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June and Lew

Ability to swing

Lew and June
Ability to swing
Married bliss

The trumpeter and singer June Robinson and her husband, alto saxophonist Lew Smith disappeared from the British jazz scene over 40 years ago. Since then very little has been reported about them in the international press. It was generally known that they had emigrated to Australia - but where?

In 2004 I discovered them to be in Perth, Australia, both alive and well, singing and playing. Here is their story.

From Lew:
A couple of months ago a friend of mine gave me an article youíd written about the Tommy Sampson band in a jazz magazine, as he thought I would know some of the guys mentioned. His name is Lionel Davis; he runs a music shop in Perth and played alto in Eric Winstoneís band in the 1960s. Your vivid writing brought back memories of hearing broadcasts by the Sampson band and some of the blokes I knew quite well, like George Hunter, Lew Warburton and Joe Temperley.

I bumped into Danny Moss at the Perth Jazz Society and told him about the article and he mentioned he had played briefly with the band, and agreed that it was a great band with great charts. He is flying to the UK at the end of June for four months touringó60 gigs lined up so faródespite recuperating from pleurosy. Not bad for a guy who is 78.

Iíll try and fill you in on our activities for the past 40 years since we emigrated to Australia. I did my National Service in an RAF band in Henlow with Cyril Reuben, Ronnie Heasman and Frank Gillespie. I also met up with Jimmy Deuchar and Roy Willox in training.

Thanks for the info on Denny Boyce (June had played lead trumpet and sang in that band before emigrating. rs). We knew about Cinderella Rockefeller (used to be the Orchid Ballroom in Purley where the Denny Boyce band was resident. rs) as June has a brother who lived in Croydon and we visited him a couple of times on return visits to the UK.

It was interesting to hear about Eric Delaney, Jack Parnell and Dougie Robinson, whom I admired for his immaculate lead alto work with Geraldo.

I can vaguely remember meeting you in Streatham in the 1950s as there were a lot of guys who I knew lived locallyófriends like George Boocock, Eddie Blair, Allan Nesbitt and Kathy StobartÖ I was often mistaken for trumpeter Johnny Oldfield with whom I played in the Palladium orchestra. No need for embarrassment as Iíve now reached the stage when I canít remember why I call my kids and grandkids by the wrong names. (Lew is referring to the time I met him in the street and spoke to him for an hour, firming believing he was somebody else. He didnít say anything until we parted. Then he said, By the way, my name is Lew Smith. rs).

Before I forgetóJohnny Oldfield paid us a visit some years ago with his young Chinese partner from Hong Kong where he was teaching.

I was intrigued by your detective work on Mac Minshul as I played alongside him briefly with Teddy Foster. He was certainly a good musician. Iíve heard of Tony Osborne, Alan Dean and Bob Coassin, but the only one Iíve met is Don Rader with whom I played when he came to do a night at the Perth Jazz Society some years ago. I believe he is a tutor in the Sydney Con Jazz course.

I will certainly look up Averil Walsh as June and I have done a couple of shows alongside the Perth Harmony Chorus. They are very professional, and have won awards in the USA. (Averil is the daughter of my very good friend, the trumpeter and teacher Cyril Narbeth, ex Teddy Foster and TomBetty Smith, Ron Simmonds and June Robinsonmy Sampson bands. rs).

Trawling through our old picture albums I found the enclosed snap, which should really shock your wife, seeing such a handsome teenager with good-looking gals on either side. Betty Smith was a fine musician and never quite got the kudos she deserved. Click the pic to enlarge.

June is greatly admired here for her singing and ability to swing, (must be due to her having played lead trumpet), and usually pulls a crowd when she appears. Unfortunately she refuses to make a CD as she says she only performs well in live situations.†

The inserts in brackets marked rs are from the editor.

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