GOLD DIGGER - TUBBY HAYES & JANUARY JAZZ
What Mark O’Shaughnessy feared was going to be a routine spot of probate work resulted in the capture of the finest UK jazz collection he’d ever seen.
Retailers often whine about having the ‘January Blues’ and, what with everybody feeling the pinch after Christmas excess, it can be a dreadful month for all bricks and mortar stores. The sound of belts being tightened on the High Street can be almost deafening. Well, it's now time to tell you all about the January Jazz instead....
It was on one of these tumbleweed-laden, bitter January mornings three years ago that a junior solicitor walked into our shop in central Bath.
“Do you guys do probate work?” he asked. “Yes, we do,” I replied while struggling to stifle an inner groan. I’d been here before, as have all professional collectables dealers. You get the call, always in unhappy circumstances, and once the antique dealers had rinsed the place, to be asked to work as cut-price house clearers. We normally arrive just to be faced with a mountain of skip-ready rubbish that barely covers our costs, but as I always say ‘you never know what you’ll find’, so email addresses were exchanged and a date was set.
The house was in one of the ‘posher’ areas of Bath, so that was encouraging. The solicitors opening gambit was “apologies for the state of the place, the deceased passed away in September.” Which was almost four months ago. Groan #2....
I started looking around and the walls were full of jazz music posters. Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Stan Kenton and Tubby Hayes. Now, Tubby Hayes is a demi-god to jazz collectors and most of his LPs are highly valuable. So I donned my head torch, squeezed into my fingerless gloves and dared to dream.
But, I’d started to warm up by this point and asked “where are the records?” The baby-faced solicitor pointed to four ancient, upright cabinets, all locked, all air-tight, records uniformly standing spine out and correctly filed in artist order.
Now, if the daylight is good, I’m fine with reading spines, but the light in this tomb-like Victorian terraced cottage was extremely dim so I started to move the LPs out to view the sleeve fronts, five or so at a time. In among those first five was a copy of Ronnie Rosss 'Cleopatra's Needle' on Fontana. It was so immaculate that upon closer examination, I could see that it had never been out of its sleeve. My head started pounding and I momentarily lost focus. I carefully pulled out the next five and was not disappointed. Ronnie’s 'Double Event' album on Parlophone. Fresh as the day it was made. Was I dreaming? Gem after gem after gem popped out: Don Rendell, Ian Carr, Michael Garrick, Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott.
I honestly believe this to be one of the best UK jazz hauls ever found in one place. I felt like one of those Victorian archeologists that first lifted the stone on Tutankhamun's tomb!
Without wanting to blow my own bugle too much here, I’ve handled loads of incredible collections during my professional years, but this one simply blew all of the others out of the water. And, unbelievably, these items had not even been stored in plastic sleeves - how they remained in such immaculate condition is due to the fact that they'd been professionally kept. I went and found the bespectacled junior solicitor and told him that, yes, I’d be buying all of the media in the house and asked if there were any more records anywhere. He insisted that there weren’t, but if I’ve learned one thing in this job, it's to always double-check everything.
So, I climbed the threadbare stairs and adjusted my headtorch to maximum. One room was floor to ceiling with music mags, sheet music, catalogues and books, together with a teetering mountain made up of copies of Melody Maker, some going back to the 1940s, but, as yet, no more records. Just mind-boggling...
The door of bedroom three was blocked up with old clothes, but of course, I fought my way in and instantly spotted a sign. Bingo! There, facing me, was record storage cabinet number five with more black gold impeccably stored within it. One of the records there was a copy of Tubby Hayes’ Fontana masterpiece 'Down In The Village'. Oh, sweet Jesus.........
I closed the cabinet doors and battled my way back downstairs, when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an ancient framed B&W photograph of the deceased, yellowed with age, but showing a young man, well-dressed in the smart fashion of the time, fully suited and booted with thick horn-rimmed specs on, holding a 78 in his hands. I don’t mind admitting that I snorted back a tear. I may be a tough negotiator but this photo would have fractured even the hardest of hearts
Later in the day, I took away in the region of 1,000 LPs, 300+ CDs and over 100 78s (which I haven’t even so much as looked at yet). A once-in-a-lifetime hit. I’ll revisit this story again further on down the line and talk a bit more about the contents of this incredible collection. But unti then…as my mantra goes, always hope....
Find out more about the British jazz legend by watching Tubby Hayes - A Man In A Hurry, a documentary by Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell. Check out the trailer here:
Mark O’Shaughnessy is the owner of Bath record shop Resolution Records and has been a professional record dealer since 1993