The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(KENNY BALLl, Jan Burgers)

Kapp 442

No. 2   March 1 7, 1962




Nineteen sixty-two was the year a batch of non-rock­’n’roll instrumentals paraded themselves all over the

Top 40. Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass let loose with their mournful tribute to a “Lonely Bull,” a

clarinetist named MR. ACKER BILK snoozed us with “Stranger on the Shore” and Kenny Ball and his band

of trad­ jazzmen gave us a reworking of a Russian tune origi­nally called “Padmeskoveeye Vietchera.”


To radio listeners in the U.S., this Russian number, with a banjo and horns all over it, seemed to come from

out of, like, nowhere. In Kenny’s merry ole England, jazz-of-a-sort was then becoming immensely popular.

Fans were split between the modernists, who were attuned to the stateside hard bop and “cool jazz,” and the

traditional lists, who emulated the sounds of Dixieland and King Oliver. Ball and his boys represented the

latter approach. Before British youth fell under the sway of American blues, R & B, and free-form jazz, Ball’s

trad­ men would rack up 14 hit singles on the British pop charts.


Kenneth Daniel Ball was born May 22, 1931, in Ilford, Essex. After working at an advertising agency, and a

brief stint as a salesman, Ball decided on a career as a professional musician. Before forming his own unit in

late 1958, Kenny blew trumpet and harmonica with bands led by Sid Phillips, Eric Delaney, and Terry Light­

foot.  The “King of the Skiftle,” Lonnie Donegan, chanced on Ball’s band in 1961 and set up an audition for

the guys with Pye Records.  While their first release, “Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” stiffed, the band’s next 14

records all charted; outside the US.


For a few years, Britain was a ga-ga about the trad jazz of Ball and his two main competitors, CHRIS BAR­

BER’s JAZZ BAND and Mr. Acker Bilk.  In the U.S., only Ball’s fourth single, “Midnight in Moscow,” broke

the Top 40 barrier.  Kenny had a way with dressing up near­ly any tune in that New Orleans idiom, yet while

his instrumental versions of “March of the Siamese Chil­dren” and “The Green Leaves of Summer” did make

the Hot 100, young American pop fans were, for the most part, unaccustomed to the sounds of trad-jazz-

their atten­tion was focused elsewhere.


New Orleans offered Kenny Ball honorary citizen­ship in 1963, and in so accepting, Kenny became the first

British jazzman so honored. When last noted, Kenny and some configuration of his Jazzmen were still

playing on British TV, radio, and in the clubs.