Fred Clark, a neighbour of the Ball family in the mid 1930’s recalled the following :- “My time with Bill was spent listening to him practicing his scales on the piano and playing any Chopin music he could get his hands on. We would get a few pence each and either catch a tramcar to town or walk. In the arcade in Broadmead was a music shop where I would pick up song books and try to look like a potential customer while Bill would read a manuscript and memorise six or eight pages. Then off we went home and he would play it. Later in the week we would repeat the operation until he had memorised the lot. He played the piano more than the banjo in this period.”

The John Alvey Turner Cup. Bill won this in 1936 and 1937.

Click on the icon to hear an MP3 file of Bill’s piano composition ‘Waltz in Db’

Holland, 1945 The war years had intervened, Bill was enlisted in the Army and was involved in the ‘D-Day’ landings. Amidst the chaos and confusion of war in Holland, billeted in a rat infested factory, he found time to work on a piano composition he held in his mind, writing his ideas on scraps of paper. His ‘Waltz in Db’ which pays homage to Chopin, was eventually dedicated to his wife Maryke who he first met whilst playing his composition on a piano hidden in the cellar of a house in Helmond.

The Le-Mar Banjo Quartet. Bill made a number of friends during his years in the Bristol and Bath Banjo Bands. Bill Jenkins, seen here second from the left lived in Keynsham and was a frequent visitor to the home.

After the war William, now married, continued to play banjo but Maryke, not a great lover of the banjo, encouraged him to turn his attentions to his first musical love - the piano. In the mid 1950’s, following three years of devoted part time tuition he passed the Royal Academy of Music Licentiate examination.

In the late 1950’s William met Gordon Dando, a keen banjoist and guitarist who studied with R. Tarrant Bailey in Bath. They played for functions and dances in the Bath/Bristol area. Gordon helped Bill buy a tape recorder and this was used to good effect to produce recordings for the BMG Tape Club. The acquisition of a second machine allowed Bill to accompany himself on the piano. In later years he composed many of the piano accompaniments used in his concerts and recordings.

Jack Dowden - a fellow member of the Bristol BMG Club, Jack was a regular visitor to Bill’s home and is seen here in the 1930’s with his Vega banjo.
My thanks to his son Andrew for allowing me to display the photograph.

The newspaper clipping below is from the Nottingham Evening Post July 18th 1935. My thanks to Michael Moss for this and the cutting on the right from the Western Daily Press - Nov 5 1936.

Bill’s 1936 John Alvey Turner Cup Winners Medal.

Clifford Essex - December 1935 - “ On returning to the stand I found someone playing Morley solos to a group of half a dozen of his friends on one of our “Regal” models, and could he play ? I listened for some time, admiring his thumb work, which was quite in the Vess Ossman style and then I said, “You are a very fine advertisment for the ‘Regal’, young fellow,” when one of his friends told me that it was W. J. Ball , of Bristol, who of course I knew quite well but had not recognised with his hat on. After friendly greetings with his father and himself, I asked him why on earth he had not entered for the open banjo competition, which he did not appear to know anything about. He had already twice come second in the Emile Grimshaw cup in past years but the Joe Morley cup is more in his line.”

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