Juvenile Jazz Bands of the 1970s

Paul Delplanque, a contributor for the GazetteLive.co.uk, wrote several articles in 2008 recalling the era of the juvenile jazz bands that flourished during the 1970s in England and Wales. Juvenile jazz bands were made up of mostly preteen and teenage girls with as many marchers as musicians. One of them, the Pelaw Hussars, appeared in the 1971 film "Get Carter" starring Michael Caine.

Early History

The juvenile jazz bands were concentrated in the industrial regions of England and Wales. They were largely influenced by the marching youth bands of America. The Free Library.com states that the first juvenile marching bands performed at Hornchurch in Essex in 1943. This was during World War II when many American soldiers were stationed in the U.K. These early bands employed woodwind and brass instruments and placed a large emphasis on uniforms.

The Heydey

Juvenile jazz bands grew in popularity in the U.K. during the 1960s and 1970s because they gave local girls "something to do" Deplanque wrote. They also flourished in places that had what Deplanque called "community spirit." These bands had little outside or corporate support; most of the uniforms were made by parents, and the instruments were mainly inexpensive items like kazoos and glockenspiels. While the bands were mostly girls, with some marchers as young as 4, a teenage boy or two turned up in some to play the drums. In 1979, the Ferryhill Debonairs shook things up by adding bells and cymbals to its drum section.

Band Structure

Juvenile jazz bands did not have any structured hierarchy according to Deplanque. The Grangefield Royals' web page describes the structure of their band. First was the Mace Section. This consisted of the Drum Major; the Band Major (both of whom were taller older girls); and the Mascot who typically was a "little one." Next came the Banner Section comprised of two older girls carrying the banner with the Grangefield name and colours. Two more little ones held the ropes stringing from the banner. The kazoo players came next, then the drummers. Making up the rear were the glockenspiel players.

Contests and Championships

According to the United Kingdom Federation of Jazz Bands (UKFJB), 46 bands played in the first world championships held in London in 1974. The North Shields Grenadiers won the junior category and the Tamworth Castle Marines won the seniors competition. The UKFJB had its own championship in 1978 in London, where the Tredegar Squadronaires took the juniors and Swansea East won the seniors. The band with the most UK and world titles is the Teesside Golden Dragoons. They had won 19 titles by 2005 according to Band World.

Juvenile Jazz Bands in 2011

The UKFJB is still active as of 2011. Each of its four regions hold championships throughout the marching season, and winners go on to compete in national and world championships. The jazz bands in 2011 look more like most marching bands with multiple drums and more expensive instruments, but there aren't that many of them in the UK. Band World attributes this to the fact kids have more choices in hobbies and interests than they did in the 1970s.

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