The Syd Dean Band: family memories

Photograph of dancers at the Regent Ballroom
From a private collection
Close-up photograph of the Syd Dean band
From a private collection
Photograph of the Syd Dean band in full swing
From a private collection
Photograph of Syd Dean and band members
From a private collection

My father, Harry Bolton, was a member of the Syd Dean band for 11 years. He joined when he was demobbed from the army after the war in about 1946 or 1947 as 3rd trumpet and the vocalist. He was well loved for his impression of Phil Harris’s ‘Dark Town Poker Club’ and ‘That’s What I Like About The South’. Jill Day was the resident female vocalist, followed by Vicky Anderson.

When the Regent closed, my dad came to Leeds to join the Johny Woollerston orchestra at the Majestic Ballroom in Leeds, Johnny having also been a member of the Syd Dean band as lead trumpet player. It was in Leeds that my Mum and Dad married and my younger brother and I were born and brought up. My Mum is from Brighton which is where they met.

My mother is still alive and is giving me all this information as I type so you can be sure it is correct.

I see from the responses on the website there has been some confusion over the manager Lionel. I can confirm that Lionel Stewart was the manager of the ballroom until he retired in the mid 50s. He was a Jewish gentleman, kindly and loved by everyone. After Lionel retired, a new manager took over called Ray Taylor.

As far as my Mum know’s there is one member of the band still alive called ‘Frankie Ireland’ who was a saxaphone player. He is now 84 and living in Ireland. Sammy Bryant played drums with the band for a while, his widow lives in Hove and she would love to meet up with anyone who would want to talk about the Regent days.

Other bands used to visit Brighton on a Monday night and played at the Aquarium ballroom. The Regent very rarely had visiting bands. It also happened that on a Monday night, it was old time night at the Regent, therefore Syd Dean’s band had the night off, so they all went off to the Aquarium to watch the visiting band. This included people such as Ted Heath, Squadanaires, Eric Galloway, Edmundo Ross and many many more. The biggest attraction was always Ted Heath.

At the time my father was in the band, this was the line up:

Piano – Frank Harlow
Double Bass – Fred Craig
1st Trumpet – Johnny Woollerston
2nd Trumpet – Ronnie Simms
3rd Trumpet/vocalist – Harry Bolton
Drums – Sammy Byant
Saxaphone – Stan Vickers, Les Williams, Johnny Nicholls, and Rufus *
Trombone – Billy Richards, Eric Noble.

* When Rufus sadly died, Frankie Ireland took his place.

I recently found a great website of a guy that collect 78s and is now selling them. He had two 78s of the Syd Dean band with my Dad singing, both solo and with Jill Day. He transferred these onto CD for me, which is fantastic, as I have been able to listen to my Dad with the band for the first time and it brought back some lovely memories for my Mum. I have attached some photos of the band. I will sign off for now, but if anyone wants more info, feel free to get in touch.

Comments about this page

  • I think this page gives a really good insight into the lifestyle of the old dance halls.

    By Tina Queenan (26/11/2003)
  • Very good reading, Christine. It might be useful to know that the last drummer with Syd Dean, a Raye-Du-Val, is still around and lives in Haywards Heath. There is a lot of info about him in the Lewes Archives Dept, if you wished I am sure they will help. Good luck.

    By Chris (an old Brighton Rock singer) (15/12/2003)
  • If any of you stay in touch with Christopher, Syd Dean’s son, please give him my regards.

    By Jeremy Pender (25/07/2004)
  • My dad used to go to the Regent ballroom and mentioned Syd Dean’s drummer used to play a piece called Skindeep. As my son is a drummer can anyone tell me where i could get hold of a copy. Kind Regards.

    By Joe O'Hara (28/07/2004)
  • I and many of my friends were stationed in the RAF at Truleigh Hill, we practically lived in the Regent. At weekends from March 1955 – Dec 1956. After National Service we still used to drive down from London on a Saturday night. Three of our group married Brighton girls, I’m seeing two of them next week …we meet up every year. We loved it. Syd Dean was great. I recall he also had a very good trumpeter who left and went back to Manchester.

    By Bill Davies (19/10/2004)
  • I find the stories about this dance hall really fascinating. I was wondering if there were opportunities for these occassions nowadays? Any information would be very apprieciated.

    By Henry Chapman (25/10/2004)
  • Interested in the note from Bill Davies who used to visit The Regent with mates from RAF Truleigh Hill. I was stationed at Truleigh Hill from Sept 56 to Jan 58. I am still in the area and am doing some research on the camp and the radar operation. I would like to hear from Bill Davies. My number is 01273 416920. I too spent many hours in the Regent and got engaged there.

    By Roy Taylor (11/11/2004)
  • I really enjoyed reading about the Syd Dean Band. As a youngster I used to listen to this band on the BBC. It was nice to see the name of singer Jill Day once again. Now a professional musician, my early learning came from listening to British dance bands. As an avid record collector, it would be great to have some recordings of the Syd Dean Band, but i have never been lucky in finding any. I will keep on trying.

    By Chris D'Sylver (03/03/2005)
  • My memory’s fading- can anyone tell me Syd Dean’s signature tune and put my mind at rest?

    By Mike Wernham (29/09/2005)
  • I used to go to the Monday night old time dances with my mum and aunt at the end of the war. After the war I went every night (except Monday) and Saturday afternoons and evenings and Sunday evenings. We had such a wonderful time and used to stand around the band to listen to Harry Bolton play. I met my husband at the Regent on New Year’s Eve 1948 and we still frequented the Dance Hall until we migrated to Australia in 1957. This page has brought back so many memories of such wonderful times. On a visit back to Brighton I was so sad to see that the Regent Dance Hall was no longer in existence and that it was now a Boots Store. What wonderful memories and what a wonderful band. Thank You

    By Pam Patchen (nee Smith) (05/03/2006)
  • I was a member of the Syd Dean Orchestra and you can see me in Image 7 of the Syd Dean Gallery page. I am the trombone player at the far right in the front row. Even in my 70s now I can remember all the members – Fred Craig on bass, Sam Byant on drums, Jack Chivers on piano, trps-Ron Simms, John Wolleston, Harry Bolton, Sax-Harry Strain, John Nichols, Stan Vickers, Frank Ireland, Les Williams, other trombone – Bill Richards. It was 1953 and I was the youngest member at 23 years old. All are now gone to the great beyond except Frank Ireland living in Ireland (86-still plays sax) and myself living in Tenerife. In the photo we had just been kitted out with the new grey band jackets made at Bernard Lupers in Brighton (I think his son Tony is still in Brighton and he took over the tailor’s shop). I met my wife – Glen – that year at the ballroom. We have been married now for 49 years. Great days.

    By Eric Noble (21/03/2006)
  • I would love to contact Christine Isherwood if she’s willing. I’m interested in Johnny Woollerston of the Syd Dean band and later of his own orchestra.

    By Julie Howley (19/05/2006)
  • Just found this site. Wonderful to see the names of some of the musicians that I had the pleasure of knowing. In particular Frankie Ireland who played with my group ‘The Polygon’ on many occasions over the 60s 70s & 80s. What a character!

    By Dave Cresdee (21/05/2006)
  • A friend has led me to this site and what a great find. My father Dennis Peters (Pester) was a vocalist with Syd Dean and other bands in the Brighton area throughout the 50s and 60s. I know he was resident at both the Regent and the Aquarium at different periods in the 50s. I know he was the band leader at the Aquarium for a time. He also did a lot of live broadcasts with Syd for the BBC. Unfortunately I have no pictures or recordings of Dad in this period and if any one can help or point me in the right direction I would be very grateful. Dad (Dennis) passed away in 1997 at a very young 65 but used to always tell me stories of his band days. He met my mother (Margaret Rolf) at the Aquarium in 1952. Please help.

    By Martin Pester (23/07/2006)
  • Hey, Joe O’Hara: I am only two and a half years late answering your request about ‘Skin Deep’. Hope you are still there! It was a Duke Ellington number featuring the very noisy Louis Bellson on drums. 1952 album ‘Ellington Uptown’. Still available from Amazon.

    By Tim Sharman (25/01/2007)
  • I have only just seen the comment from Julie Howley (I haven’t looked at this site for a while) Julie is welcome to contact me.

    By Christine Isherwood (23/02/2007)
  • I was very regular at the Regent in 1949 until 1952, met my wife there in 1950, what happy carefree days. I went dancing every night except Mondays when I went to the Aquarium. Syd Dean’s band was as good as any in the UK and the Regent better than any other dance hall that I visited and that includes Hammersmith and Streatham.

    By James Harry Allen (09/03/2007)
  • Am I thinking of the same dancehall by the clocktower?
    If so I don’t see much talk about the dances on Tuesday and Thursday night.
    They used to be great dances. I can remember on Thurs nights it was 2/6p to get in. Strangely enough a lot of mods and rockers used to go in but I never remember any trouble. Many a romance blossomed there and the most used saying used to be. “See you in the Regent on Thursday”.

    By Terry McCormack (20/05/2007)
  • Thanks to Christine Isherwood for her kindness in giving me her email address.

    By Julie Howley (25/10/2007)
  • I am trying to trace my Father’s family tree. He was a pianist and played in Syd’s band at some point. He then went on to form his own band and they also played at the Regent. There is some reference to my Father – Frank Booth- on this site. Does anyone remember him? He married my Mother, Betty, in 1949. They met at the Regent. He was married before (in 1940) and had a son from that marriage that I am trying to trace. Any help would be great:

    By Elaine Fairfax (29/10/2007)
  • I would love to get in contact with Joan Bryant, Sammy’s widow as I am very interested in Sam/s career as a drummer.

    By Shelley Matthews (25/11/2007)
  • Shelley Matthews’ contact email is.

    By Shelley Matthews (28/11/2007)
  • I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Frank Ireland passed away on Sunday 4th May after a short illness. He will be missed by all music lovers. I am sure all the old crowd from the Regent days remember his great rendering of ‘Rock around the Clock’ and also remember his trademark handlebar moustache. The good old days when we all were young.

    By Eric Noble (07/05/2008)
  • I am trying to verify my mum’s involvement with the Syd Dean band. I can recall when I was young, being told that she used to play the accordion with the band during the 1940s – indeed she mentions going to play with them in 1947 in one of her diaries. I have also been told that she played with them by an old friend of hers who I have just spoken to. Mum’s name would have been Ivy Wilkes up until 1948 when she became Ivy Groom. Unfortunately, mum died in 2003, so I can’t obtain any information from her. So, if anybody out there can tell me anything about her involvement or better still has any photographs or recordings they can point me to, then I would be very pleased to hear from them. My Email address is or I can be contacted by telephone on 01227 772772. Many thanks.

    By Dave Groom (10/05/2008)
  • Message for Julie Howley. Sorry I haven’t been in touch. I will be contacting you shortly.

    By Christine Isherwood (28/05/2008)
  • So sorry to hear of Frank Ireland’s death, I was only listening the other day to him playing ‘The Man I Love’ with my band on an old cassette tape. Wherever he went he took his sax with him and he was always such good fun on the bandstand. I bet he’s up there jamming with Gabriel. R.I.P. Frank.

    By Dave Cresdee (19/06/2008)
  • My husband’s grandfather took the coats at the Regent and he and his wife did lots of dancing.

    By Philippa Lane (25/07/2008)
  • My mother-in-law and father-in-law have in their possession a top hat and travelling case which they believe belonged to Syd Dean. The top hat was given to my father-in-law by is father who was working in the Regent in the early fifties. On closer inspection of the inside of the top hat it has been sighed by a number of persons under the leather band; any help with who these people are (possible the band) or any information on this top hat or its history please get in contact.

    By Ken Lewry (28/07/2009)
  • Anyone wanting to chat about Johnny Wollaston, please contact me at

    By Michael Wollaston (16/09/2009)
  • My Father was a bouncer at the ballroom . His name was Paul Thornton. My Mum used to enjoy the band and the dj in the 60s. Good times. Any one with photos please help. xx

    By Gina Strowger (22/04/2010)
  • If anyone wishes to contact me, feel free re my email address. Any other info “GOOGLE” RAYE DU-VAL. Regards Raye.

    By Raye Du-val (15/06/2011)
  • I am a playwright, researching a play about the Regent Ballroom around 1953, Coronation year. I am looking for people who would like to talk to me about their memories of that time, particularly men  I have already spoken to some ladies!). Many thanks

    By Sara Clifford (12/03/2012)
  • Sid and many members of his band were good friends of mine, particularly trumpeter Ronnie Smith who also ran a very good band of his own. I particularly admired the fine trumpet playing of Johnny Woolerston although all the band members were of a very high standard. I had my own band and because I looked much like Sid, same build, dark hair and mustache , on occasion Sid would double book an engagement and I would front a band as Sid and have one of his key players along with mine. There would be times when a dancer would come up to me and say he remembered dancing to the band in London etc, we really did look that much alike. This was during the years after the regent period. Great times, great memories.

    By Peter Moss (16/07/2013)
  • My dad played in several dance bands during the 1940s and his stage name was Billy Regent. He originally came from the East End but he spent a lot of time in Brighton and had long stints of playing at the Regent (hence the adopted stage name!). My dad was a guitarist/vocalist and he was also a member of ENSA during WW2. I am trying to find out all the information I can and am trying to trace the names of the bands he was in but to no avail.  The main ‘logo’ that appears in most of his old photos looks like a picture of a torch or flame.  If anyone has any info on this I would really appreciate it.

    By Jill H (15/11/2013)
  • It was so interesting to read your article.  What a joy for you. I have been, unsuccessfully, trying to trace any mention, anywhere, about an uncle who led a Dance Band in Brighton 1940s-early 50s.  His real name was Alfred Stocks but his band was Rex He(a)yland and his Band.  It is true, as we had a photograph, but we can never find any mention of him.  May I ask if anyone you know has heard of him?  Thank you.

    By Vivienne England (10/08/2014)
  • Could anybody tell me the name of the gentleman holding the watering can in the photo?

    By Michael Carse (24/02/2016)
  • Yes that’s my Dad, Harry Bolton. 

    By Christine Isherwood (03/05/2016)
  • Your dad looks familiar. Did he go on to own a shop in Hove?

    By Michael Carse (12/05/2016)
  • Like contributor Jon Franks, I was a drum pupil of Sammy Bryant at Worth Abbey School in the early 1970s. I can only echo the praise Jon gave to Sammy: he was a wonderful and inspiring teacher, and a great musician.  He set me on the road to professional performance that has defined my life since. This website is the first and only one, to the best of my knowledge, that provides any biographical information about Sammy, the bands and musicians he worked with and where. It is an excellent and fascinating resource. A big ‘thank you’ to Christine Isherwood, and all the contributors, for making it so.

    By Hamish Birchall (06/09/2016)
  • Hi, my name is Shelley and I’m the granddaughter of Sam Bryant. My mum Jillian is Sam’s daughter from his first marriage. I didn’t get the chance to meet my grandad but would love to know more about him. So if any one could help, I would very much appreciate it. 

    By Shelley Matthews (07/11/2016)
  • Hi Shelley, my dad Sammy Lambert played sax with your grandad regularly. I remember him from the musicians union meetings at the Black Lion in Patcham and he was a lovely man and an extremely good drummer. I believe from memory that they both played at the Aquarium ballroom together on many occasions and my mum and dad socialised with Sammy and his wife.

    By Phil Lambert (08/11/2016)
  • FAO Christine Isherwood – I am interested to know how and when Rufus Bernstein died. Did he have a family? Where is he buried?


    By Steve Black (09/08/2017)
  • I’m another one who has only just discovered this great site. This was in the process of trying to find information about Freddie Craig, who was the ex husband of my sister, Mary Elizabeth Craig (nee Kelly). It was a shock to us all, when she suddenly passed away; a couple of weeks before Christmas.

    My wife and I believe that the girl in the photos wearing the dark skirt is my sister.   

    My wife, nee Rosemary (Jane) Jane Richardson, and I both have fond memories of the Regent. Only recently, I learnt that the famous sprung dance-floor was split into two and is still in use today! 

    In case anyone would like (and is able!) to attend Mary’s funeral, the announcement is in today’s Argus and is to be at the Downs Crematorium on January 9th 2017, at 2pm. Cornford & Son 01273 726766.


    By Edward Kelly (02/01/2018)
  • I have just found this site, so interesting. Used to go to the Regent on Saturday nights sometimes as a teenager, lovely memories. I remember Johnny Wollaston in about 1948/9 when I was 5. He and his wife Ada and their son Glen lived above us in Roundhill Crescent. He used to practice playing his trumpet and his moves in front of the dressing table mirror. My parents were Paula and Derek Swann.

    By Dianna Leadbeater (02/01/2018)
  • My message is to Christine Isherwood who wrote the above information.

    My Mother and Farther were friends of Lionel Stewart and his wife Elizabeth. They lived opposite Mum and Dad.

    My question is: does anybody know the name of a dance band in or around 1938-1949 with one of the members being Dennis Alfred Allen?

    If you do would you please contact me. Dennis was shot down over Sedun France in 1940. He was to marry my Mother on his return. 

    By Timothy Winn (05/07/2018)
  • I’ve just come across this one that seems to not have been listed previously.
    Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday / You Red Head.

    By Patrick Davies (15/09/2020)

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