Ken Colyer

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Kenneth Colyer (18 April 1928 – 8 March 1988) was a British jazz trumpeter and cornetist, devoted totally to New Orleans jazz. His band was also known for skiffle interludes.


He was born in Great Yarmouth, grew up in Soho, London and was a member of a church choir. When his older brother Bill (born William John Colyer in 1922 — died January 2009) went off to serve in World War II he left his jazz records behind, which influenced Ken Colyer. He joined the Merchant Navy at 17, travelled around the world and heard famous jazz musicians in New York and Montreal.

In Britain, Colyer played with various bands and joined, in 1949, the Crane River Jazz Band (CRJB) with Ben Marshall, Sonny Morris and Monty Sunshine. The band played at the Royal Festival Hall on 14 July 1951 in the presence of HRH Princess Elizabeth.

Parts of that group merged with other musicians including Keith Christie and Ian Christie to form the Christie Brothers' Stompers. Colyer rejoined the Merchant Navy and in New Orleans played with his idols in the George Lewis Band. He was offered the job of lead trumpeter on a tour, but was then put in prison and deported.

He was invited to take the trumpet lead for the Chris Barber Band and so formed the first Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine, Ron Bowden (born Ronald Arthur Bowden, 22 February 1928, Fulham, London), Lonnie Donegan and Jim Bray (born James Michael Bray, 24 April 1927, Richmond,...
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