Malcolm Mitchell ~ Guitarist 1926-98
Malcolm was also a jazz guitar teacher, back in 1947. At that time, when he formed the Trio it was Johnny Pearson piano & Lennie Bush bass. Malcolm went to the BBC Maida Vale studios on a Saturday morning as the Trio would broadcast live at around 12.30. Malcolm was originally taught by Ivor Mairants
In 1948 Malcolm Mitchell became the 1st British Musician to play with Duke Ellington and earn money for doing so. In 1933 the Duke of Windsor had insisted on sitting in on drums with the Ellington Band when it visited Britain but he didn’t get paid for it. Mitchell’s debut with Ellington was equally eccentric in its way. Throughout the 40s and into the 50s the Musicians’ Union, then a brutish and, in tandem with the Ministry of Works, all-powerful Fraternity, had a rule which banned American Musicians from playing in England. In 1948 the Dizzy Gillespie and Spike Jones Orchestras had to cancel projected Tours and the only way Ellington was able to work there was as a Variety Act without his Band. He played Piano at the London Palladium and Music Halls in 9 other cities with his Trumpeter Ray Nance, allowed in as a Dancer and thus “Showbiz”, and his Singer Kay Davis (girl singers weren’t banned – the Union presumably didn’t regard them as Musicians). A Trio consisting of Mitchell on Guitar, Jack Fallon, bass, and Tony Crombie, drums, completed the Group and the American Variety reported that the visit was “an outstanding success”.
While the Union Ban was in place the Mitchell Trio, now with Johnnie Valmore Pearson (later MD of Top of the Pops) on Piano and Teddy Broughton on bass, accompanied other bewildered American “Variety Artists” including Hoagy Carmichael and the Singer Maxine Sullivan when they Toured in England.
In 1948 Mitchell was called on to play with Stephane Grappelli & Django Reinhardt for an 8-week Tour of Sweden. All other references to this Tour indicate the group was Malcolm Mitchell, Alan Mindel (gtrs) and Teddy Wadmore (bass). In fact, Mitchell wrote an article confirming that particular combination for Scandinavia.
L-R: Django, Alan Mindel (gtr), Teddy Wadmore (bs), Malcolm Mitchell (gtr) Django and Stephane. There are 2 other photos of Django & Steph taken in the same dressing room and 2 photos of this group playing on stage. They toured the UK & Sweden in 1948. – Roger S Baxter.
The Trio’s 1st Professional Engagement was to open a New Night-club in Nice, only to find the Premises boarded up and the Promoter nowhere to be seen. Virtually penniless, they took to Busking and found a Restaurant where they could play for meals & tips. After a few weeks, they were heard by an Official of the Monte Carlo Casino and played there for the rest of the Winter Season, even doing a Session for Prince Rainier at his Palace. Broadcasting stints on Radio Monte Carlo were followed in March 1949 by an important residency at the Grand National Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, and the group also performed in other European locations, including Paris, before returning to London to take up an engagement at Ciro’s Nightclub.
Early in 1950, they continued to ‘double’ at various West End Clubs while also appearing in the Jack Buchanan revue Castle In The Air at the Adelphi Theatre. In 1952, they were signed by Ambrose for a major Road Tour with trumpet star Eddie Calvert, but 2-yrs later Mitchell disbanded the Trio.
Although dedicated to Jazz, Mitchell moved into more Commercial Music to earn his living, arranging the music for the famous Hovis Television Commercials. He fought against the tide when he formed a Jazz-oriented Big Band in January 1955 for one-night bookings and recordings for Decca. The strain of running the large band adversely affected Mitchell’s health, and he dissolved it in 1956, losing a good deal of money. He re-formed the Trio in 1957, and also continued to appear as a Soloist in Cabaret, and accompany visiting Stars from abroad.
He reformed the Trio in 1957, working often as accompanist to visiting Stars and as a Solo Act in Cabaret. The Trio appeared in Royal Variety Shows and provided the musical content for a long series of Kenneth Horne’s Round the Horne Radio Show.
Mitchell was called on again by Duke Ellington in October 1958 for support on an ATV Broadcast. The Programme, Atlantic Showboat, (Ships Lounge) was produced by a Company owned by the Television presenter Hughie Green, and Jazz enthusiasts were outraged when he insisted on presenting it himself. The Trio reassembled to play at Ellington ’97 Conference in Leeds, and Mitchell took part in Panel discussions where he gave a graphic account of his experiences with Duke Ellington. In the above Clip Mitchell plays a Fender Telecaster which although new to the UK then was hardly considered tobe a Jazz Guitar Instrument.
Johnny Pearson subsequently went on to a distinguished career as a composer, arranger, instrumentalist & conductor.
In 1961, the Trio appeared with the immensely popular vocal duo Nina & Frederik on the Royal Variety Performance. A year later, Mitchell joined with Henry Howard and comedian-scriptwriter Bob Monkhouse to set up Mitchell, Monkhouse Associates in order to Write & Produce Television Commercials. From then on he was responsible for numerous background Scores for projects such as That Kind Of Girl and Yellow Teddy Bears, as well as composing hundreds of jingles, and the music for Mad Movies & Golden Silents. Mitchell, Monkhouse was also a pioneer company in the corporate conference field.
Mitchell himself re-formed the Trio in 1997 for the Ellington ’97 Conference in Leeds, England.
Originally taught by the Guitar Virtuoso Ivor Mairaints, Mitchell had during the mid-1940s played in many respected Bands including those led by Felix Mendelssohn, Don Barrigo, Johnny Franks, George Evans & Dick Katz.
Malcolm Mitchell, Guitarist, Bandleader, Composer and Vocalist: born London 9th November 1926; 3-times married (3 sons, 1-daughter, 1-stepson, 2-stepdaughter); died Bognor Regis, Sussex 9th March 1998