Black has made a major contribution to our musical life. It
seems as though he has always been around, not only with his
distinctive piano style (especially in Latin American music),
but also conducting large orchestras playing impressive film
music and popular melodies that appealed to millions around
in British musical life made such a broad contribution to
almost all genres as Stanley Black. A pioneer of jazz, who
recorded in the 1930s with such American luminaries as Coleman
Hawkins and Benny Carter, he also won awards for his classical
He was still
aged only 12 when his compositions were first broadcast by
the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and he went on to write numerous
radio, television and cinema scores, including the theme-tune
for The Goon Show and his Ivor Novello Award-winning
backing for Cliff Richard in the 1962 film Summer Holiday.
In addition, he arranged and conducted dozens of commercially
successful albums from the dawn of the LP era until well into
the 1990s, when his new CDs competed with reissues of his
back catalogue into the new medium.
Black was born in London on 14 June 1913, and began piano
lessons at the age of seven, studying with Rae Robinson and
going on to the Mathay School of Music. He followed his early
success with the BBC Symphony Orchestra by winning a Melody
Maker arranging competition at the age of 18, but by then
he was already an established professional, playing at the
Empress Kinema in Islington, and working with Maurice Burmans
dance band in Margate on the Kent coast.
In the early
1930s, the list of his employers reads like a Whos
Who of British jazz and dance music, and by the time he
joined Harry Roy in 1936 he had also worked with Howard Jacobs,
Joe Orlando, Lew Stone, Maurice Winnick and Teddy Joyce.
he had broadcast and recorded with some of the more distinguished
American visitors to Britain, including Hawkins, who had first
heard Black on late night radio shows with Stones band.
When the two eventually met in London, the reviewer Edgar
Jackson suggested they record together, and the highlight
of their work is a duet version of Honeysuckle Rose,
in which Blacks subtle evocation of Teddy Wilsons
style admirably matches Hawkinss blustery lyricism.
involved with jazz during his four years with Harry Roy (including
a trip to South America in 1938). The pianists Ivor Moreton
and Dave Kaye had been a popular feature with the Roy band,
and when they left in 1936 to pursue their own careers in
variety Roy was anxious to replace them with equally good
musicians. He chose Stanley Black and Norman Yarlett who became
known as Black and White, but Stanleys aspirations
were elsewhere. Around the same time he took his first tentative
steps as a film composer (he contributed to the film "Rhythm
Racketeers") and he then briefly worked with Ambrose, before
the Second World War intervened. He joined the RAF, and became
involved in managing the entertainment of servicemen in and
around Wolverhampton. In 1944 he was appointed conductor of
the BBC Dance Orchestra, and remained in the job for almost
nine years, broadcasting as many as six nights a week, taking
on an ever-broader stylistic range of music.
time he had also begun recording under his own name for Decca.
Now well involved with the film industry, he went on to compose,
arrange and direct music for about 200 more movies, notably
after being appointed music director at Elstree Studios in
1958, by which time his successes already included It Always
Rains on Sunday (1948), Laughter in Paradise (1951),
and The Naked Truth (1957). Others were to follow,
such as Too Many Crooks (1958), The Long and the
Short and the Tall (1961), and the Cliff Richard Musicals
The Young Ones (1961) and Summer Holiday
(1962). His work also became anonymously familiar to millions
of filmgoers, as a consequence of his theme tune for Pathé
News, written in 1960.
Blacks radio work kept him in contact with a large listening
audience through his incidental music for shows such as Much
Binding in the Marsh, Hi Gang, Rays a Laugh and
The Goon Show, but he went on to front his own programmes
on radio and television, including Black Magic and
The Marvellous World of Stanley Black. This undoubtedly
contributed to the success of his commercial recordings and
concerts with his own orchestra.
his frequent radio appearances and regular new recordings,
he had become a household name in Britain. In the early 1950s
he regularly topped the Melody Maker lists of the most-heard
musicians on radio. Hewas among the select few chosen for
Deccas first release of long-playing records in the
UK in June 1950, and the arrival of the LP allowed him to
develop his conducting, arranging and performing talents to
the full, resulting in a steady stream of albums which made
him one of the most prolific recording artists in the world.
He was especially popular in the USA, as evidenced by his
inclusion in the "Billboard" best-sellers lists.
among the albums of film themes and popular Latin hits were
concerts of the light classics, including collections of Tchaikovsky
and Gershwin, and in 1965 he won a Gramophone Award for his
version of Rimsky-Korsakovs Capriccio Espagnol.
He went on to conduct most of Britains major orchestras,
and until the 1990s he was still directing regular broadcast
sessions at the BBCs Maida Vale studios, where, despite
the gradual onset of deafness, he retained the effortless
control of his musicians, who always held him in high regard
for his consummate professionalism.
was present at the CODA Club Celebrity Dinner on 7 April 1997,
when Robert Farnon was presented with their annual award in
memory of Alan Dell. A colour photograph of Stanley with Robert
Farnon appeared on the front cover of our June 2001 magazine
issue No. 147.
numerous awards, including the OBE. He was a Life Fellow of
the Institute of Arts and Letters, and Life President of the
Celebrities Guild of Great Britain. He died in London on 27
November 2002, aged 89.
several of Stanley Blacks Decca LPs have been reissued
on CD by Vocalion, and the following are currently available:
CDLK4101 Cuban Moonlight / Tropical Moonlight
CDLK4107 Symphonic Suites of Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern
CDLK4127 Red Velvet / Music for Romance
CDLK4142 Gershwin Goes Latin / Friml / Romberg
CDLK4159 Big Instrumental Hits / Hollywood Love Themes