Bassist with the Clyde Valley Stompers;
Born: November 26, 1930; Died: October 8, 2012.
BILL Bain, who has died aged 81, was double bass player in the Clyde Valley Stompers, the traditional jazz band from Glasgow that became known around the world in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Once described as "the Scottish sultans of trad jazz swing," the Stompers went from church halls in the Orkneys and Hebrides to riverside jazz clubs in Glasgow and even London's Royal Albert Hall.
Although the line-up changed, Bain played bass during their glory years from 1959-62, led by trombonist Ian Menzies, and featuring the unforgettable vocals of Fionna Duncan.
He was born in Parkhead, Glasgow, and went to the Quarry Brae School, attending music lessons at weekends. He planned to go into engineering, which he eventually would, but music was his vocation. A keen member of the Boys' Brigade, he taught bugle at 132 Company in Parkhead and met the love of his life, Emily Brooks, at a Church of Scotland youth club. They married in 1955. With BB pals, he set up the Steadfast Jazz Band and played Glasgow jazz clubs.
In the meantime, he made money as a cinema projectionist and did his national service with the RAF. In the Steadfast Jazz Band, before moving on to acoustic double bass, Bain was one of the UK innovators of the electric bass guitar, plugging in a normal six-string acoustic Hofner but tuning its lower four strings down to sound more like a bass. It was only after being headhunted by the Stompers that he mastered the big double bass.
Having moved from Glasgow to London, the Stompers were signed by Pye Records and managed by another Glasgow boy, the "King of Skiffle" Lonnie Donegan. The Stompers also toured with Donegan and other top names including Louis Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark and blues legend Big Bill Broonzy.
It was Bain who provided the thumping bass rhythm when they topped the bill at Liverpool's famous Cavern Club, supported by the Beatles.
He also appeared on the pop show Thank Your Lucky Stars and the Morecambe and Wise Show, one of the most coveted gigs in the land. With the band led by Lossiemouth-born clarinettist Peter Kerr and with George Martin as producer, they had their biggest hit in 1962 with a swing version of Peter and the Wolf.
One of Bain's outstanding memories was the so-called Battle of Beaulieu in 1960 while the Stompers were playing the Beaulieu Jazz Festival on Lord Montagu of Beaulieu's estate in Hampshire. More than 20,000 jazz buffs had camped across the lawn in front of Montagu's stately home, Beaulieu Palace House, when the Stompers took to the stage, broadcast live on BBC television. Bain was thumping his bass strings as Fionna Duncan launched into Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight. "All hell broke loose," she said.
Fighting broke out between modern jazz and trad jazz fans, with some of the former getting onto the stage. An outhouse was set on fire and a drunken voice on a commandeered BBC microphone shouted: "More beer for the workers!" before the real BBC man said: "Oh, dear, this is getting quite out of hand."
As the BBC pulled the plug on the broadcast, what the nation did not see was the ensuing onstage brawl, in which the Stompers defended their territory Glasgow-style. According to Duncan: "I remember some wild guy grabbing me by the ankles. That was too much for Bobby Shannon, our drummer, who used his drumsticks to do an impressive solo on the guy's head."
The band broke up in the mid-1960s but many of its musicians got together for reunion concerts. Ian Menzies and his Clyde Valley Stompers – the Reunion Sessions, recorded in Strathaven in 1982/3 and featuring Fionna Duncan, who had taken over from the other great singers Mary McGowan and Jeannie Lamb, is a collector's item.
Bain eventually tired of the jet-setting life in the late 1960s and returned to Scotland to be with his pregnant wife. He settled in East Kilbride, doing engineering work, and popping up at Glasgow jazz clubs or weddings with his band The Kinsmen. He was due to do a series of reunion tours with the Stompers in the mid-1980s, including at Glasgow's Pavilion Theatre, but illness forced him to pull out.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Emily, their son Jim, daughter Jill, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
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