I became fascinated by the UK trumpeter Spike Mackintosh from reading about him — one sentence! — in Dave Gelly’s beautiful book, AN UNHOLY ROW, and from that point tracked down all of his music that has been issued on records, slightly over seventy-five minutes. So elusive is Spike, although deeply etched in the memories of those who knew him, that the only photograph I have ever found of him is above — he is bespectacled, off to the right.
And this caricature:
If he’s new to you, here are three samples of his lovely soaring art.
and my own homegrown video of Spike’s WHY CAN’T YOU BEHAVE?
and FLOOK’S FANCY, which has some of the somber beauty of a new King Oliver recording:
I spoke to the multi-instrumentalist Bob Hunt (or Bob “Ironside” Hunt or Doctor Robert Hunt) — he leads the Chris Barber band these days — for a few minutes on the morning of July 14, 2016, to ask him about the late and very much-missed Spike Mackintosh.
And this is what Bob told me. A long time ago, he and Spike lived near to each other in central London, “just up the road from me” near Abbey Road. At that time, Spike “could still blow.” “He’d walk to my house.” Bob remembered the first time he heard Spike play, in a pub gig, with the front line being Spike, Bob, and Wally Fawkes, with Stan Greig on piano.
Later, Bob used to meet Spike at “The Codgers,” a regular gathering of musicians who shared the same views on jazz — at a time when modern jazz, which Spike disliked, was prevalent — so that they could get together at a pub, talk, play records, and enjoy themselves. (After Spike’s death, his son Cameron carried it on for Spike’s friends.)
Spike’s favorite record was Louis’ BEAU KOO JACK, and he would insist on playing that at every Codgers meeting. Spike was always beautifully dressed, with a hand-tied bowtie (a “butterfly”) or a necktie — Bob never saw him dressed informally with an open-necked shirt — “a very smart little chap, not very tall.”
Before Spike would place the needle on the record, he would stand up there and declare in his “posh accent,” “This is the real thing.”
“If there was a God in Spike’s mind it would be Louis,” Bob said. “He was an extremely intelligent man.”
A pause for spiritual uplift: even if you know the record by heart, take three minutes and indulge:
Bob remembers Spike at one Codgers meeting going on enthusiastically about a singer. “You must remember him. One of the best singers those colonials, those Americans. But I can’t remember his name. He had a lot of hit records,” and finally everyone got Spike to recall that it was Bing.
Bob used to have a gig at a pub called THORNBURY CASTLE, which was the name of a train, appropriate because the pub was opposite Marylebone train station. He invited Spike to come down and play, and gave him explicit directions how to get there, because Spike would be on foot. “Absolutely splendid,” said Spike. “What is the name again?” The band began to play. No Spike. Near closing time, Spike came in, looking a bit run-down. But when he saw Bob, he greeted him with the question, “Is this THE CROSBY ARMS?” which everyone thought was hilarious.
Bob’s father, also a musician — who had played in UK dance bands — knew and loved Spike, even though they’d never played together, and when they met at The Codgers, they’d be “doing the old embracing thing.”
The last time Bob saw Spike, Bob and his father had gone to The Codgers and seen him. At the end of the afternoon, Spike ran across the road to get the bus “like a kid,” and his father said, happily, of Spike, “He’s all right for his age, ain’t he?”
Spike was “a big pal of mine. He was the best Louis-styled trumpet player. That guy had got it in the pocket. No one else had done that.”
“Even though he’s gone, Spike knows what I think of him.”
May your happiness increase!