The Cruddas Park juvenile jazz band from Newcastle in the 1970s – including a future Toon trainer

It was 1974 and boys and girls from Newcastle’s West End, resplendent in their youthful jazz band uniforms, posed proudly in front of the local towers.

They were Cruddas Park Chieftains, one of many groups that emerged from the towns and suburbs of Tyneside in the 1960s and 1970s. The Chieftains, as their unfurled banner tells us, had formed two years earlier in 1972.

Interestingly, the boy eighth from left in the front row is believed to be none other than John Carver who would go on to become manager and assistant manager at Newcastle United. Later, in 1979, Cruddas Park Chieftains even became the subject of iconic Tyneside photographer Tish Murtha’s first exhibition, Juvenile Jazz Bands, at Newcastle’s Side Gallery.

READ MORE: The Blaydon Races at 160: The song about a day at the races that became a Tyneside anthem

The Newcastle group were part of a thriving regional movement which included names such as Wallsend Rising Sun Legionnaires, Howdon Hussars, South Shields Golden Eagles, Felling Fusiliers, Walker Majestics, Simonside Mariners, Willington Revelers and many more. Indeed, our second photograph, this time from 1981, shows another jazz group from Cruddas Park, St Aidan’s Grenadiers.

For children growing up at the time, the unmistakable sound of youthful jazz bands—marching drums and kazoos echoing through local streets and playgrounds—was a familiar part of the childhood soundtrack, especially during the summer months.

The heyday of this local phenomenon stretched from the 1960s to the early 1980s when songs such as When The Saints Go Marching In and the theme song to the television series Z-Cars figured prominently in the repertoire. of any self-respecting jazz band. With their flying banners, colorful uniforms and twirling drumsticks, the groups were a distinctive sight during the march.

Another jazz band from Cruddas Park, Newcastle – St Aidan’s Grenadiers in 1981

Usually under the tutelage of keen local parents – acting as tutors, fundraisers and coaches – they would rehearse on playgrounds during the week, then travel by bus to compete at weekends in often crowded tournaments. . The groups gave teens and children a sense of purpose and pride, and inspired a healthy sense of rivalry and competition. It was also very fun. For most groups, anyone between the ages of 3 and 18 could join.

'Toy Bunch - Cruddas Park'.  Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) by Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha.  All rights reserved.
‘Toy Bunch – Cruddas Park’. Juvenile Jazz Bands (1979) by Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha. All rights reserved.

The craze for youthful jazz bands was particularly strong in the North East, Wales and the Midlands. They date back to the Depression years, fell out of favor during the war, and then became popular again in the 1960s and 1970s, especially around municipal housing estates and mining towns. But over time, tastes and fashions changed, and overall the jazz band movement had reached its peak in the 1980s.


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Henry R. Wright