What’s the connection between Radiohead and South Shields ? In 2001 at an outdoor concert held on Radiohead’s home turf of Oxford, the South Shields born jazz musician Kathy Stobart appeared on stage with the Humphrey Littleton band.
After opening the show, they were quickly followed by Iceland’s Sigur Ros, fellow Oxford band Supergrass, California’s Beck, before headliners Radiohead closed the show. Music throwing up some strange and fantastic surprises from around the world. Now back to Tyneside.
In 1925 Florence Kathleen Stobart was born into a musical family, both her brothers were saxophonists and her mother an experienced pianist. With music in the home, Kathy studied piano and learned how to play saxophone.
At the young age of just 14, Kathy started her musical career joining the Don Rico Swing band touring UK theatres. Along with playing saxophone she added singing, dancing and impressions to her act – Gracie Fields being one of them.
The air raids and bombings of the Second World War put an end to this, resulting in the closure of many theatres. But the show must go on, so she returned to Tyneside to entertain audiences in the Oxford Galleries in Newcastle.
Through the 1940’s Kathy moved to London and got regular gigs at the Embassy Club on Old Bond Street, guests included Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller. She was the only female saxophonist in Art Thompson’s Swing band.
At the end of the war Kathy travelled to America and played in jazz clubs from New York to L.A. and had a residency in Palm Springs, establishing her international reputation.
By the ’50s Kathy had moved back to London and continued playing in the capital, for many years touring the UK extensively with the Humphrey Littleton and Vic Lewis big bands.
The ’70s saw the Kathy Stobart Quartet formed and a performance at the Nice jazz festival. Along with numerous solo gig’s she found time to teach saxophone and hold Big Band workshops.
By now living in Devon, the ’90s through to the noughties saw Kathy continuing her jazz teaching and re-joining the Humphrey Littleton Band, who she first joined in 1957. A gradual move into retirement followed, but sadly on 6th July 2014 Kathy died.
Starting her musical journey from a small coastal town in the North East of England, to keeping the show going as bombs dropped on England, extensive touring throughout the UK and finally sharing a stage with one of the most influential bands of our generation, this is a snapshot of the life of professional musician Kathy Stobart.
Gary Alikivi June 2019.