Tom Pickering’s clarinet – <em>bringing jazz to Tasmania</em>

No. 65 Tom Pickering’s clarinet – bringing jazz to Tasmania

Tom Pickering (1921–2001) was one of Tasmania’s best known jazz pioneers. He was renowned as a band leader, clarinettist, vocalist and composer. Pickering was born in Burra, South Australia and moved to Tasmania with his family in 1933. The family settled in Sandy Bay near the Pearce brothers, Cedric and Ian. The three boys quickly became friends and began a life-long musical collaboration, which helped to establish jazz music in Tasmania. more...

With a shared passion for music (and jazz in particular), Tom pursued the clarinet, Ian took up the cornet and Cedric the drums. In 1936, along with pianist, Rex Green, they formed Tasmania’s (and one of Australia’s) first jazz bands, the Barrelhouse Four, holding their first public performance at a 21st birthday party. They were enthusiastic and exceptional musicians and recorded several tunes under the Ampersand label. In December 1946, the Barrelhouse Four attended the first Australian Jazz Convention in North Melbourne. The convention saw the introduction of the Australia’s first Original Tunes Competition, an annual event which continues today. Tom Pickering won the competition twice, in 1967 for Late Hour and in 1971, for If You Don’t Know the Words.

Following the convention, Ian and Rex stayed in Melbourne and Tom formed a new Tasmanian-based band, the Good Time Jazz Band, which performed at the 7HT Theatrette, the Town Hall and City Hall. Tom’s bands played under several names and accompanied touring American singers such as Billy Banks and Eartha Kitt. After Ian Pearce, by then an accomplished pianist, returned to Hobart in 1955 he reunited with Tom in the Pearce-Pickering Ragtime Five – a band that helped to reinvigorate jazz in the state. They recorded under the Swaggie Records label, and played regularly at Hobart’s Tattersalls Hotel and Wrest Point Casino.

While music was his first love, words were also important to Tom. He wrote short stories and was a popular music reviewer. Off the stage, he was a librarian at the State Library of Tasmania. After Cedric Pearce died in 1982, Tom and Ian continued to indulge their love of, and talent for, jazz until Tom’s death in 2001. Ian died late in 2012.

Tom’s first clarinet was given to him by his father as a reward for doing well at school. The clarinet on display was Tom’s favourite.

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  • Object maker: Buffet Crampon & Cie
  • Object date: Mid 20th Century
  • Object size: 11.5 x 35.9 x 28.3 cm
  • Object location: Hobart
  • Object display location: Off Display
  • Object source: Claire Hemsley
  • Accession number: S2011.44