Andy and I first met when he joined the brass band I was playing with in Kirkaldy. We were about fifteen years of age at that time. The band was one of the top bands in Scotland. Apart from the usual contests there were solo and quartet competitions which gave us an opportunity to travel, not only in Scotland but into enemy territory; England.
The journeys south of the border took us to Nottingham and Leicester for the British Junior Solo and Quartet Championships. I remember well the family that looked after us in Leicester. We shared a room. By then I realised what a funny pal I had: laughter and jokes all the time.
It wasn’t long afterwards when he formed a Dixieland Band. Being Fifers, we called ourselves the Kingdom Trad Lads. With our black trousers, white shirts, red ties and socks plus sunglasses we thought we were it! I think we were the only trad band in the world that used music stands.
We managed to get a few gigs in Fife but Trad was on the way out. Andy used to get a lot of flack from the dancers. He got his own back on them by playing numbers like “Take Five” and “Blues Rondo a la Turk”.
I have a lot to thank Andy for. Her introduced me to Muggsy Spanier, Kid Ory, Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Count Basie the Goon Show, Kenneth Williams and Oh! Bells Whiskey.
He eventually became bandleader at the Kinema Ballroom, Dunfermline the later at the Raith Ballroom, Kirkardy. He was musical director for P J Proby and, late Freddie Starr. Imagine those two together!
When I moved to Birmingham I played occasionally with Brian Pearsall’s Band. Brian asked if I knew any trombone players. I said “Yes” and told Brian Andy could arrange as well. Brian said “Tell him he’s got the job”. Andy moved down to Birmingham and stayed with me for a few months. It was like New Year’s Eve Every Night; always laughter. After Brian’s Band he became bandleader at the Top Rank Ballroom.
In the meantime I had moved to London but we were to work together again in the mid 70s when we joined the Syd Lawrence Orchestra. What an experience that was. Great laughs – occasional downs. But that’s what happens when you are on the road all the time.
In all the years I knew Andy, we only had one minor fall out. It was playing at a dance. And had - as our politicians say – “A full and frank exchange of views” with the singer, Roy Marsden. When he returned to the band stand slightly dishevelled; I asked him to settle down. He turned around and said “You can go away as well”. Or words to that effect
Not only did Andy play for Syd Lawrence for over 25 years - he also played for John Patrick, Johnny Lamb, Paul Davies’ Outrageous Big Band and at the Alexandra Theatre.
The last time we played together was a couple of years ago with the Nick Ross Orchestra on a cruise around the Med. And across the Atlantic to Florida. Also in the band was fellow Fifer Bill Hunter who worked with Andy in Fife.
Thank you Andy for your companionship, the music and the wonderful laughs - and if Syd Lawrence is up there with you - keep annoying him!
Brian Rankine (trumpet player with The Syd Lawrence Orchestra for many years now with the BBC Radio 2 Big Band)