Billy Bell

Billy Bell – Banjoist & Jazz Guitarist

? – 1997


Billy Bell was a versatile Musician, being able to play Banjo, Guitar, Tuba & Bass. It is as a Guitar player he is best remembered, though if the Rust & Forbes “British Dance Band” discography is to be believed, he made a huge number of recordings both as a Double bass & Tuba player. Here’s a quick rundown of his likely dance band recording career:-

Emlyn Thomas’s London Band from 1923 to possibly 1925 (banjo)
Bert & John Firman’s Zonophone house bands……1927-32 (tuba)
Nat Star’s Studio Band for Homophone various sessions 1929-31 (banjo)
Jack Harris’ Grosvenor House Hotel Band.  May 1931 to May 1932 (bass & tuba)
Jay Wilbur’s House Band on Rex & Crown Records.. various from 1933 – end 1941 (bass)
Phil Green’s Band – one Session in April 1935 (Guitar)


Billy Bell seen here on the right in front of announcer David Jacobs during a BBC Broadcast of the Ivor Mairants Guitar Group, Left to right, Joe Mudelle Bass, Jack Duarte, Ivor Mairants and Dennis Wilson on Piano.  Billy appears to be playing an Electric Archtop with teardrop sound holes and a single Pick-up with controls mounted on the Scratchplate.


Billy Bell, Bert Weedon, Steve Gauna, Jack Llewellyn, Joe Fenton, George Elliott along with Judd Proctor on Guitar and Bassist Joe Mudelle were all in the Big Ben Banjo Band inspired by Bandleader Norrie Paramor for easy listing & commercial success beyond his wildest dreams.  Formed during the height of their popularity, from 1954 to 1958 by Columbia A & R man Norrie Paramor and were purely intended as a recording unit. Basically, they were a Dixieland-style outfit with Banjos predominant.  Norrie had the pick of the top Session Musicians, and his original Line up included George Chisholm on trombone, Tommy McQuater (trumpet) & Bert Weedon (Guitar). They continued to record prolifically, right through into the 1970s.  Nice little Earner!

1958ParamourNorrie Paramor and the Big Ben Banjo Band
Leader/Piano: Norrie Paramor
Banjos: Billy Bell (bottom Right), Bert Weedon (Top), Steve Gauna, Jack Llewellyn, Joe Fenton, George Elliott 
Stan Roderick
George Chisholm
Reg Hogarth
Judd Proctor
Joe Mudelle
Tuba: Jim Powell
Jock Cummings
Denis McCarthy

He was one of the stalwarts of The Banjoliers, 9 Banjos plus Accordion & Piano which was started by Pasqual Troise in 1940 when he decided that his Mandolin Orchestra couldn’t make enough noise to be heard over the factory machines in Music While You Work, a ½-hour of music designed to keep the War effort moving on.  On Troise’s death in 1957 the Band was taken over by Jack Mandel. A similar Line-up,

I started playing the piano when I was 6 years old, learning the usual stuff, and happy in retrospect to have learned reading & playing the traditional way. When I was 11, my sister got a Guitar for Christmas along with a Guitar manual written by Billy Bell.  I stole the Guitar from her and started to teach myself to play using the Tutorial and other bits I had picked up from old records laying around the house.  Several years later I was fortunate to call on Billy Bell for a BBC Radio Session and I told him about my 1st steps on Guitar and how he’d personally inspired me. He shattered my romantic illusions saying that he’d simply agreed to have his picture on the front cover of the book in exchange for a free Amplifier.   That’s Jazz!Dave Cooke


Jack Llewellyn and Ivor Mairants testing a new Van Straten Guitar.
Behind them, from left to right, are Van Straten, Joe Deniz (gr) headstock in hand, Dick Knight, Dick Sadleir and Lauderic Caton.  That could be Billy Bell leaning in the glasses centre rear.

Joe 90 Theme Recording
Personnel: Billy Bell (Guitar, Banjo); Jim Sullivan, Vic Flick (Guitar); Michael Jeffries, David Snell (harp); David Katz, George French, Ray Moseley, Julian Gaillard, Jack Mandel, Lou Whiteson, John Jezzard, Ralph Elman, Jack Greenstone, David McCallum, Reg Leopold (violin); John Underwood, David Bellman, John Dyer (viola); Bram Martin, Fred Alexander, Reginald Kilbey, Alan Ford (cello); Tommy Reilly (harmonica); Henry Krein (accordion); Keith Bird, Cyril Reubens, Roy Wilcox, Peter Hughes (clarinet); Tommy McQuater (trumpet); Alf Reece (trombone, tuba); Jock Bain (trombone); Frank Rycroft (horns); Bill Davies (organ); Joe Mudelle, Dave Richmond (bass guitar); Jock Cummings, Stan Barrett, Alan Hakin, Eric Allen (percussion). Unknown Contributor Role: Jack Emblow.

Fallon&MuddelJoe Muddell or Mudelle – Bassist (Right)
born in 1920 Joe Muddell was an original Club Eleven Bass player. He began playing at 17 years of age but his musical career was interrupted by War Service in the RAF. He played with Tito Burns in 1947 before Club Eleven in 1948. Then in 1950 became a founder member of the Johnny Dankworth Seven. Worked with various groups in the early 1950s before forming his own Band in 1952 before long spells with Tommy Whittle & Tony Kinsey in the mid-1950s.  He then became a prolific free-lance musician with TV, radio and studio work.


The Club Eleven was so named because it had 11 Founders – Business manager Harry Morris and 10 British Bebop Musicians. It was 1st opened at 41 Great Windmill Street in Soho in 1948, and had 2 House Bands one led by Ronnie Scott and the other by John Dankworth. Scott’s Sidemen included Tony Crombie Lennie Bush, Tommy Pollard, & Hank Shaw, while Dankworth’s included Leon Calvert, Bernie Fenton, Joe Mudell, & Laurie Morgan. When Scott toured the US, Don Rendell filled his spot. Denis Rose organised many of the activities at the Club. In 1950 the club moved to 50 Carnaby Street, but shuttered a few months after the move as a consequence of a Police Raid.

Roland Peachey Hawaiian Guitarist with Felix Mendelssohn – (Piche) came to the UK from Canada in 1937, bringing with him a 7 string “Frypan” and Jack G Abbott of London made him a 3 neck Lap Steel Guitar.   One can assume that the pick-ups were either copied from the Rickenbacker or maybe even bought direct from the Rick’ Company.

Felix Mendelssohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders

Rhythm & Soloist Guitarists included George Elliott & Billy Bell for commercial reasons only perhaps, but providing a Film record of their performance.  The 3-neck Lap Steel Guitar in the clip is certainly an ABBOTT