Tito Burns...
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Tito Burns / Terry Devon...
BBC Accordian Club late 1940s
BBC Accordian Club late 1940s
The picture on the left shows members of the Tito Burns Sextet in a BBC studio sometime in the late 1940s. The popular radio programme BBC Accordian club often featured the sextet and they are widely credited with playing the first British bebop on the BBC.

Back row: Denis Rose, Alan Dean, Tony Crombie, Jack Honeybourne and Ronnie Scott.
Front row: Charles Chilton, Tito Burns, Ted Heath, Pete Chilver, Jack Fallon and Joe Muddel
Tito Burns (1954)
Accordian player Tito Burns was born in London in 1921 and began playing semi-pro in the 1930s. By 1942 he was leading his own Swing Band at the Nut House in London. From 1942 he served in the RAF seeing active service in the Far East. When World War II ended he worked with the Clarrie Wears Sextet in 1946 before running his own sextet from 1947 until 1955 when he quit full time playing to become an agent and impresario.

Tito Burns is generally credited with being the man to lead the first group playing bebop to be heard by the British public over the radio. In early 1947 there was a BBC radio series called 'Accordion Club' and the resident group was the Tito Burns Sextet. With Burns playing accordian the group included 'boppers' Pete Chilver (guitar), Tommy Pollard (vibes), Bernie Fenton (piano), Jack Fallon or Joe Muddel (bass), and Tony Crombie or Ray Ellington (drums). Most of the program was not jazz but the Tito Burns group played bop favourites such as 'AFN-ergy', Old Man Rebop', and 'Night in Tunisia' whenever they got the chance. Most listeners would have wondered what they were listening to - Burns accordian playing was not what they were used to hearing, but for others the group was a revelation.
There were personnel changes - trumpeter Dennis Rose replaced Pollard, Ronnie Scott (tenor sax) was added and by March 1948 Johnny Dankworth had replaced Chilver making an impressive line up. When 'Accordian Club' finished Burns took this star studded group on the road, but they could not survive playing just bebop and as the book became more commercial the personnel changed. By the time Esquire recorded the band the star names had gone. Ronnie Scott has been quoted as saying that British bebop did not start at Club XI in 1948 but in the Tito Burns Sextet a year earlier.
Although they made their last record in 1954 Tito Burns and his Sextet continued to tour the UK through to 1955. In fact in May 1955 his group was billed as Tito Burns with his New Big Orchestra and included within the band Keith Barr & the Swinging Seven.
Tito Burns died aged 89, in London, August 23rd, 2010

Tito Burns had based his music on the Charlie Ventura 'Bop for the People' septet which included a spectrum of more commercial music mixed in with bebop items. Due to Burns' accordion that filled out the chords his group could at times sound like a big band. He employed good jazz soloists and featured them in the bop numbers. He continued on the road with his group well into the mid 1950s before he began to concentrate on the more lucrative agency side of the business and as an impresario in other forms of musical entertainment.

Tito Burns and Terry Devon were popular figures with the public and in the infamous Melody Maker Readers Polls of the late 1940s and early 1950s Tito's sextet or septet were invariably towards the top of the small band poll and he himself won the accordion section by a landslide up to the year he disbanded and stopped playing.
Terry herself had a spectacular year in 1949 when she was voted 'Top female vocalist' and the Keynotes, of whom she was a member, were voted 'Top vocal group'.

Tito Burns Sextet (c1950)
Tito Burns Sextet with vocalist Terry Devon (c1950)

Terry Devon (c1951)
Singer, Terry Devon, (Mrs. Tito Burns), sang with the band in the early 1950s in a style based on Charlie Ventura's singer Jackie Cain. Making use of the so called hip, popular scat singing style of the day she featured a clever voice unison with the instruments and her grasp of the harmonics of bebop together with her scat singing ability, unique among singers at that time, left nothing to be desired.

Terry Devon was a popular singer in the late 1940s. She was a member of the Keynotes vocal harmony group that featured regularly on BBC radio at that time. She started singing with Bill Thorburn's Orchestra broadcasting as The Organ, The Dance Band and Me following this with the bands of Tommy Sampson and Vic Lewis (with whom she recorded in 1948). She had a string of solo hits on the Parlophone label including the forces favourite "Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye". She made regular radio programmes and sang with Tito Burn's band until he disbanded in 1955. Tito then became an agent and manager in the "pop" business and Terry, who was Tito's wife, then quit singing to bring up their two daughters. She never sang again and Tito never played again - they remained happily married until Tito's death in 2010.
Terry's family was of Russian extraction and she was born in London's East End in May, 1922. A clever, grammar school educated girl she was recognised in a Radio Luxembourg singing competition and soon after joined Billy Thorburn to start her all too brief singing career. She died in London in April 2013.
Tito Burns Septet - January 18th, 1948 (? Label unknown and no record was ever issued)
Tito Burns (acc), rest unknown.
I Like To Riff/Oop BopSh'bam.

The recordings below were unnumbered limited edition 78rpm discs sold only to members of the Tito Burns Fan Club...
Tito Burns Sextet - 1949/50 (ARP)
Albert Hall (tp), Rex Morris (ts), Tito Burns (acc), Ronnie Price (p), Frank Donnison (b), Derek Price (d), Terry Devon, Barry Kent (vcl).
Lover Man (TD vcl)/Our Delight/Dance Ballerina Dance (BK vcl)/Perdido (TD,BK vcl).

Tito Burns Septet - June7th, 1949 (Decca)
Albert Hall (tp), Jimmy Chester (as,cl), Rex Morris (ts), Tito Burns (acc), Ronnie Price (p), Johnny Hawksworth (b), Derek Price (d), Terry Devon (vcl).
September In The Rain/I'm For Ever Blowing Bubbles.

May 23rd, 1950 (Decca)
Personnel as June 7th, 1949 except Johnny Hawksworth (b) replaces Donnison.
Lullaby In Rhythm/Sloppy Joe.

Tito Burns and his Sextet - March 6th, 1951 (Esquire)
Leon Calvert (tp), Jimmy Chester (as,bs), Rex Morris (ts), Tito Burns (acc), Ronnie Price (p), Johnny Hawksworth (b), Derek Price (d), Terry Devon (vocal).
Johnny Come Lately*/East Of Suez*/Somebody Loves Me*/Everloving Blues*.
(*Charly/Esquire 4 CD box set - bebop IN BRITAIN - issued in 1991 currently only available second hand...)

July 12th, 1951 (Esquire)
Personnel as March 6th except Albert Hall (tp) and Coleridge Goode replaces Calvert and Hawksworth.
A Lesson In Bop*/Festival Hall*#/The Old Music Master/Breaking Point.
(#Giant Steps 2CD set - Soho After Dark 'London's '50s Modern Jazz Scene')
(*Charly/Esquire 4 CD box set - bebop IN BRITAIN - issued in 1991 currently only available second hand...)

August 10th, 1951 (Melodisc)
Personnel as July 12th, except that Don Savage (as,ts) replaces Chester.
I Can't Get Started/Elora/Pino Colada/Euphoria.

January 9th, 1952 (Melodisc)
Personnel as August 10th, 1951.
Adios/Just One Of Those Things/Over A Bottle Of Wine/Undecided.

Tito Burns and his Sextet - February 26th, 1954 (* on Esquire 20-029 Meet the Burns)
Andy Tweed (tp), Don Savage (as), Norman Gondall (ts), Tito Burns (acc), Johnny Weed (p), Stan Wasser (b), Dougie Cooper (d).
Riff Concotion* (2 takes)/Midnight Sun*/Pinky*/Budo*/Skin Deep (parts 1 and 2).

The 1954 Melody Maker All-Stars - March 7th, 1954 (Esquire 20-031* )
Kenny Baker (tp), Don Lusher (tb), Vic Ash (cl), Johnny Dankworth (as), Ronnie Chamberlain, (ts,sops), Ronnie Scott (ts), Harry Klein (bs), Vic Feldman (vib), Bill McGuffie (p), Tito Burns (acc), Ivor Mairants (g), Johnny Hawksworth (b), Eric Delaney (d).
For Voters Only (2 takes, one take on*)/Gallop Poll (2 takes, one take on*)/Swingdido*.

The Melody Maker All-Stars - March 7th, 1955 (Esquire EP56* others 10-436 )
Kenny Baker (tp), Keith Christie (tb), Vic Ash (cl), Johnny Dankworth (as), Ronnie Chamberlain, (ts,sops), Tommy Whittle (ts), Harry Klein (as,bs), Vic Feldman (vib), Bill McGuffie (p), Tito Burns (acc), Bert Weedon (g), Joe Muddel (b), Eric Delaney (d). (Add Joe Harriott (as) on Waxing The Winners)
Gershwin Ballad Medley: (Summertime*/Someone To Watch Over Me*/Love Walked In*/Embraceable You*)/Waxing The Winners (Part 1)/Waxing The Winners (Part 2).
(*Hallmark CD - Basement Bop - British jazz in the 1950s)

Tito's only LP (shared)

Although Tito is regarded by many, including Ronnie Scott, as the original bebop pioneer in Britain, at the time of writing (2013), not one of his records is currently available on CD.
By the time he started to record many of his star musicians had left the band. This was because Tito had a full time touring band and had to play a lot of commercial music as well as fitting in jazz whenever he could.
Terry Devon

Tito's last recording was made in Holland on April 20th, 1955 with another accordion player Johnny Meyer. The group was a sextet and besides the accordions there was vibes, guitar, bass and drums. Four titles were recorded for the Philips label making two 78rpm records but they were not released in the UK.

This page was last updated during March, 2015.
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