Alan George Heywood Melly (17 August 1926 – 5 July 2007) was an English jazz and blues singer, critic, writer and lecturer. From 1965 to 1973 he was a film and television critic for The Observer and lectured on art history, with an emphasis on surrealism.
George Melly circa 1978
|Birth name||Alan George Heywood Melly|
|Born||17 August 1926|
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
|Died||5 July 2007 (aged 80)|
|Occupation(s)||Lecturer, critic, writer|
He was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, and was educated at Stowe School, where he discovered his interest in modern art, jazz and blues, and started coming to terms with his sexuality. He was the cousin of Emma Holt (1862–1944) who lived in Sudley House, Liverpool.
Melly once stated that he may have been drawn to surrealism by a particular experience he had during his teenage years. A frequent visitor to Liverpool's Sefton Park near his home, he often entered its tropical Palm House and there chatted to wounded soldiers from a nearby military hospital. It was the incongruity of this sight, men smoking among the exotic plants, dressed in their hospital uniforms and usually missing a limb, that he felt he later recognised in the work of the Surrealists.
He joined the Royal Navy at the end of the Second World War because, as he quipped to the recruiting officer, the uniforms were "so much nicer". As he related in his autobiography Rum, Bum and Concertina, he was crestfallen to discover that he would not be sent to a ship and was thus denied the "bell-bottom" uniform he desired. Instead he received desk duty and wore the other Navy uniform, described as "the dreaded fore-and-aft". Later, however, he did see ship duty. He never saw combat, but was almost court-martialled for distributing anarchist literature.
After the war, Melly found work in a London Surrealist gallery, working with E. L. T. Mesens and eventually drifted into the world of jazz, finding work with Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. This was a time (1948 onwards) when New Orleans and "New Orleans Revival" style jazz were very popular in Britain. 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 Alex Welsh, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Mick Mulligan and Melly.
He retired from jazz in the early 1960s when he became a film critic for The Observer and a writer on the Daily Mail's satirical newspaper strip Flook, illustrated by Trog. He was also scriptwriter on the 1967 satirical film Smashing Time. This period of his life is described in Owning Up.
He returned to jazz in the early 1970s with John Chilton's Feetwarmers, a partnership that ended in 2003. He later sang with Digby Fairweather's band. He released six albums in the 1970s including Nuts in 1972 and Son of Nuts the next year. He wrote a light column, Mellymobile, in Punch magazine describing their tours.
He was an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. George Melly was President of the BHA 1972-4, and was also an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association. He was also a member of the Max Miller Appreciation Society and on 1 May 2005 joined Roy Hudd, Norman Wisdom and others in unveiling a statue of Miller in Brighton.
His singing style, particularly for the blues, was strongly influenced by his idol, Bessie Smith. While many British musicians of the time treated jazz and blues with almost religious solemnity, Melly rejoiced in their more bawdy side, and this was reflected in his choice of songs and exuberant stage performances. He recorded a track called "Old Codger" with The Stranglers in 1978, which was especially written for him by the band.
Melly, who was bisexual, moved from strictly homosexual relationships in his teens and twenties to largely heterosexual relationships from his thirties onwards. He married twice and had a child from each marriage, though his first child Pandora was not known to be his until she was much older. He married his second wife, Diana Moynihan (née Dawson), in 1963. She brought with her two children (Candy and Patrick) from two previous marriages, though Patrick later died from a heroin overdose in his twenties. Their own son, Tom, was born two days after the wedding. Diana published an autobiography in 2005 of their life and (open) marriage together. The two participated in a televised celebrity couples quiz in the 1970s. Asked separately what made them decide to marry, Diana announced "I was pregnant!" and George, in his turn, merely said, "The less said about that, the better."
George and Diana Melly had a country retreat, the Tower, at Scethrog in the Brecon Beacons, between 1971 and 1999. This was somewhere Melly could escape the jazz world and indulge his love of fishing on the River Usk. However, jazz followed him to Wales and this led to a series of celebrated performances in the area and in the South Wales valleys.
In 1984 the Brecon Jazz Festival was conceived by a group of jazz enthusiasts who gained widespread support from the local community. George Melly was the first musician to be contracted for the opening festival and remained a supporter until his death. He was a factor in the festival's success and served as its President in 1991.
As well as being the President of the Contemporary Arts Society for Wales, Melly was a contemporary art collector. His passion for surrealist art continued throughout his life and he lectured and wrote extensively on the subject.
His passion for fly-fishing never dwindled and in later life he sold several important paintings (by Magritte and Picasso) to enable him to buy a mile of the River Usk. In 2000 he published Hooked!, a book on fly-fishing.
Melly was still active in music, journalism and lecturing on surrealism and other aspects of modern art until his death, despite worsening health problems such as vascular dementia, incipient emphysema and lung cancer. His encouragement and support to gallery owner Michael Budd led to a posthumous exhibition for the modern abstract artist François Lanzi.
In addition to age-related health problems, Melly suffered from environmental hearing loss because of long-term exposure to on-stage sound systems, and his hearing in both ears became increasingly poor. Despite these problems, however, Melly would often joke that he found some parts of his ailing health to be enjoyable. He often equated his dementia to a quite amusing LSD trip, and took a lot of pleasure from his deafness, which he said made many boring conversations more interesting.
On Sunday 10 June 2007, Melly made an appearance, announced as his last ever performance, at the 100 Club in London. This was on the occasion of a fund-raising event to benefit the charity supporting his carers.
He died at his London home of lung cancer and emphysema (which he had for the last two years of his life) aged 80 on 5 July 2007. His Humanist funeral was held at the West London Crematorium, in Kensal Green. The hearse was led by a jazz band, including Kenny Ball on trumpet, playing a New Orleans funeral march. His cardboard coffin was covered with old snapshots and cartoons of Melly by his friends, as well as hand-drawn decorations.
In 2018, writer, musician and filmmaker Chris Wade (known for his music project Dodson and Fogg) made a documentary about Melly entitled The Certainty of Hazard, featuring his wife Diana, son Tom and various friends and associates.
George Melly Trio
George Melly With Alex Welsh and his Dixielanders
George Melly With Mick Mulligan and his Band
George Melly With Mick Mulligan’s Jazz Band
George Melly With Mick Mulligan and his Band
George Melly With Mick Mulligan and his Band
George Melly and the Feetwarmers
George Melly with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers
George Melly with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers and His Orchestra
George Melly with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers
George Melly with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers and Other Friends
George Melly with John Chilton’s Feetwarmers
George Melly with Mick Mulligan’s Jazz Band
Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band With George Melly
Andrée Melly (born 15 September 1928) is an English actress.
Born in Liverpool, Lancashire, she appeared in many British films, including the comedy The Belles of St Trinian's (1954) and the Hammer Horror film The Brides of Dracula (1960). In between, she played Tony Hancock's girlfriend in two series of Hancock's Half Hour (1955–56) radio series. In 1958 she appeared with the Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckord in the Ted Willis play Hot Summer Night, a production which was later adapted for the Armchair Theatre series in 1959. She continued to appear on British television until 1991.In the early years of the long-running BBC radio comedy Just a Minute she was a regular panellist. Along with Sheila Hancock, she was one of the most regular female contestants, appearing in fifty-four episodes between 1967 and 1976. In 1972, she chaired an episode. She was the first panellist to win points for talking for the prescribed 60 seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
She also appeared in several episodes of The Benny Hill Show.Her brother, George Melly, was a jazz singer. She now lives in Ibiza with her husband Oscar Quitak.Brecon Jazz Festival
The Brecon Jazz Festival is a music festival held annually in Brecon, Wales. Normally staged in early August, it has played host to a range of jazz musicians from across the world.
The first festival was organised by Jed Williams, owner of The Four Bars Inn, in 1984. George Melly, who had a house close by, performed.As well as the main festival, a Brecon Fringe Festival organises alternative free music in pubs, hotels, galleries and cafes in the town.Cy Laurie
Cyril "Cy" Laurie (b. London, 20 April 1926; d. 18 April 2002) was an English jazz clarinetist and bandleader.
Laurie was an autodidact on clarinet. He put together his own band in 1947; George Melly debuted in this ensemble in 1948. He played with Mike Daniels in 1949-50 and led the Cy Laurie Four in 1950, with Fred Hunt and Les Jowett.
He ran his own club in London from 1951 and headed a seven-member ensemble; sidemen in this group included Chris Barber, Alan Elsdon, Al Fairweather, Graham Stewart and Colin Smith. Cy Laurie's Club was in a basement (previously Mac's Rehearsal Rooms) in Ham Yard in Great Windmill Street, opposite the Windmill Theatre, which went on to become the famous subculture club The Scene in the 1960s. The 5*Ham Yard Hotel now stands there.
He quit music from 1960 to 1968, but returned to lead another ensemble at the end of the decade. His career saw a resurgence late in the 1970s; he toured in ensembles as a soloist and sometimes led his own groups. He played with Eggy Ley and Max Collie in the 1980s. He continued performing into the 1990s.Derek Nash (musician)
Derek Nash (born 28 July 1961) is a British jazz saxophonist, band leader and recording engineer.
For over forty years, Nash has led Sax Appeal, which won the John Dankworth Award for Ensemble in the 1998 B.T. Jazz Awards, and subsequently the British Jazz Award for best small group in 2000.
He Leads the Derek Nash acoustic Quartet that features David Newton - Piano, Geoff Gascoyne - Bass and Sebastiaan de Krom - Drums.
He also leads the funk/fusion band Protect the Beat and Latin band PICANTE.
He has been a member of the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra since 2004.
He is a member of the Ronnie Scotts Blues Explosion.
After studying electroacoustics at Salford University, Nash became a sound engineer at the BBC in 1982, leaving in 2002 to become a full-time musician and to set up his own Clowns Pocket Recording Studio.Derek Nash's Clowns Pocket Recording Studio has been used by many British musicians to record, mix and master albums including Jamie Cullum, George Melly, Stan Tracey, Tony Remy, Georgie Fame, Dave O'Higgins, Evelina De Lain, Geoff Gascoyne and many others.
Nash has performed with David Sanborn, John Dankworth, Dick Morrissey, Spike Robinson, Humphrey Lyttelton, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Solomon Burke, Annie Lennox, Eddie Floyd, Madeleine Peyroux, Roger Daltrey, Eddi Reader, Tom Jones, Don Grusin, Dave Grusin, John Etheridge, Russell Ferrante, Nelson Rangell, Snake Davis, Bob Dorough, Oscar Castro Neves, Clare Teal, Jamie Cullum, Alan Barnes, Axel Zwingenberger, Dave Green, Charlie Watts, George Melly, Bob Dorough, Shakatak, Lulu, India Arie, Alison Moyet, Clark Tracey, Alec Dankworth, Ben Waters, Digby Fairweather and Jools Holland.The album he recorded with Spike Robinson, Young Lions, Old Tigers (2000), was named Best Jazz CD of the Year., a feat repeated in 2012 with his "Joyriding" album by the Derek Nash Acoustic Quartet. Both albums are released on JAZZIZIT Records and Nash is a co-director of the label.Digby Fairweather
Richard John Charles "Digby" Fairweather (born 25 April 1946) is a British jazz cornetist, author and broadcaster.George Melly (MP)
George Melly (20 August 1830 – 27 February 1894) was an English merchant and shipowner and a Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1868 to 1875.
Melly was the son of Andrew Melly and his wife Ellen Greg, daughter of Samuel Greg of Manchester. He was educated at Rugby School and became a merchant and shipowner. He was a member of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and a director of the Union Marine Insurance Co. He was a J.P. for Liverpool and was major of the 4th Lancashire Artillery Volunteers from 1859 to March 1866. He authored a number of books and pamphlets.Melly stood unsuccessfully for Parliament at a by-election in April 1862 in Preston, and in Stoke-upon-Trent at the 1865 general election. Melly was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Stoke-upon-Trent at a by-election in February 1868 following the resignation of the Conservative MP Alexander Beresford Hope. He was re-elected at the general election in November 1868, and in 1874, and held the seat until his resignation on 5 February 1875 by taking the Chiltern Hundreds.Melly died at the age of 63.
Melly married Sarah E M Bright daughter of Samuel Bright of Liverpool in 1852.He was the great-grandfather of George Melly, the jazz singer and writer, and Andrée Melly, the actress.Ian Christie (musician)
Ian Christie (24 June 1927 – 19 January 2010) was an English jazz clarinetist best known for playing in a number of trad jazz ensembles of the 1950s, including the Christie Brothers' Stompers, featuring Ken Colyer and Dickie Hawdon, with his brother, Keith Christie.Their father was a piano tuner and banjoist who played in a local Blackpool banjo band. Ian took lessons under Charlie Farrell, but joined the Royal Air Force and took up photography as his primary interest. After Keith joined Humphrey Lyttelton's band, Ian soon followed; he completed his photography studies with Lyttelton's financial help. Ian also worked extensively with Mick Mulligan and George Melly in the 1950s and 1960s.
Aside from music, Christie also pursued other interests in the ensuing decades, working as a film critic for The Daily Express for over 25 years and continuing to work as a photographer. He worked in trad jazz ensembles into the 2000s, with the Wyre Levee Stompers, the Merseysippi & Parade Jazz Band, and the Tony Davis Band, among others. In his later years he played with Graham Tayar in his "Crouch End All Stars".Mick Mulligan
Peter Sidney "Mick" Mulligan (24 January 1928, Harrow, Middlesex – 20 December 2006, Chichester, West Sussex) was an English jazz trumpeter and bandleader, best known for his presence on the trad jazz scene.
Mulligan began playing trumpet while a student at Merchant Taylors' School. He entered into the family wine company, but was an alcoholic and eventually was pushed out of the business by his relatives. He then formed his Magnolia Jazz Band in 1948. He met George Melly soon after; they performed together for many years and became close associates. In Melly's memoir Owning Up, published in 1965, he detailed many of the pair's drunken and scandalous outings, which had made them regular tabloid figures in the 1950s.
Mulligan's orchestra included Roy Crimmins, Ian Christie, and Archie Semple; it rivaled Humphrey Lyttelton's in popularity on the British trad jazz circuit. While he booked excellent sidemen, Mulligan was not a top-flight musician and his own playing was often hampered by intoxication; furthermore, their recording legacy is spotty because their releases were irregular and generally for small labels. Mulligan broke up his band in 1953 but reformed it a year and a half later, continuing with the new group in 1962; Melly also sang along with this ensemble. 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 Melly, Diz Disley, Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, Kenny Ball, Ken Colyer, Monty Sunshine, Bob Wallis, Bruce Turner, Alex Welsh and Mulligan.By the early 1960s, rock and roll had whittled the enthusiasm for trad jazz to nearly nothing, and Mulligan ended the Magnolia Jazz Band to manage Melly, who was launching a solo career. He played occasionally into the 1970s, but primarily retired to run a grocery store in Easebourne, near Midhurst, West Sussex. Later in life he became interested in horse racing, and owned the prize-winning horse Forever My Lord.Mixed Doubles (play)
Mixed Doubles: An Entertainment on Marriage (London: Methuen, 1970) is a programme consisting of a series of eight short plays or revue sketches, each with two characters, composed by various English playwrights. It was first performed on 6 February 1969 in the Hampstead Theatre Club with the title, We Who Are About To.... The programme was then presented as Mixed Doubles: An Entertainment on Marriage at the Comedy Theatre, London, on April 9, 1969.
The eight dramatic sketches, each portraying marriage at a different stage of life, are linked together by a series of anti-authoritarian monologues written by George Melly. Taken together, the programme presents an acidly humorous image of marriage from the moment of blessing until the silver wedding anniversary. In the course of the programme, a large number of people appear on stage in various professional capacities. The characters in Mixed Doubles appear to be plagued by everyday trivialities, their pasts, their jobs, and their marital problems.Monty Sunshine
Monty Sunshine (9 April 1928 – 30 November 2010) was an English jazz clarinetist, who is known for his clarinet solo on the track "Petite Fleur", a million seller for the Chris Barber Jazz Band in 1959. During his career, Sunshine 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.Smashing Time
Smashing Time is a 1967 British comedy film starring Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave. It is a satire on the 1960s media-influenced phenomenon of Swinging London.
It was written by George Melly and directed by Desmond Davis. The supporting cast included Ian Carmichael, Michael York, Jeremy Lloyd, Anna Quayle, Irene Handl, Arthur Mullard and Geoffrey Hughes.Stan Greig
Stanley Mackay Greig (12 August 1930 in Joppa – 18 November 2012 in London) was a Scottish pianist, drummer, and bandleader.
Greig's father was a drummer and piano tuner. Greig played with Sandy Brown while still in high school in 1945, then played piano and drums with him from 1948 to 1954. He moved to London and played with Ken Colyer (1954–55), Humphrey Lyttelton (1955–57), and Bruce Turner (1957), then with the Fairweather-Brown All-Stars (led by Brown and Al Fairweather) in 1958-59. He played with Turner again briefly before becoming a member of Acker Bilk's Paramount Jazz Band from 1960 to 1968.
After 1969 Greig made piano his primary instrument, leading his own small groups and playing boogie woogie and blues piano. He played with Dave Shepherd and Johnny Hawksworth as a sideman in the early 1970s, then formed the London Jazz Big Band in 1975. From 1977-80 he played with George Melly, then toured as a bandleader in Europe (1980–82). He worked again with Lyttelton from 1985 to 1995, and worked with Wally Fawkes later in the 1990s.
The Stan Greig Trio played many gigs in and around London, with the Rolling Stones's Charlie Watts sometimes turning out on drums.
He died on 18 November 2012 after suffering from Parkinson's disease.Stoke-upon-Trent (UK Parliament constituency)
Stoke-upon-Trent was a parliamentary borough in Staffordshire, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1832 until 1885, and then one member from 1885 until 1918, when the borough was enlarged, renamed Stoke-on-Trent, and split into three single-member constituencies.Take a Girl Like You (film)
Take a Girl Like You is a 1970 British comedy film directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Hayley Mills, Oliver Reed and Noel Harrison. Based on the 1960 novel Take a Girl Like You by Kingsley Amis, it was adapted by George Melly.A television adaptation was broadcast in 2000.The Coade Hall
The Coade Hall is a brick-built theatre and concert hall at Bryanston School, near Blandford Forum in Dorset, England. It was opened on 27 May 1966 by the Duke of Edinburgh On the opening night, there was a concert with music by Brahms, Britten, and Mozart.
The Coade Hall is named after Thorold Coade, headmaster of Bryanston School from 1932 to 1959.
It is used for professional performances and also by the school for drama, assemblies, and other communal activities.
Performers such as Johnny Dankworth, Cleo Laine, George Melly, and Steamhammer have appeared there.The Colony Room Club
The Colony Room Club was a private members' drinking club at 41 Dean Street, Soho, London. It was founded and presided over by Muriel Belcher from its inception in 1948 until her death in 1979. The artist Francis Bacon was a founder and lifelong member, and the club attracted a mixture of Soho's low-lifes and its alcoholic, artistic elite, including George Melly, Jeffrey Bernard and Lucian Freud. Visiting non-members included many names from aristocratic, political and artistic circles, including Princess Margaret, William Burroughs, David Bowie and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The club attracted the Young British Artists in the 1990s.The Moon and the Sledgehammer
The Moon and the Sledgehammer is a British 1971 cult documentary film directed by Philip Trevelyan and produced by Jimmy Vaughan which documents the eccentric lives of the Page family, consisting of the elderly Mr Page and his adult children Jim, Pete, Nancy and Kath, who live in a wood in Swanbrook, near Chiddingly, Sussex without mains gas, mains electricity or running water. The sons find employment by fixing mechanical things as odd jobs and maintain two traction engines.
The film, which is 65 minutes long, consists of interviews with the Page family, interspersed with footage of them going about their lives in the forest. It was shot using natural light on 16mm colour film. The sound is mono and there is no voice-over narration.
The film was previewed at the 1971 Berlin International Film Festival, and the first reviews were in the West German press. The British press subsequently picked it up resulting in short positive reviews by John Russell Taylor, David Robinson, George Melly, Dilys Powell. After its distribution it was also positively reviewed by Philip Oakes.In 2009 the film was released on DVD for the first time. To coincide with this it had showings at various cinemas. A reunion of the director and crew and a question and answer session was held at the London showing. This forms the basis for a companion DVD, Behind the Moon and the Sledgehammer, directed by Katy MacMillan—a documentary film about a documentary film. This also features film directors Nick Broomfield, Molly Dineen, Andrew Kotting and Ben Rivers and film historian John Russell Taylor discussing the film and its influence.
As part of the re-release, it also had other reviews written of it.Recording under the name Wyrdstone, Clive Murrell uses a sample of audio from the documentary as the intro to his track Pucelancyrcan, an Anglo-Saxon name for Purchase Wood in the Parish of Brightlington East Sussex. The track first appeared on the compilation album Wierdlore: Notes from the folk underground, released by Folk Police Recordings, and subsequently on Potemkin Village Fayre, a Wyrdstone album.Timothy Whidborne
Timothy Charles Plunket Whidborne (born 1927) is a British artist notable for his 1969 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on horse back as Colonel-in-Chief of the Irish Guards, of which Whidborne had once been a member.Whidborne was born at High Wycombe and educated at Stowe School where he was a contemporary of George Melly. He was a pupil of Pietro Annigoni. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1954 and in 1966 The Connoisseur described him as at "the forefront of mural decorators in England".In 1983, Whidborne was one of the artists chosen to prepare alternative designs to the long-running Machin series of British definitive postage stamps. After consideration, the design was not changed and it was subsequently decided to continue with the current design for the lifetime of the Queen.Wally Fawkes
Walter Ernest "Wally" Fawkes (born 21 June 1924) is a British-Canadian jazz clarinetist and a satirical cartoonist. As a cartoonist, he usually worked under the name "Trog" until failing eyesight forced him to retire in 2005 at the age of 81.