National Service to Civvy Street

In January 1955 I was honourably discharged from the Royal Marines and being an excellent sight reader, highly competent performer on both piano and trombone, I was determined to make my mark on the music business in a big way. I auditioned for the piano chair in the all-professional band at the Empress Ballroom Dundee and was successful, starting off at £15 or £16 a week.

The band was very very good and was led by a former Ted Heath trumpeter who was in a class by himself, unfortunately he had a fondness for the amber nectar and that is what this tale is all about.

One night, after I had been in the band for about six months , he started picking on me with comments such as "you're dragging" or "you're racing" and at first I just sat there and tried to ignore him but it went on and on until it reached the stage where I was going to do something about it.

When the interval arrived he was quicker than me, stuck his trumpet on top of a radiator and was out the door to the pub across the street like a greyhound coming out of the traps.

I went back, grabbed a hold of his trumpet and sorted the valves out into a different order and put it back on the radiator. When he returned he was in a much better mood and I began to question what I had done. When he picked up his trumpet he couldn't get a note out of it and he tried everything to get the thing to work. Eventually, the penny dropped and the valves were put back into the correct order and he and his trumpet were under way again. Later in the evening he sidled over to me and now that he was in a better mood said "revenge is so sweet Gerry" and sidled off to his place again.

I remained in that band for about another year and had no other episodes like that to deal with, as a matter of fact, I remained friends with Harry until he died many years later.

Gerry Culley

Richard Valentine -1996 - 2008 © - All rights reserved