Last Sunday a plaque was unveiled in Southwark in memory of one of Britain’s earliest black jazz musicians Frank Bates.
The Southern Syncopated Orchestra was formed by the American composer Will Marion Cook and comprised 27 musicians and 19 singers. The musicians came from, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua and Ghana among other places.
The orchestra had made a deep impression across Europe. It had very quickly become a staple on the London club circuit. So taken were revellers by this new style of syncopated music and the extraordinary talents in its midst that it wasn’t long before the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) had invited them to perform on the 19th August 1919 at Buckingham Palace.
Tragically Frank, and seven other members of the SSO, died in 1921 in a shipping disaster.
Extracts taken from Kurt Barling original article for BBC London , to read more go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2006/10/09/orchestra_feature.shtml