was one of Britains most popular recording pianists
during the 1960s and 1970s. He ultimately developed his own
distinctive style which made him instantly recognisable to
his countless admirers around the world. His technique could
be deceptively simple: often he would begin by picking out
a melody in single notes, before eventually revealing that
he could make his two hands sound like many more. Added to
this was a carefully chosen supporting orchestra, frequently
providing a lush and sophisticated backdrop through the use
of strings, but on other occasions he allowed the percussion
to come to the fore. He liked to surprise his audience from
time to time, but in his heart he knew what they really enjoyed
and he always ensured that they would not be disappointed.
He was born
on 15 February 1916 at Erith in Kent. Although he possessed
a natural talent, he studied the piano extensively during
his youth, including a period at Londons 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
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 Aldrichs 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 Colins 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.
appointed him as their musical director, and he managed to
combine this with his extensive radio and recording work.
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 DAmato. 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.
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.
died on 30 September 1993 aged 77. 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.