A few more years ago than I really care to work out, I wrote a song called Me They See. It’s a bluesy shuffle kind of number that dwells upon the idea that people see each other differently. Not an especially profound idea, but it was based on an encounter I had with a man on the platform at Crewe Station who told me, among many other things, that he had once been an innovative tenor sax player and that his brother was the head of the British Antarctic Survey. There was too much in this chap’s life for me to believe, but then again, someone’s sibling had to be head of the British Antarctic Survey, so what was wrong with me that I was unable just to accept that all this could be true?
On Wednesday last week a man came into the shop before I’d arrived. My sister, Our Tish, had opened for me, trying out an earlier start, since Wednesday is Market Day in Longton. Our Tish was in conversation with this chap when I arrived, so she handed him over to me. He was looking for a CD by the Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, which I didn’t have. “The other thing I’d like is anything by the Jazz Couriers. Tubby Hayes?” I must have gawped a little, I think. “How much money have you got?” I asked. Then he told me his story.
Jim Rutter (for that is his name) was in the navy in the early 1950s and when on shore from his base at Chatham he’d come up to London to see Tubby Hayes at the Bexleyheath Drill Hall. After the gig, Jim, Tubbs, guitarist Milt Kingman, Stan Tracey and others would make their way to the Railway
Arms at Custom House and knock back pints of Late Night Finals before moving on to dubious drinking dens patronised and owned by very ‘eavy London villains. “Then it’d be pie and eels from a stall outside London Bridge Station at three in the morning and the milk train home”.
This encounter with Jim and his wife Maureen is the kind of thing I live and breathe for. After he left the navy in 1958, Jim went into nursing and found himself a long way from home, working at Stalington Hospital near Blythe Bridge, where he met Maureen, a fellow nurse. They were married and have been together since. Jim brought his own Tubby Hayes records into the shop to show me.
I’m a relative newcomer to Tubbs, Stan Tracey, Ronnie Scott and the whole under-rated pantheon of British Jazz but it’s a subject I’ve found myself writing about recently for Retracing my Vinyl Footsteps. Click the link to read Open Letter
There are many unlikely things in the world; giraffes, the Higgs-Boson, oddballs on Crewe Station. Some remain too peculiar to be quite true, while others turn up in my record shop, just to make my world that little bit better.