Sid Colin

Sid Colin – Guitarist, 1920~1989

Sid Colin began his entertainment career as a guitarist and singer with the popular British dance band, Ambrose and the Squadronaires. One of his most famous songs is “If I Only Had Wings,” which he wrote for the RAF; it has since become one of the organizations favourite tunes. Just after WW II he began writing comedy for Radio, eventually writing for Films and Television as well. Later Colin wrote several books, including a biography of Ella Fitzgerald. and Al Bowlly.  It was “oom ching, oom ching, all night long”, wrote Sid Colin.

NPG x126584; Sid Colin by John GayGuitarist, Singer and Scriptwriter, working for both Television and the Cinema. He is best remembered for the television comedies The Army Game (1957–59), Up Pompeii (1969–1970) and the film Percy’s Progress (1974). On Up Pompeii! and Carry on Spying (1964), he collaborated with regular Carry On  series writer Talbot Rothwell Sid Colin also other sitcom include Meet the Champ (1960), On the House (1970–71) and Whoops Baghdad (1973)

Where Ignorance is Bliss:-

The series proper began on 26 July with Stewart MacPherson the fast-talking Canadian sports commentator as question-master. Harold Berens was the cockney ignoramus (‘What a geezer!’), Michael Moore the monocled upper-class twit (‘I have a poem, Mr MacPherson!’), and Gladys Hay the fat lady (‘Oh, he’s nice, isn’t he! What’s your first name, ducks?’) who provided the regular routine: ‘Now we’re back to Miss Hay again!’. Sid Millward and his Nitwits ‘provide the tumult when the shouting dies’. Sid Colin was the scriptwriter. Professor (later Doctor) Crock and his Crackpots replaced the Nitwits from lo March 1947, founding a successful stage career, and yet another musical ensemble took over from 7 July 1947: the New Foulharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mynheer Hal Evans. When the series returned on 15 March 1948, ‘musical indiscretions’ were supplied by the Welsh double-act, Albert and Les Ward.

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Sid Colin on Gibson Guitar, Jock Cummings Drums, Ronnie Aldrich Piano, Arthur Maden Bass

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The Squadronaires: From left to right, Jimmy Miller who was the elected leader and vocalist, Tommy Bradbury (tenor Sax), Cliff Townshend, George Chisholm, Andy McDevitt, Tommy McQuater.  Standing at the back are Ronnie Aldrich, possibly Jock Cummings, then Jimmy Durant. Front row again, unknown in front of Ronnie Aldrich, next to him is Sid Colin, Monty Levy, Eric Breeze, Arthur Madden (bass) and little Archie Craig.

Many musicians 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 Aldrich’s 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 Colin’s 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 , Douglas, Isle of Man.

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Tommy McQuater, Archie Craig, Clinton French (trumpets); George Chisholm, Eric Breeze (trombones); Tommy Bradbury, Harry Lewis, Jimmy Durrant, Andy McDevitt, Cliff Townshend (father of Peter Townshend of The Who) (saxes); Ronnie Aldrich (piano); Sid Colin (guitar); Arthur Maden (bass and manager); Jock Cummings (drums); Jimmy Miller (leader, vocals) In 1945, Jimmy Watson (trumpet) replaced Clinton “Froggy” French; Monty Levy (alto) replaced Harry Lewis (husband of Vera Lynn!).

Squadronaires with Sid Colin on Vocals – Dancin at the Palais

Squadronaires with Sid Colin on Vocals – Cow Cow Boogie

Squadronaires with Sid Colin on Vocals – Keep an eye on your heart

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George Chisolm, Jimmy Miller, Sid Colin

George Chisolm – We’d taken to calling ourselves The Squadronaires – unofficially. The Air Council forbade the unqualified use of this commercial sounding name. I can just picture some red-faced, handlebar- moustached Air Vice-Marshal recoiling with a cry of “Ugh! Smacks of trade!” – so, on best behaviour days, we were billed as “The Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra (by permission of the Air Council)”; a snappy little title, you’ll agree. By way of a minor concession, in very, very small letters underneath, it said “The Squadronaires“. But whenever we got out of town, we were “The Squadronaires” in big letters and all the other rubbish at the bottom.  “What did you do in the war Daddy?” ‘l was a Squadronaire!

NPG x126585; Sid Colin by John GaySid Colin later wrote, British dance music sounded “effete and fussily old-fashioned”. Swing heralded other developments, notably the schism between jazz and youth-­oriented pop: on the one hand, young black musicians, exasperated by this colonisation of jazz, evolved a more abstract music dubbed bebop; on the other, the singers who appeared with dance bands reacted against their ‘accessory’ status and began seeking solo careers.

Sid Colin the singing guitarist, later to become an honest broker of jokes, japes and wheezes in the noble profession of comedy scriptwriting.  Such is the alternative life of a Guitarist exposed to the rigours of Gigging. and amusing his colleagues in the band.

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