Barnstormers Spasm Band

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The Barnstormers Spasm Band, also known as the Original Barnstormers Spasm Band, were a jazz band active from 1956 to 1961. The band was almost unique in remaining a semi-professional group for the entire duration of their existence.


The friends John Gunn and James Robinson created the band in 1956 when they met in a hospital, then later they recruited John and Peter Wadley. In mid 1957 were joined by Brian Rust, a respected jazz journalist, writer and erstwhile washboard player.[nb 1] In late 1957 the banjoist John Denning completed their line-up. They applied and subsequently auditioned for Hughie Green's 'Opportunity Knocks' and were turned down. This spurred them on to produce a demonstration disc (at Oriole Records) which they sent to Rex Harris at the BBC who played it on his show. The jazz guitarist and agent Neville Skrimshire either heard the broadcast or was given the demo and recommended them to Parlophone where they recorded several sides. 'Whistling Rufus' was moderately successful and accordingly the Barnstormers appeared in a number of television shows and also appeared at the Royal Festival Hall. In 1958 the multi-instrumentalist John R T Davies[nb 2] briefly replaced Brian Rust after the BBC; his employer, citing conflict of interests, refused him permission to appear on TV. Rust rejoined the band soon after, until eventually leaving for good in late 1960. In January 1959, they transferred to Decca Records' Tempo label and made probably the last 78rpm record to be issued in the UK. Several recordings were subsequently made at Levy's Sound Studios - Oriole in 1960 but were never released.

The Barnstormers disbanded in 1961.


  • 11 February 1958 (EMI Abbey Road Studios)
  • Whistling Rufus/ Bill Bailey, Please Come Home
  • Parlophone 45-R4416
  • 3 February 1959 (Decca Hampstead Studio)
  • Storming the Barn/ Tiger Rag
  • Tempo A168
  • Shine/That's all There is/Tiger Rag/Storming the Barn
  • Tempo EP EXA95


  • John Gunn, vocals and kazoo
  • James Robinson, guitar
  • John Denning, banjo
  • Peter Wadley, double bass
  • John Wadley, harmonica and vocals
  • Brian Rust, drums[nb 3]
  • John R T Davies, washboard and percussion


  1. ^ Brian Rust was the compiler of a number of Jazz editions notably, 'Jazz Records' an attempt to catalogue all Jazz Recordings from 1897 to 1942, which in its latest edition is regarded as authoritative and is now simply referred to as 'the Rust'
  2. ^ John R T Davies was a founder member of the Temperance Seven, and played with, amongst many others, the Crane River Jazzband and Cy Laurie, and he later became known as a sound engineer and restorer of ancient recordings with his own company 'Ristic'.
  3. ^ Does not appear on recordings.


  • McDevitt, Chas (1997). Skiffle: The Definitive Inside Story. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-140-9.
  • Barfe, Louis (2004). Where Have All the Good Times Gone?. Atlantic. ISBN 1-84354-065-7.