# 36835

Photographer unknown. [BRITTON, Haydn John, 1914-2013]

[AUSTRALIAN JAZZ] Haydn J. Britton, aged 6 years & 3 months. Melbourne, circa 1920.

$110.00 AUD

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Carbon print photograph, 134 x 84 mm, printed on postcard stock; verso inscribed in ink ‘Haydn J. Britton, 6 years & 3 months’; no photographer’s imprint; a superb print with beautiful soft tones; the verso has some staining.

A magnificent study of a Melbourne jazz legend in early childhood.

The following is Ralph Powell’s tribute to Haydn Britton, The Man with the Golden Sax, published in VJAZZ, Quarterly Magazine of The Australian Jazz Museum, number 63, August 2014:

‘HAYDN John Britton — Clarinet and sax player — was heavily involved in the nascent Melbourne jazz scene of the 1930s and 1940s playing with such jazz luminaries as Ade Monsbourgh, The Bells, Jack Varney and Cy Watts before apparently fading from the jazz world into which his peers grew. When the redoubtable Roger Beilby suggested discovering what happened to Haydn Britton I thought it would be a straightforward task little realising how far from the truth that would prove to be. To begin with the public record lists him as Haydn, Hayden, Hadyn or Haydon. Put these together with Britton and/or Britten and we had the recipe for a researcher’s nightmare! Quite a bit exists on his early years but there is then a complete dearth of information until he reappears in retirement on the Mornington Peninsula. Haydn John Britton was born on the 18th of December, 1914 the only son of John and Beatrice and grew up in Port Melbourne. By the time he befriended Cy Watts in about 1931 he was playing a home-made ukulele and the kazoo. Together, the two of them “used to study a lot of coloured music”1 and spent Sunday afternoons listening to jazz on the amateur radio station 3CB owned by Bill Sievers. In 1934 Melbourne, the centres of Sunday jazz were Fawkner Park Kiosk during the day and the Richmond Baths at night. It was at the latter that Haydn introduced Jack Varney to the sounds of pianist Barney Marsh and sax player Harry James. By 1938 Haydn had purchased an alto sax and, together, he and Cy teamed up with Johnny Parker and Tommy Crowe sending the “jazz along in first class style.”2 Jack Varney describes Haydn as a childhood friend whose grandfather was West Indian. According to Varney, Haydn was “an amazing character, one of those people who didn’t know a note of music at first, but who would sit at the piano — you could sing him any tune, and it was impossible for him to play a wrong chord.”3 Consequently, they soon formed a trio with sax, drums and piano doing their “best to play the sort of material that was coming in. Eddie Lang … Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong … Bix Beiderbeck, Joe Venuti and Frank Trumbauer.”4 Haydn and Jack Varney performed at ‘The 431’ from 8.30 pm Saturday nights finishing at 2.00 am the next morning. It was here they met Ade Monsbourgh and Bill ‘Spadge’ Davies. Graeme Bell describes how, in the Christmas of 1939, he and Roger were on the PS Weroona, for a picnic cruise down Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento. Together with Russ Murphy on drums, Haydn Britton on clarinet and alto sax, and Bill May on bass, Graeme remembered, “great excitement and hilarity throughout the day.”5 On another occasion Haydn played baritone sax in Graeme Bell’s Dixieland Band with a line-up which included Roger on trumpet; Pixie Roberts on tenor and clarinet; Graeme on piano; Stan Chisholm, bass; Bud Baker, guitar; Laurie Howells, drums; and Benny Featherstone, trombone. 6 Haydn and Jack also had a regular Saturday night gig at the Sandringham RSL hall with Jack Dockerty on trumpet. When the two Jacks entered the armed forces Graeme and Roger Bell continued playing with Haydn. In 1943 Ade Monsbourgh arranged for The Eastside Ramblers to record You Must Have been a Beautiful Baby. The line-up included George Fong, George Tack, Brooks Jackson débuting on drums together with “the grand alto of Haydn Britton.”7 By 1949 Haydn had moved to Springvale and was running a general engineering business and sports goods retail store in Springvale Road, Springvale in partnership with Robert Oliver Luxford. He undertook several recording sessions in the 1940s before seemingly disappearing from the jazz scene thereafter. East Side Ramblers, 4th July, 1943; Jack Varney’s Varmints, 5th November 1944; Jack Varney & His Varmints; Lazy Ade’s Late Hour Boys, 15th August, 1944; Father Ade’s Backroom Boys, 3rd November, 1944; Denis Farrington, 12th August 1946; 19th January 1949. Shirley McConechy recalls that during most of the 50s Haydn played at the then popular New Alexandra reception and function Centre in East St Kilda run by Ray Bolwell Snr and later by Ray Jnr. Her father Bert Gardiner was on piano, Tom Buckingham on drums, Lin Challen or Fred Buckland on bass with vocalists including Joy Grandin, Irene Hewitt and Diana Trask. He moved to Rye with his wife, son and daughter where, much later, he used to provide entertainment in local retirement homes. He also played with the Tommy Carter Band and Mavis Campbell remembers him as a regular at the Jazz Parties that she and husband Don put on at their Blairgowrie property for up to 83 people at a time. In latter years he worked part-time for life-long friend Bill May of Maton guitars and he played sax at a gathering celebrating Bill and Vera’s 50th wedding anniversary. His collection of instruments, including a clarinet, tenor saxophone, gold-plated French saxophone and bugle, used until he stopped playing in 2006, were auctioned in November 2009. Haydn died on March 10th 2013 aged 99. Endnotes: 1. C. Ian Turner Collection – Handwritten Jazz Notes article by Cyril Watts 2. Ibid. 3. Frank, Athena – The Melbourne Jazz Scene. 1978 4. Ibid. 5. Bell, Graeme – Australian Jazzman: His Autobiography. p. 34. 1988 5. Birkenbell, Antionette – From Bourbon Street to Bennett’s Lane p. 49. Unpublished. 2011 6. Bell, Graeme – Op Cit. p.42 7. C. Ian Turner Collection.’