Monday, 8 April 2013
Monty Sunshine born 8 April 1928
Monty Sunshine (8 April 1928 – 30 November 2010) was an English jazz clarinetist, whose main claim to fame was his clarinet solo on the track "Petite Fleur", a million seller for the Chris Barber Jazz Band in 1959. Sunshine variously worked with The Eager Beavers, The Crane River Jazz Band, Beryl Bryden, George Melly, Chris Barber, Johnny Parker, Diz Disley and Donegan's Dancing Sushine Band.
World-famous clarinet player Monty Sunshine was born in London on 8 April 1928. He received, so he once said, a very dull education, consisting of "numerous years" as a student at Camberwell School of Art. During that time he started to play the clarinet, very much influenced by the records of Johnny Dodds and George Lewis.
Around 1949 he formed with Ken Colyer, John R.T. Davies and others the Crane River Jazz Band which was to have a reat impact on the development of British traditional jazz. After this period Monty formed his own quartet, in which were Chris Barber on bass, Ron Bowden on drums, and Lonnie Donegan on banjo.
In 1953 Monty and Chris formed a band to be led by trumpeter Ken Colyer who was about to return from a long stay in New Orleans. However, after musically different opinions, a year later Colyer was fired and Barber took over the leadership and so the Chris Barber Jazz Band was born on 31 May 1954.
After some time it appeared that Monty was of great importance in the growing popularity of the Barber Band. In October 1956 the band recorded an LP which contained a solo number by Monty Sunshine. It was just part of the LP. However, in early 1959 this title was issued as a single and after a few months Monty and Chris received a Golden Disc for the million seller "Petite Fleur". With Barber Monty made his first tour of the USA and visited almost every European country.
Sunshine said he first heard the tune while on holiday in Spain and "it stuck in my memory. During a recording session, after I'd come back home, I said there was a tune I'd like to do and so we went ahead. It was called Petite Fleur." Until then, Sunshine had not realised that the composer of the tune was Sidney Bechet, one of the towering giants of New Orleans jazz. Included on a 1956 10-inch LP, Petite Fleur passed unnoticed. Released as a single in Germany three years later, it became a hit there, and then in the US, eventually making it to No 4 in the British top 20 in early 1959.
Monty Sunshine (centre) and Chris Barber (right) receiving a golden disc from Hughie for Petite Fleur.
Sunshine recalled in a 1972 interview that it, "sold over two and a half million copies which, of course, gave me a great deal of satisfaction, but the greatest pleasure of all was a letter I received from Sidney Bechet thanking me for what I had done with his tune". While Bechet reaped a substantial sum in royalties from the record's sales, Sunshine made
nothing but his sideman's session fee, although he did retain one of the two gold discs that it earned.
It was a great shock for traditional jazz lovers when, at the end of 1960, Monty left the Chris Barber Band. Happily he formed a new band, playing the same type of jazz as his old group. In March 1961 the new Monty Sunshine Jazz Band made its first public appearance in London with, amongst others, Rod Mason (trumpet) and Johnny Parker (piano). From the start the band was a great success, especially on the Continent.
In January 1963, the British music magazine NME reported that the biggest trad jazz event to be staged in Britain had taken place at Alexandra Palace. The event included George
Melly, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Alex Welsh, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Sunshine.
When the so-called Trad Boom was over (1965) it was more difficult to keep a band on the road. Luckily Monty never really gave up and everything went better from around 1970. Monty and his band were very popular especially in Germany, and most of his records were made there. Sunshine returned to play a reunion concert with the original Chris Barber Band at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon in June 1975. This was well received, and the band reformed once again for an international reunion tour in 1994.
Sunshine continued touring, both with his band and as a solo attraction, until ill health forced him to retire in 2003.
Monty Sunshine's discography is extensive, and CDs have been issued of recordings with Colyer and Barber, as well as with his own band.
He died in November 2010, at the age of 82.(Info edited from Wikipedia & various sources)