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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Graham Bradshaw Johnny Silvo and Denny Wright (18) RE: Johnny Silvo and Denny Wright 20 Dec 20

Hopefully I can shed some light.

I first met Disley and Silvo at the Surbiton Folk Club in the 1960s. They were both individual guests there during that period. They may have jammed together on occasions but it was the late 1990s that they got their duo act together, which resulted in the Blues in the Backyard album in 1999. They did gigs for a few years, until Disley had to retire due to arthritis in his hands and the onset of dementia. He ended up in a 'home' where he passed away in March 2010. The funeral was a traditional New Orleans affair, attended by the great and good of both the folk and jazz scenes, and Johnny Silvo played at the service.

Johnny himself died in 2011 in Norway, his adopted home. We had become firm friends and I had the privilege of recording his last few CDs at my studio in Coventry, where he occasionally stayed when in England. He still did his annual UK tour right up till the end.

On the subject of Denny Wright, he was a renowned guitarist on the British jazz scene, and certainly played with Disley in various jazz bands in the 50s and 60s. He also played for a while in the reformed Hot Club band with Stephane Grapelli. THis is a good story.

Derek Sarjeant, who ran the Surbiton Folk Club, knew Diz from the 50s jazz days and invited him along to the club. He used to come regularly and do a spot, which consisted of various comedy numbers and Django Reinhardt guitar pieces. Diz was out of work at that time - the British jazz scene had pretty much collapsed and he was reduced to playing in lounges and bars for not much money. Derek took him round the folk clubs on his own gigs, and Diz would do a spot. He was so funny and entertaining that he quickly started getting bookings in his own right, and became probably the biggest draw on the folk club circuit.

His first love was still jazz and he longed to get back to his former jazz glory days. He was at that time the foremost exponent of the Django school, which was fairly unfashionable at that time. Diz pretty much single-handedly regenerated interest, and it was he who persuaded Grapelli to come out of retirement and reform the Hot Club de Paris line up, with Diz playing the Django part of course. The reformed band's first gig was at Surbition Folk Club!! and they then did the Cambridge Folk Festival and went on to tour the world's concert halls and many TV appearances. All well documented and hugely successful.

Diz had many a story about Denny Wright, who was a renowned drunk and they had to resort to all sorts of tricks to keep him sober for the gig. He didn't last long in the Grapelli band.

As far as I am aware, Johnny never played with Denny - or at least he never mentioned it in our late night whisky-fuelled reminiscences.

Ah yes - the hearse. Diz had a string of them. He used to subscribe to a magazine called "The Funeral Director" or some such, which was the house magazine of the undertaking industry. He reckoned you could pick up a second hand hearse 'dead cheap', good nick and never driven over 30mph. He had several and would drive them until they broke down and leave them abandoned at the side of the road. They were never taxed or insured and for a long time Diz didn't have a driving licence. There are legion stories about the hearse. On occasions he would sleep in the back after a gig, and there was this constable who tapped on the window in the early hours and Diz sat up all bleary-eyed and put the fright up him.

Heady days, and we will certainly never see their like again.

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