Vincent ‘Vanessa’ Bull

Vincent Bull was brought up in the Eastoft and Crowle areas where his parents were well known for their fish & chip business, which at one time included a touring fish & chip van (see picture below).

Vin is recorded as saying, “As a small boy, aged six or seven, I developed a love for music. My mother noticed this and in the earlier days we did possess a Holder Bros’ piano which was supplied by T Shepard of Goole.”

However the piano was sold and Vin had to wait for the family’s second one which came from a club in Goole for £7 10s and was characterised by bottle and glass marks on top. 

“On lifting the lid, we found the ivory keys had gone yellow with condensation. Every week mum would make my sister (everyone knew her as Joey) and myself clean the keys and the whole piano with vinegar and water. Vinegar was sold out of the barrel, not in bottles. We never did get the notes white, but what a piano!

“The piano served a very good purpose because, in the 1940s, we used to have dances in the Church Institute. Mum used to play for the dancing when dances were 10pm to 2am in Garthorpe, Reedness and Luddington an in fact, all the villages.

Vincent Bull aged 12

Vincent Bull aged 12

“Eventually I got my first accordion. It was a small ‘Scandali’ I bought from Mr Cox (he was a butcher) and mother and me cycled to Garthorpe one Sunday and after a little persuasion, he took £8 for it.”

Vin mastered the instrument and moved on to a 120-bass ‘Settimo Soprani’ with mother of pearl keys he acquired from Ronald Fletcher of Luddington for £20.

His first break was being asked to sing as Lincolnshire’s Boy Soprano at the old Regal Cinema in Crowle, accompanied by his mother on piano. His musical skills boded well and his mother would say if he could play as well as that he would never want for a penny or a pound.

Vin subsequently formed his own band, which turned out as Vin and his Accordion Band, which proved popular in the local area.

“In those days I also played the piano for Dorothy Frith’s School of Dancing. Every Saturday afternoon I caught the bus or walked to Crowle and played the piano for Dorothy and her sister Peggy as well as the Marie Cottam School of Dancing. That was in the Parochial Hall and the piano was so damp I had to keep putting the notes back up.

“In my dance band days, the girls who I played the accordion with were Ida Tune, Mary Slingsby, Sheila Tong, Ann Drakes, Isobelle Proctor, Freda wells and Dorothy Broughton. I kept replacing them as they left to get married.

Vin Bull (back right on piano. Accordionists Dorothy Hill, Freda Wells & Ann Drakes. Ron Brookman (drums) & Ray Maw (trumpet).

Vin Bull (back right on piano. Accordionists Dorothy Hill, Freda Wells & Ann Drakes. Ron Brookman (drums) & Ray Maw (trumpet).

“Among the drummers were Maurice Wilson, Bayliss Thomas, occasionally Larry Cassidy and Alec Winston but my regular drummer was Ron Brookman

“I used to play for the Don Lusby School of dancing in Scunthorpe. He used to advertise me as Vin Vanetti (Spanish) and we used to get 10s each.

“At one time I had four accordions, a piano and drums. We played at Cranwell Air Training College, Louth, Manby RAF, Hemswell, Scanpton, Goxhill, RAF Lindholme, Finningley and Sandtoft as well as various venues in West Riding and Yorkshire.

“As a relief band we were alongside visiting bands to Crowle, such as Harry Gold, Syd Phillips, Tito Burns, Dina Dee, Reggie Goff and many more.”

One of his favourite venues was playing at the Market hall in Crowle, mainly because it was cheap to get a taxi home.

Vin went on to become the legendary ‘Vanessa’ and in the year 2000 celebrated 60 years as an entertainer and had no intentions of retiring.

“Why should I?” he said

“I love show business too much – always have and always will.”

The band in latter years, Dorothy Hill (nee Broughton), Ron Brookman (drummer), Vanessa, Freda McGowan, Ida Tune, Bert Jackson (singer) and Ann Drakes

The band in latter years, Dorothy Hill (nee Broughton), Ron Brookman (drummer), Vanessa, Freda McGowan, Ida Tune, Bert Jackson (singer) and Ann Drakes

It was during his series of performances at the Oswald Hotel, on Scunthorpe High Street, that the time came for Vin to take on a new identity, more in keeping with his often-outrageous act. And, following a poll carried out among soldiers visiting from Gunness Warf on one of these nights it was suggested he adopt the name Vanessa.

“Vanessa Redgrave was big in the movies at the time and it seemed such a nice name, hence, I became Vanessa and Vin was consigned to history,” he recalled.

“I really prefer Vanessa, though it’s just still nice to be wanted after all this time,” he added.

Vanessa even once held a place in the Guinness Book of Records, for the longest time playing the organ – an impressive 411 hours which was achieved at the Comet Hotel on East Common Lane.

Vanessa went on performing until his death in 2006.

The mobile chip van operated by Reg and Ada Bull, parents of Vincent.

The mobile fish & chip van operated by Reg and Ada Bull, parents of Vincent.

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