New Orleans Express was the name of a band that Dr. Ron Lloyd co-founded in Chester, England, in 1975. He had previously been a member of Liverpool University Jazz Band, The Dave Lind Jazzmen and The Gut Bucket Steam Orchestra. He left the Steam Orchestra to go to the Antarctic as medical and research officer. While down under he attempted to learn the trumpet but was persuaded by his colleagues to quit. He returned to Chester as a general practitioner. In 1977 he left for Canada as a member of the Armed Forces at Petawawa. In 1980 he set up practice in Pembroke as a family physician. He really missed his jazz and whenever he could he would sit in with other bands such as The Climax Jazz Band, The Hot Five Jazzmakers and the Kid Bastien’s Happy Pals in Toronto, the Peter Turner and Derek Robertson Jazz Bands in Ottawa. He sat in on banjo at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. In the Upper Ottawa Valley he maintained his musical interests by playing and singing with the Pembroke Community Choir, the Deep River Symphony, the Pembroke Symphony (founder member), the Legion Swing Band (founder member), the Pembroke Musical Society both as a performer and a pit musician, and occasionally played at Blue Grass Festivals jamming with such great musicians as Doc Watson. In the Ottawa Valley area he also began to jam with jazz greats such as Larry Brum, Mickey Hammond, Gerry Helke, ‘Wild” Bill Stevens, Hugh Hart, Fred Leadston, Peter Turner, General Paul Manson, Chuck Pierce, Bruce Kerr, and others. They began to make it an annual get-together.
In 1999, while a member of a pit orchestra for the show, “Singing in the Rain” (playing banjo and guitar) he had an epiphany. He decided that there was enough talent in Pembroke and area to start his own band. Gordie Tapp (cornet) and Dr. Ted Clifford (clarinet and saxophones) were also in the pit and jumped at the chance. The following Good Friday Ron and his wife, Kate, were at Peter Anderson’s house having brunch. He realized that with a little tuition Peter would make a wonderful jazz banjo player and guitarist. That meant that Ron would have to forgo playing banjo, his favourite instrument, and play string bass as he had done in the English version of New Orleans Express. While wandering in Pembroke Mall he was approached by Fred Leadston, a gifted professional military trombonist, who heard that a band was being formed and wanted in! Roy Yandt jumped at the opportunity to play drums. Ray Heney, a very talented, blues-oriented pianist completed the band. At first Ron wanted to call the band, “Dr. Jazz” on account of the fact that two of the members were doctors but discovered that a band by that name already existed in Ottawa. He then decided to name it after the band he formed in Chester and it became the Canadian version of New Orleans Express. The band’s first gig on October 23 1999 was at Pembroke Shores Golf and Country Club and was a resounding success.
In the year 2000 Ray Heney left the band and was replaced by Glenda O’Brien on piano. Glenda added a touch of classy femininity that the band needed! Glenda had never played in a band but fitted in like a glove. She gives as good as she gets with the ribbing and teasing that goes on during rehearsals.
Ron’s first exposure to jazz was at the age of 16. He was captivated by the sound of skiffle music as personified by Lonnie Donnegan and was a member of his high school skiffle group on guitar. When Lonnie Donnegan came to his town to perform he stood in front of the stage all night long to get his fill. Lonnie Donnegan was the banjo player in the Chris Barber Jazz Band and skiffle sessions punctuated the sets of jazz. Ron was entranced, had his first epiphany and became a huge fan of New Orleans Jazz. He was lucky enough to be able to hear Ken Colyer at the Liverpool Cavern Club. Ken Colyer worked and played alongside jazz musicians in New Orleans and imported the driving polyphonic style to Britain. While playing with the Dave Lind Jazzmen Ron was exposed to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and was impressed with the sophistication and complexity of the music. From listening to recordings Ron began to really appreciate the early works of Louis Armstrong. Bix Beiderbecke was another hero. Ragtime piano and the Scott Joplin craze left its mark. One of the most fun-filled gigs he ever did was to play banjo in a Spike Jones style band in Pembroke. All of these influences can be heard in the music of New Orleans Express and the style is still developing thanks to the input of other members of the band. Most of the music spans from 1900 to 1935 and can aptly be called classic jazz.
Ron Lloyd, M.D., (double bass) was lucky enough to attend St. Anselm’s
College, Birkenhead, a school that had a very strong music program. He learned to play bass trombone and tympani for the school symphony orchestra. The rest of his musical development is mentioned above.
Gordon Tapp (cornet, Arranger) started playing trumpet at the age of twelve in the Perth Legion Marching Band. He played through his high school years with the school concert and jazz bands as well as the Kiwanis Air Cadet Bugle Band. Since moving to Pembroke in 1981 he has played in the Pembroke Legion Community Band and is now its musical director and conductor.
He also formed, and for twenty years directed, played in and arranged for the Pembroke Legion Swing Band, later renamed the GT Swing Orchestra. This highly successful 18-piece group of some of the best musicians around Pembroke performed over an area that stretched from Deep River to Cornwall. At various times he has played with both the Deep River Symphony and the Pembroke Symphony. He has played in and also directed musicals with the Pembroke Musical Society. He organized, arranged the music for , played trumpet and did the vocals in the Spike Jones Band that Ron mentioned. He now heads up a 12-piece swing/dance band called Eklectism as well as playing cornet for the Maple Leaf Brass Band in Ottawa. He amazes his musician friends with his ability to transpose the jazz classics.
Ted Clifford, Ph.D, (clarinet, alto and soprano sax.) learned to play clarinet in the North Toronto Collegiate high school band in the 1960’s. After giving the clarinet an eight year rest he took it up again in earnest, practicing in spare moments while working on a Ph.D. degree in nuclear physics. In the late 1970s and early 80s he played with groups in the Pembroke area including the Deep River Symphony, the Pembroke Legion Band and the Petawawa Legion Band. He had fun imitating the antics of Spike Jones along with Ron and Gordie Tapp. In 1984 he went to Vancouver and became the principal clarinetist with the New Westminster Symphony. While in Vancouver he taught himself to play alto saxophone so that he could play in Gaslight, a seven piece jazz band that specialized in tunes from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Returning East in 1988 he joined the GT Swing Orchestra, an eighteen piece dance band, and stayed with them until the band broke up thirteen years later. He now also plays for the Pembroke Symphony Orchestra and occasionally in pit orchestras for the Pembroke Musical Society and Pembroke Community Choir. His favourite players are Shaw, Goodman, Bechet and Johnny Hodges.
Mike Britton, (trombone) began playing trombone and bass guitar as a student at Bishop Smith Catholic High School, where he teaches today. The Pembroke Legion Band and Kiwanis Music Festival provided Mike with an early taste of public performance. His many musical adventures since have included forays into chamber music (Ottawa Valley Brass), blues (with Tom Franey and friends), symphonic music (Pembroke Symphony Orchestra, Deep River Symphony), rock and roll (Kingston’s Fistful of Ugly, the Murray ReidGroup), country (the Neville Sisters), and stage musicals (Pembroke Musical Society). Mike continues to be active with musical projects on an ongoing basis. Jazz has been a particular interest for Mike, who played in different incarnations of Gord Tapp’s big band over the years, as well as small combo settings like the Sax Man Band. It is an honour to take over trombone duties in the New Orleans Express from a great trombonist and showman like the late Fred Leadston.
Glenda O’Brien, (piano) received her A.R.C.T. from the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto (University of Toronto) while taking her B.A. at McMaster University. As a teenager she studied piano under Margaret Powell in Hamilton and Margaret Miller Brown in Toronto. She also played Hammond Organ for dances (with drummer Andy Sabola). The next forty years she spent as an occasional accompanist at church. At the age of 60 (Glenda wrote this, not me!) she ‘started over’ with New Orleans Express grateful for the hard work and discipline of her first twenty years!
Peter Anderson, (banjo and guitar) like Ron, is an ex-patriot Englishman. He is a master carpenter, stone-mason, builder, antiques expert, machinist and entrepreneur. Like Ron he became a huge Chris Barber fan in his teens and played guitar in a skiffle group. He taught himself guitar and banjo and he and Ron often played together at spontaneous musical parties. He played clarinet in the Petawawa Legion Band. He is currently making a banjo from scratch. Peter has a great voice, a great ear, natural musical talent and a phenomenal memory. (He has a gift for memorizing very long monologues!)
Last and by no means least, Roy Yandt is our drummer and washboard king. He retired as the manager of a plumbing company. We kid him a lot. For instance, we tell him that a drummer is someone who hangs out with musicians. He is actually very knowledgeable and has great technique. He had his first set of drum sticks in his hands with the Pembroke Public School Bugle Band in the 50’s. While in this band he learned to read music and played drums, E flat horn and trumpet. In the late 50’s and early 60’s he played with the Bel Ayres Rock and Roll Band. He also played with the Pembroke Legion Concert Band and the Nashville Underground, a popular house band in the early 70’s. For a time he lived in Brockville and played for Les Abrum’s Dixieland Band and the “Fabulous Forties” Big Band. Upon returning to Pembroke he played with Legion Swing Band until it folded in 2000. He played in the Spike Jones Band along with Ron, Gordie and Ted. He also played with the Deep River Symphony, the pit orchestra for Pembroke Music Society and various small groups in the Upper Ottawa Valley area. He attributes a good deal of his ability to on-the-job experience with a wide variety of musical combinations.
What I find very interesting is how many times the lives of various members of the band have intertwined. We get along extremely well with each other and delight in sparkling (mostly) repartee during our gigs.
NEW ORLEANS EXPRESS has played in pubs, clubs, restaurants, festivals, waterfront concerts and cruises and is gaining more and more fans in the Ottawa Valley and beyond. They have a CD to their credit and are currently working on their second. Most of all the band sets out to play happy, foot-tapping, hot jazz that is melodious, rhythmical and different from the run-of-the-mill Dixieland repertoire.
Ron Lloyd, M.D.