IN the cavernous St Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, an expectant crowd (above) of more than 2,000 trad jazz fans waited for the entertainment to begin. Backstage, in the band room, half-a-dozen groups were running through a final practice.

The presence of so many people did not escape Margaret Mercer, the vocalist with the George Penman group. “The fact that there are 2,000 jazz fans out there is bad enough”, she said, “but what makes it worse is that one of them is my mum!”

It was September 1961, and ten of Scotland’s finest trad-jazz bands were limbering up for the coveted Evening Times jazz trophy; in the words of the paper’s writer, Bill Wishart, the event was “the meatiest, beatiest trad show of the year”.

In the wings stood Robin Hall, who with his singing partner Jimmie Macgregor had been such a hit on the BBC show, Tonight. “I’m a modern jazz man myself”, he said, “but I’m looking forward to this just the same”.

The ten acts included Muir Laurie’s band, Glasgow’s Esquire, and Ayrshire’s Ken Patterson. Esquire, Wishart noted, were “resplendent in mauve jackets and a bowler hat on top of the bass”. As they launched into South Rampart Street Parade a banner bearing their name was waved in the balcony. They ended their set with a rendition of Scots Wha’ Hae.

When the smoke had cleared, Penman’s group was placed fourth. Third was The Steadfast, the band with the biggest following in Glasgow: they had finished second the previous year.

Esquire were runners-up behind Sandy Simpson’s All-Stars. Simpson himself excelled on the clarinet, with his colleagues, Bob Davidson (trumpet) and F. Smith (piano) winning individual awards. “Sandy’s band isn’t so well-known yet,” wrote Wishart, “but from now on we’ll be hearing a lot of him”.

The interval entertainment was supplied by Josh Macrae, Scotland’s top folk-singer.

Read more: Herald Diary