Now, increasingly, they are getting bookings for people’s golden wedding do’s two or three years ahead,
The point is that over the years George Bennett and his jazzmen have been a huge part of lives in and around the Bognor Regis/Chichester area.
Alongside all those anniversaries, they’ve played at parties and weddings, at openings and closings and even funerals, offering jazz-lovers their distinctive take on a good old-fashioned New Orleans send-off.
Now the band has got it own landmark to celebrate, and they are doing so in style.
George’s Regis Jazzband have reached their own quarter of a century, and George has brought them together to produce a 25th anniversary celebration CD, his very own salute to all those who have made it all such fun over the years and to all those who, sadly, have gone to the great jazz club in the sky.
They start their second quarter century in fine form – hardly surprising given that music, as George says, is simply something in his blood.
“I have always been a drummer since my early days. My father was a drummer. It was just something in my genes. It was an instinct. Music was something that I wanted to do. I couldn’t drive, and if it wasn’t for my father helping me, I wouldn’t have managed, going to different rehearsals, going to see different musicians.
“In the early days, I used to listen to the light programme on the radio,” says George, who lives in East Wittering. “We are talking about the mid-50s. I just wanted to make music. I was young, but I got married and had a family first. I originated in Surrey and lived on a houseboat, and that’s how it started. I was doing riverboat shuffles up and down the Thames, five to six days a week, usually Hampton Court to Sunbury or going down river.
“I moved to Bognor Regis in 1986, and I was travelling backwards and forwards to London, still doing various gigs in my old stomping ground where I was brought up and lived. And then I thought it was a bit daft going to London three to four times a week. I just thought ‘What about forming a band in Bognor Regis?’ I didn’t know any of the local musicians, but I did find out who was who in the jazz world in Bognor, and so we started.
“I managed to get hold of three players that stayed with me: Bill Harvey, who was my first trumpet player and who is still with us today; George Walker, who is a banjo player; and Butch Holden, who unfortunately is no longer with us. That was our very first band.
“Sadly so many people have passed on since those early days,” laments George, and it’s partly in tribute to them that he offers the new CD.
The band is usually a six-piece, sometimes seven, and it soon became a fixture at the big Bognor events such as the Clown Convention and the Birdman Rally. Some of the events may have gone, but the fun remains the same.
“I suppose deep down it’s just lovely seeing people happy and enjoying themselves because of our music. You are expressing something, and they are enjoying it. We keep getting asked back. We do people’s 25th wedding anniversary, and then they ask us back for their 40th. We are getting bookings for 2016 for people’s 50th anniversaries.”
The band are delighted to keep up their regular dates, at the Steam Packet in Littlehampton on the last Friday of each month; at the Stonemason’s Inn, Petworth, every third Sunday afternoon; and every other month on the last Sunday of the month at the Chichester City Club in North Pallant. They also enjoy St George’s Day in Emsworth.
“We do the standard songs to get those jazz feet tapping!”
The new CD, produced as a limited edition, is available by email on [email protected] and via the band’s website on www.georgesregisjazzband.com.