THE nephew of the late Welsh jazz clarinettist, Harry Parry, has appealed for memories of his uncle from residents of Bangor and North Wales.
Mike Tayler, 72, is writing Harry’s definitive biography, which he hopes to have published by the end of next year, and has asked for anyone who remembers his uncle’s work to share their stories with him.
Harry was born in Bangor in 1912, and was one of six children who lived at No. 60 Caellepa. By age 16, he was playing with the Caernarfon-based Harold Dobbs Marina Band.
He recorded 103 records for Parlophone, made more than 750 TV and radio broadcasts, acted on radio and film, hosted the BBC’s Radio Rhythm Club and Jazz Club in the 1940s, and was voted third-best clarinettist in the world by Melody Maker magazine.
He died in London in 1956 aged 44.
Next week, Mike is making a three-day trip to Bangor and Anglesey, where he has many happy memories from his childhood, with a friend, and said that any contributions from those who remember Harry’s music would be greatly appreciated.
Mike said: “Harry has been largely forgotten in Wales. Melody Maker called him Britain’s ‘King of Swing’. He wasn’t just a musician; he wrote over 1,000 tunes and recorded a lot of his own.
“He was a band leader, from trios right up to 18-piece orchestras, but he’s most famous for his BBC Radio Rhythm Club sextet, which included the blind jazz pianist, George Shearing.
“I still have masters from some of the BBC programmes. He started with the Harold Dobbs Marina Band; we’ve got pictures of that. I’ve got original letters.
“I would be interested in any reminiscences. The Harold Dobbs Marina Band was very popular in Caernarfon and Bangor; they used to play ‘Jimmy’s’ (a former youth club at St James’ Church) and at Ambassador Hall, (now the Blue Sky Café).
“It’s a fascinating story when you get into it. Harry’s brother, Tom, sang at the king and queen’s coronation at Westminster Abbey (in 1953). I’ve still got the medal and the certificate. My mother, Eunice, used to do local concerts with a tenor. It was a very musical family.”
Harry became a member of Bangor Railway Brass band when he was 10, and mastered ‘four of five’ of their instruments within a few years of joining. He then learnt to play the violin, then the saxophone.
He also played before royalty, appeared on The Goon Show, and toured the Middle East and India.
Mike, a retired sales and marketing director, who attended Swansea University and played rugby for London Welsh, can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.