It was 70 years ago when a band picked up their instruments and started to play at the first night of the newly formed Norwich Jazz Club.

They were called The Mustard City Stompers and the home for the club was the cellar at The Orford public house which would later become a world famous rock venue.

May 5, 1954 was the first time the cellar had been used to host live music.

They were a class act with some talented musicians who had first got together at the Gibraltar public house the previous year.

The Stompers attracted some great singers such as Black Anna, Albert Cooper and Beryl Brydon.

Norwich Evening News: The queen of the washboard Norwich-born Beryl Bryden in full flow in the 1950s

The idea of the jazz club came from a great city character, Norman Guest. He was the chairman and cleaned and decorated the room ready for music.

But…these were very different times and rumours were that the police didn’t approve of the cellar club and thought it could lead young people astray.

The Stompers moved to play at The RAFA Club, St Giles Parish Hall, Bolton & Paul’s social club on Rosary Corner and then to The Bedford Arms in 1958 where they stayed.

The Bedford was a perfect venue and the band’s leader and organiser was Al Garner, and his family took over the pub in 1962.

Norwich Evening News: The wonderful Grosvenor Rooms on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, where the sound of jazz could be

Members over the years included Joe Dade, Howard Platt and so many more. The Stompers reformed in 1965 for a monthly show at the old Firs public house, Norwich.

We had some great jazz bands back in the 1950s including The Collegians.

Originally formed way back in 1948, they recruited lead singer Colin Burleigh in the early 50s and went from strength to strength winning the Best National Jazz Band in a competition organised by Bury St Edmunds Round Table.

And they hit the headlines in the winter of 1959 by announcing they were going to walk backwards to London whilst playing at the same time!

They gave up after completing 200 yards.

In 1961 they recorded a 15-minute slot at The Cottage in Thorpe for a radio programme Jazz Call.

And then there were The Dixielanders with Brian Green. Back in the 50s they were also regulars at the Cottage and at the Banham Pavilion. Remember that great venue in the heart of rural Norfolk?

Norwich Evening News: People loved them. The Mustard City Stompers in full flow

The Dixielanders went on to play at The Fraser Hall in the city and then the dear old Grosvenor. They reformed several times with new and original members,

Many of the jazz bands get a mention in Kingsley’s new book and then there was a strange new sound to be heard across Norfolk…they called it skiffle.

*The Anglian Beat. An Account of the East Anglian Bands of the 50s and 60s by Kingsley Harris is available at City Books, Norwich, on eBay and Amazon and from


Norwich Evening News: The legendary Black Anna sang with the Mustard City Stompers. This photograph from the Tony Skipper

Norwich Evening News: Standing room only at the Orford – upstairs and downstairs. Photo: Newsquest Archive.