Kenny was born in 1930 in Ilford, Essex. He began his career as a sideman in bands before forming his own in 1958. Moving away from the overworked traditional repertoire, the band sought out tuneful songs from all sources, gave them the ‘Kenny Ball’ treatment, gained hit after hit, and took the band to worldwide renown during the heyday of the traditional jazz boom of the 1960’s. Kenny was at Mayfield from 1941 to 1944. During his time there he was Captain of the Cricket and Athletic Teams. He also started a band while at the school.
From the Ilford Recorder
Legendary jazzman Kenny Ball took a trip down memory lane when he returned to his old school for the first time in 62 years. The Ilford-born musician choked back tears as he walked through the doors of the old school, now Mayespark Primary School, Goodmayes Lane, with fellow former pupil Bob Fordham.
Mr Ball, 76, attended what was then Mayfield School between November 1941 and July 1944 and even found his name in the original register. He said: ‘I’ve got so many memories of this place and it’s wonderful to come back after all these years.’
Mr Ball, who now lives on a farm near Stansted Airport, grew up in Oakwood Gardens, Seven Kings, and Mr Fordham, 74, of Gidea Park, both reminisced about their time at the school during a guided tour last week. He said: ‘I was athletics and cricket captain here. I can remember on June 6, 1944 I was out practicing in the field when news of the Normandy landings came through. There are flats on that field now. Where we were standing in reception used to be the boys toilets – it’s changed a lot. My times here were quite dangerous because of the war. Planes were flying over a lot and once I was on the bus into Ilford and there was an explosion 300 yards in front of me, which killed the caretaker from South Park School.’
Mr Ball, who toured with many jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong in the 1960s, thrilled pupils with an impromptu rendition of Midnight in Moscow. ‘I had lots of hit records and I started playing the trumpet when I was here,’ he told them. ‘I joined Ilford Sea Cadets when I was 12 years old and they gave me a bugle to blow, but it only had eight notes. Luckily I discovered the trumpet.’