Retiring drummer Jack Allpress (85) at home in Dunedin
yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
After playing more gigs than you can shake a stick at,
veteran drummer Jack Allpress is feeling beat.
''My back and my legs are gone now. I've only done one
professional gig and a couple of charity gigs since my
birthday in June, so I suppose you could say I've finally
retired now,'' the 85-year-old said yesterday.
''I still reckon I'm only 58, but my wife, Violet, says I'm
The former Taieri and Gore High School teacher has been
banging on about music for more than 60 years.
''If you don't count playing spoons on my mother's pots and
pans, I probably started out with Tim Kearney at the South
Dunedin Town Hall dances. But, I remember on VJ Day [Victory
in Japan Day, August 15, 1945], marching down George St for
three hours behind the Burns Highland Pipe Band.
''Drums was always my first choice. I wasn't one of those
jokers who started out wanting to be a doctor and became a
dentist. The variety of drums is the thing; you get to play
brass, pipe, jazz and everything in between.''
For the past 17 years, Mr Allpress has been found every
Thursday night in the Robbie Burns bar, playing with the
Calder Prescott Jazz Quartet.
He was born in Dunedin in 1928 and developed an early love
for music, singing in the High St School choir. He attended
the inaugural Primary Schools' Choral Festival in the Dunedin
Town Hall in 1939.
He became passionate about jazz in the big-band era of Duke
Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong and one of many
career highlights was meeting Count Basie after a concert.
''That's the closest I've ever been to crying in public,'' he
''I've had so much fun with jazz. It is an international
language. You can stick three chaps together who don't know
each other and who can't even speak the same language and, as
soon as they hear the first piano note, they're away.
''That's the greatest joy of jazz. When you get in the zone,
it's absolutely magical. It's terrific.''
Mr Allpress was founding secretary of the Dunedin Musicians
Club in 1974 and in 1976 joined the Calder Prescott Trio,
which had a regular Friday night residency at the City Hotel
He also co-ordinated local talent for the 1988 and 1990
Telethons at the Dunedin Town Hall and even starred in a
series of Tiger Tea television commercials in the 1970s.
''I had to sing the theme song: 'Catch that Tiger, catch that
Tiger','' he recalled with a chuckle.
Despite hanging up his sticks, Mr Allpress said he ''might
sneak in and sing a couple of numbers'' with the Calder
Prescott Jazz Quartet at the Robbie Burns today between
8.30pm and 11.30pm.