Recordings logbook and acetate disc, Clough-Critchley Collection, c.1950-1960

Mike Jones

Published June 2024


The two artefacts drawn from the ‘Clough-Critchley’ collection are representative of a fascinating and unique body of material generated by Ron Clough, a jazz enthusiast from Sheffield. The record is an acetate disc, produced by Clough on a high-quality home recording system. The ledger is a logbook of recordings Clough made from the radio and from other records in order to compile and create his own unique discs. He was meticulous in his notation and devised his own numbering system to organise the records he made. Judging from entries in his detailed ledgers, he was active from the early 1950s to the late 1960s.

We know little of Ron Clough as an individual. The materials we hold were donated by another jazz enthusiast, Arthur Critchley, following Ron Clough’s death in the early-2000s. We know that Clough moved from Sheffield to Bradford at some point and then to North Wales but, again, these details are hazy.


Post-war Jazz Boom

Jazz in the early 1950s was, for the immediate post-war generation, an exciting new genre of music. Certainly, it was a form of music that had begun in the USA (and notably in New Orleans and the south – ‘Dixieland’) decades earlier, but what we need to factor in is that, during the 1920s and 1930s, there was no general, widespread access to jazz. For example, there was only one radio service in the country (the BBC) and that this had only one ‘channel’, (the talk-based ‘Home Service’) then there was little chance to hear jazz ‘on air’. Added to this, the UK suffered severe economic problems during that time. Record players were comparatively expensive items and few homes would have been able to afford them. With limited broadcasting opportunities for jazz, there was no incentive for record companies to publicise jazz artists or to release jazz records.

The post-war timing of the jazz boom in Britain can be seen quite literally in the logbook Clough used to note down his recordings. It is an equipment ledger for a war department vessel.



The date given inside is 1944.




New Orleans Jazz and Swing

Where ‘popular’ music was concerned and again stemming from the USA, jazz had given birth to a form of music known as ‘Swing’. Swing tended to be music played by orchestras for crowds to dance to. Dancing requires music to be played in regular patterns to support the steps of specific dances. At the same time, the coming of ‘talking pictures’ (films with soundtracks) saw the rise of the Hollywood Musical (the first talking picture was The Jazz Singer featuring Al Jolson). The rise in importance of featured vocalists also worked against a wider interest in ‘authentic’ New Orleans jazz, and for two reasons. Firstly, as much as people liked to dance it was pleasant to dance to love songs delivered by what became known as ‘big band vocalists’. Secondly, radio microphones were adapted to live performances and love songs came to be sung by ‘crooners’, vocalists who could be heard above the instruments (Bing Crosby was the most famous of these, but Frank Sinatra became the first pop star to emerge from this new musical style).

In New Orleans, jazz had been a very expressive medium, one in which familiar tunes were ‘jazzed up’ by having soloists improvise around the fairly limited melodies of those familiar tunes. There was little scope for vocalists and the music of jazz tended to be fast-paced and energetic. Vocals tended to be a confined to Blues music, the music of African-Americans in the southern states of the USA.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Swing became extremely popular. Especially in the USA, even though many jazz musicians made a living by playing in Swing orchestras, but many were frustrated by what they saw as the limitations of that style of music. In New York a new style of jazz known as Be-Bop emerged in the early 1940s. This built on New Orleans jazz but instead of one musician taking a solo, all musicians were expected to be able to solo during the same piece of music. Improvisation became the distinguishing feature of this new form of jazz. Dancing styles also became very free-form and became known as Jive.


Jazz Comes to Britain

The coming of the Second World War created conditions for both New Orleans jazz and Be-Bop to find its way to Britain. The influx of US service personnel, among them many African-Americans, together with the rise of radio services dedicated to US music (notably the American Forces Network meant that jazz could now be accessed far more easily than previously. This trend was accelerated by the arrival of mainly young people from the Caribbean who were used to listening to the far wider output of US commercial radio.

Initially in London, small jazz clubs began to open catering for this new and exotic form of music and out of them came a new wave of players, either those influenced by Be-bop or those more taken with Dixieland jazz. During this time, the Musicians Union – which had been performed to protect the working conditions of musicians who worked in Music Hall, theatres and accompanying silent films - imposed a ban on appearances by US musicians. This had the effect of giving opportunities to this new wave of UK jazz musicians.


Bespoke Recordings

Jazz and jiving spread rapidly in the early 1950s. It was this new wave of jazz fans that Ron Clough catered to. He did this by making ‘bespoke’ recordings – ‘one-off’ records made up of combinations of existing, hard-to-get records combined with recordings he made of radio broadcasts and live events. For example, it is interesting that the single reference to him in the online Discogs catalogue concerns a recording of the Vic Lewis Orchestra featuring the tenor saxophone player Tubby Hayes. The recording was made at Sheffield City Hall in 1954. This shows how quickly jazz had spread from London and from small venues.

The recording of the Vic Lewis Orchestra is identified as being ‘transferred from acetate’. An ’acetate’ was an aluminium plate covered on both sides by a lacquer of nitrocellulose (cellulose was also used to create ‘celluloid’ film, the basis of the cinema industry). The flat plates would be mounted on turntables. As the discs turned an arm with a needle or ‘stylus’ would be lowered onto it. The arm would be connected to a sound source and the vibrations created by the soundwaves would be converted into an electronic signal that would be etched into the lacquer. Once so recorded, the recording could be played back on any compatible device.

It is not known what particular recording machine Ron Clough used. By the early 1950s there were many such devices available, among them the CDP Recorder (Bourne Instruments) and the BSR Recorder (Birmingham Sound Reproducers). Both were expensive, but both appear to have been high quality home recording systems that cut recordings as acetates.


Jazz, Ltd.

The example of Ron Clough’s work pictured is his copy of a limited edition recording from Chicago’s Jazz Ltd club released in 1949. This was not a commercial release, it was simply a kind of sampler of the types of acts that played Jazz Ltd and was originally pressed as a numbered edition of 1000 albums for friends of the club owner, Bill Reinhardt (himself a Dixieland clarinet player and band leader). Somehow Clough came into possession of a copy and, in this instance, has re-recorded it onto an acetate created for one of his customers.


For the love of Jazz

The use of the term ‘customers’ must be treated with some care, though. Although this cannot be proved, it would seem that Clough was not running a commercial business – firstly, it is illegal to manufacture and sell recordings owned by record companies (this practice is known as ‘bootlegging’). Secondly, each one of Clough’s recordings is unique and seems to have been produced for a jazz enthusiast. The logbook of recordings cross-references another book in which Clough kept careful track of individual requests. While still illegal, many feel that making a single recording is hardly a criminal activity. Instead, such a collection can be seen as an act of love for an exciting music genre in the years of its greatest popularity.


Dr Mike Jones is Reader in Music Industry at University of Liverpool. He teaches on the MA in Beatles, Music Industry and Heritage Music and a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate modules. From 1999 Mike led the MBA in Music Industries (later the MA in Music Industry Studies) as Programme Director. More recently, he introduced the MA in Classical Music Industry in partnership with The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

As a songwriter with Latin Quarter Mike recorded six albums and had a hit single with ‘Radio Africa’. Since the band reformed in 2012 Mike has used his real-world experience in the music industry to inform teaching and research. He is also active in devising and presenting shows about famous musicians, including 'Where Light Falls', an exploration of the career of Joni Mitchell, and 'George Harrison and Indian Music', a concert performed at Liverpool Philharmonic.

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Please refer to the copyright information given on the Greatest Hits Exhibition main page. A recordings logbook and an acetate disc created by Ron Clough are reproduced here for purposes of illustration in support of exhibition for non-commercial public benefit and education. Use of images seeks to remain proportional, insubstantial and fair. Limited quotation is provided for the purposes of criticism and review, as permitted by Section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988). If you are a rights holder and feel copyright has been infringed, please refer to our Takedown Statement and Procedure.