For over 50 years County Tipperary drummer, Denis Carroll, has enjoyed a hobby in strict tempo. Now he is the proud owner of over 400 records, mainly 78S and LP’s -once he owned over 700 such prized possessions.
Denis, a former drummer with the Slievenamon Showband, admits he is never more in harmony than when listening to his favourite British dance bands. And he is an acknowledged expert on bands and bandsmen and women from America and Britain, spanning 60 years, since the early days of gramophones and “windup gramophones”.
“This has been my hobby since 1951. It all started when my friend and neighbour our, the late Seamus Caulfield, a British Army veteran of the World War 2 battles of Anzio and Monte Casino, introduced me to the windup gramophone. We enjoyed the music of Victor Sylvester and Billy Cotton and brass bands. I am a drummer with Thurles Silver Band today. I have had a Hi Fi Stereo for over 30 years since the old “windup” gramophone. I also was interested in the reproducer. This was played through the radio. You’d plug it in at the back of the radio.
Back in 1955 I bought a record player with amplifier and speakers. I had two record reproducers and there was a better sound with electricity”.
Denis recalls the early days of BBC Radio and such hugely popular programmes as “Music While You Work” on the old Light Programme. This programme featured light orchestras and many dance bands. Denis says: “You need to take care of records and have them placed upright or perfectly flat.” He particularly liked the music of Frank Baron, the piano player with Frank Baron Band, on “Music While You Work” on the BBC. “I have some of his 78s” said Denis. He recalls Victor Sylvester played with the BBC for 28 years with “Overseas Requests” on the old Light Programme, now Radio 4, every Monday morning from 11.30am until 1215pm. “What is my favourite record?” That’s a hard one to answer I do like “South Of The Border”. It was written by Jimmy Kennedy and played by the Ted Heath Orchestra. It was recorded on February 8th, 1944. The first LP I bought was called “Tempo For Dancers” by Ted Heath and his band. I like good melodies and strict tempo is always very melodic,” he says.
He added: “It takes a long time to build up a record collection. I spent years getting the right stuff. I like good quality stuff and that’s very hard to get now on record. There was no record shop in Thurles in the ‘fifties but you could order from Gerald Connaughton’s shop or Tommy Ryan, the jeweller or O’Connors Jewellers.
It might take a couple of weeks for records to come from the stores in Dublin. The demand was not there for dance bands, you see. People were more interested in vocalists like Johnny Ray, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Glenn Miller was very popular.”
Incidentally, Denis would be delighted if any reader could provide him with a record called “Watt’s Cookin”, featuring Tommy Watts and Orchestra on Parlophone PMC1107.
Denis is now looking at some Henry Hall music of the 1930s,”Seein is Believin”. I bought a lot of my records in Ireland but I also bought some from Doug Dobell in Charing Cross Road in the old WC2 in London in the ‘Fifties’. I have an old Ferguson 78 record player which was also a radio. I am looking for a three speed gramophone record deck. It’s hard to get any 78s now except, perhaps, in a boot sale. Records take up all my time. It’s a hobby I very much enjoy.”
In Ireland he enjoyed the music of the late Mick Delahunty who, he said never made a record “because he was too busy”.
Denis attends all the jazz festivals around Ireland. “I met the famous Harry Gold at the Portlaoise Jazz Festival and I am no stranger to the Cork Jazz Festival.” he said.