|Music – Memorable Performers and Bands|
Even today, many of the ex-residents of this bustling South End neighbourhood will remember with fondness the jazz-, string- and lang arm bands that would appear at dances, hotels or competitions. These groups formed an integral part of the function, determining the pace of the evening as well as how formal the event would be.
Modernaires Band – Established in 1960 at the home of Joseph Goliath, this popular band played at many of Port Elizabeth’s well-known hotels. They then became the resident band at Alabama Hotel, a post they held for 2 years. The Modernaires won 3rd place in the “10 Band Competition” held at the PE Showgrounds. In that competition, The Cubans won 1st place and The Rio came 2nd.
The Regals – The band was established in 1970, at the home of the late Robbie Peterson. Peterson eventually became the manager of the band. The Regals even went as far as to record an album (an LP, in those days) in the late 1970’s.
Keith Yoko – Yoko was a drummer that came from a Greek family with a strong musical background. He started in the Debonairs at 17 years of age, and then moved to the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers won the first On the Go Show. Yoko became a committee member of The Port Elizabeth Jazz Club; a committee that also featured famous names likes Jack von Pohl, Charlie Sayers, George Hayden, John Drake and Dave Lithins.
Yoko was also fortunate enough to play with many popular bands and artists. These included Ike Isaacs, Stephan Grappelli, Robbie Jansen, Esther Miller, Nabkunku Ngozi, Donald Tjumelo, Mike Makalemela, Feya Faku, Neville Nash, the Neels Matthews Band and Too Much (established by Ken Larkin).
In 1982, Keith Yoko joined Maiden Voyage, with whom he enjoyed four television appearances. This was a major achievement for a PE group in the early 1980’s. Today, Keith Yoko enjoys a peaceful retirement while teaching drums.
Soul Jazz Men – Monde Sikutshwa initiated this band in the early 1960’s. Their first record was cut in 1967 and was entitled Intlupheko. This band grew to approximately 12 members in 1970, all of whom were dedicated to the success and development of Jazz in the Eastern Cape.
Soul Jazz Men were recognised for their contribution in the Apartheid struggle as they often gave free performances during the late 1970’s and the 1980’s for fund-raising events in support of political and community activities.
In 1975, they won the Michelangelo National Jazz Festival. This meant that they qualified to play in New York. However, as was typical of the time, they lost their seats at the last minute to Benoni’s Jazz Ministers. This kind of marginalisation of Eastern Cape groups was something to which they could never become accustomed.
The Ritz Band – This lang arm band was established in 1943 in the home of Johnny Paul. The members of The Ritz were known for their uncompromising rigidity in terms of rules, punctuality and appearance. This earned them much respect in the context of a suburb like South End, which prioritised values, morals and social etiquette.
This band enjoyed all forms of the ballroom dancing beat, including the waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, etc...The Ritz was so enjoyed that they travelled beyond the Port Elizabeth borders to perform in places such as Graaff Reinet, Grahamstown, Somerset East, East London and Humansdorp.
In 1968, two brothers who were members of the band emigrated to Australia. This caused the final split of The Ritz.
The Cubans – Some of the old Rio Jazzy Orchestra members formed The Cubans in 1959. This band was well-known for developing their own generic steps for the Quickstep and Waltz. The Cubans were one of those bands – always enjoying full houses and packed performances. They frequented venues such as the Oliver Plunket, Eldorado and Lindström halls. They even made their appearances at the Fairview’s Cathy Hall and the Royal Bioscope.
In 1963, Bollick Lutchman (the lead guitarist) was hit by a car. He died immediately. Shortly thereafter, George Jaggers was stabbed and died of the injuries. These members were never replaced.
The Cubans also enjoyed wider acclaim, and travelled to Graaff Reinet, Grahamstown, Knysna, and so on. They became the resident band at the Summerstrand Hotel and then, in 1974, at Jubilee Hotel in Uitenhage. Finally, in 1975, the band decided to pursue different paths.
Other famous bands of the era included Starlite Swingsters (1962 – 1972), Premier Orchestra (1937 – 1965), Savoy Swingsters (1955 – 1968) and Vagabond Quavers (1960 – 1963). Individual performers who earned a respected name were, amongst others, Winston Peterson (saxophone), Kenny Koetz (saxophone), Percy Hurst (saxophone) and Abe Nieker (acoustic slap bass player).
Whether they were aware of it or not, these performers defined much of the culture and cultural appreciation of this time. Of course, this was not limited to the South Enders, but it had such a lasting and positive impact on the heart and lives of this diverse community.