is still remembered by many music lovers and record collectors
for his numerous albums and appearances on radio and television
during the era following the second world war.
1950s onwards, Chacksfield was one of Britain's most famous
orchestra leaders, and his fame spread far beyond our shores.
Early in his career he was fortunate to have several big sellers
in the USA, which firmly established his reputation world-wide.
born Francis Charles Chacksfield in Battle, Sussex, on 9 May
1914; he died on 9 June 1995 aged 81 in Kent, having suffered
for several years from Parkinson's Disease. During his long
recording career with Decca alone, it is estimated that his
albums sold more than 20 million copies. In total he made
more than 150 long-playing albums which were released in many
countries, especially in Europe, Japan and Australia as well
as Britain and America.
As a boy,
he started piano lessons at the age of seven, and also learned
the organ, passing the Trinity College examinations. He took
a particular interest in the theory of music, appearing at
Hastings Music Festivals by the time he was 14. A year later
he became deputy church organist at Salehurst Parish Church
near Robertsbridge, Sussex, and formed his first dance band.
His parents were against a musical career, so Frank went to
work in a solicitor's office. Finding the law boring, he decided
that his future would have to be in music, and he formed a
band in 1936 which held a resident engagement at Hilden Manor
Road House at Tonbridge, Kent for three years. In 1939 a summer
season at Jersey was terminated upon the outbreak of World
War 2, and Frank volunteered for the Army.
about to be sent overseas with the Royal Signals when he was
taken ill. While convalescing, he made his first broadcast
from the BBC's Glasgow Studios, singing 'original songs at
posted to the Royal Army Service Corp's Southern Command Entertainment's
Section at Salisbury, Wiltshire, and later became staff arranger
for "Stars In Battledress" at the War Office in London under
George Black, with the rank of corporal. He shared an office
with Sergeant Charlie Chester, who had already established
a pre-war career as a comedian. They were both demobbed on
the same day, leading to a job with the stage version of Chester's
popular radio show "Stand Easy" at Blackpool, with Frank conducting
became involved with various BBC Radio shows as arranger,
composer and conductor, including Jon Pertwee's "Puffney's
Post Office", the "Frankie Howerd Show" and "Up The Pole"
staring Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warris. From 1948 onwards his
name started appearing on 78s backing various singers, and
for a while he also worked as musical director of the Henry
Hall and Geraldo orchestras.
Frank Chacksfield singles in his own right were released in
1951 with several sides for Polygon, Columbia, Parlophone
and Oriole. Some were labelled 'Singing Strings', with others
called 'Frank Chacksfield's Tunesmiths'. In 1953 he formed
a 40-piece orchestra with a large string section. His very
first 78 recorded for Decca in April - Charlie Chaplin's themes
for his film "Limelight" - won him a Gold Disc through its
big success in the USA. In Britain it earned him the New Musical
Express Record of the Year award. His second 78 "Ebb Tide"
became the first-ever British non-vocal disc to reach No.
1 in the American charts, providing a second Gold Disc. American
juke-box operators, in a nation-wide poll, voted Chacksfield
the most promising new orchestra of the year. Following his
great success with his Decca recordings, in August 1954 the
BBC invited Frank Chacksfield to present his orchestra on
television, and these shows continued, on and off, until 1964
when he conducted several half-hour programmes in the "Best
of Both Worlds" series on the newly-launched BBC-2 channel,
which were sold to some other countries. He also became an
almost permanent fixture on BBC Radio in "Limelight", "Melody
Hour" etc. As a child he had suffered from a slight stutter,
but the friendly manner in which he conquered this affliction
somehow added to his charm when he introduced his own programmes.
was also a very good composer with a large number of titles
to his credit, sometimes using pseudonyms such as Martino
Paticano and Roger Senicourt. Among his better-known pieces
are: "Firecracker", "Cuban Boy", "Candid Snap", "Summer Serenade",
"Innishannon Serenade", "Bossa For Bess", "Autumn Island",
"Rosella", "Medway Magic" (commissioned by the BBC), "Hop
Scotch Hop", "Blue Train" and many more.
television commitments frequently found him in Eire during
the 1960s and 1970s. In 1965/66 he co-hosted a series with
French conductor Roger Roger, each playing their own (and
other artists') discs. During 1972 Frank took a 40-piece orchestra
to Japan, performing no less than 15 shows in 12 cities in
16 days - in addition to a television recording and two radio
years he was a popular guest on radio and television in the
USA, and demands for personal appearances came in from all
corners of the globe. Hundreds of concerts were played to
enthusiastic and receptive audiences, which kept him in the
front rank of the 'easy listening' conductors.
was his steady flow of long-playing records which ensured
Chacksfield's continuing popularity and high public profile.
Some of his best remembered include: "Evening in Paris", "Music
of Noel Coward", "Evening in Rome", "Broadway Melody", "Mediterranean
Moonlight", "Lovely Lady", "South Sea Island Magic", "In the
Mystic East", "Film Festival" and collections of Academy Award-winning
later years he became an astute businessman, with various
interests in publishing and companies supplying 'canned' music.
In response to current prevailing economic conditions, and
changes in public tastes, he gradually moved on to smaller
ensembles often playing music more rhythmic in nature, but
always displaying the good taste that had become his trademark.