Colin Bailey Swindon Jazz Drummer who worked with the greats! A welcome addition to the blog’s sons and daughters of Swindon series.

Colin Bailey issued from Swindon’s loins on 9 July 1934, going on to became a US citizen. He enjoyed an astonishing career working with a whole range of jazz greats. All About Jazz tells us that Colin began playing drums at the tender age of four. Not content with beating out that rhythm on a drum he also studied piano and theory as a youngster. He went on to work with English name bands from the age of eighteen.

In the late 1950s he lived in Australia where he worked as staff drummer at TV channel 9 in Sydney. There he accompanied distinguished visiting jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan. 

Colin Bailey Swindon Jazz Drummer on an album cover
Colin Bailey Swindon Jazz Drummer on an album cover

In 1960, Colin met the biggest influence in his life as a drummer. Joe Morello came to Australia on a tour with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Some Royal Variety

In the 1950s, he toured with Winifred Attwell, A Trinidadian pianist who was hugely popular in the 1950s playing ragtime and boogie-woogie, selling 20 millions records and becoming the first black woman to to the UK singles charts. He also appeared at the London Palladium for Queen Elizabeth II.

From Down Under to Stateside

As we’ve seen above, Colin made his way to the land of Oz in the 1950s. In 1961 he emigrated to the USA joining the Vince Guaraldi Trio, where he worked on a number of Charlie Brown and Peanuts TV specials.

Colin’s move to the USA happened as a member of the Australian Jazz Quartet. Six weeks later he joined the Vince Guaraldi Trio, playing clubs in San Francisco. That included several months at Trident in Sausalito, and other well known clubs such as The Blackhawk and Jazz Workshop.

During this period, the trio played with jazz greats including Ben Webster, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Gene Ammons. In February of 1962, the record Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus was made, featuring the tune “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” which was Vince’s composition. It became a huge No.1 best seller. This record played a big part in Colin’s life. 

Find much more of all this here on the Jazz Files blogspot.

A brief stint with Miles

In 1963, the Miles Davis Quintet were playing in Los Angeles and the club wouldn’t let his then drummer Tony Williams into the club as he was too young. Colin got to fill in for a couple of nights. An experience he described as the thrill of a lifetime.

TV shows and jingles

In the 1960s and 70s Colin worked in Los Angeles doing TV shows, film soundtracks and jingles. He played for people as diverse as Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington as well as working on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.

Off to Dallas

Having become a US Citzen in 1970, Colin moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1979 where he spent some time teaching at a local university. Over the years, he worked with Joe Pass, the great guitarist, recording fourteen albums. He returned to California in 1985 and continued recording and touring until1998.

Over his long career, he worked with a veritable who’s who of jazz, not bad for a boy from Swindon. Colin died in San Francisco in 2021, aged 87.

A tribute

On the 1st October 2021 the Swindon Advertiser wrote: Tributes paid to Swindon-born jazz drummer Colin Bailey.

‘Colin Bailey died at his Port Hueneme home on September 20 at the age of 87. He first appeared in the Adver after getting the chance as a 12-year-old to play in England’s champion dance band The Squadronaires at Butlin’s with a rendition of Little Drummer Boy that brought the house down. …

….He wrote books and gave masterclasses to pass on his expertise, releasing his last album in 2013. Colin died at home in California on September 20 at the age of 87 after recovering from Covid-19 and then catching pneumonia.

Colin met his first wife Jan in Swindon and was happily married to her until she died, then later fell in love with Michele Munro.’



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