The Clifford Essex ‘Professional’ - 12” hoop, used by William throughout the 1960’s and 70’s for concerts, recitals and recordings and now owned by Becky and Jerry Schneider.
This instrument was originally owned by Tarrant Bailey Jnr who sold it to Gordon Dando in the mid 1950’s for £12, who sold it to Bill some 10 years later for £13. The Clifford Essex catalogue from the 1930’s described this instrument as “Specially constructed for the professional player who prefers a 12-inch hoop, this instrument has exceptional volume of tone and carrying power”, and “Used by many of the leading artists”.

“Palladium March” Bill is seen in action during the recital at Camden Town Hall, 15th April 1972 playing Joe Morley’s well known composition. Bill played in a number of Concerts and Rallies through this period including:- Oct. 1970, Camden Town Hall; March 1972, Caxton Town Hall; April 1972, Camden Town Hall; Nov. 1976, The Showboat BMG Concert.

1972 - Opportunity Knocks. Three months after appearing in ‘This is the West’ playing Morley’s “Banjoland”, Bill returned to the screen in popular televised talent show ‘Opportunity Knocks’ and gave a terrific demonstration of his musicianship with Morley’s concert solo ‘Zarana’. The nation responded by voting Bill into fourth place, despite winning the studio audience “Clapometer” vote by a hairsbreadth on the night.

Click on the icon to hear an MP3 file of ‘Zarana’

Pianist Eileen Smith L.R.A.M. accompanied Bill for most of his recitals and concerts throughout the 1960’s and 70’s and played on the first two of his L.P’s. By the age of fourteen Eileen had the distinction of the L.R.A.M. Performers Diploma. She established a reputation as a prolific prize winner at Eisteddfods in the South-West and at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, where countless prizes were won including five gold medals. She won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and had the honour of playing in the presence of the late Queen Mary and her hosts, the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort.

Fulham Town Hall, 23rd April 1977. Bill and Eileen seen here shortly before the recital of twenty four classic banjo compositions. The program included Unsell and Roler on classical guitar and zither. Regrettably the concert was not well advertised and only fifty people attended. Not long after this Bill gave up the banjo, sold his instrument and devoted his musical interests to the piano.

Friday 15th August 1975. Bill and Eileen outside Dennis Mann’s recording studio at 18 West Mall, Clifton, Bristol, ready to record the ‘Banjo Galaxy’ for Rounder Records.

BMG July 1970. Having been mentioned frequently in the pages of BMG throughout the 1960’s Bill appeared on the front cover. The accompanying article concluded, “He has the ‘classic’ touch; and if anything can bring the banjo back to the serious concert platform, it is the playing of William J. Ball, L.R.A.M.


Links etc