Army link to South Shields jazz band

South Shields Simonside Hussars Jazz Band, pictured in 1971.
South Shields Simonside Hussars Jazz Band, pictured in 1971.

When the South Shields Simonside Hussars Junior Jazz Band was founded, they had the perfect person in charge to teach the youngsters all about discipline and drill – a former Army sergeant.

He was Sydney Millburn Gregg Bays, who together with his wife, Evelyn Joyce, went on to lead the hugely popular and successful band.

The story of how the Hussars came about, comes from Mr and Mrs Bays’ son, who is also called Sydney.

Mr Bays junior, who lives in Livingstone Place, got in touch after seeing the jazz band spread in last week’s picture spread page, and recognised his mother and father in a photograph, featuring the newly-formed Hussars in September 1971.

“My mother and father founded the band from scratch, in order to help the children out” said Mr Bays.

“They used to meet at the Simonside Club, where they would practise on the spare land next to it.

“Once they practised, they would march over the bridge to Hope Street where my parents lived.”

And they had the ideal person in charge to make sure they knew how to march properly.

“My father was a sergeant in the Army,” explains Mr Bays. “He was a chef by trade and he also used to play the drums.”

And Mr Bays, who was also an ex-maritime chief steward, remained in uniform after leaving the services, joining the local Territorial Army unit, during which time he cooked for a most eminent military man, and taking charge of local football matches as a referee.

“My father used to cook for Lord Mountbatten when he was in the TA,” reveals Mr Bays.

However, running the Hussars was very much a partnership between husband and wife, with Mrs Bays, who was a teacher, doing her fair share of the work in order to make the jazz band a success.

“My mother used to make all the uniforms and hats, sewing them all.”

During their heyday, the Hussars used to pay “coppers” to pay for a bus to take them on trips to various places, one of them certainly sticks in Mr Bays jnr’s mind. “My mother had arranged for the band to go to Edinburgh Zoo for the day,” he recalls.

“But she took ill and ended up in hospital, so me and my wife Susan had to take them instead.

“They were quite a handful, though they were well behaved.”

Meanwhile, even more readers have taken to social media to recall South Tyneside’s rich jazz band heritage.

Diane Haddon, was Ord, posted: “I’ve spotted myself in the South Shields Hussars lol, I’m standing to Sid Bays who ran the band.

“I can spot Joan Thornton , Christine Thomas and a few more but can’t remember their names. I then joined the Golden Eagles but after their photo was taken.”

Kirstey Rhodes said: “I remember doing band practice in All Saints church hall with the Blue Stars, I went to Great Yarmouth, my first trip away from home in a bus that was so so old” while Melanie Nelson commented: “Helen Embleton McKerill...God those bring back memories, would love to see more pictures, happy time. I was in the Marsden Shoreliners.” Gillian Kane Bewick says: “I got my photo taken by the Gazette in 1979/80, starting the Jarrow festival parade, from Charlies Park into the town centre. I was drum major in the Hill Park Kilties.”