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Then there were grey skies

It sounds romantic and exciting, being a professional musician, travelling from place to place, doing what you love and being paid for it; which is fine if you manage to stay in work. In his heyday, George was able to pick and choose, playing for some of the famous big bands on stage, in the recording studio making records, film music and radio broadcasts, and generally living a high life which seemed destined to go on forever. Then came the nineteen fifties and the blue skies began clouding over.

Although the war had been over for five years, its shadow continued to dictate the British economy. People needed cheering up, perhaps more so because they knew no reason why they shouldn't, not anymore; but with many unable to find employment, barely surviving actually, they could no longer afford to splash out on dances and concerts. Big bands were giving way to smaller combos and television would soon take over as the cheap substitute for a night out. George was safe for a while because he and his mates had earned themselves something of a reputation and were in demand; then he suffered a terrible blow. A problem with his front teeth meant having most of them extracted and a false set made, disastrous for a trumpet player. Naturally, he couldn't even tolerate the pressure of the mouth-piece until the gums had healed, but he kept in the loop to ensure there was a job for him when that day came; unfortunately, it failed to dawn the way he'd hoped. The new teeth weren't quite right and vibrated as he blew. No amount of practice helped. Anyone else might have accepted that their career was over, but not George. Music was his everything and he didn't intend giving it up without a fight.

The solution was expensive. Suffering numerous appointments with a Harley Street specialist, another set of false teeth was tailored to suit his professional requirements, and George was on the road to recovery, hopefully a full one. The problem was that poor health had kept him out of the business for too long, at least in musos' terms, and by the time he was able to play again, the decent jobs were all filled. Still, the weekly trip to London's Archer Street had always paid off in the past. Here was a place where musicians gathered to chat, play snooker, have a few drinks and trade jobs. If there were any worth having, they could be picked up in Archer Street. The boys George met there, many of whom were old pals, were sympathetic; but they now regarded him as an unfortunate casualty past his use-by date. No-one, it seemed, was willing to risk even a one-night stand on a trumpet-player likely to fluff notes, or who might not be able to last out the session.

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