A Love Affair with Music

The Les Thompson Rhythm Band circa 1930 – John Aird 2nd from right and Norm Aird, right

To dance to the music of a band in the 1920s and 30s was considered superior to the old orthodox piano, and accompanists created variety to the waltzes and attracted large crowds. Montville’s resident band under the leadership of Mr and Mrs J.J. Thomas in the early 1920s gave way to a young group of locals who had learnt piano under the excellent tuition of Elsie Skene, a well-known and very accomplished music teacher at Montville. The band leader, John (young Jack) Aird was 18 as were Pat Smith and John Dart who had started school together at Montville in 1913. John loved singing along to songs on the radio and was very musical but the family had no piano so in order to learn from Elsie Skene he made a wooden keyboard and practised at home on that for five years. He became a talented and much sought-after pianist long after his band days.

It was 1926 and the boys called themselves the ‘Gloom Chasers’. The band consisted of Mrs Ferguson (pianist), John Aird (banjo) G. Thomas (drums and jazz effects) John Dart, (Swanee Whistle) Pat Smith – banjo and Mr Larsen on saxophone. They played at fund raising events where the women folk, including their Mums, organised the events and provided the suppers.  There were Jazz evenings at Elston Guest House ably hosted by Mr and Mrs Thompson and many fund raising balls and dances were held at the Montville School of Arts for Church, Sporting and other Community organisations. Les Thompson, a saxophonist, three years older than John Aird joined with John and Norm Aird and W. Jefferies to create a new sound. In 1931 the Montville Branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association held a highly successful fund-raising ball with dance music provided by Les Thompson’s Rhythm Boys with extras provided by Miss G Byrne.

But it was to the swinging jazz of the John Aird Band that patrons crowded into ballrooms and halls and onto the well-maintained dance floors to gallop, shuffle, dance or walk and hopefully find romance and maybe a lifetime partner. With their exceptional musical talent and extensive repertoire, the Aird Jazz Band gained a dedicated following and became popular throughout the Sunshine Coast playing. At a Plain and Fancy Dress Ball in August 1926 John’s Jazz Band included fifteen year old Norm Aird. John’s band went by various names depending on the accompanying musicians.

It was called the Aird Brothers Band when the boys played at a music night for the family and friends of Elsie Skene’s music school in December 1930. In 1928 it was the Jack Aird Jazz Band that was the drawcard for a ‘Back to Childhood’ dance to raise funds for the Alexandra Headland Lifesaving Club. It was reported that two hundred patrons crowded into the O’Connors Picture and Dance Hall at Maroochydore for the excellent music supplied by the band. It was simply Aird’s Jazz Band that played for the Diggers’ Annual Ball in 1929, to raise funds for a wireless set for the nursing staff of the Maroochy District Hospital at a Grand Ball held at the White Rose café in Nambour with a dainty supper provided for a subscription of 2/5 in May 1930.

Music was supplied by John Aird’s Jazz Band for local balls and more widely afield in Woombye, Yandina, Nambour and Maroochydore. By the mid 1930s the band was also playing under the name ‘The Les Thompson Rhythm Band’.  Montville’s annual children’s fancy dress ball in October 1939 was so popular, the band played until 1.00 am. World War II impacted the bands although the musicians worked hard to provide entertainment and keep the dance floors packed. In July 1940 Les (Tommo) was accepted as a fitter in the RAAF and the band promised Les they would continue playing under the Les Thompson Band name throughout the war years.

After the war John continued playing music for the Sunshine Coast. Advertisements always included his name to attract the dance crowds: John Aird pianist – Muller’s Band 1946 and John Aird and his Dance Orchestra – The popular Band of the North Coast. John Aird  enjoyed a love affair with music throughout his life but never more than when he was just eighteen and played for the Montville locals in the Montville Hall.

by Cate Patterson Feb. 2022

Information from newspaper articles from 1920s and 1930s

Photo courtesy of Jill McDonald. daughter of John Aird