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Popular bandleader began in jazzCopyright © 2002The Scotsman
Stanley Blacks long career in music as a pianist, composer, bandleader and conductor spanned a wide range of musical genres. He began in jazz, and recorded with the visiting American saxophonists Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins in London in the Thirties, then moved onto dance music, light music, and classical music.
His signature tune for many years was That Old Black Magic, but his own music became familiar to millions through two celebrated pieces of theme music he composed, for the Pathe News bulletins shown in the nations cinemas in 1960, and for The Goon Show on BBC Radio. He starred in his own television show in the Sixties, and amassed a large discography of popular and classical recordings.
He began taking piano lessons at the age of seven, and later attended the Mathay School of Music. He was only 12 when the BBC Symphony Orchestra performed some of his music on air, and was already working professionally by the time he won a jazz arranging contest run by the Melody Maker as an 18 year old.
He had a remarkable gift both for preparing attractive band arrangements and for transcribing existing arrangements from recordings entirely by ear. The latter facility earned him the title "the man with the photographic mind" from his fellow musicians.
He played piano accompaniments for silent films, then worked with a succession of British dance and jazz bands in the Thirties, including those led by Maurice Burman, Howard Jacobs, Joe Orlando, Lew Stone, Maurice Winnick, Teddy Joyce, Harry Roy and Ambrose.
He served briefly in the RAF in 1940, before being discharged on health grounds. He became the conductor of the BBC Dance Orchestra in 1944, a position he held until 1953. The Orchestras remit further broadened his range of musical styles, and he began making records under his own name for the Decca company from 1944.
He wrote a great deal of incidental music for radio and the cinema (and later television), and in 1958 was appointed music director for the Associated British Pictures Corporation at Elstree Studios, a position he held until 1963. His many film scores included It Always Rains On Sunday (1948), Laughter In Paradise (1951), The Naked Truth (1957), Too Many Crooks (1958), The Long and The Short and The Tall (1961) and Cliff Richards films The Young Ones (1961) and Summer Holiday (1962).
His radio and television appearances included Hi Gang, Much Binding in the Marsh, Black Magic and The World of Stanley Black. They helped create a big audience for his recordings, which covered a varied repertoire of dance music, light music and classics.
Film themes and popular Latin hits (he had toured South America with Harry Roy in 1937, and remained a devotee of Latin music) figured large in his growing discography, but he also recorded classical repertoire, and won a Gramophone Award for his version of Rimsky-Korsakovs Capriccio Espagnol in 1965.
Although he was gradually losing his hearing, he continued to conduct broadcasts and concerts well into the Nineties, and was featured as a guest conductor with most of Britains major orchestras. He was engaged as principal conductor of the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra in 1968-9.
He was greatly admired for his professional approach to his work in the course of a long and highly successful career, and received a number of prestigious awards, culminating in an OBE in 1985.
He was awarded a Life Fellowship of the International Institute of Arts and Letters, and was Life President of the Celebrities Guild of Great Britain.