Row over who played trumpet on the Coronation Street Theme…

A few years back, news reached us that London freelance trumpeter, Chris Deacon, had re-recorded the Coronation Street Theme (May 31st 2010, to be precise!) as makers Granada Television decided the old one was getting a bit, well, old and needing re-doing. Chris is also Principal Trumpet with the Birmingham Royal Ballet Company and has worked with the RLPO during my tenure in the trumpet section. The differing versions have invited a lot of discussion and caused a certain amount of controversy!

The Coronation Street theme Tune must be one of the most heard and familiar pieces of trumpet music in the world. The programme, made by Granada TV plays to millions of viewers, all over the world, every day. The composer of the theme, Eric Spear was apparently paid a mere £6 for his work, originally called Lancashire Blues in 1960.

I had often wondered who had played trumpet on the original theme. Some information came to light when RLPO Principal Trombone, Simon Cowen, went to hear a big band playing near Wigan recently. There was an amazing senior gentleman on lead trumpet, called Dave Browning. Simon said he sounded fantastic. Dave explained to Simon that he was lead trumpet with the famous Northern Dance Orchestra (now disbanded) and that he was the trumpet player on the Coronation Street Theme Tune, before it was recently re-recorded.

Well, this was great news to me. I used to watch the show when I was a kid, with my mother, but I haven’t seen it in years. Achieving satisfaction with this knowledge, I thought no more about it. That is, until today when this information appeared from CORONATION STREET BLOG, A site written by Corrie fans for Corrie fans.

“SUNDAY, 21 JUNE 2009

Row breaks out over Coronation Street theme tune
There’s been a bit of argy-bargy over who played and recorded the original Coronation Street theme tune. I blogged ages ago about musician Dave Browning who was reported to have recorded the trumpet solo featured in the Corrie theme tune. However, lately there have been a few comments left on that blog post saying that it wasn’t Dave Browning but Ronnie Hunt who played the trumpet solo.

Dave Browning - Trumpet

The great Ronnie Hunt – Trumpet player on the original Coronation Street Theme

Well, the row has now been reported in The Mail on Sunday. They say that the theme tune was always thought to be the work of Ronnie Hunt, now aged 90. However, 73-year-old Dave Browning insists it is his version of the theme tune that Corrie now uses. Mr Browning said he was asked to to re-record the tune in 1972 – for a one-off fee of £36 – because, he claims, Coronation Street makers Granada TV were unhappy with Mr Hunt’s original. But Mr Hunt has hit back and produced a letter from the Musicians’ Union confirming his role.”

dave browning

The row erupted after an earlier blog on the same site … “Dave Browning played the trumpet on the original Coronation Street theme tune. And for the past 40-odd years, the man behind the instantly-recognisable opening bars of Corrie’s signature tune has modestly kept quiet about his claim to fame. And despite being used to start 5,826 episodes, trumpeter Dave Browning, 68, has revealed how he has only ever received a one-off fee.

Brass band player Dave, from Wilmslow, said: “I suppose if a repeat fee had been part of the deal all those years ago I’d be a rich man. But all I got was a one-off fee of £36 because that was the musicians’ union rate for working on a theme. I was happy with the fee at the time, but Granada Television have all the rights so there won’t be any more for it. I was just 24-years-old when I was approached by the musical director to record the theme in 1960. In those days, if Granada wanted a trumpet player and I was in the right place at the right time to get the job.”

I found the following on a Wiki site. The identity of the trumpeter on the original 1960 theme was not known until 1994. Legendary trumpeter Stan Roderick sent Ronnie [Hunt] to deputise for him on a session one day, which turned out to be the record­ing of the signature tune for Coronation Street. Apparently, the Musician’s Union in London has verified that Ronnie Hunt is the Trumpeter and that Ronnie has been receiving the standard union royalty payments over the past 40+ years since the airing commenced in 1964. Ronnie also apparently states in a signed affidavit that he is the trumpeter and he nor anyone else involved has ever heard of David Browning. It seems that the great Stan Roderick made a subsequent recording in 1964, but Granada stayed with the original performed by Ronnie Hunt and it continued to play up until the re-recording in 2010. It states that the Daily Mail cleared this up in 2009. Another Wiki sight reveals  ITV confirmed to the Mail that a second version had been recorded in the 1970s, but was only used for a very short while before reverting to Hunt’s 1960 recording. In the 1980s the same original version was converted to stereo.

It would seem that Ronnie Hunt played the original theme in 1960. Whether Dave Browning re-recorded it in 1972, I can’t say. It is entirely possible/plausible, but I have no way of proving whose version was used after 1972 at this stage, one way or the other. If any one has more information I would be happy to hear from you.

The following help was supplied by London freelance trumpeter Stuart Jenkins. Sadly, Ronnie Hunt died in November 2011, in his nineties. This week, Stuart just happens to have purchased the Olds ‘Super’ Trumpet from Ronnie Hunt’s friend of 30 odd years, Phil Addison (see the comment section below). Included is the case and Ronnie Hunt’s Musician Union Royalty Invoices from Granada Television for his playing on the theme tune and the documents stating that this was the trumpet Ronnie used on the session.

Ronnie’s trumpet case

0-16

His initials on the case

0-15

The Olds ‘Super’ Trumpet used on the 1960 session

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The invoices proving it was Ronnie on the Coronation Street Theme

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…and here’s the all important one. A Muisicians’ Union royalty payment invoice for Ronnie for his playing on Coronation Street dated 1992!

0-17

I suppose that settles it then!

Well, no, it apparently doesn’t! Mike Thomas, a long time associate of Northern Trumpeter Dave Browning, has been been in touch with Dave (who has not been well) and Dave has provided his Musician Union receipts for royalty payments from Corrie to. Here goes…

IMG_3856

IMG_3859

Any other contributions to this debate are welcome. There is an extensive comment section below…

Another piece of information which came from Mike Thomas, although it has nothing actually to do with the debate, is this cast list from stage shows of Coronation Street. Dave Browning, interestingly, is providing the music…

IMG_3861

Link to great Maynard Ferguson photo with Dave Browning on…

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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30 Responses to Row over who played trumpet on the Coronation Street Theme…

  1. Simon Gardner says:

    Ronnie Hunt recorded the original. Then Dave Browning re recorded it. Then I believe it was recorded one more time by Alan Downey.

    • Phil Addison says:

      Just to correct this blog. I am a semi-pro trumpeter and family friend of Ronnie’s
      for over 30 years. His widow Barbara asked me in 2012 to see if I would take a look
      at his instruments and advise her on their disposal. I made my suggestions and subsequently bought 2 of them. One was the Super Olds mentioned above. I played it for a year and then sold it to Stuart Jenkins in a private sale last month.

      • brendanball says:

        Thanks Phil. I’m always delighted when people improve my information and I’ll get round to adding your contribution as soon as I can. This particular story is taking some time time completely unravel…

        Brendan

      • Phil Addison says:

        Thanks Brendan for the correction…I loved owning and playing Ronnie’s trumpet…I still have his Bach Strad. that I’m currently playing, and think of him often.
        Regards Phil Addison.

  2. Ben BW says:

    Is the score/parts available anywhere?

  3. Susanna Ward says:

    A friend of mine saw this trumpet for sale at Bonham’s Entertainmnent memorabillia auction last Wed. I believe the estimate was about £3,000 – I wonder how much it went for.

  4. Mike Thomas says:

    Dave Browning was my trumpet teacher at Salford College from 1989-1993. Dave often spoke about his trumpet sessions at Granada and often talked about the re-recording of the Coronation Street theme tune in 1972. Apparently Granada for whatever reason wanted a new arrangement of the Coronation Street and Dave was booked to play on it. The band line up was solo trumpet, clarinet, 4 muted trombones, (yes four, although they are well down in the mix!), bass & drums as I remember. Dave Lynayne was on bass I believe and the late Derek Hilton was the musical director. Derek Hilton used to teach me arranging and composition at Salford College and often spoke about Dave and his famous trumpet solo! Dave still to this day has the Granada contract dated 1972 for his trumpet solo which says on it “Coronation Street theme”. Quite some years later (1990’s?) Granada rang Dave as they wanted to do a special interview with him to talk about his trumpet solo on Cononation street. They took the Granada cameras, lights, trucks etc to Dave’s home and Dave still has the video from the interview they did with him in his living room. Surely as Dave was rung by Granada after all these years would mean that it was well known at Granada that Dave played the solo on the version that was used?

    Dave is a genuine, trustworthy chap as well as a fantastic trumpet player and he to my mind has never claimed to be the ORIGINAL soloist on the Coronation theme tune. This was done back in the 60’s. However he is in my mind, without doubt the trumpet soloist that Granada used from 1972 until the re-recording in 2010.

    • brendanball says:

      Hi Mike, thanks for your input. I don’t think think that anyone has questioned that Dave Browning took part in a recording session in 1972. What is in doubt is that his was the recording used up until 2010. Some sources are saying Granada went back to Ronnie Hunt’s recording in 1972. Perhaps, if Dave Browning reads this he would like to use the opportunity to provide copies of his evidence on this forum… Ronnie Hunt would appear to have had the Musician Union Royalty cheques etc. Of course, Dave would have no royalty cheques as he received a buy out instead. As mentioned, Stan Roderick also re-recorded the theme, but this was apparently only used briefly before returning to Ronnie Hunt’s version. I would be happy to publish evidence on here for the benefit of all. One article quotes a source at Granada saying that it was re-recorded in 1972, but Ronnie Hunt’s version was used again thereafter…

  5. Mike Thomas says:

    Thanks Brendan, unfortunately Dave has been quite poorly recently but I will try and contact him soon about this. Dave doesn’t use the internet so to get anything from him on here is going to be difficult I think. Maybe you could contact him directly?

  6. Simon Finch says:

    Quite a fascinating little debate this….
    I’ve just been A/B testing versions from 1964 (episode 1) and a 1974 episode via the 2nd greatest invention of all time, YouTube (I think we can all agree on the best!), which spans the year of contention (before I was born, I hasten to add!) and it seems to me, apart from the obvious sound playback quality (it is conceivable for the same recording to sound of a higher or lesser quality depending on the quality of the playback machine) which can disguise the musical differentiation, To me it does sound like TWO different players. I imagine that Dave Browning was asked to copy Ronnie Hunt’s rendition, and the fact that this is even a debate at all is testament to Dave’s skill and musicality.
    The difference is clear to me. To my ears, the 1974 version is played, shall we say, less forcefully, and is, again to my ears, a more accomplished performance and has a touch more melancholy (maybe) and seems to sit better with the jazz group backing. The 1964 version sounds rooted a bit more in the brass band tradition, perhaps being more relevant to the show. There are other, more and less subtle differences, including tone, pitching and phrase shaping.
    Anyway, the last paragraph is purely my opinion and is in no way meant with disrespect to either Ronnie Hunt or Dave Browning. It’s pointless to do so anyway. The theme’s place in British TV history is probably as important as the show itself!
    To conclude, I think that Dave is right!

    Thanks for allowing me the chance to relive my 1994 City of Leeds College of Music dissertation chops (or ‘Che-ops’ as Mike Lovatt calls them!)

    Best Wishes

    Simon Finch

    PS What the hell are the BBC thinking with axing Big Band Special? I read a quote somewhere a while back from some BBC ‘creative’ that said along the lines that Big Band music is a moribund art form, insomuch that there are few young fans replacing the dying ones. WELL DONE FOR PERPETUATING THE MYTH, DICKHEADS! If you don’t play Big Band music on the radio, for sure no great numbers of young people are gonna get into it…DURRRR!!!

  7. Mike Thomas says:

    Brendan. I am now in receipt of some of Dave Browning’s repeat fee invoices for the Coronation Street theme. If you’d like to add these to your blog for the record I’d be very grateful. Please let can you let me know how to upload them. thanks

  8. Mike Thomas says:

    Corrie invoices attached as promised. I have also included a photo of Dave playing trumpet in Maynard Ferguson’s British band, taken around the same time as Dave’s re-record of the Corrie Theme. Dave is 2nd right alongside Martin Drover & John Huckridge.

  9. Pingback: Fabulous Maynard Ferguson Photo! | Brendan Ball's Blog

  10. Joh Whelan says:

    The original player was Ronnie Hunt. The theme was then re-recorded by Dave Browning, then later re-recored by ?? have been a very cose friend of Dave’s for over 50 years and we worked together with many bands in TV including the NDO, Bob sharples, Johnny Patrick etc…………it is simples!!!!!!!!

  11. Ron Bird says:

    Just to add further information, the clarinet on the original recording was played by Keith Bird.
    My father.

    • Greg Chapman says:

      Hello Ron Bird. I re-recorded The Corrie Theme for a music exam around 15 years ago with my ensemble. I played the clarinet on my recording although I wasn’t supposed to be.
      It was to test arranging skills and I was only supposed to be the arranger and M.D. for the session but my player dropped out and with minutes to spare I stepped in to play clarinet, although I’m really a saxophonist but I got through it and tried to be as faithful to the original as I could and I passed the exam. Your Father’s playing on the original is wonderful.

      • Ron Bird says:

        Sorry for the long delay in my reply. Thank you for your comments on his playing. He also was one of the pair, the other being Roy Willox, of saxes on the Steptoe & Son sig tune.
        If you wish to hear more of his playing, Decca Phase 4 recordings Swing is King feature a number of tracks where he solos both clarinet and saxophone esp. Swing Swing Swing. You wil notice there is a pause at the end of that track. When it was first recorded that’s where it ended. The arranger was unstasified and re-scored the ending which was recorded on another day…. I would have to look them up but I can let you know which tracks are his but I’m sure the trained ear will know, mine is not, and I nor my brother followed him into music. This is a shame because until them it had been a very musical family. Dad’s uncle was aka Bretton Byrd and dad’s father run dance bands through the 1920’s and 30’s.

  12. Barry Ranicar says:

    I was one of Dave Browning first pupil’s At Mamalocks Oxford road in 1964…..The corrie theme was one of the first tunes that I played with him….A true Gent and great bloke…I have lost touch with him though about 9 years ago…OH! the other pupil along with me was called Robert I think who was in the Police force…A long time ago now..

    • Rodney Davidson says:

      As an active musician around Manchester and London in the ’60’s, these were the days of the “needle time” regulations that linited the use of commercial records. There was a lot of recording and re-recording in those days for broadcasting companies. A great thing for the music profession and with the advent of commercial television, lots of money to pay for it.

      It would not have been that unusual to have duplicate recordings of a TV theme done in both London and Manchester.

      While Manchester had and still has brilliant musicians,(Dave was one of them, I often worked alongside him), there was still the London-centric thinking, particularly among upper management.

      Having worked alongside both Ronnie and Dave, neither of these fine gentlemen would make a false claim and neither of them would really care. they are both innocent parties in this debacle. Neither of them ever spoke of the matter to my knowledge, they are both on so many other legendary recordings.

      What really pains me are the accusations of fraud hurled by those who know absolutely nothing of the situation.

  13. Gregory London says:

    Dave Browning is a fraud / Ronnie Hunt proved this case and it’s definitely him.

    Thank you !!!

    • Rodney Davidson says:

      Further to my last posting, the trumpet playing was never an issue. What was in question was the sound equipment at Granada which was already no longer state if the art. All the important sound such as backing tracks for the early evening pop shows that Granada produced were recorded at a private studio in Stockport. The law in those days was that a backing track could only be used twice before it had to be re-recorded.
      The playing on whichever track that was used for all those years was not representative of either gentlemans’ playing as I knew them. It sounds as though there was a request from the production team to sound like a typical ‘solar cornit’ in an average town band. Neither would be particularly proud of it as playing.

      The same argument exists about who played the Picc. Tpt. Solo on “Penny Lane” a few years later. Nobody really cares but i remember trying the same Picc. on appro from Barratts on Oxford street. We all finished up playing it on the Bb the 3-4 times a night we had to play it on ballroom gigs rather than put in the practice it takes to double on both effectively just for 14 seconds out of three hours. apart from that, nobody seemed to appreciate the comparatively squeaky sound it made in that context.

  14. Ron Bird says:

    Hello, I have just read the entry regarding the repeat fee being proof of the sig tune recording. Unfortunately, unless there was a very special clause in the contract, musicians NEVER received repeat fees for sig tunes, only incidental music.

  15. Ron Bird says:

    By the way I have all my father’s diaries from 1958, when he left the BBC Showband to go freelance, until 1983 when he died. He worked 10am to 10 pm most days! If any one has any recording dates I can look them up and see what he was doing that day, not proof of anything but may help with someone’s research. With regard to music being London centric, this was so true, even to the extent that dad, and many other musicians, would travel the the Granada studios, possibly in Leeds and or Manchester for sessions.
    Please note that the diaries do not say what the session was for, only the date, time, where, instruments booked (not always but 95% of the time) and who the fixer was. Trust I can be of help for anything.

  16. thh1859 says:

    I played bassoon in the first UK production of Fiddler on the Roof. This was in the early ’60s. Ronnie Hunt was lead trumpet in the pit band and he said he was the trumpet player for the Corrie theme tune.

  17. Phil Addison says:

    Hiya Brendon…..just in case anyone is interested ……Bill Geldard tells me that the amused chap standing behind dear Ronnie hunt playing the trumpet is Frank Horrocks who tinkled the ivories very nicely.
    Also Dave Lynnane was a school pal of mine in the same class, form 3a Claremont Sec.Mod. in Blackpool 1953 , a bright young lad, and we both played trumpet in the school Xmas concert…Hot toddy as I recall…he then went on to greater things playing bass…..sorry if this is boring!

  18. Mike Thomas says:

    Very sad to say that Dave Browning passed away yesterday following a heart attack. Dave was one of my trumpet hero’s and also one of my best friends. So thankful to have known him and for his encouragement & kindness. Will be sorely missed. RIP Dave

  19. Des Browning says:

    ‘Very sad to say that Dave Browning passed away yesterday following a heart attack’

    I heard this sad news today from my sister-in-law, who was formerly married to one of David’s brothers. A very decent man, who was also smart and talented. Our surnames are a coincidence, btw.

  20. NDO project says:

    As here are the funeral details for Dave Browning who died suddenly two weeks ago.

    THURSDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2017 at 11:30

    At Vale Royal Crematorium, Shurlach Lane, Davenham, Northwich, Cheshire, CW9 8RP

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