Father and son joined the Bristol BMG Club formed in February 1927 by Alf North. Eighteen members attended the first meeting on the 24th February and by the 9th March thirty members were present. At this meeting the Club opened with “Park Crescent” and “The Cromartie” followed by a banjo duet, “Gaiety” by Mr Ball and son” Although the youngest member of the club Bill soon established a reputation as a soloist and was featured at all the club concerts as “Bristol’s Wonder Boy Banjoist” Bill’s first concert appearance was on the 31st October 1928 at the YMCA Hall, Totterdown, Bristol as part of the monthly variety night. Accompanied on the piano by Alf North’s wife he played Emile Grimshaw’s “Tune Tonic” to great acclaim.

Bristol’s “Wonder Boy” Banjoist , aged 13. One year later, aged 14, Bill finished his education at school and found work in a local factory to help support the family. His meager wages were handed over to his mother each payday and he was given a few coppers as pocket money.

The Bristol BMG Club - April 1930, Sydney is standing third from the left, Bill was at home with influenza.

BMG Club Notes - September 1930, “An enjoyable meeting was held in the Bristol BMG Club’s new headquarters at the King’s Corridor, Old Market. The ensemble playing was composed of the following numbers :- “Tatoo,” “Magnolia Waltz,” “Blush Rose Waltz,” “Snatches of Song,” “Stein Song,” “We’re All Happy,” “Cromartie March,” and “A Banjo Vamp.” Mr. Williams (Tenor Banjo) : “Fancy Valse,” Mr. D. Mulligan and Master Ball (Banjo Duets) : “Ad Astra” and “Donkey Laugh,” and Messrs. Witcombe, Ball and Mulligan (Banjo Trio) : “The Ring Master.”

The Bristol BMG Club April 1931, Bill recalled the names of the seated players as :- Tom King, Charley Whatley, William Ball, unknown lady, Lionel Saunders, Sidney Ball, Harold Sharp, Bert Peters and Alec Griffiths.

BMG March 1932 :- “William Ball is Bristol based banjoist whose repertoire consists of over a hundred solos. He has broadcast from Cardiff on several occasions, and was awarded 2nd place in the last amateur solo contest held at the Central Hall, Westminster. His favourite solo’s are :- A Spanish Romance, Mazeppa, Tune Tonic and A Swanee Sing Song.”

The Clifford Essex stand at the Federation Rally, Central Hall, Westminster, London, 19th September 1931. It was whilst trying out a new “Paragon” banjo at this stand (in later years Bill expressed his deepest sympathy for anybody who owned one !) that the 16 year old met his hero Joe Morley for the first time. On finishing Morley’s own solo “A Banjo Frolic” Bill was approached by Joe who said “Well done son, very clean picking”

The Bath Banjo Band under the leadership of R. Tarrant Bailey which Sidney and William joined in 1932. In later life William described this period as “Some of the most musically satisfying years of my life”. In the photograph, Sidney is holding the Contra Bass Banjo, Bill is seated behind Mrs Bailey.


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