Meet the Members of the Band
Simon Nelson – band leader, trumpet, cornet and vocals
Simon took up playing the cornet aged six, in a local brass band. Around the age of 12 he began his journey into the world of jazz, starting tuition with a modern / mainstream youth band Jazza. After much success with Jazza, culminating in a Daily Telegraph National Music for Youth Competition award and performing at the Royal Albert Hall, Simon was introduced to the cornet playing genius – Mr Gerry Salisbury. During lessons with Gerry, Simon learned to love Bix and Clifford Brown in equal amounts and his ears were opened to traditional jazz. The rest is history! Having been a regular member of the Water Rats Jazz Band for sixteen years, Simon learned the importance of establishing a strong lead and not spilling his beer on stage. An eight-year stint with function bands saw Simon ease off the jazz scene for a while, but in February 2008 he decided to make DixieMix into Norfolk's 'hottest' jazz outfit. DixieMix immediately set a new bench-mark for traditional jazz and entertainment in East Anglia. Simon was also privileged to be part of The Stars of British Jazz for 18 months touring the UK and Europe with top musicians past and present from the Barber, Bilk and Ball bands.
Chris Wigley – trombone
Chris took up the trombone at the age of 12 when the instrument was bigger than he was. (Not the case now!) He played in school orchestras and dance bands around Saffron Waldon. After a period away from music in his teens, best left to the imagination, he returned to the trombone and an interest in jazz spurred on by the recordings of Chris Barber and Kenny Ball. In the 1980's Chris and trumpeter Andy Masefield formed a Hertfordshire based band, performing hundreds of concerts over 10 years with guests such as Kenny Baker, Chris Barber, Digby Fairweather and Alan Barnes. In 2001 Chris moved to Norfolk and joined Just Jazz. When this band decided to stop gigging Chris and Simon set about starting DixieMix. Chris is a powerful and beautifully accurate exponent of the trombone and adds perfectly to the DixieMix drive.
Karl Wirrmann – clarinet and saxophones
Karl’s passion for jazz began in his early teens. An inspirational music teacher at school encouraged him with his technical and performance ability on both clarinet and saxophone. He went on to play at the Albert Hall and toured across Europe and the UK with Youth Jazz Orchestras. Karl has the distinction of being the only band member to have gone to University (The Leeds College of Music) to study jazz. He has performed in many bands playing jazz, blues and reggae. Karl also appears with Barry Tyler's Original Dixieland Jazzband and it was with Barry on one of the annual Water Rats Jazzband tours of the Norfolk Broads that Karl and Simon's paths first crossed. Following that initial musical meeting Karl often depped for Pete Oxborough if Pete couldn't make a gig. Now that Pete has retired, Karl was the obvious replacement and DixieMix are pleased to welcome him to the band.
John Benson – double bass and vocals
John's interest in music began during the early fifties jazz revival. Having experimented with all kinds of popular music in the sixties, his fascination for jazz endured and he purchased his first double bass in 1965. Soon John formed his own jazz trio and played in various London venues whilst working for the Telegraph in Fleet Street. Turning professional in the mid seventies, John had brief spells with the Brian Knight Blues by Six Band and the Monty Sunshine Jazz Band, before being asked in 1977 to become a member of the world renowned Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen. During 25 years (1977– 2002) touring the world with Kenny's band, John made regular TV appearances, radio broadcasts, royal command performances and a wealth of recordings. He also accompanied and played alongside many of the top jazz artistes such as Kenny Baker, Bob Barnard, Acker Bilk, George Chisholm, Wild Bill Davison, Humphrey Lyttelton and many more. In more recent years, John has settled down in his own B&B in Suffolk and has been promoting his new band, The Stars of British Jazz, and playing bass for DixieMix. As you can imagine, John has been a huge inspiration and mentor for DixieMix's development into the professional organisation it has become today.
Kevin West – guitar and banjo
Kev took up the guitar when he was 8. His first gig was with a country band called Ted Shed and the Pitchforks. Needless to say they didn’t take themselves too seriously. Kev’s love of blues based rock and slide guitar saw him working with bands on the pub and club circuit. He then spent several years in function bands, and various terrible shirts, playing around Norfolk and Suffolk. Co-owning a recording studio from 2004 to 2012, Kev played with and recorded many fine musicians including guitarist Roger Dean, pianist Colin Wood and a live performance with country star George Hamilton IV. Kev’s favourite guitar is his Guyton, made in Suffolk by Andrew Guyton, luthier to Brian Adams, Gerry Rafferty and Brian May. Kev has played jazz since 1995 sitting in with numerous bands and doing his apprenticeship to join DixieMix. He has shared the stage over the years with Bob Kerr (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, New Vaudeville Band), Ted Beament (Humphrey Lyttelton Band) and Andy Cooper (Kenny Ball, Stars of British Jazz). As well as guitar, Kev, can be seen with DixieMix, wielding his banjo and on special occasions, the ukulele. Incidentally, Kevin is still waiting for his call up to the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain.
Tony Wilkins – drums and vocals
Believe it or not, being a fine guitarist, Tony is actually a musician as well as a drummer. But it is on the drums that Tony has spent most of his career. Rumors say this is purely because he is able to consume more beer sitting on a drum stool, than he can standing at the front! Born and bred in Norfolk Tony began his "professional" music career as drummer in the resident band at Hy's Nightclub in Norwich. With his ability to count to four and operate both hands and his feet simultaneously, Tony quickly found that as a drummer the world was his oyster. Tony has ventured into most genres of music – and has usually been asked to leave. He met Simon playing in function bands around the East of England and jumped at the opportunity to be the driving force in the rhythm section of DixieMix. Simon has been a large influence in Tony's life persuading him to sell his caravan, buy younger looking shoes and gel his hair!