinion was that I was constantly trying to dodge work and listen to stupid jazz music. Mum and dad always called me boy. I detested my given name Walter, choosing a middle name Edward, shortened sometimes to Eddie, or Ted. No wonder they got confused and kept to boy. During National Service, I played in bigger dance bands, where my drumming expertise was seriously exposed. (see This Is The Army Mr. Ted). Much later I bought a Conn alto saxophone and was tutored by Cecil Pressling the lead alto in the Oscar Rabin Band. Being an avid modern jazz fan, I tended to run long before I could walk and the saxophone went the way of the previous instrumental aspirations. Having moved from café to café several times, mum and dad found the work arduous and tiring. Sixteen hour days were not uncommon and it was no life for me or my sisters. Dad vainly sought alternative means of a living before finishing up in a failing office furniture business. Dad's exploits and hard work in trying to avoid 'hard work' would fill a book. Kenny Clare had served his National Service in the RAF and we had always kept in touch. One weekend I stayed with Kenny and told him the future, for me, looked bleak. In terror, I told him I might have to actually find a job. After much speculation he suggested I go into the disc-cutting business. He recounted the success of someone he had met in the States. Kenny by this time was drumming aboard the QE1 the New York/Southampton 'ferry' bringing back priceless jazz albums unavailable in the UK. Why didn't I get a recording outfit and bootleg these albums for hungry modern jazz addicts?  It sounded like a lifeline to me and exciting to boot. My father was down to his last few hundred pounds and after scouring the phone books we went to the MSS Recording Company in Colnbrook, near Heathrow and spent nearly £600 on equipment that, despite a lengthy demonstration by a charming Mr. Pemberton, I retained only the haziest idea of the four hours tuition. £600 in 1951 was a lot of dosh, had I wasted dad's money. In retrospect, considering his total inability to comprehend the mysterious equipment he had paid for, his faith in me was astounding probably tinged with desperation! After much experimentation, I discovered I had knack for the art of acetate disc cutting and even more so an ear for sound mixing.

My First Equipment


No, no, this isn't me! I could never have been that brave!
 

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The Home Guard

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