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Jazz Remembered


Sid Phillips


Mike Rose from the National Jazz Archive in Loughton, Essex writes: ' I’m convinced that listening to the Sid Phillips band as a toddler contributed to my enthusiasm for jazz. ‘Hors D'oeuvres’ will definite feature in my 8 discs (if I am invited as a guest on Desert Island Discs). It would also be useful should I get peckish'.  

Click here to listen to Sid and his band playing Hors D'oevres and Is It True What They Say About Dixie?

Mike Rose has another contact with Sid and his younger brother, Woolf.  When some years ago Mike began his involvement with the Sid Phillips Hors D'oevresNational Jazz Archive, he met NJA Patron, John Altman. John enjoys an international reputation as a saxophone player, composer, arranger and orchestrator.  In conversation, he discovered that John was the nephew of Sid and Woolf Phillips. 

In an interview with John in 2015, John said: “My mother loved music, and her four brothers were all band leaders. One of her brothers was Sid Phillips, who wrote all the arrangements for The Ambrose Band and later became the top jazz clarinettist in England. Her younger brother was Woolf Phillips, who when I was born was the conductor at the London Palladium. He was also the musical director for Sinatra, Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, The Marx Brothers, Nat King Cole, Hoagy Carmichael, and you name it really”.

Clarinettist Sid Phillips was born Isador Simon Phillips into a Jewish family in London in 1907. As a child he started out on violin and piano, changing to reeds in his teens. Apparently he and his elder brothers Harry (trumpet), Ralph (banjo) and Woolf, all self-taught musicians, used to practise their instruments at the end of their garden because their mother chased them out of the house when they made 'all that noise.' One of the brothers had a European band for which Sid played.  

Starting out in a band they called 'The Riviera Five' augmented in 1923 by Sid Kreeger (piano) and Joe Badis (drums), we read that Sid first toured on the continent and by 1927, now renamed 'The Melodians' they were favourites in most fashionable European cities.

Click here to listen to The Melodians playing It's Great To Be In Love in 1931.

Getting work as a publisher and director for the Edison-Bell Gramophone Company, Sid began writing arrangements for Bert Ambrose in 1930. He joined Ambrose’s band three years later and stayed with the band until 1937. We can listen to a programme from The Golden Age of British Dance Bands compiled and introduced by Alan Dell in 1972 in which he presents just under 45 Sid Phillipsminutes of Ambrose at the Mayfair Hotel. In the programme ther are interviews with Sid Phillips as well as information about Sid working with the band (click here).

When World War II came, Sid served in the Royal Air Force and played in the United States on radio and freelance in clubs. After the War, in 1946, he put together his own quartet, but it was in 1949 that he started to lead the Dixieland band that would feature at various times musicians that would go on to be ‘famous names’ such as such George Shearing, Tommy Whittle and Kenny Ball.

We don't have much in the way of film footage of Sid, but here he is playing I Found A New Baby (click here). His HMV single I Found A New Baby was released in November 1954 - and this video imagining them in front of a train is from a television appearance in May 1955. Kenny Ball is the featured trumpet player. Sid Phillips at the Aberdeen Ballroom


Some while ago. Sandy Pringle sent us this picture of Sid Phillips playing at Aberdeen's Beach Ballroom in the 1950s. At the time we discussed the video saying: 'Kenny Ball is the trumpet player on the video but who are the others?' Dave Keir, Norman Simpson and Su Oliver (whose aunt Kay McKinley sang with the band) confirmed that the trombonist was Norman Cave and the two sax players were Cyril Glover (alto sax) and George Bayton (tenor).

Sid Phillips band at the Aberdeen Ballroom
Photograph © Sandy Pringle


Gerry Salisbury agreed: 'The trombone player in the video clip with Kenny is Norman Cave. He played with Freddy Randall and there was an argument with the result that every member of the band left en masse and Norman formed a band with myself playing Freddy's part. I did two weeks at the Theatre Royal, Dublin with that band. The other picture at the Beach Ballroom has another old mate of mine on trumpet, Alan Whickham.

Click here to listen to Sid Phillips and his Band playing The Darktown Strutters Ball.

Sid Phillips's recordings were prolific and popular. His first recordings under his own name were made in 1928, and he continued to record as a leader into the 1970s.

In 2013 in Sydney, Australia, Mark Walton (clarinet) and David Miller (piano) paid this tribute with Sid's 1949 composition Clarinet Cadenza (click here).

Sid Phillips died in Chertsey in 1973.

Click here for our index of other 'Jazz Remembered' features

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