Beryl Bryden in 1984, Stuttgart
Beryl Audley Bryden (11
May 1920, in Norwich, Norfolk - 14 July 1998) was an English jazz singer
who had played with Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Ella Fitzgerald
once said of Beryl Bryden that she was "Britain's queen of the blues".
Beryl Bryden, Britain's "Queen of the Washboard" was one of the most
flamboyant figures in the British Traditional jazz scene.
An ardent jazz fan she established a Nat Gonella fan club in her teens
before taking up the washboard and singing. Her vocal style was heavily
influenced by Bessie Smith but avoid affectation of an American accent.
She sang with the Humphrey Lyttelton band and with Freddy Randall at
legendary London jazz venues like Cook's Ferry Inn. She became a
prolific supporter of visiting American jazz acts when the Musicians
Union ban was lifted and befriended, amongst others, Buck Clayton, Louis
Armstrong and Bud Freeman with whom she recorded.
She joined the Chris Barber band on washboard and played on the group's
skiffle gold disc 'Rock Island Line' in 1955 with Lonnie Donegan on
vocals. She later graduated to the Monty Sunshine jazz band where she
covered Bessie Smith ("Young Woman's Blues", "Give Me A Pigfoot and a
Bottle of Beer") and long-term favourite "Coney Island Washboard Blues",
which demonstrated her admirable washboard technique.
She remained active at the end of the British Trad Jazz boom and became
particularly popular in Norther Europe playing with the Ted Easton Jazz
Band and The Piccadilly Six. In 1979 she headlined the North Sea Jazz
Festival with Rod Mason and His Hot Five. In the 80's she often sang
with the New Orleans Syncopators, a Dutch jazzband, who she recorded an
album of Jazz Classics with.
In the 1970's she recorded the astonishing feat of becoming the only
British female jazz musician to be awarded the freedom of the City of
She remained active into the 1990's playing with the Metropolitan Jazz
Band, Digby Fairweather, Nat Gonella and her own Blue Boys. She made her
last recording with Nat Gonella in 1998, shortly before her death.
Bryden died in 1998 at the age of 78.
recorded an LP at the Festival in 1984 in Stuttgart with the following
St. Louis Blues,
Basin Street Blues, After you've gone,
Downhearted Blues, Doctor Jazz
(Hans Mader tp, Rolf Enchelmaier cl, Hans Storz tb,
H.-J. Bock p, Dickie Bishop bjo, Gerd Papprotzky tba,
Michael Mehlin dr, Beryl Bryden voc)