Bernard Herrmann and the N.D.O.

For more info - please visit the NDO website

The Northern Dance Orchestra [N.D.O.] was formed in 1956 and quickly established itself as arguably the finest ensemble of its kind in the land.

Under MD, Alyn Ainsworth they played in many BBC radio and TV programmes doing both inside and outside broadcasts. "Make Way For Music" introduced by Roger Moffat made the N.D.O. into a household name introducing vocalists Les Howard and Sheila Buxton they gained cult status.

ln the early sixties Bernard Herrmann  took over from Alyn Ainsworth. The BBC recognised the growth of "Rock and Pop" and the N.D.O. found a new musical direction with shows like "Pop North" and "Here we go with the N.D.O." the show in which the Beatles made their radio debut in 1962. 

The N.D.O. were based at the old Hulme Hippodrome as resident band where such groups as The Applejacks and The Springfields performed on the same bill.

Compere was Gaye Byrne, a seasoned performer, who is still very much active in radio.

ln 1975 the Northern Dance Orchestra were re-named The BBC Northern Radio Orchestra establishing the end to a great musical era in Manchester. 

Known members

  • Bob Duffy - bass 
  • Bob Turner - drums 
  • Bob Turner - drums 
  • Peter Husband - flute
  • Les Beavers - guitar 
  • Ray Barlow - guitar 
  • Alyn Ainsworth - MD/Arranger 
  • Ken Frith - piano 
  • Brian Fitzgerald - piano (later Leader) 
  • Freddie Hefferan - sax 
  • Gary Cox - sax 
  • Roger Fleetwood - sax 
  • Johnny Roadhouse - sax 
  • Steve Morris - sax 
  • Les Lovelady - sax 
  • Roy Bassett - trombone 
  • Frank Dixon - trombone 
  • Harry Burgess - trombone 
  • Bram Fisher - trombone 
  • Frank Tebb - trombone 
  • Bernard Darkin - trombone 
  • Syd Lawrence - trumpet 
  • Ernie Watson - trumpet 
  • Fred Kelly - trumpet 
  • Dave Browning - trumpet (played Coronation St theme)
  • Stan Hibbert - trumpet 
  • Harry Archer (Harry Archibald) - bass  
  • Kevin Kent - vocals  


An early member and maybe founder member on sax along side Johnny Roadhouse was Steve Morris and of course at some point, Sid Lawrence.

Vocalist on Pop North days was the great Kevin Kent, who also supplied some of backing singers via his agency - one of whom was Elkie Brookes. Kevin also managed Les Dawson in his early days.

Harry Lane

A bassist not mentioned on your list of former personnel is Harry Archer (Harry Archibald). He is on a number of vidio clips. I served with him in the Lincolnshire Regiment Band in 1945/46.

RCH Berry - 10/12/10

As an avid listner to NDO when a youngster obviously there are records of performers such as Alyn Ainsworth and Roger Moffat who are sadly nolonger with us but what happened to the beautiful and talented singer SHEILA BUXTON. Extensive searches of the internet reveal no information. It's as if the secret sevice of the BBC killed her off without trace. Perhaps she used a stage name and preferred anominity to lead a normal domestic career. Maybe I am making this enquiry 20 years too late.

John Chalmers - 1/1/11

Sadly Sheila Buxton contracted Altzeimers Disease and died as a result. After the demise of the NDO Sheila went to live in Malta with her new husband who I understand was an oil-rig worker.

Peter Pilbeam - 21/1/11

My father, Roy Bassett, made up the quartet of trombone players with the NDO from about 1953 until 1965, when he left to become Orchestral Manager of the BBC Radio Orchestra in London. Along with Frank Dixon and Frank Tebb, he lived in Blackpool and travelled over to Manchester most days - either car-sharing with the other two or riding his precious Vincent motorbike, come rain or shine. Dad had previously played in Vic Lewis's band in the late 40s and early 50s, as well as with the band at The Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. I have such fond memories of those days when I was very small and so proud of my dad - especially when the NDO had their TV series of Make Way for Music. (I was allowed to stay up late on those nights to watch!)

Christine Lock - 11/2/11

Sheila Buxton. 20 years ago Sheila was running a cafe in Malta with her partner. Sadly when I returned to Malta 4 years ago I could not find the cafe again (see below) 

Jeni Snoddy - 8/7/11

Around 1960 I played trumpet in a rehearsal band - largely for learners - in Nuneaton with a young lad named Robert (Bob) Harrison, also a trumpet player. We lost touch when he went full-time professional, initially with a circus band in Great Yarmouth. I heard later that he had married a dancer. Many years later a very talented trumpet player of the same name was a regular player with the NDO and I have often wondered whether it was the same person. Sadly he died some years ago at, I believe, a fairly young age. (I am now 71 and he was about 4 or 5 years younger than I) Does anyone know any more about him?

Many thanks.

Roger Evans - 25/7/11

I too have fond memories of the NDO, having heard them at the Playhouse According to the website, an amazing new double CD has been produced from NDO band numbers from tapes in private hands. There are tracks by many of the names above.

Try the website for more details. 

NDOphile - 15/10/11

There was also one violinist but I can't remember his name. Once during a live radio broadcast he missed his solo que. Alan, noticing he was missing from the stage, beconed the flute player to come up to the mic and he reluctantly had to cover the part.

I was in the NDO fan club and used to go to Hume every Saturday for 'Your Saturday date'. They did the first live broadcast of FM on the 'Third Prgramm' and liisteners were able to hear it first by AM then by FM.

We used to meet some of them informaly, walking along in the nearby park, discusing the hotness of the TV lights in such a small studio when later on TV.

Alan Stott - 3/3/12

Not absolutely sure if this is all correct (it was a long time ago!) but I remember going regularly to see Gaye Byrne compere "The Beat Show" in the sixties (at the hippodrome I believe) and the NDO were the "resident band" so to speak.

I later met Les Beavers, a brilliant guitarist, who I'm sure played with them at some time (until after a famous episode, he got sacked). You weren't supposed to gig for anyone else in those days when you worked for the Beeb, let alone the opposition. Les's sessions in the jazz clubs in Manchester were largely overlooked, but it was when the camera panned across the ATV Showband (Jack Sharples?) during the credits, and there was Les, right in the middle that the wotsit hit the fan.

I met Les through his teenage son, who was a fan of our band (The Brystals, a Bury R&B group) and thought I was a good guitarist - I wanted lessons, so he introduced me to Les having bulled me up as "Bury's best guitarist", or some such crap - I soon realised that I wasn't even our street's best guitarist. Les taught me a lot (and I returned the compliment with a few Beatles arrangements that the copy writers hadn't got right . . . . at least, not how The Beatles played them).

No doubt someone will correct any wonky memories - Kevin Kent is listed as the vocalist with the NDO - do I remember him with Syd Lawrence later on? I'm sure I was backstage after a Morecambe concert (no, don't laugh) and watched horrified as Kevin keeled over - the result of having all his jabs for a foreign holiday at one go (they must have been paid better than we were) complicated by a very large brandy. Sorry to ramble . . . . .

Dave Weeds (Weedsy) - 20/6/12

I am Sheila Buxton's neice and I saw that people say she had a cafe in Malta. That is nonsence - she had a gorgeous home in Malta!! My auntie was a much loved caracter that is sadly missed by my mum, who is her sister. We was a very close family and Ii am the daughter she never had, always missed but never forgotten xxxx

Joanne Hibbert - 17/7/12

As a young bass guitarist I played with a group called Denny and The Witchdoctors from Huddersfield. We played a spot on Here we go with the NDO. I am now 77 years old, it must have been my 15 minutes of fame.

Sean Henderson - 24/12/12


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