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Thanks to all of the musicians who agreed
to interviews. You can
find them all in the
magazine issues section.
Enjoy.

Daniel Niles
Daniel Niles

Keith Mansfield and KPM inspired beats coming soon…

Hello
Meranda

Welcome to the Beat Excavation – a project about Slough (UK) and its unique musical heritage…

Issue 2 - Keith Mansfield - The Early Years

Words: Meranda Peart

Mansfield attributes his huge musical success to his early years in Slough; being part of the military band held at The Slough Boys’ Club and performing at local dances. As a Slough native, he speaks fondly of the Boys’ Club in particular, and sees his time spent there as formative years.

Mansfield admits that even from an early age his mind was “beginning to get taken over by music” and had little interest for much else. “But I was very consistent, I was bottom in chemistry every year”. Funnily enough Mansfield wasn’t interested in music lessons either; he expresses a dislike for the history of music and the rigid teachings of music.

He explains that “if you’re a musician who wants to write and compose, you’re not really interested in the history of music and what Beethoven and Bach did. That sounds disrespectful, but all you want to do is be stimulated in music, and follow your own path.”

It appears that Mansfield’s musical career started at the age of nine, learning the piano. He recalls taking piano lessons as a promise to his mother because his elder brother wasn’t interested in playing the piano.

“How lucky, at eleven years old, because you did your mum a favour, you went to piano lessons because your older brother wouldn’t, and you found the rest of your life what you’re going to do. That is so wonderful!”

However a year and a half into his lessons, Mansfield became disinterested and wanted to play football like other boys. In retrospect, he believes that “The actual groundwork at nine years old proved to be a godsend, instead of wasted effort”.Though Mansfield had given up on piano lessons, he still continued composing and arranging music. He believes that when it comes to writing, arranging and composing music, your ear and what you can hear is paramount.

He admits “I couldn’t study a book, but if I had a problem, then I’d go and look to see how they dealt with it. I’m educating myself by my ears, and by my own taste, not what the teacher’s telling me, and not what I’ve got to learn to pass my exams. So they were all the fundamental things for me”

Mansfield joined the Slough Boys’ Club’s military band at the age of… located at the Slough Community Centre just off Farnham Road. It was formed by an ex-military band master Mr Sidney Brown, who would loan out some of his collection of brass instruments to teenagers in the area in exchange for sixpence and a once a week commitment to band practice. Mansfield says “he loved music, and he had a huge treasure chest of instruments”. It was at this point where Mansfield was introduced to a number of instruments.

“I turned up there, and the first instrument he gave me was an oboe. So I went back the next week and said, ‘I don’t want to play the oboe’, so I gave him the oboe back and I then got a cornet, so I was now a cornet player”

It is clear that Mansfield enjoyed his time there when he says

“The club was a good thing for slough musically. A lot of now successful musicians joined up and came there to get together and learn from each other.”

After having joined a local group Mansfield was approached by these two men who were looking for a piano player, but Mansfield had already signed up to go into the Royal Artillery as a band boy.

“I’d left grammar school and I was determined to be a musician. And they said, ‘don’t do it!’ They said, ‘we’ve just come out of the army, we were army musicians for three years. If you’ve got any talent, it’s the worst thing you can do, don’t do it!’”

So he wrote to the Royal Artillery and told them that he had changed his mind, after that he never heard another word about it. It was then he began playing at the Slough Palais, which in the fifties was a semi-professional ballroom band in a Strictly Come Dancing setting, located where The Observatory and the cinema is today. He was also playing at the Asoldo Ballroom every Saturday night near to where the Mercedes Benz garage is situated on Bath Road now.

Throughout his mid to late teens he continued arranging tunes for people. One of his earliest achievements came when he was asked to arrange a song called: This is a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening as a signature tune for a local band.

“What I did, is that I then took a big band score – what they called commercial scores – that we all used to sit and play, and I put each individual part onto what we call a score. Most of the work was given to the saxophones, because saxophones don’t tire as easily at trumpets… and they played it and it became their signature tune for years. So I go there on a Saturday night, trying to get a dance with somebody, and they’d be playing my arrangement when I was aged sixteen.”

His talents were evident in his speed and ability to learn instruments from a young age, especially when he tells us that his “brother brought out a saxophone to try and be Earl Bostic (the American rock ‘n’ roll saxophone player), and in fact he signed on to become a musician in the army for three years.

Sadly he wasn’t very musical, but he gave me his saxophone when he went in the army. I could pick it up and could play a tune in a week, so I then had saxophone lessons, and I became a professional sax player at the age of eighteen”.

He turned professional at Streatham Locarno after he auditioned for a job playing in the Mecca ballrooms. By the age of nineteen he would be touring the country, performing in the big cities in a big band.

Mansfield says that “By the time I got to eighteen, I knew I couldn’t face my day job anymore; I decided I had to become a professional musician”.

Special thanks to Keith Mansfield for supporting the project and sharing your fascinating life story with us.

Download Issue 2 - Keith Mansfield - The Early Years here...

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