Ronnie Aldrich, born Ronald Frank Aldrich (15 February 1916, Erith, Kent, England – 30 September 1993, Isle of Man) was a British easy listening and jazz pianist, arranger, conductor, and composer.
He was born on 15 February 1916 at Erith in Kent. The only son of a store manager, he was three years old when he started playing the piano. He was educated at The Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone, and taught violin at London’s Guildhall School of Music which was cut short when he was drafted into the Royal Air Force during World War 2. Prior to that he had followed the usual pattern working at various local dances with different ensembles, including a spell with the Folkestone Municipal Orchestra.
The Squadronaires: From left to right, Jimmy Miller who was the elected leader and vocalist, Tommy Bradbury (tenor Sax) , Cliff Townshend, George Chisholm, Andy McDevitt, Tommy McQuater. Standing at the back are Ronnie Aldrich, possibly Jock Cummings, then Jimmy Durant. Front row again, unknown band member is in front of Ronnie Aldrich, next to him is Sid Colin , Monty Levy, Eric Breeze, Arthur Madden (bass) and little Archie Craig.
Many musicians were called up during the war, and they often found themselves providing entertainment to their fellow servicemen. Military service did not seem to rule out occasional work in the recording studios, and Ronnie Aldrich’s illustrious recording career appears to have commenced on 3 May 1940 as pianist with the RAF Dance Orchestra, later to become famous as ‘The Squadronaires’. One of his colleagues in the band was guitarist Sid Colin, who also provided many of the vocals. A big wartime hit was "If I Only Had Wings", for which Aldrich provided the music to Colin’s lyrics. (Sid Colin later achieved fame as a scriptwriter). Ronnie eventually became leader of the Squadronaires when its famous director Jimmy Miller left in 1950, a post he held until it eventually disbanded in 1964, following their final season at the Palace Ballroom, Douglas, Isle of Man. (Photo above left is of Ronnie with Squadronaires singer Jackie Lee)
Here is "The Sweetest Sounds" from Ronnie's 1964 album "That Aldrich feeling"
He was noteworthy for the recording development of playing two pianos in his recordings (the Decca Phase 4 Stereo series). The success of his Phase 4 LPs resulted in no less than nineteen albums being recorded, under the expert guidance of several producers including Hugh Mendl, Mark White and, latterly, Tony D’Amato. Arthur Bannister was the famous sound engineer who knew how to balance the Aldrich pianos perfectly with the backing, often provided by the London Festival Orchestra.
He recorded for The Decca Record Company Ltd in the 1960s and 1970s, moving to Seaward Ltd (his own company) licensed to EMI in the 1980s. He also regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 2 with his own orchestra as well as with the BBC Radio Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra, based in BBC Glasgow. He also recorded special tracks that were released by Reader's Digest. Recently, all the Decca recordings were released in CD format by Vocalion. Many of his sessions for radio stations have been released by Apple iTunes in m4a format.
In his later years Ronnie Aldrich settled in the Isle of Man, where he and his wife Mary lived in a castle. He found it the perfect location to indulge his big passion, sailing, and one of his neighbours was his former producer Mark White (at one time also head of BBC Radios 1 & 2). The two had first met in 1946 soon after Mark had joined the BBC Variety Department, and he produced some early Squadronaires broadcasts.
His many and varied recordings allow us to remember him as a versatile and talented musician, who never short-changed his audience. Students today can discover the ingredients of his success, through a collection of his dance band, jazz and popular arrangements which is held at Leeds College of Music. (Info edited from David Ades (Robert Farnon Society) and Wikipedia)