After leaving school, I was sent to London to receive further lessons on the piano. Fortunately I was able to stay with an aunt who lived in Walthamstow, London and the fare for such a trip being eight shillings return on a Sunday. I was not at all lonely as I soon met someone who was also a snooker player.
All the while, I was largely left to my own devices although I felt that my father pushed me into things without the proper knowledge. For example, I was given the chance to play the piano in the cinema at the time of the silent movies without having a clue on what to play.
Whilst still a teenager, I taught myself the saxophone and on an August bank holiday, my father hired a hall and at the age of 14, I was part of a dance band for which I was paid thirty shillings.
After that introduction to the world of dance music I began to have aspirations of my own. At this time, we were living in a property that combined a house and a shop. Our front room, where we had the piano, was over the shop and opposite was a cinema and behind, the largest snooker and billiards hall in Europe.
I used to rehearse my band in our front room. After a while I got the idea that if I opened the front windows and the band played as the people were finally leaving the cinema then it might prove to be a good way of advertising. So we used to have crowds of people on the opposite side of the road listening to us.
About this time, a brand new Palais de Danse was opened in Hull and one of the first bands to arrive was Oscar Rabin’s. He became very famous and frequently broadcast from the Hammersmith Palais. During his stay in Hull he occasionally took trips back to London for the princely sum of 8 shillings- return this was a 1 day excursion on a Sunday. One of the reasons for making this trip was so that my uncle Israel Friman, a barber running his own business, in Hanbury Street, London, would cut his hair. Oscar would not allow anybody else to do this.
The first job in London
After a stay of seven or so months Oscar let for London who was replaced by other London bands. I got to know these chaps and soon my appetite for the London experience was much whetted. My father then allowed me to go to London and try my luck. I lived at 15 Cable Street, along with my aunt Mary a real character of the East End. I frequently walked the 3 ½ miles to Archer Street just of Piccadilly Circus, in order to save money. h is was all whilst still a teenager.
I must tell you that Archer Street was a name to conjure with, with a history all of its own, where musicians from the four corners of the land congregated. Stories and jokes were swapped, and much more importantly we were there to seek work. When I first went to Archer Street I soon discovered that I needed to go there each day of the week or next time I was seen in the street, I would be greeted by, “oh, a pity, you were not here yesterday (or whatever), could have got you a job.”
My aunt Mary used to introduce me to her customers and through one of them I learned of a Jewish club (probably the Brady Boy’s Club). So one evening I took myself and sax round there and asked if I might play with the group. The request was granted and that’s when my luck changed.
One of the club members was a chap called Butch Rome who at the time was learning the trumpet. After hearing me play a couple of tunes he cheekily told the other sax players to pipe down and let me do the playing. Well I went back to my aunt’s place not thinking anymore about the incident and lo and behold, the next day I received an invitation to do an audition at the Queen’s Hotel, Leicester Square.
The leader of the band was Butch Rome’s brother Dave who played the drums and that’s how I got my first job in London. The year was 1929 (when I was 18).