Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Scan Tester (1886 - 1972) was an English musician
Scan and social dances
Lewis Tester was born on 7th Sept 1886 in Chelwood Gate , near Horsted Keynes, Sussex. At about the age of five he acquired the nickname "scantelope". There are several variants on the story, but his immediate family used the name "Scan" and he used it when advertising himself as a musician. He spent most of life in the area north of Brighton, playing concertina, bandoneon, melodeon and fiddle. He occasionally sang. Both his older brother, Trayton and a younger brother, Will played concertina. He lied about his age in order to be able to leave school early and earn money for his family. Parish records of the school suggest he was born in 1887 but he claimed it was 1886. At his father's pub, the Green Man at Horsted Keynes he leaned step-dancing. He danced and played at weddings, harvest suppers and pubs with his elder brother and other local musicians.
gypsies and jazz
When visiting the hop fields of Kent he earned more money from playing concertina and from dancing than he could have earned by pulling hops. There would be contests for dancing in the hop fields, including gipsy dancers, and he generally won the prize - a gallon of beer. After the first world war he formed a "jazz band" - that is a country dance band that included a full drum kit. It was called "Tester's Imperial". He hired rooms and taught the dances - quadrilles, schottisches, polkas, and the like - before the dance started. His brother Trayton, brought a bandoneon back from Germany after the first world war. It was an oversized concertina, with a full deep sound, excellent for un-amplified playing. By the fifties the instrument was no longer manufactured. For over 40 years Scan played at the stone Quarry pub at Chelwood Gate. He was one of the last to play the old-time tunes.
an elderly celebrity
Reg Hall was active in the 50s, collecting tunes and encouraging traditional musicians. Reg met Scan in 1957. Mervyn Plunkett discovered Scan and brought him to the attention of Reg. Soon he was brought to the HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society at Cecil Sharp house in London. He went on to play at the Royal Festival Hall and big hotels. Reg Hall collected his recordings which were issued as "I Never Played Too Many Posh Dances - Scan Tester 1887 - 1972". It was 48 tracks with 51 tunes. They were not made in the studio. However they do capture a style that was nearly lost altogether. Reg ran a folk club at The Fox in Islington, London and frequently invited Scan to play there. When Roy Stradling heard him play there he was inspired to form a series of bands to play the old style music. Of these, the Old Swan Band still thrives.
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