11
Mar

Ivy Benson and her singer


Parking outside Radio 2 last Sunday evening, a private car pulled up in front of us and a woman with blondish hair jumped out and sort of skipped/jogged into the building Muddy whispered, “I think that’s your interview.”   “Nah. It can’t be, the lady I’m interviewing is 90 in August.”

Joyce Terry (nee Clark) had been singing in Southport one evening in 1942 when Ivy Benson, famed all girl bandleader headlining at the theatre across the way, walked in and hired her on the spot, the 18 year old then stayed with band for the next five years.

I am passionate about preserving the memory and accomplishments of this inspirational woman,  who despite the misogynistic back biting and discrimination of the time fought on to become the BBC’s resident band in 1943, top of the bill at the London Palladium for 6 months in 1944 and the first band to be invited to play at the VE Day celebrations in Berlin 1945. Later that year on Christmas Day she performed a live concert from Hamburg broadcast to the British nation directly after the King’s speech. A favourite of ENSA Ivy and her girls toured Europe and the Middle East as part of the war effort raising morale wherever they went. Ivy passed away aged 79 in 1993 having led her band for 43 years.

If attitudes towards female musicians weren’t tough enough Ivy was constantly losing her girls to the charms of various dashing servicemen she later said “I lost seven in one year to America. Only the other week a girl slipped away from the stage. I thought she was going to the lavatory but she went off with a G.I. Nobody’s seen her since.”

Ivy offered financial independence to women musicians at a time when there were startlingly few platforms for them to be heard, she hired only the best including the legendary trumpeter Gracie Cole who eventually left Ivy to join George Evans Band to play lead trumpet unheard of at that time.

Incidentally the youthful sprightly woman spotted earlier was singer Joyce Terry. Joyce came on the show to talk about “Sax Appeal” a great new documentary on The Ivy Benson Band which aired last Monday evening on Radio 2.  Full of stories and anecdotes Joyce will definitely be back soon. “Sax Appeal”‘ will be available on the iPlayer for the next 30 days.