Jack Toogood –
Still Alive & Pickin’ @ 87
“Stringalong” went off the air on Sept. 25th but every Saturday morning since then Leslie Baker & Jack Toogood (with the “Swingtette”) have been heard in Morning Music. Today the tasteful Guitar playing of Jack Toogood is a topic of conversation among enthusiasts who recognise 1st-Class execution and real Guitar tone. Jack Toogood started his musical career at the age of 7 learning the Piano, For 4-yrs he was an average Student.” He told me he could learn easily enough but truthfully had little interest in the keyboard instrument. When Schooling put an end to his Piano lessons he did retain enough interest to play the latest “pops” and, looking back, he realises this helped him to keep what little reading ability he had acquired. At the age of 13 he was smitten with the Ukulele craze – after seeing some of George Formby’s Films and listening to this famous star’s many recordings. He taught himself by the aid of every Ukulele Tutor he could lay his hands on. He admits that in his early ‘teens he simply “lived” for the Ukulele. At the age of 15 he was a junior Clerk in a Bristol Insurance Office and one day he was delivering letters when he passed a Newsagent’s and saw a copy of “BMG.” in the window. The subtitle: “Devoted to the Banjo, Mandolin & Guitar and Kindred Instruments” caught his eye and thinking here might be a chance to learn something more about his beloved “Uke” he bought his 1st copy. He even remembers the date: January 1940.
Within 2 months he had commenced taking Lessons on Plectrum Guitar from Horace Craddy (whose address was in the Teachers pages) and stayed with him until his Army call-up in November 1942. Toogood emphasises the fact that the real foundation for his subsequent musical success came from the instruction he received from Horace Craddy. From his Teacher he also became aware of Eddie Lang, Kress, McDonough and, later, Django Reinhardt and he started collecting the recordings of these famous players of the Plectrum Guitar which have so influenced his own style of execution. Jack Toogood recalls that studying anything at this period was far from easy. It was Wartime and he was required to take the Insurance Examinations by his Employers and had to study for these at the same time as he was struggling with the Guitar He said he made the fatal mistake of resting his Insurance Test papers on a copy of Eddie Lang’s “Fingerboard Harmony!” He took a Guitar with him into the Army and managed to find time to further his Studies apart from playing for his fellow Soldiers at sing songs etc. When hostilities ceased in Europe his unit was in Germany and soon he was transferred to the Brigade Concert (103 Anti-Aircraft Brigade RA). When the Unit was disbanded he was fortunate in being posted to the “49th Div Road Show the Polar Stars” – with a fine Dance Band under the Leadership of Stan Butcher, now Staff Arranger for Campbell Connally & Co (Music Publishers). Toogood recalls it was excellent training for him as there were many 1st-Class Musicians with the Band from time to time. (Don Lusher – The Ted Heath Band – 1st Trombone). At one stage the Band lacked a good Jazz Man for 2nd Trumpet – and Jack took the ‘Trumpet solos’ on Electric Plectrum Guitar’ He recalls it was most enjoyable to have a full scored backing instead of the more usual Rhythm Section only.
It was while he was playing with the “Polar Stars” he experienced his 1st Broadcast (from BFN Hamburg): an experience that was to prove invaluable a few years later back in “Civvy Street.” After demobilisation, there were tentative arrangements for a small unit of the “Polar Stars” to play Professionally but owing to conflicting Demob dates the idea fell through. Back in his home Town of Bristol, Jack Toogood decided to try to exist as a Professional – but he says it was hard for a time. However, Gigs became more frequent; Guitar Pupils increased and there was always the occasional local Broadcast to help. Then “Guitar Club” went to Bristol & Jack Toogood has never looked back. Two highlights of Toogood’s career has been backing Joseph Reinhardt in one of the “Stringalong” Programs and playing Solo Guitar in the Light Programme’s “Trad Tavern” on 11th November, when he was backed by Diz Disley & the Chris Barber Rhythm section. One final comment from Jack Toogood himself: “There is no doubt the extra publicity I have enjoyed during the past couple of years has been almost entirely due to my playing a round soundhole Acoustic Guitar and producing something resembling the Django Reinhardt Sound. This proves to my mind there is still a Public for this kind of music a fact borne out by the many appreciative letters I received during the Stringalong Series. This being so I deplore the frequent knocks by certain people aimed at anyone who plays in this idiom After all 90% of the players of the Electric Guitar in this Country sound like would be copyists of Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow – Johnny Smith el al (who in turn sound very much like each other) and nobody appears to think they are committing any crime!” Enjoy hearing the impeccable playing of Jack Toogood, he produces a worth-hearing sound that is unmistakably Guitar.
(Jack Toogood Guitarist is still teaching in Malvern Road Bristol in his 80’s) If anyone else can contribute anything additional in the meantime please do so.
Jack at Pontin’s Sandy Bay, Cornwall 1959 with his Grimshaw ‘Plectric’ Guitar and Hybrid Amplifier perched behind him. ‘Park’, the Amplifier Company were Midlands Agents for Grimshaw and attached a Badge beneath the Grimshaw Signature on the head. Emile Grimshaw was involved in the manufacture of Banjos on an informal basis for his Students, but in 1933 formed a Company with his son for more formal Manufacturing operations. Subsequently, the Firm also made Guitars and, apparently, other Instruments. Operations continued for at least 20-yrs after Emile’s death in 1943. Grimshaw Guitars were manufactured in the UK by Emile Grimshaw & Son. Notable users of Grimshaw Guitars from the late 50s/early 60s were Bruce Welch of The Shadows, Tony Sheridan, Marty Wilde, Joe Brown, and Studio Session player Joe Moretti (who recorded with Johnny Kidd & the Pirates of Shakin All Over fame among others).
These rare Images of Jack were supplied by Alfie Smith – the Entertainments Manager of the Pontin’s Holiday Camp, Sand Bay, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset in 1955-9. Well done Alfie – my faith is restored.
Very basic drum Kit for a touring Band in those days. Who are the supporting Musicians?? Alan ? on Bass – on Drums was Don Hunter the Band Leader, piano Les Drake!
Greetings, My name is Don Hunter. Have just seen the article about Jack Toogood and I was Jack’s Drummer at Pontins. I worked with Jack for several years before going to London. Regards to Alfie who joined Les Drake & I on several hilarious visits to Weston Super Mare. I was lucky enough to join Jack in many T/V shows in Cardiff. After retiring from the Music Business I moved to Jersey, & strangely enough met Phil Bond. We played together for many performances & I shall be seeing him at the start of the new year. Jack was a very great influence & inspiration; I owe him a lot musically. Regards, Don Hunter – Jersey
The big man with the big hands – Jack McKechnie from the Headley Ward Trio when he traded up) – and what about that Amplifier.
Interesting deep Venetian Cutaway Electric Guitar with control cluster on the Scratch Guard by the English maker Emile Grimshaw the big Jazzer is a Grimshaw Plectric with integral Pickup from around 1955 (Jack Toogood said he bought one)
Pontin’s Circa 1955, Note the Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar with case on the floor – a bit unusual for the UK audiences then. The Ppiano has a Perforated Roll Playback feature – they were rare too a mess of rubber tubes & bands in between the Frame. Jack on the Guitar with yet another Cluster Control arrangement, Les Drake on the Pianola and Alan ? on Bass. Can anyone name the Saxist/Clarinettist (the late Don Burnell?), the Drummer is Don Hunter – Quite a Pile of Charts eh – before the Big Book was published. Is that yet a bigger Amplifier out front for the Lap Steel Guitar – note the Jack Lead? Jack said it was a problem being heard at Dance Halls with an Acoustic Guitar and he moved on to Amplified Guitar and added the Electric Hawaiian for a change of Sound.
Grimshaw made Electrawiian Lap Steels – in the 30’s the Revelation which sold for for £20 and had a dedicated Amp – Good old Alfie for taking this one.
Brian Powell of Swing DeVille – Brighton worked with Jack. Originally from Bristol, he studied Guitar with legendary Guitarist Jack Toogood. This led to my lifelong love of the music of Django Reinhardt. Brian Powell
The Monthly Magazine devoted to the interests of the
Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar and Kindred Instruments
Edited by A P SHARPE (1961)
There is little glamour in the life of a Provincial Guitar player,” said Jack Toogood. When I asked him for some details of his career. There is little acclaim, too, he might have added. His name has been well known in and around Bristol since the War playing “Gigs,” the occasional Broadcast from the Western Region Station and, of course, Gutar Student Pupils. Then in February 1959 “Guitar Club” went to Bristol and the name of Jack Toogood was heard all over the Country. His playing so impressed the Producer John Kingdom that he was given a 2nd Broadcast in the Programme from London and, later, several Guest spots in the Monday late-night “Stringalong” programmes. These broadcasts led to Jack’s association with violinist Leslie Baker (Right) and the formation of the “Swingtette” (based on the Hot Club of France Quintet) which was featured for 13 weeks in the “Stringalong” Series.
From No. 15 Maintenance Unit RAF, Wroughton, Wilts.
Terry, Scott, Sheila Southern, Ron Clark, Gwenda Wilkin
Ron Millington (electronic organ)
Jack Toogood (guitar)
Colin Hawke (double-bass)
I remember Leslie Baker very well as I too play the Violin and as a teenager in the early 1960s I entered one of his Talent Competitions held in the Floral Pavilion, Bridlington. I was fortunate enough to win and after Leslie announced the result to the audience (always full of fun!) he said to me – “I wonder, if you’re not doing anything special next Saturday night – (pause, during which I relished the prospect of a job!) – would you mind lending me your Fiddle?” He only played at Bridlington 2 or 3 years and was then replaced by Edwin Harper. However, he very kindly sent me a Christmas card and invited me to come and see him play in Southport.
A few years later I heard a sad story to the effect that he had become a recluse, never played and had wrapped his Violin Case round and round with Sellotape. Whether or not it is true I have no idea, but I never heard of him again. Leslie was a fine fiddler and even to this day, whenever I play “These Foolish Things” (Fred Hartley Arrangement) I incorporate a Jazzy bit of extemporisation that I picked up on when he played the number at Bridlington. Very interesting website, Robin Johnson (Sheffield)
Hi, this is so strange; Violinist Leslie Baker was my Dad the story about him becoming a recluse is simply not true. Dad retired just before I was born in 1969 to Clacton on Sea in Essex. He never played professionally again except for a private party at the Imperial Restaurant at the end of the road where he played for one night only. He did used to get out the Violin and serenade mum from the bottom of the stairs but that was just him messing about. He had a great sense of humour and often talked about the good old days. His Violin looked quite battered and was held together with sellotape that bit is true. Sadly dad passed away on 28th December 1996 aged 86. I have lots of photos, and memorabilia as well as some old Reel to Reel tapes of his broadcasts. I was thinking of starting a website but have not had time yet. I will scan some pictures and email them soon. Sincerely – Leslie Baker (Son)
Audio/Leslie Baker (Written for Alison the song Bouncy Dec 1960).mp3
– the Bouncy song appears to be a jazzed up version of “The Grasshopper’s Dance”. We know the tune was catching on big time on the radio but was withdrawn as there was a copyright issue. The company withdrew the song for risk of being sued. Dad was really disappointed the company did not fight it but they were fighting another huge financial case for Vera Lynn.
Hello, Violinist Leslie Baker was my Mother’s cousin and although I never met him, I remember listening to him on the BBC ‘Music While You Work’ – he also did Cabaret and played at Quaglino’s Restaurant in Soho. – Ron Adams
Photo from 1956 with Jack, Alan and ??? on drums Les Drake on pianola had just left the stage – Piccolo Trumpet and even louder Shirt – Alfie Smith. The Jack Toogood Quartet was booked for a number of Seasons by the Manager of Pontin’s Sand Bay, Mr Len Pontin (brother of Sir Fred Pontin). Place that tall Amplifier! Was Jack playing Lap-Steel Guitar?
I was at the Wrexham Jazz Guitar Festival and had the good fortune to get a new, limited edition CD featuring 19 Tracks by Jack Toogood and his Swingtette. This acoustic Music from the late ’50s/early ’60s is totally stunning and surpasses 99% of the ‘Hot Club’ derived music I get sent for review. Jack was a major Sessioner (and Djangophile) living in Bristol and put together this Band for radio and TV shows of the period. Featuring Johnny Van Derrick on Violin, Alan Metcalfe on Rhythm Guitar and un-named Bassist and drummer Jack’s old Selmer Maccaferri sounds beautiful. The arrangements of well-known standards are tight & inventive and whilst Django was his hero the music is not a slavish copy. Think more Henri Crolla or Sarene Ferret. The Music has been compiled by an ex-student of Jack’s who has done this as a labour of love, his only motive being that we should all hear this masterful playing. I am assured Jack is still alive and teaching as a sprightly 80-year-old. I for one am booking a lesson.
Hi, My dad was in the ‘Polar Stars‘ with Jack & Don Lusher in 1945 in Germany. He shared ‘digs’ with Jack for 6 months, and was also with the Band when they did some recordings at Hamburg (although he was not with the Band when they did the 1st recording). He still has a glass, yes glass, 78rpm recording that the Band made later. He has a couple of old photos (1945) of the Polar Stars with himself, Jack & Don in them. Dad is 85 (like Jack) so isn’t getting any younger. Jack was at my mum & dad’s wedding (in Iserlohn, Germany) and they have met up once or twice down in Bristol.– Mike Crawshaw
I refer to the section about Jack Toogood. I found this to be very informative about the man whom I first heard on the BBC in the 60s and really know nothing about. The reason he stands out in my memory after all these years (I am 72) is that it was rare to hear decent Guitar playing on the radio in those days, especially playing Django style and being a picker myself, to hear that sound was like Manna from Heaven. Although I had little money to spare I was the proud owner of a Ferrograph Reel to Reel tape recorder and would wait excitedly for Jack’s Performance each week to begin and record it. I still have the 14 good quality recordings. My notes were very sparse but have the Band down as The Jack Toogood Group and the Violinist as Johnny Van Derrick or who died in 1995 aged 68. The list of tunes are:-
Jealous. Swing Guitar. Basin Street Blues. Indiana. Sweet Loraine. Moonlight and Shadows. Runnin’ Wild. House of Dreams. Rose of the Rio Grande. Tears. Minor Swing. Stars Fell on Alabama. Stompin’. and one unidentified tune.
There is a question mark over Moonlight & Shadows as it is not in the Gipsy Jazz style and may not be Jack. – John Bunce
Jack is playing on the Moonlight & Shadows with an Electric Guitar which he explains on a Video I took of him. He also told me that it was Alan Metcalfe who was playing 2nd Rhythm Guitar on these Tracks. He had not or could not remember hearing some of the tracks on the John Bunce CD – which I left him a copy to listen to at his leisure (he had a CD player of his daughters but did not know how to operate it so it was great to play them for him and show him how to operate it). – Bugleboy
In 1969 I was living in Bristol and had an introduction to Jack. He promised that if I showed any promise after 12 x £1.00 lessons he would get me a “Sit-In ” with the Riverside Band who were playing Sundays lunchtimes at the “Old Duke ” True to his word went down to the Duke and very much “Heart in Mouth” I bashed out the Chords – Jack’s Chords – to Georgia & Sweet Sue! I owe him so much and have enjoyed my many Gigs with Bands from Scotland to Devon! Roger Middleton
I received Guitar lessons from Jack in the early 60’s. Via his Radio guest spots, he introduced me to the music of Django Reinhardt. I understand that there might be some obscure CD of some of Jacks playing from those early Radio Programs. I would love to hear Jacks Music from all those years ago. Are you able to point me in the right direction? I now live in Japan. I think there’s a limited appeal to Django’s Music in Japan. I’ve found one Japanese Quartet who are pretty good. Prior to Japan, I spent 5-yrs in Shanghai. Lulo Reinhardt (Django’s great Nephew) came out for 2 Mini Tours, a very limited audience though. While Lulo was there David Reinhardt was there, but I don’t think he was performing anywhere. – Dave
Both my Dad and I were former Pupils of Jack. Sadly, I never completed Mel Bay Book – Jeremy