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FRANK HOLDER memory of

Frank Holder, born in 1925 in Georgetown, Guyana, and served in the Royal Air Force. He sang in forces groups at RAF Cranwell, including a band led by Geoff Head.

Holder played with bands led by Andre Messeder and John Carioca in the late 1940s, appearing with the latter at Churchill's Club in London. He also performed at the Feldman Swing Club (100 Club) in London, owned by the Feldman brothers. Holder recalls, "At Feldman's, a black man would be accepted when you couldn't appear at clubs like the Mayfair or Embassy.

Frank sang with all the service bands he could before persuading the great West Indian trumpeter Leslie “Jiver” Hutchinson to sign him as a band singer in 1948. “He obliged me by doing that and I got demobbed here,” Frank said. “He gave me my break.”

After touring with Hutchinson, Frank worked in London with Latin bands for the next couple of years until he was approached by Dankworth in Archer Street, the jazz world’s open-air labour exchange, and was offered the job of singer with the newly formed Seven. Already a habitué of the modern jazz hangout the Club Eleven, Frank was, he said himself, “well into bebop and when it came to my turn I could improvise. Really I wanted to be like an instrument.”

In the late 1950s, Frank reinvented himself as an entertainer, saying: “I wanted to be more than a jazz singer. I wanted to entertain, lift people out of their seats.” And entertain he did, singing, tap-dancing, drumming, doing the splits and touring the nation’s variety halls, later taking in the Mecca and Empire circuits, plus hotel, cabaret and cruise jobs.

In the 90s, David Hays of Mainstem records released three albums by Frank: The Artistry of Frank Holder, accompanied by Duncan Lamont; I Love Being Here With You; and Ballads, Blues & Bop. Following his time with Paz and the Gillespiana gigs he continued to perform up until the week before he died.

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