Jackie Tracey

The life of one of the UK's most ardent campaigners and supporters of British jazz music

1960 - 1980

With one week between previous marriages, Stan and Jackie were wed on December 24th 1960.  True to form, Stan was working that night.  Stan had become resident pianist at the now world famous Ronnie Scott's Club, which opened in 1959.  Jackie's immediate attention turned towards family life and her career at Decca ended.

Their first child, Clark, was born in February 1961 at the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street.  Stan was working at Ronnie Scott's, half a mile away.  In December 1962, Sarah was born, prompting them to move to Brixton, a trendy place to be at that time.

With Stan working every evening and often during the day as well, Jackie devoted herself to bringing up her kids and providing a stable environment for them.  At the same time, of course, she was keeping a watchful eye on Stan's career and, through her previous connections at Decca, was able to orchestrate various recordings for him, including his most famous recording to date, the timeless "Under Milk Wood" in 1965 and a year later "Alice In Jazz Land".  This album was filmed at Abbey Road Studios by the BBC with Jackie overseeing the event and clearly in shot.

Jackie had secured Stan a recording contract for EMI/Columbia's Lansdowne series, produced by her old pal Dennis Preston.  While she continued to inspire and promote Stan's best interests outside of Ronnie Scott's Club (now moved to its present address in Frith Street), Jackie maintained a 'family first' attitude and ensured her children received the best education available locally and made sure they were never neglected.

Unknown to Jackie however, Stan had developed a serious drug habit while trying to perform through the night in Soho, continuing to compose to deadlines and record extensively in the daytimes.
When she eventually discovered what had happened to him in 1966, her first course of action was to remove him from that environment and help him to recover.  With 2 children under the age of six, she helped him through his 'cold turkey' period and gradually brought Stan back to life.

At the end of the Sixties, they moved to a larger house in Streatham in South London.  But jazz had fallen out of fashion.  Work was very hard to find and they soon found themselves on social benefit.  Stan even applied for a job in a sorting office for Royal Mail until Jackie found the application form and reminded him "You're a pianist, not a bloody postman".  Heartbroken at the thought of the man she admired so much being prepared to give up music altogether, she decided to take action.

At this point, in the early Seventies, Jackie, with her lifelong friend thereafter, Hazel Miller, formed "Grass Roots Jazz Club" in Stockwell, South London.  They promoted most of the new players at that time, also  giving Stan the opportunity to perform on a more regular basis with some of the rising stars.

This wasn't enough though.  She also established the first London based summer jazz course, receiving funding from GLAA and ILEA, which continued successfully for several years giving work to the top young jazz musicians of the day and encouraging a brand new generation of musicians for the future, including their teenage son Clark on drums.

Jackie then helped to set up Musicians' Action Group, a self help steering committee of musicians who demanded change in attitude towards British jazz musicians from the BBC and the media, as well as Lambeth New Music Society.  From these meetings, the Jazz Centre Society (now Jazz Services) was formed and she felt that British jazz was back on the map, albeit a smaller one.  By 1973 Jackie had managed to revive Stan's career to the extent that she promoted a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, celebrating his 30th anniversary in jazz to a capacity audience, firmly establishing Stan as the giant she had always believed him to be.

In 1975 she decided to establish Steam Records as nobody in the major league seemed interested in recording jazz any more.  Its first release was the reissue of Stan's best selling album ever since - "Under Milk Wood".  It had just been voted Best Jazz Album in the Melody Maker polls, the only British recording in that category.  The label was dedicated to recording Stan's latest projects after that.  As Stan's reputation began to grow again, Jackie managed to secure several commissions for his quartet, sextet and octet, encouraging Stan to compose and tour again with various size line ups.

In August 1978, their son Clark, now aged 17, joined Stan's groups and joined him on the road.  She now had two jazz musicians in the house and, as with Stan, sung his praises to all ears as only a proud mother could.

1929 - 1960

3rd April 1929 - 13th August 2009

Jackie Tracey was was born Florence Mary Buckland in Brixton, South London on 3rd April 1929. Her father, Douglas Richard Buckland, born in nearby Clapham, was a bricklayer and the son of a long line of labourers from East Grinstead, West Sussex. Her mother, Alice Mary Watts, was the daughter of Richard Watts from Brixton, a labourer whose family came from Longparish, Hants. Both had large families (Jackie had 13 uncles and aunts) although she grew up with just 2 brothers, Doug and Tom.

(Back Row: mother Alice , elder brother Doug, the towering Irish Grandma Julia Buckland 
Front Row: Jackie, younger brother Tom)                                 

She described the area she grew up in as "a slum". Her father was on a low wage as a general labourer and drank and gambled regularly, leaving little to go towards the family. Due to lack of space, Jackie had to sleep in the same bed as her parents and often witnessed overspills of drunken brawling as a child.
From an early age she was made to feel that she was unwanted because she was made aware that her father would have preferred another son.  She lived in a very male dominated environment and became a tomboy to blend in.  She was still bullied by her brothers, however, and her father's strict and often inebriated disposition made Jackie's early years mostly a misery.

When she reached 10 years of age, war broke out. Her education was curtailed and she was evacuated. She was away from her family and the hardships of Brixton Hill and discovered outdoor life in the country and, not least, culture. The family she stayed with introduced her, amongst other things, to music and she took singing lessons. Her brothers had joined the war effort. Her brother Tom eventually emigrated to Australia at the end of a South Seas mission, marrying and raising a family.

After the war, back in London she sought to escape the run down lifestyle she'd grown up in. It was at this time that she changed her name to Jackie, in her late teens.  This was partly inspired by her co-workers' opinion that the name 'Florence' did not suit her.  The name stuck.  She was given a job at the prestigious Decca Records, based in Brixton Road, at the age of fourteen, first as a tea girl, later as a switchboard operator.
Apparently her congenial and informed phone manner was noticed by the clients and her bosses were suitably impressed by her growing entrepreneurial acumen.
(Brothers Tom and Doug, unknown, mother Alice and father Douglas)

Finally she became head of A&R, the first woman to occupy that position at Decca. Now she had her own office an expense account and a flat in Chelsea. She was wining and dining with the stars of the day and acquiring liaison skills that would pay off later.

(Jackie with bosses & tv & radio broadcasters including Roy Plomley, David Jacobs, Peter West, Pete Murray, Xmas 1958)

(Unknown, Jackie & Bob Crabbe)

(Release of Belafonte's "Island In The Sun" 1957)

(Jackie also modelled for the company)

(Jackie with Duke Ellington. Eamonn Andrews is in the centre)

While at Decca she got to hear all styles of music ranging from classical to rockabilly to pop and eventually to her great love: jazz. She began to circulate amongst London's pool of jazz musicians. In the following pictures below, she joins Tubby Hayes, his wife Maggie, Annie Ross and others on an away gig in Torquay in July 1954:

(Jackie & Pat Boone)

(Jackie with Mantovani)

(Decca Xmas card with Jackie, Tony Hall, Patrick Campbell and Bob Crabbe)

She was also responsible for the publicity for Decca's biggest selling hit at that time, Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock", as well as new British artists Lonnie Donegan, Jimmy Young and Tommy Steele. One of her major coups was when Jerry Lee Lewis arrived with his 13 year old cousin bride, Myra. It was Jackie who informed the London press in 1958 which led to his extradition and the international scandal that ensued.

(Jackie & Jerry Lee Lewis before meeting his wife)

(Jerry Lee Lewis with Myra leaving London Airport 2 days later)

Jackie had married an alto saxophonist, Dennis Ackerman, while in her mid-Twenties. He had a taste for fast cars and regularly petrified her on hair-raising adventures. She didn't learn to drive until she was about 50 and was never a comfortable passenger as a result.

She was eventually drawn to her neighbour, Stan Tracey.

Stan was on his second marriage and gaining a reputation as a composer and arranger for Ted Heath's Orchestra (on Decca Records), as well as a highly individual jazz pianist, and lived in Kilburn High Street in the flat above Jackie and her husband. The flat above Stan was occupied by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.  Jackie persuaded the executives at Decca to release Stan's debut album as a leader, "Showcase" on their subsidiary label, Vogue in May 1958, produced by no less than Jackie Buckland.  His follow up in May 1959 was "Little Klunk".  In May 1960, both still married but separated and living together 'in sin', Jackie fell pregnant.