Bill Walton - Principal BB Flat Tuba / Librarian

BWMy real name is Christopher Walton but am known to all as Bill. I play Bb Bass and am also the band librarian.

I was born in Tamworth in 1956 and have lived in or near Amington all my life. I am in a position to walk to the band room so incur no travel costs when attending rehearsals – lucky me!

I joined Amington Band around 1964 or 1965 after an appeal for junior members was made at my school, Amington County Primary. There were around 50 from the school who initially responded to this appeal but I am now, and have been for several years, the only person still in the band who was recruited from this exercise.

Not surprisingly, initially I learned to play the cornet and stayed on that instrument until 1972 when I transferred to Bb Bass. The conductor at that time (Bernard Springett) told me my lips were too thick to play cornet. I reckon what he really meant was that I was too thick to play cornet, and as he had a Bb Bass vacancy to fill he could make better use of me on that instrument.

My days on cornet include a couple of memorable incidents. The first occurred on 30 July 1966 when I and other members of the band, played at Middleton Fete at the same time that Geoff Hurst was scoring a hat trick at Wembley and England were winning the World Cup. I remember seeing one goal scored in the match on a TV in a tent at the fete but have cursed myself and the band ever since for missing the match! I have promised myself that should England reach another World Cup Final in my lifetime I shall not be missing it for any Amington Band gig, whatever it may be. However, as the years go by I have considerable doubt that I will need to miss a band gig for this reason!

The second incident from my early years relates to the band being engaged to perform a role in the film Privilege starring Paul Jones. This meant spending most of the night of 10/11 August 1966 marching round St Andrews football ground in Birmingham. I have a copy of the DVD for this film and have seen the scene where the band and the young lad that I was appear. However, the scene is so short if you blink you will miss it altogether. By the way I’ve never watched the film in full as its not very good and its not shown on TV very often, if at all.

Having been in the band so long I have played under numerous conductors, some good, some not so good and some truly awful. I shan’t name the bad uns but the betters ones are Bernard Springett; Albert Chappell; Gordon Turner; Allan Morris; Denzil Stephens; Roy Curran; Mark Higham, Mick Gernon; Wesley Kendrick; and Kevin “Sid” Steward. I can honestly say I have happy memories of playing under all these conductors.

During my time the band has played in all the sections of the Midlands Area Brass Band Championships, including the Championship section in the period 1988 to 1990. I have been researching the history of the band over the last year or so and as a result know that I have appeared in more contests for Amington Band than any other player in the bands history. This includes true Amington Band legends such as Roland Davis, George Clark, Arthur Pegg, Ken Gullick, Alan Newbury, Roly Cross, Brian “Sugar” Jeffcoate, and Bob Godfrey. It just shows you don’t have to be a great player to play in a great number of contests – you just have to be in the same band a long, long time and that the band regularly enter contests.

I have many fond memories of the band through playing in contests. Particular highlights are:

  • The five Area wins the band has had during my time - 1985, 1986, 1987, 1993 and 2008. All five banners are on display in the bands library;
  • My first contest win with the band at the 1969 Leamington Brass Band Festival, when having played earlier in the day we found out we had won just before the start of the RAF parade at Tamworth;
  • The bands only ever appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, when in 1985 under Allan Morris we came second in the 4th Section National Finals – I still believe we should have won that day;
  • The bands second place at the 4th Section National Finals at Harrogate in 2007 under Wes Kendrick – again I thought we should have won;
  • The bands second place at the WD and HO Wills European Championship 4th Section Finals in 1973, under Bernard Springett;
  • The bands third place at the Pontins 3rd Section Final of 1986 when under Allan Morris only Marple conducted by Gary Cutt and Huddersfield Tecol conducted by Major Peter Parkes beat us;
  • The bands third place at the Pontins 2nd Section Final of 1987 under Allan Morris.

There are also numerous highlights from concerts that I have played in with the band. One of the most memorable memories I have is the bands appearance in the stage production of Brassed Off at the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield in 2010, a few days after the death and funeral of, in my opinion the bands greatest ever member George Clark – a true Amington Band legend. Also I have some happy memories from the bands visits to the Whit Marches. These include our win at Lydgate in 2010 when a few weeks later Bob and me went up there to attend the awards evening and pick up the cup we had won.

One final thought. When I first joined the band there were many members who had played with the band for numerous years. Two of these, Arthur Pegg and Ken Gullick were playing with the band when it was reformed in 1917. They together with George Clark were playing with the band when it achieved its greatest ever contest success – the third place position at the British Open of 1933. In 1966 Ken Gullick, then an old man, as well as being a Bb Bass player, was the band librarian. As a young lad I used to help Ken hand out the music. As I approach “older age” I feel that being a Bb Bass player and band librarian I am morphing into Ken. I wonder (and hope) that, from a band point of view, whether someone down the line will morph into me. Good luck to anyone who does!