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Hooked on Soweto

The SA Navy Dance Band

The origin of the first light music ensembles in the South African Navy Band dates back to the mid 1970s with the formation of two ensembles, the Big Band and the “Pop” Group, in 1976 and 1977 respectively.

Big Band

The first leader of this ensemble was Chief Petty Officer Clive Sharrock. Clive joined the SA Navy Band in 1976 having left England where he had run his own band working mainly with the British Broadcasting Corporation. He started the South African Navy Stage Band in 1977 and soon after that the group made their first recording for the South African Broadcasting Corporation under Clive’s direction.

In the same year another highlight for the group was entertaining two very special people at the South African Navy Bandroom, namely the famous British band leader, Syd Lawrence and his wife, who were on holiday from England.

'All the musicians in this group were considered South Africa’s finest'

The Big Band continued to develop and included world class musicians such as Cecil Ricca on drums; Mo Robinson on bass; Derek Hutton on piano; and Ted Odden, Bob Mowday, Stan Murray, Colin Stanley, John McBeath and Willie van Zyl on saxophone. Peter Lynch, who was the arranger for the group, was on guitar and vocals, while Clive Sharrock, Ronnie Munro, Roger de Smet and Graham Merrill made up the trombones. The trumpet section included Ian Smith, John Langford, Eddie Backhouse and Kurt Shramm. The line-up included five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, guitar, piano and drums. All the musicians in this group were considered South Africa’s finest.

Between 1978 and 1979 the Big Band completed a tour of duty playing for the various South African troops stationed on the borders of South Africa during the Bush War conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Band also played for many special naval occasions and was a firm favourite of Admiral Bennett, the then Chief of the South African Navy. The Big Band was a prominent feature of the many SA Navy Band concerts under the baton of Commander Ron Marlow. The Big Band stopped functioning as an entity in 1989.

“Pop” Group

1977 saw the introduction of the South African Navy Band “Pop” Group. The leader of the group was Petty Officer Peter Lynch, a British immigrant, who had played in pop bands in England as well as the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Just before joining the South African Navy Band, Peter was a member of the very successful pop group “Peanut Butter Conspiracy”.

Using his expertise gleaned from many years as a pop musician, Peter soon had a group of musicians within the Band who also functioned as the “pop” group. They proved to be very successful and popular and in great demand throughout South Africa.

The Big Band and “Pop Band” eventually fused in the early 1990’s to form a new light entertainment music group including new talented younger musicians with both Clive and Peter providing leadership. They were very popular during the early 1990's at Diplomatic and Naval Balls, Chief of Navy and Civic Functions etc. Peter died very suddenly in 1994, still in his 40's, having been one of the Navy Bands outstanding musicians and an inspiration to the younger members. Clive continues to perform in several civilian Cape Town bands as an outstanding trombonist.

Youth meets with experience - the Dance Band of the early 1990's From left to right (back): Clive Sharrock, Peter Lynch, Cecil Ricca, Riedewaan Finck (Front) Martin Nosworty, Mo Robinson

The Dance and Stage Bands today

Warrant Officer Willie van Zyl is currently the leader of the Dance and Stage Bands. The line-up of these groups include four saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones, piano, electric bass, drums and vocalist. Over the last few years Willie has augmented these ensembles with two of Cape Town’s finest jazz musicians, namely vocalist Jeff Weiner (recently deceased) and keyboardist Andrew Ford.

Willie is also the arranger for these ensembles and the 14-piece line-up is compatible with his arrangements. The music played and written is well suited for the diverse audiences to which the ensembles play.

The Dance Band has performed at many prestigious naval events including the annual Chief of the South African Navy’s Prestige Ball. The Stage Band, like the Big Band of old, is once again a regular feature on stage with the Concert Band of the South African Navy.


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revision date: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

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