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William Masters (Gordon Stretton)1887-1983
Born in the Scotland Road area of Liverpool in 1887, William Masters, of Jamaican and Irish parentage, was only the tender age of five when he first began to realise his passion and love for music and performing. He joined a group called ‘The Five Boys’, a Liverpool based ensemble who would sing and dance at the famous Old Hay Market Theatre. This was to be his first of many performances.
At the age of nine, William became a member of the ‘Eight Lancashire Lads’, a clog dancing troupe which toured the British Music Halls whose members included the famous Charlie Chaplin.
As William progressed in his career as a performer he changed his name to Gordon Stretton, a name which would be remembered throughout the history of early jazz. In the early 1900s, Stretton appeared in many popular West End shows and also composed music. In 1907 he led the Jamaican Choral Union at St George’s Hall for Sir Alfred Lewis Jones’s colonial exhibition.
In the early 1920s, France saw the beginning of a new era of music and lifestyle involving various components of the Jazz age. It was here that Stretton would begin to make his mark in the jazz history books by establishing his very own orchestra famously known as ‘Le Orchestre Syncopated Six’. They were to be the toast of Paris café society during the jazz age. Stretton also made some of the earliest jazz recordings by a British artist.
During the mid 1920s, Stretton relocated to Argentina were he would form his own symphonic jazz orchestra. He played and performed with Argentina’s most successful Tango artists. Stretton was responsible for introducing jazz music to Argentina.
He enjoyed a successful music career in South America, and Argentina became his home until he passed away in 1983. Stretton was a pioneer of jazz music and was one of the jazz musicians responsible for the internationalization of jazz music.