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Take your partners for the last dance

PUBLISHED: 14:25 21 December 2011

Count Basie, seen playing the piano, with his orchestra during a performance at the Samson and Hercules in Norwich. Dated -- 1964
Photograph -- c10343

Count Basie, seen playing the piano, with his orchestra during a performance at the Samson and Hercules in Norwich. Dated -- 1964 Photograph -- c10343

Archant

Join me on a trip around the dance floors of Norfolk and Norwich - and do you remember the day the Count played the S&H?

Sweet memories of big nights out at Banham and Norwich were revived by my story about the dear old Pavilion where they held some great village hops years ago.

Among those who got in touch was Doug Fulcher, of Thorpe St Andrew, who said: “Joe Littlewood and his ‘can we have the band back please,’ in his broad North Country accent at the end of the interval is remembered easily.”

In those days he was at Wymondham, and Saturday nights meant a couple of pints at the Cross Keys, another stop at New Buckenham to deliver a copy of the Pink Un and then off to Banham for the weekly hop

And, back in the 1950s, he and friends would think nothing of cycling from Wymondham to Banham or even to the Lido (now Mecca Bingo) on Aylsham Road in Norwich.

“The bands, proper dance bands in those days, not a collection of bods strumming guitars and singing. Real bands with trumpets, saxophones, etc” said Doug.

“Names that we could recognise from the radio too, like The Ray Ellington Quartet with glamorous vocalist Marion Ryan and the Ivy Benson All Girls Band who lit up the stage – and our eyes,” he laughed.

“Brian Green’s Dixielanders was also a firm favourite among the local groups, and the Ken Stevens Orchestra played at Banham long before becoming resident at the Samson & Hercules,” added Doug.

“The bar at the Pavilion was always busy but I was not awareness of any drunkeness.

“And as a half decent dancer, I was always able to find myself a partner, both for ballroom dancing and jiving. Happy days indeed,” he said.

The Lido which became the Norwood on Aylsham Road, and the grand Samson & Hercules opposite the cathedral attracted huge crowds for their regular dances. Billy Duncan and then Chic Applin were among the star names. Even the legendary Count Basie and his Orchestra played the S&H when it was run by Mr Carrow Road himself – the late Geoffrey Watling back in the 1960s.

Perhaps you were there? It must have been quite a night with the Count and his boys in full flow.

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