THE DIXIE BEATS, Chadderton, UK.,  October 2022

by Alan Lawless

On arriving at their now accustomed Chadderton venue to find the ground floor lounge decked out, a full fortnight in advance of the actual Halloween event, with decorations  foremost amongst which was a bat the size of an oven-ready chicken, Jazz At The Reform Club audience members would presumably have found little comfort in their hosts’ reassurances that “all that glisters is not ghouls”.

Nor would their sense of  unease have been lessened when Dixie Beats’ leader, trumpeter John Percival, hove into view sporting a brown felt trilby not all that dissimilar to those favoured in the nineteen forties by Hollywood “B“ feature “bad guys” like George Raft. Then, when trombonist Richard Slater began dragging out of his stained backpack a collection of instruments more redolent of Baron Frankenstein’s laboratory than a suburban concert room, the “frighteners” were really on.

In the end though they need not have worried as the band proceeded  to underline its standing as Bolton’s leading – albeit Bolton’s only – traditional jazz band, with the daemonic duo abetted by regulars Scott Johnson on banjo and guitar, Steve Allan on bass, the long suffering Karen Johnson on drums and, guesting on reeds, Wakefield’s Tony Denton. 

The Dixie Beats are a 6-piece Traditional New Orleans/Dixieland Jazz Band based in Bolton, UK. Regularly appearing at jazz clubs and events all around the North West of England, The Dixie Beats pride themselves on providing an all-round entertaining show, full of energy and quality musicianship. The line-up comprises trumpet, clarinet, trombone, banjo, double bass and drums, also including vocals. They stand available  for any occasion from 1920’s style Peaky Binders/Gatsby events, weddings, functions, jazz nights, etc.

Visit their website at for further information.

Tonight, for starters they served up the ever popular ‘Washington Lee Swing’ and over the course of the evening, happily recovered from the unexpected throat ailment which had limited him to a trifling nine vocals on their last visit to Rochdale Jazz Club, John brought us ‘When You’re Smiling’, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, ‘Shine’  ‘Doctor Jazz’, ‘Bourbon Street Parade’, ‘Wonderful World’, ‘Minnie The Moocher’, ‘Has Anybody Seen My Gal’, his party piece ‘King Of The Swingers’, the rarely heard ‘Root Hog Or Die’ ‘Dinah’ and longstanding valedictory  offering ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’.

Let credit be given where credit is due though, he did occasionally revert to playing trumpet, witness ‘That’s A Plenty’, ‘Dippermouth’ and with Richard in support ‘Tiger Rag’ and ‘Black And Blue’. Betwixt and between Richard took the microphone for ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, then there was  a standout ‘St Louis Blues’ from Scott while the second of his party pieces found Richard, who equipped at the time with a length of rubber tubing, let us call it “a sink plunger,” had succeeded in adding “body” to ‘Marching Through Georgia’ and ‘Yes Sir That’s My Baby’ now recreating, on muted trombone, the kind of blues harmonica sound that we will always associate with our old friend the late Bill Smith.

Thanks for this Alan. As ever we are given a bright, vibrant word-picture of the venue, your audience and your guests. As it usually does, the review prompted me to find out more about this great jazz you described. I noticed that John Percival, trumpeter and vocalist, introduces himself on their web-site by saying he has special permission from the band to say he is the leader.

In that capacity he tells us that The Dixie Beats (left) are a six piece Dixieland jazz band based in Bolton and performing mainly the North West of England with high musical standards and an emphasis on entertainment. They have evolved from another highly successful band, the Bourbon Street Roof Raisers, who performed at shows and events all over the country, appearing twice at the Royal Berkshire Show and travelling as far as Paderborn in Germany.

The Dixie Beats are a more concert-focused band with three specific aims

  1. To keep the music going
  2. To find new and younger audiences
  3. To find and encourage new, young talent

Dixieland (or “traditional jazz as it is sometimes called) has become a little bit lost, says John, with many of the younger generation never having heard it played, yet, with its irresistible swing it is entertaining to musicians and non-musicians alike and particularly impressive when performed live. There are a few jazz clubs with loyal fans who work hard to keep the music alive and we want to support these. It is also fair to say that many jazz audiences, like many jazz musicians, are “of a certain age”, and with our entertaining style we hope to find some new fans. So if you are a jazz club looking for a hot band or if you are looking for an entertaining band for an event, party or music venue we fit the bill.

We also want to encourage young musicians who are interested in playing Dixieland jazz. We meet at least once a week to practise and have an open-door policy to capable musicians who want to come along, listen and/or sit in. We hope to find people who will start off as associates of the band, jamming with us and performing occasionally on gigs, and, in the longer term perhaps become part of the band’s future. We have been joined by some terrific musicians and it is very rewarding to find talented players as young as sixteen who will hopefully carry the music forward. So if you are interested, don’t be shy, get in touch. We will be delighted to meet you.

Well, that’s enough from me, other than to say our one overall aim is to make sure that we and our audiences always have fun. Please explore this website – it will tell you all about us and our associates and how to get in touch. Hope to see you some time.

On air sign background

Meanwhile, a mutual friend of Sidetracks and Detours and Alan Lawless has been cooking up more goodies for us this week. Radio presenter and jazz buff Steve Bewick has informed us that his Hot Biscuits jazz programme this week ( from the mix-cloud) This week features the Phil Shotton Quartet in action at the Creative Space, Manchester UK. Also included are tracks from Michel Petrucciani, Sam Braysher Trio, Benny Goodman and a couple of Beatle inspired pieces from The J4 Quartet – The Beatles With A Jazz Twist. If this looks good then share it with a friend. Listen in 24/7

Steve Bewick’s Shows | Mixcloud

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