Saturday, 18 January 2020

Paddy Roberts born 18 January 1910

Paddy Roberts (18 January 1910 – 24 August 1975)who was a prolific singer, writer and performer of smart, funny, satirical songs is largely forgotten now. His commercial peak came in 1959 when his record, Strictly for Grown Ups, reached number 8 in the UK charts.

John Godfrey Owen Roberts was born in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. His early education took place in England. He subsequently attended university in South Africa before joining a law practice. Intent on becoming a songwriter, he returned to the UK where he had some success in the late 30s with songs such as ‘Angel Of The Great White Way’ (written with Elton Box, Desmond Cox and Don Pelosi), and ‘Horsey, Horsey’ (with Box, Cox and Ralph Butler) which became popular for Jack Jackson, Billy Cotton and Henry Hall.

During World War II Roberts flew with the RAF, and when peace came he became an airline captain on BOAC Constellations. Subsequently, he returned to songwriting, and during the 50s, had several UK chart hits, including ‘The Book’ (David Whitfield), ‘Heart Of A Man’ (Frankie Vaughan), ‘Lay Down Your Arms’ (Anne Shelton), ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ (Max Bygraves), ‘Pickin’ A Chicken’ (Eve Boswell); and ‘Evermore’, ‘Softly, Softly’ (number 1) and ‘You Are My First Love’ (the last three sung by Ruby Murray). 
The latter song was featured in the British musical film It’s Great To Be Young, and Roberts wrote several other movie songs, including ‘In Love For The Very First Time’ (for An Alligator Named Daisy, starring Diana Dors) and the title number to The Good Companions. His other 50s compositions included ‘Johnny Is The Boy For Me’, ‘It’s A Boy’, ‘That Dear Old Gentleman’, ‘Send For Me’ and ‘The Three Galleons (Las Tres Carabelas)’.

Most of the aforementioned songs were written in collaboration with others, such as Hans Gottwald, C.A. Rossi, Geoffrey Parsons, Peggy Cochran, Jack Woodman, Gerry Levine, Ake Gerhard, Leon Land, Peter Hart, Garfield De Mortimer, Derek Bernfield, Augusto Alguego, G. Moreu, and Lester Powell (pseudonym of Ray Martin).

His career took another turn in 1959, when he met Frank Lee, the artists' manager for Decca Records, who was looking to follow up on the recent successful release of 'A Night With' Tom Lehrer comedy album. Paddy demonstrated some of his folk song parodies and was invited to record them as well so he was thus reinvented, as a comedy singer songwriter. The 'Strictly For Grown-ups' album was released in 1959 and reached number 8 in the U.K charts.


The hit tune 'The Ballard Of Bethnel Green' was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for best novelty song of that year. The follow up 'Paddy Roberts Tries Again' came out a year later and was another chart success for Paddy, peeking at number 16 (U.K) This was swiftly followed by 'Paddy Roberts at the Blue Angel' live album 
(1961) and finally,  'Songs For Gay Dogs' (1963). It was during the 60s he included several of his own, often wry, witty and sophisticated, numbers in an accomplished cabaret act.

Probably the best-known of these include ‘The Belle Of Barking Creek’, ‘The Big Dee-Jay’, ‘Follow Me’, ‘Country Girl’, ‘I Love Mary’, ‘The Tattooed Lady’, ‘What’s All This Fuss About Love?’, ‘The Lavender Cowboy’ and ‘Don’t Upset The Little Kiddywinks’. Eventually his style of performance fell out of fashion. 

His last studio recording was for a Marble Arch LP based on the score of the film 'Dr. Dolittle'. Other artists on the album included Marty Wilde, Stephanie Voss And Benny Lee, backed by The New World Theatre Orchestra Conducted By Cyril Stapleton. Recorded in 1966 and originally released January 1, 1967.

Roberts was five times the winner of an Ivor Novello Award, four for songwriting and one for services to the British Music Industry.  He also held high office in the Performing Right Society and the Song Writers Guild.

He married twice. His first wife was Sylvia Shephard whom he married during 1937 in Hendon. They had two sons. She died in 1962. He married again in 1963.

Roberts died in August 1975 in Dartmouth, Devon, England.

(Edited  snippets from various sources but mainly AllMusic)

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Roy Lanham born 16 January 1923

Roy Lanham (16 January 1923 - 14 February 1991) was known primarily as guitarist for the Sons of the Pioneers from 1961 through 1986. He also led the Whippoorwills for many years and performed as a solo artist, recording albums of country-jazz guitar instrumentals under his own name in the late '50s and early '60s. Despite his relative obscurity, Lanham is often esteemed on the level of such well-known guitar greats as Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.

Roy Howard Lanham was born in Corbin, KY, and picked up the guitar at an early age. Beginning as a teenager he found radio work as a rhythm guitarist in a number of instrumental combos, one of which was eventually hired by pop vocalist Gene Austin and renamed the Whippoorwills. In this group Lanham functioned as lead guitarist, performing in a jazzy style influenced by Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt but distinguished by his development of a four-part harmony chord technique he would alternate with single-string figures.

In 1943 Lanham joined Cincinnati's WLW, a 50,000-watt station that allowed him the opportunity to work with King Records, for which he soon performed regularly as a session guitarist, appearing on recordings by Hank Penny and the Delmore Brothers, among others. After participating in one Chet Atkins session in 1946 for the Bullet label, Lanham moved to Dayton and re-formed the Whippoorwills.


For the next few years the combo toured, recorded transcriptions for Smiley Burnette's radio show in Hollywood and collaborated with Merle Travis on six sides for Capitol in the early '50s. It was during his tenure with Smiley Burnette's show that Lanham first 

met the Sons of the Pioneers, who invited the Whippoorwills to fill in for them on their radio show while the Sons were on tour.

Lanham found additional session work recording separately with Johnny and Dorsey Burnette as well as Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Bonnie Guitar, the Browns, and the Fleetwoods, in addition to recording singles under his own name and with the Whippoorwills. The success of the Fleetwoods singles on which he appeared led to his recording of a solo LP in 1959 and the sole Whippoorwills album, Sizzling Strings, later that year.

During his time with the Sons of the Pioneers, he appeared in many movies, movie shorts, and a television show with Roy Rogers. His best known acting performance was in the 1963 film short "30 Minutes at Gunsight". Also between tours he demonstrated Fender guitar equipment at National Association of Music Merchant Shows at various cities, including Nashville.

Lanham had open-heart surgery in 1980, but was back onstage within two months. In 1983 he went to Phoenix and worked with pioneer steel guitarist Bud Isaacs, Duane Eddy, Thumbs Carllile, Jethro Burns, and fiddler Johnny Gimble, in an event Isaacs called the Great American Jam. He continued with the Pioneers and played on Tex Williams final LP. Around this time he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Though surgery appeared successful he suffered a stroke although he recovered sufficiently to return playing though not to rejoin the Pioneers.

In 1989 he was found to have prostate cancer, from which he succumbed to on Feb 14th 1991 (age 68) in Camarillo, California, USA. He was given surprisingly few obituaries outside the western music field. Given the consistency of his work and the artistic sense of his musical vision, ne deserved better.

(Edited from All Music & article in Soutwest Shuffle by Rich Kienzie)

Roy Lanham was one of the best.  The fact that he kept in western circles all his life didn't hide the fact that he was also one of the top jazz guitarists of all time.  Here Roy and his band the Whip-Oor-Wills show why they were one of the greatest ensembles of the 1940's.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Jay McShann born 12 January 1916

James Columbus "Jay" McShann (January 12, 1916 – December 7, 2006) was a jazz pianist and bandleader. He led bands in Kansas City, Missouri, that included Charlie Parker, Bernard Anderson, Ben Webster, and Walter Brown.

McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. His deeply religious parents managed to pay for piano lessons for his elder sister, but couldn't afford them for him. But he listened and found out how to pick out the melodies that his sister played at home on the piano and later in church on the organ. The young boy found jazz in the late-night radio broadcasts by Earl Hines's Orchestra, broadcasting from Chicago's Grand Terrace Café.

Although, by the time he entered Fisk University, he could make his way on the piano, it was to be some time before he learned to read music. During 1931, short of money, McShann left halfway through his course and hiked to Tulsa where he was hired by Al Denny. He then worked with a variety of territory bands until he finally found himself out of work in Arkansas City. He set out for Omaha where he had an uncle. When the bus made a two-hour-long stop in Kansas City he went to the Reno Club, and played. McShann found his second home, playing amongst musicians like Pete Johnson and Joe Turner. Here he developed the raw blues style that was to be his trademark and where he was given the nickname "Hootie."

It was in Kansas City during 1936 that McShann set up his own big band, which variously featured Charlie Parker (1937–42), Al Hibbler, Ben Webster, Paul Quinichette, Bernard Anderson, Gene Ramey, Jimmy Coe, Gus Johnson (1938–43), Harold "Doc" West, Earl Coleman, Walter Brown, and Jimmy Witherspoon, among others. His first recordings were all with Charlie Parker, the first as the Jay McShann Orchestra on August 9, 1940. The big band was a huge success on tour, and eventually arrived in 1942 at New York's Savoy Ballroom where, on its first night, it carved the resident band led by Lucky Millinder.


The band played both swing and blues numbers but played blues on most of its records. Its most popular recording was "Confessin' the Blues". Jay told the Associated Press in 2003 "You'd hear some cat play, and somebody would say 'This cat, he sounds like he's from Kansas City.' It was Kansas City Style. They knew it on the East 

Coast. They knew it on the West Coast. They knew it up north, and they knew it down south." The band was doing so well in 1944 that McShann showed a palpable reluctance to join the army when he was drafted in 1944. This resulted in the group being disbanded. The big-band era being over, he was unable to successfully restart his career after the war ended.

After World War II, McShann began to lead small groups featuring the blues shouter Jimmy Witherspoon. Witherspoon started recording with McShann in 1945 and fronting McShann's band; he had a hit in 1949 with "Ain't Nobody's Business". As well as writing much material, Witherspoon continued recording with McShann's band, which also featured Ben Webster. McShann had a modern rhythm and blues hit with "Hands Off", featuring a vocal by Priscilla Bowman, in 1955.

McShann worked in small groups, trios or as a solo player
specialising in blues and boogie-woogie piano for the rest of his life. He drifted from the spotlight in the 1950s and '60s, living and working mostly in the Midwest and Kansas City and raising his family. However in 1968 a general interest in the history of Kansas City jazz brought him to the forefront again and he made the first of many visits to Europe. McShann became popular as a singer as well as a pianist, often performing with violinist Claude Williams.

From then on he was always in demand at jazz festivals and in recording studios across the world. Toronto became one of his favourite cities and McShann visited it often, recording a dozen albums there for the Sackville label. He recorded almost a hundred albums in various parts of the world and one of them, Goin' to Kansas City (2003), was nominated for a Grammy Award.

McShann died on December 7, 2006, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 90. He was survived by his companion of more than 30 years, Thelma Adams (known as Marianne McShann), and three daughters: Linda, Jayne, and Pam.  (Edited from Wikipedia & The Independent.)

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Susan Reed born 11 January 1926

Susan Catherine Reed (January 11, 1926 – April 25, 2010) was an American singer, harpist, zitherist and actress. A regular on the New York folk scene, Life magazine dubbed her "the pet of Manhattan nightclubbers" in 1945.

She was born in Columbia, South Carolina, the daughter of Isadora Bennett and Daniel Reed, respectively a theatre publicist and actor. Folk music collector Carl Sandburg and musician Huddie Ledbetter were family friends, as were visiting Irish actors and musicians from the Abbey Theatre Company. After she moved to New York City with her family.- including her older brother Jared, who also performed,

She began singing and playing the zither, harp and autoharp at private parties and for wounded soldiers convalescing in hospitals with renditions of what would become her signature pieces, "Danny Boy", "He Moved Through the Fair", and "Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair." Although she originally aspired to becoming a painter, she was discovered by Barney Josephson, owner of the Café Society club in Greenwich Village, who booked her to appear

Her performances of folk ballads and other traditional songs found immediate success, and she appeared on radio and TV shows with Burl Ives. She made her debut at the Town Hall in New York in 1945, at the age of nineteen, followed by a national tour. She played Broadway in "Billy the Kid", toured with "Finian's Rainbow" and "Brigadoon", and became a regular on the radio, later moving to television on "The Firestone Hour" and similar programs. Reed was seen frequently at New York's Carnegie Hall and Los Angeles' Wilshire Ebell Theatre.


In 1947, Alan Lomax wrote of her, with Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie and Josh White, as one of the foremost performers in the "enthusiasm for native balladry and folklore that is running through the country from coast to coast". In 1948, she appeared with Gene
Krupa in the film Glamour Girl (re-titled Night Club Girl in the UK), in which she played a folk-singing country girl brought to sing in New York nightclubs. The movie directly inspired English folk singers Shirley and Dolly Collins.

Reed appeared regularly on TV and radio in the early and mid 1950s, and recorded for the Columbia, RCA Victor, and Elektra record labels. Her albums included an adaptation of Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne, 1950), 
Susan Reed Sings Old Airs from Ireland, Scotland and England (1954) and Susan Reed (1956). She also acted on TV, and appeared on Broadway in Shooting Star, a musical about Billy the Kid.

Despite several bestselling albums, her career was somewhat hampered by a perception that she was "too pop for folk and too folk for pop". Reed was the subject of a "Life" magazine cover story on folk music in 1955,and thought it newsworthy to declare that this "chubby freckle-faced redhead ... wears no make-up when performing" but Reed was essentially finished in the music business after she ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and was blacklisted as a communist sympathiser.

Like various other folk artists who had the temerity to go against the grain and actually stand for something, Reed found herself blacklisted in the second half of the 1950s. She thus joined the ranks of Pete Seeger and the other members of the Weavers, and singers like Jo Mapes, who suddenly found themselves persona non grata in most major venues.  Reed’s broadcast and recording career came to a halt and her performing eventually followed. She was relegated to whistle-stop engagements in Podunk towns. As a result she ended her professional career in the early 1960s to be with her family in the new York City area.

Largely withdrawing from public view, she was said to have kept her voice, performing in local venues into her 80s, always starting by saying, “This is a zither.” Out of the limelight, her voice a bit deeper, she still performed at the occasional fund-raiser. “Everyone with an organization who wants to put over brotherhood and peace,” she said, “they just call old Sue.”

She married actor James Karen in 1958; they had one child before divorcing in 1967. She spent her final years establishing an antiques shop in Greenwich Village, and later sold ethnic handicrafts and clothes in Nyack, New York. She was also an accomplished painter. Tom Chapin used several of her paintings on his album covers.

She died of natural causes in 2010 at a Long Island nursing home, at the age of 84.

(Edited mainly from Wikipedia with a little help from AllMusic,  L.A.Times & The Guardian)

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Dick Charlesworth born 8 January 1932

Richard Anthony "Dick" Charlesworth (8 January 1932 – 15 April 2008) was an English jazz clarinettist, saxophonist and bandleader who remains one of the most popular and enduring exponents of the traditional jazz renaissance that captivated British audiences in the pre-Beatles era.

Charlesworth was born and brought up in Sheffield and attended King Edward VII School. At 16, he became a clerk in the Ministry of Labour and was in due course transferred to London. After trying the harmonica, he spotted a clarinet in a shop window, sold his bicycle and fishing rods to fund its purchase and began his jazz career.

He bought a clarinet and started playing jazz as a hobby in 1952-53. He was entirely self-taught, but became good enough to play clarinet and saxophone in a dance band and perform with jazz bands in south London including Jim Weller’s Jazzmen. He formed his first group in 1956 while still doing his day job, and his 'Dick Charlesworth's Jazzmen' won the South London Jazz Band Championship in 1957. 
Charlesworth's group was signed by the Melodisc label, and they recorded an EP in December 1957 and produced an album for Doug Dobell's 77 Records.

Charlesworth left the Civil Service in 1959 and became a professional musician. He signed a recording contract with EMI and his group was remarketed as 'Dick Charlesworth's City Gents'. This was the time when light jazz was popular in the British charts as typified by Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball, also attired in distinctive costumes. Charlesworth's group sported pin stripes and bowler hats, and had a Latin motto, Dum vivimus vivamus, (“While we live, let us enjoy life”).


Their only chart single was "Billy Boy”, which reached 43 in the UK Singles Chart in May 1961. The City Gents often appeared on television including The Morecambe and Wise Show and Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Charlesworth sang the title song of a comedy film, In the Doghouse, starring Leslie Phillips and 

featured in his own 15 minute musical short in 1963.

However the British pop scene changed significantly in the early sixties and jazz went out of vogue. Charlesworth broke up his band, and from 1964 to 1969 worked for P & O fronting a band on the cruise liners Canberra and Orsova. He then settled in Mojacar, in Spain where he ran a music bar until he returned to Britain in 1977.

After returning to the UK permanently in 1982, he worked with like-minded musicians such as trumpeters Keith Smith and Rod Mason and reformed the City Gents. He also appeared with the Legends of British Trad show, fronted Hot Stuff, a band formed by trumpeter Chez Chesterman, while playing pub and club gigs. He was also a funny and laconic chairman of meetings of the Brothers, a loose network of musicians who got together for hilarious, quasi-masonic rituals. He appeared on the BBC Radio series, Jazz Score, a quiz show which encouraged its participants to relate anecdotes about their lives in jazz.

In his later years, Charlesworth lived in Thames Ditton, Surrey, and played a residency at the George and Dragon pub every Tuesday and also at various other local pubs.

He died following a heart attack in April 2008, at the age of 76.

(Edited from Wikipedia & The Guardian)

Monday, 6 January 2020

Jane Harvey born 6 January 1925

Jane Harvey (January 6, 1925 - August 15, 2013) was an American jazz singer whose career lasted nearly 70 years.  

Born Phyllis Taff in Jersey City, NJ, she auditioned for nightclub owner Barney Josephson shortly after finishing high school, and was offered a gig at his celebrated Greenwich Village nightclub, Café Society. Before she took the stage, Josephson changed her name to Jane Harvey.

Soon Benny Goodman came to hear her and subsequently hired her to record "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me" with his band, in December 1944 for Columbia Records. She stayed with the band for six months, cutting tracks for the best-selling "Close as Pages in a Book," "Up in Central Park," "Only Another Boy and Girl" and "He’s Funny That Way." Sometime between early April and mid-​June 1945, she left to sing solo again. She appeared on several radio programs through the latter half of the year and landed a spot as secondary singer to Johnny Desmond on Teen Timers in November. She also recorded two sides on Columbia, backed by Mitchell Ayres, that same month.


In March 1946, Harvey subbed for an ailing Mildred Bailey at New York’s Blue Angel club which proved fruitful, finding her work recording with Dick Stabile’s orchestra in April. She made two soundies for Filmcraft soon after, He’s Funny That Way, which she’d sang with Goodman under the title She’s Funny That Way, and It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight.

Harvey’s stay at the Blue Angel also caught the attention of Desi Arnaz, who invited her to the West Coast with promises to sing for his band. She had begun her association with Arnaz by May 1946 when she appeared with the orchestra on a radio special, and in November, Bob Hope, on whose radio show Arnaz’s band starred, signed her to appear as well. She made four recordings with Arnaz in October and December, the latter month also finding 20th Century Fox offering her a screen test. She stayed with Arnaz until early January 1947 when she signed with Victor as a solo artist,

Back on her own again, Harvey returned to the nightclub and radio
circuit. She also starred as “tele queen” for a series of stunts by new Los Angeles television station KFI in March 1947. She later appeared on several other early West Coast television programs. Harvey recorded a few sides with Victor through mid-​1947, including several with the Page Cavanaugh Trio, and then went without a recording contract until January 1949, when she signed with MGM, for whom she recorded through early 1951. Ms. Harvey entertained the troops in Europe on a 1948 USO tour with Bob Hope and Irving Berlin. Upon returning to the States, she made her Broadway debut in the 1950 Harold Rome musical Bless You All with Pearl Bailey which ran until February 1951. She made a second screen test in summer of that year, this time with Paramount. In 1953, she recorded on the Bell label.

Harvey’s love affairs were frequent fodder for the gossip columns in the 1940s. She married Jay Hyde, son of a William Morris Agency executive, in 1949, but had divorced him by 1954 when she married legendary music producer Bob Thiele, then with Coral Records. They had a son, Bob Junior, the following year, which briefly sidelined Harvey’s career. She returned to singing in 1957, recording on Roulette Records that year and then on Dot in 1958. She recorded on the Signature label in 1959 and 1960. She recorded several albums through the years, including "Leave It to Jane," "I’ve Been There," the Fats Waller tribute "You Fats, Me Jane," and  "Jane Harvey."

She appeared on television several times, including on Arthur Murray’s dance program in 1959 and on The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson, in 1962 and 1963. She also appeared on the Mike Douglas talk show in 1970 and later on the Today Show in 1988 promoting an album of Stephen Sondheim songs. She and Thiele divorced sometime before 1972, and she married William King. The couple remained together until her death from cancer i

She resumed her cabaret career in 2011 with appearances at Feinstein’s in New York and the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, and reissued five CDs of her previous recordings including an unreleased session that she had done with guitarist Les Paul.

Even at 88, Harvey had been active and just prior to her death, she recorded a complete new album of Ellington songs with pianist Mike Renzi and guitarists Bucky Pizzarelli and Ron Eschete,  It included Harvey's first recording of an Ellington song (for which she wrote the lyrics) called The Sky Fell Down.

Harvey died after a somewhat protracted battle with stomach cancer, in her home in Los Angeles, August 15, 2013. 
(Edited from & bandchirps)