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GO! JAZZ: FOND MEMORIES OF THE MERCER'S.

Byline: Bob Caldwell

THE publicity surrounding Coventry City's planned new stadium reminds me of a venue much loved by jazz enthusiasts which became a casualty of an earlier redevelopment.

The Mercer's Arms, opposite the Sky Blues' Highfield Road football ground, was flattened to make way for a car park. In its final years the pub was known as the Sky Blue Tavern.

But in its heyday the Mercer's Arms was the venue where several local bands and many national names packed in the crowds during the decades when jazz was indeed a popular music.

Bands such as The Idaho attracted large Saturday night audiences during the late 1950s and the average age of the musicians was about 19.

At about the same time, a band composed mainly of art students, The Weary City Jazz Band, became so popular that its sessions were extended to both Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Trumpet player Paul Barnes is now a BBC radio presenter and clarinettist Jack Ashby took up tenor and now leads The Jack Ashby Band.

Possibly the most significant development was the Dud Clews Jazz Orchestra, which played the big band music of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and McKinney's Cotton Pickers.

Saturday sessions were enormously popular from 1962 to 1974 and it is sad that Dud never lived to see how his original idea evolved into today's vintage big band, Harlem.

Enthusiastic local promoter Harry Flick brought modern jazz to The Mercer's for several years.

I remember hearing Stan Tracey, Ben Webster, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes and countless others.

Meanwhile, the great traditional and New Orleans bands were making the pub a Friday evening haven with Ken Colyer, Terry Lightfoot, Alex Welsh and Colin Kingwell.

Harlem performed there with American legends George Kelly and Benny Waters as recently as 1982 and it is a source of regret that a building with such a history should end up being demolished.

CAPTION(S):

POPULAR SESSIONS: The Weary City Jazz Band at the Mercer's Arms in 1955; BIG BAND: The Dud Clews Jazz Orchestra at the Mercer's Arms in 1962
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 31, 2003
Words:347
Previous Article:GO! JAZZ: JAZZ NOTES.
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