To all and sundry, near and far, banjoists in particular:

I am trying to pull together some facts about the life of the banjo player and composer Bert Bassett.  Although he was rated as being up there with the best, he gets no mention in our Player Biographies, which is a serious gap.  He was particularly active in the years just before WWI, and became the editor of BMG in the 1930's.  There is a short account of his activities in his section of the Original Recordings, but that one leaves a lot out. 

He died on 21 April 1937 and his death was mentioned in the BMG editorial of May 1937.  I was expecting there would be an obituary of him in the June (or July) edition of BMG, but those two are missing from our John Field Memorial Library. 

Does anyone have a copy of the BMG obituary, or an obituary from any other fretted instrument magazine?  Or anything?

In grateful anticipation,

Regards

Tony

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Richard, Shawn,

Thanks for the info.  The obituary from the June 1937 BMG is particularly useful as the June, July and August editions of that year are missing from the John Field library.  I am assuming there were also letters to the editor about Bert Bassett that could be helpful. 

According to W. M. Brewer, Albert Thomas Bassett was born in London in 1894.  That narrows it down, but not by much!

In answer to my own question of earlier in this chain: BB does not seem to have married as he is said to have left behind a mother and brother when he died. 

Regards

Tony



TONY BRYAN said:

Richard, Shawn,

Thanks for the info.  The obituary from the June 1937 BMG is particularly useful as the June, July and August editions of that year are missing from the John Field library.  I am assuming there were also letters to the editor about Bert Bassett that could be helpful. 

According to W. M. Brewer, Albert Thomas Bassett was born in London in 1894.  That narrows it down, but not by much!

In answer to my own question of earlier in this chain: BB does not seem to have married as he is said to have left behind a mother and brother when he died. 

Regards

Tony

I was lucky to find this single page tucked away in some BB sheet music, as I haven't got the June 1937 B.M.G. either. Of course there will be other items other than those I have located.

Tony and Richard :

Thanks for posting your wealth of information.

From 1901 and 1911 census records I found five families with an Albert Basset  born in London c.1894. Subsequent census records, (unavailable through my source), would likely show one with occupation musician and narrow the field.

From a ship manifest, I can report that he traveled to New York aboard the Empress of France as a bandsman in 1925, and stood 5'-8', weighing 140 lb.

He died in Southwark, London, 1937.

Another bit of info has crossed my mind, Essex ran at least two Pierrot Troupes, BB played with the one which did at least one summer season under the leadership of Kate Moss in Le Touquet.

Shawn McSweeny said:

Tony and Richard :

Thanks for posting your wealth of information.

From 1901 and 1911 census records I found five families with an Albert Basset  born in London c.1894. Subsequent census records, (unavailable through my source), would likely show one with occupation musician and narrow the field.

From a ship manifest, I can report that he traveled to New York aboard the Empress of France as a bandsman in 1925, and stood 5'-8', weighing 140 lb.

He died in Southwark, London, 1937.

Reviewing my five sets of records mentioned above, I see there is just one Bassett household with an Albert T, b. c.1894, and having one brother, no other siblings. This narrows the field about as well as one can expect.

The family info is as follows : 

1911 residence : St James Westminister; Sub-District : St James & St Anne

Father : Albert Bassett, b. c.1869, St John's Manchester Lancashire; occupation : Boot Maker 

Mother : Dorothy T. Bassett, b. c.1871, St John's London; 1911 occupation : Music Teacher

Son : Albert T. Bassett, b. c.1893, St Pancras, London; 1911 occupation : Clerk

Son : Charles Bassett, b. c.1898 St. James, London

Birth years are estimates based on age information provided on the census and usually accurate to within a year.

Shawn, a lovely piece of research work!  I'm sure it's him, but we could do with some corroborating facts: do we know his father was also Albert? The Clifford Essex obituary mentions his father (also a banjo player, apparently, so that could be confusing) bringing the young Bert to the shop and recommending him for a  job.  So it's likely that, at about 17 years old, he became a clerk at the shop.  I have seen no mention of the influence of his mother as a music teacher, though it seems logical that there was such an influence.  I am also certain that I have seen somewhere a mention of a 'Charles' Bassett playing at one of the BMG clubs, but I can't lay my hands on it.  It would not be surprising that the younger brother would also play the banjo, and it would not take much clairvoyance to predict that he would get fed up with being under the shadow of his older brother and would cultivate roses, or something.  For the sake of completeness, it would be interesting to know if brother Charles went into the music business or followed his father as a cobbler.  Obviously, in 1911 he would have been still at school, or just about to leave.  He would have been just about able to enlist during the war, but we do know he outlived his brother, Bert. 

I like the idea of a statistical study of the height and weight of famous banjo players - it would help those of us who are outside the norm decide whether it's worth continuing.  But going back to the subject of his ill health and possible deformity, we do know that he died of bronchial pneumonia at Guy's Hospital (in Southwark), and Grimshaw describes him as an 'inmate' there.  Anyone out there with access to medical records?  Tarrant Bailey snr notes that he was very fond of his pipe - no wonder he suffered from bouts of bronchitis!  But in those days no-one saw the connection.  Ah well. 

Anyhow, thanks for all the help.  Keep it coming! 

Regards

Tony

Hi Tony : For a first foray into UK genealogical records, things have gone well. Finding Dorothy's occupation as music teacher was an unexpected but welcome bonus, reinforcing the notion this is the right Bassett household. Bert was apparently a skilled pianist, probably learning under his mother's tutelage.

A cousin of mine in Ireland has considerable experience in UK genealogy resources, having traced our family back several generations. It's time for me to contact him on tips for advancing further with UK searches.

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