Towards the end of the 1930s jazz clubs started to emerge in Huddersfield. During the 1930s most British jazz musicians made their living in dance bands of various kinds. Huddersfield theatre musicians would often visit these emerging clubs to ‘jam’ after their theatre work had finished.
The earliest live sessions appear to have been held from 1938-1939 at Mabel Whitley’s Dance Studio in Fartown, known locally as ‘The Barn’. Alma Dunning recalled that on Sunday mornings informal jam sessions were held. Around this time Melody Maker began to organise ‘Rhythm Clubs’ and Arthur Addy, from Bradley, remembered there was one in the Labour Rooms in Station Street where enthusiasts played records. This club finished shortly after the outbreak of World War Two.37
Josephine Ricketts, who later became a BBC producer, started the Huddersfield Jazz Club in the same venue after the war. Initially they just played records and had a music quiz, but live music was introduced, featuring well-known local musicians. Another club, recalled by Ron Quarmby and Alex Cowan, was held from 1944-45 in Whitefield’s basement in Ramsden Street, and regularly attracted audiences of around eight people.38
In the 1950s Chris Mercer’s Imperial Jazz Band ran a club above what used to be Burton’s in the Market Place, which also hosted the Sixty-Six Club. The venue later became known as the Bop Club, and with the emergence of rock and roll would become a rock club. In the 1950s trumpeter Brian Tann remembered that one of the most popular venues was the Rising Sun in Golcar. Another popular jazz club was held at the Parochial Hall, at Sparrow Park on Saturdays.39
Other popular venues for the trad-revival in the 1950s included the Old Hatte, where the White Eagle Jazz Band played, and The Greyhound, where the Huddersfield Jazz Cardinals played. Roger Mallinson had fond memories of watching jazz bands in the 1950s, noting the jazz sessions at the Friendly and Trades Club in Northumberland Street and the Dyer’s and Finisher’s Club in Fitzwilliam Street.40
From early beginnings jazz in Huddersfield has embraced all the changes in style that the music has gone through: from trad, to swing, to be-bop; from the trad-jazz revival of the 1950s, to cool, free, avant-garde, and more modern fusions such as funk and rock. With immigration Caribbean, Indian, and Asian influences have influenced local bands and players.
When rock and roll emerged the popularity of jazz declined somewhat, especially as the new forms, such as bop and cool, appealed to a specialist market for enthusiasts. Nevertheless, jazz in Huddersfield remains an important form of music-making that now embraces the multi-cultural influences of the town, the most recent expression being the establishment of the Huddersfield Jazz Guitar Festival.