George Swift a Sunday morning in
A jazz session at the White Hart Public House
in Willesden, NW10.
George Swift (1911
George Swift was born September 26, 1911 in South Shields, a
coastal town in South Tyneside, in the North-East of England on the
south bank of the mouth of the River Tyne. His father's and mother's
names were George and Sarah.
In Dresden before
World War II, he met his German wife, Elfriede
(1913 - 2001). They had
Sonja (b. January 28, 1934), George Jr. (b. May 5, 1935), Turner and Lindy (both
born after World War II).
About this, Turner Swift (the youngest son) says:
My mother Elfriede was born on 27th April,
1913 and they were married on February 10th 1933.
They met in
Dresden in 1931 when he was playing with the Bobby Hines group.
On April 13, 1985, George Swift died at the age of 74 in a
Nursing Home in Bexhill on
the south coast of England. The funeral took
place in Bexhill. At the funeral were his wife Elfriede, his daughter
Sonja, his son George Jr., the Mantovani trumpeter Stan Newsome and
Swift's friend Denis Edwards. George junior played "The Last Post".
His playing career:
His first teacher was his own father. Ten years old, George
in the Bolden Colliery Band, then later in Hebburn Colliery Band and in
the Marsden Colliery Band. At
the age of 15, he joined the famous [St.
Hilda's Colliery Band]. He played with them for 3 years (1926 -
1929). The cornet virtuoso Jack Mackintosh had
been a memeber of
St. Hilda's Colliery Band (from 1913 - 1919).
In a letter to Henry Shannon from March 28, 1976, George Swift writes:
was born in South Shields in the North of England in 1911 and I took up
the Cornet at the age of ten. My father was very interested in Brass
Bands, playing the Cornet himself in the local Brass Band, Bolden
Colliery. At the age of 15, I joined St. Hilda's Band as a boy
Cornetist, playing solos such as Zelda, Cleopatra and Pretty Jane
Variations. I travelled in a bus with hard tires all over England,
Scotland and Wales. The St. Hilda had to turn professional as no other
bands could compete against them. They also went to Canada to play in
the big expositon." (He probably means the Canadian National
Exposition in Toronto)
Around 1930, George joined Bobby Hines band, The London Sonora Band. In the
letter he continues:
then joined an English Dance Band, Bobby Hines London Sonora Band and
went touring in Germany and Switzerland. It was during this time that I
met my wife, Elfriede, naming a solo after her. I then joined a German
dance band, Bernard Ette,
and stayed with him for a couple of years until 1934. At that time,
while working with Bernard Ette in Berlin, I had a phone call from Jack
Hylton in London asking me to join his orchestra, and after an
audition, I was accepted."
Jack Hylton (1892 - 1965) offered to pay his
fare to England to play with the [Jack
Hylton Orchestra]. Exactly
when George Swift started in the orchestra is uncertain. Liz Fawcett at
the Archives of Lancaster
University Library writes:
are uncertain exactly when George Swift started in the band. The
earliest record we seem to have is a programme dated 27th Jan 1935 at the Apollo Theatre, Dusseldorf which I
think is from the same tour as the programme you have [a link to] and seems to be the same programme. The first recording that he is mentioned
in with Jack Hylton and his Orchestra is March 1935
Also the date when he left the Jack Hylton Orchestra is uncertain.
not certain when he left the orchestra. There is a note in the
Brian Rust book British Dance Bands on Record 1911-1945 &
Supplement by Brian Rust and Sandy Forbes stating that Jack Hylton
returned from USA on 10th
July 1936 and that some new members had joined. In this list
there is no mention of George Swift so he may have left for a while
whilst Jack Hylton was in the USA. There is a note for 7th May
1937 that states that George
Swift replaced George Burgess as the trumpet player so it seems he
joined back with the orchestra in May 1937.
[Note from Edward Tarr: In any case, Swift was certainly with Hylton on
31 January 1935, when the band played in the Berlin Philharmonie; a
program – which includes a list of names of the band members – survives
in the Bad Säckingen Trumpet Museum.]
In November 1939 Jack Hylton and his
Orchestra split into 2 bands. This was because of the huge demand and
also because he was finding it hard to keep the band together with many
being called to active service during the Second World War. The
band split in 2 with half under Freddy Bretherton and half under Billy
Ternent. George Swift is listed as going into the band with
Freddy Bretherton after Nov 1939. Jack Hylton was then
diversifying into other forms of entertainment.
During World War II he was with the Band of the Irish
Guards playing for troops in England, North Africa and Italy. After
the war he was freelancing in London in Theatres and with Society Dance
Bands and was much in demand during the late 1940s. He also played for
the BBC Dance Band.
In 1941, he is listed as member of the Sydney Kyte Orchestra.
Sydney Kyte was a violinist leader who achieved a fair amount of fame
in the 1930's while resident at London's Piccadilly Hotel. His band was
always tasteful while a little conservative in its musical style.
During the World War II, Kyte played for the troops around the country.
He first played for the Mantovani
orchestra at the start of World War II, when he was
in the Irish Guards. He apparently used to wear khaki under his evening
dress so that he could make a quick change into uniform if the Military
Police turned up.
He joined Mantovani
on a regular basis when the first trumpeter Stan Newsome, who
was awesome, quit Mantovani ca 1960 to find more settled employment. On
the 1960 LP Mantovani [Concert
Spectacular], recorded in Kingsway Hall,
George played a trumpet duet with Monty Montgomery, and later also made
a fine recording with Mantovani of "What
Kind Of Fool Am I" (recorded on the album [Mantovani Sound] in 1965). Virtually
all of the Mantovani trumpet solos
between 1960 and 1965
were those of George.
He was featured in a 1961 Mantovani TV show,
playing "Elfriede", his own
composition named after his German wife:
evening of music with Mantovani & his orchestra. (28/04/61)
Guest artist Stephanie Voss.
- The Sound of Music
- Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island Discs
- Luxembourg Polka
- George Swift on trumpet plays
- Waltz from 'Swan Lake'
- Stepnie Voss sings 'Summertime' by
While with Mantovani, Swift also did session work, for example with the
Scottish Variety Orchestra (leader Jack Leon). This was around 1962 -
George Swift performed Iain Hamilton's Concerto for Jazz Trumpet with the
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This first performance was at the Royal
Festival Hall in september 1967. A recording survives.
In 1964 he wanted to go to Spain. According to his wife, Elfriede, he
said he had enough and didn't want to play any more; however he
continued to play with Mantovani, commuting from Marbella. Denis
Edwards visited him in 1967 and he was playing for the bullfights.
In 1970 he finished with Mantovani and played a season in the London
Palladium. He played three seasons of ice shows and in 1973 he decided
could not keep his playing up to his usual standard, so he retired to
Some have claimed that Swift played with the Philharmonia Orchestra, but
trumpeter David James (with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) doubt
would seriously doubt if he ever was a member of the Philharmonia, he
might have played with them on a light music session. He was
Montovani's lead trumpet, and did mainly session work.
I knew him quite well as we used to
fly up to Scotland from Heathrow together; he played in the old
Scottish Variety Orchestra with Jack Leon, and I would play with the
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He did play once with the BBC Scottish
before I went up permanently, and he told me he didn't enjoy the
experience. I don't believe the classics were his bag.
George Swift was a gentleman and a
very fine player. All this happened just before he moved to Spain to
open the Laundrette. The first trombone Ken from the Scottish Variety Orchestra, moved out there with them. They used to
play at the bull fights, and I would occasionally get sent messages
back from him.
A message from the marketing manager of the Philharmonia Orchestra
confirmed what David James said:
have checked with our archivist, and he does not think that George
Swift was ever a trumpet player with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
As a teacher:
In a letter to Henry Shannon (April 11, 1976), George Swift
tells that he used to teach many students who flocked to his door from
all over the world. In the letter he tells about one incident of the
boy who came from Iceland:
simply knocked on my front door and requested a lesson on the Trumpet.
I told him that I was just leaving for a session and only had ten
minutes to spare. He then told me how far he had come especially for a
lesson, so I gave him permission to stay at my house for a week and I
gave him lessons every single day."
Denis Edwards, tells the following in a letter:
his pupil from the age of 13 in 1943 until I had to go into the Army.
Strangely, I spent a year at the Military School Of Music where the
teacher was Jack Mackintosh. As I was still having lessons off of
George, he was not very pleased, a little bit conflicting.
As a teacher he was demanding and
pulled no punches he told you the truth and made you work, and you
wanted to because he always demonstrated to you, and when you heard him
play that was incentive enough.
The Books: Mainly the Arbans,
Eby,s plus duets.
Dance band phrasing , Bee Bop duets, Flexibilities, Producing intervals
with a good sound. Long notes of course.
He liked and admired the Jazz player Bunny Berigan, Harry James, Louis
Armstrong etc. He used to play all of their solos.
I looked forward to every lesson and
practised for hours.
George was a natural . His lips top
and bottom where as thin as a razor blade and a perfect embouchure.
The first recording George Swift did, was The Jolly
Twins. It was recorded 19th December 1931 and released
in September 1934 on Regal Zonophone with St. Hilda Professional Band (William
Matthew Oughton and George Swift – cornet). Swift was only 20 years
old at that time!
In 1936 Swift recorded Sonia
(his own composition - his daughter's name was
Sonja) and Zigeunerweisen (Airs Bohémiens) by Pablo
Alec Templeton (piano). The recording was first issued on [Parlophone] F 613. Recording date was 15th
September 1936. It was released in December 1936.
In 1938, Swift recorded his own compositions, Elfriede (named after his wife) and
La Capricciosa (Fantasia capricciosa ),
Alec Templeton (piano). The recording was first issued on [Parlophone]
F 1049, later on
Odeon OF 5364. Alec Templeton was also a member of the [Jack
Hylton Orchestra] in the
In 1952 he also recorded Elfriede
with a studio orchestra conducted by Eric
Robinson on Parlophone R3303 (a 78 record). The piece on the flip
side was called Il Bacio.
Robinson (b. 13 December 1908) joined the BBC at the age of 23 as a
violinist, before becoming a member of their original Television
MP3 sound clips:
- [Sonia] (by Swift, Alec Templeton
- from 1936)
- [La Capricciosa] (by Ferdinand
Templeton piano - from 1936)
- [Elfriede] (by Swift, Alec
- with live audience - from ?)
examples (image in JPG
- [Elfriede] (by Swift, with
band conducted by Eric
Robinson - from
- [Il Bacio] (by Luigi Arditi,
arr. by Emil Kaiser, with band conducted by Eric
Robinson - from
George Swift's Olds trumpet. (Photo: Denis Edwards)
Denis Edwards, tells the following in a
have the trumpet that George played those solos on with Piano acc. in
It is an Olds with handhammered bell, a small
bore compared to to-day instruments.
He played it until the 50s then
played a Conn Conquerer
conical bore, a great instrument.
He played that to the end, it had a
rimless Bell. You don't see many about now.
Mouthpieces: Had one made to his
specification then changed to Zottola
66B playing on it for years.
Compositions and arrangements:
In addition to his own compositions, Elfriede and Sonia, George
Swift also made some arrangements for trumpet. One arrangement can be
found in Harry Mortimer Souvernir
Album (B. & H. 20426). It is ["The
the Bumble Bee"] (Copyright 1960 by Hawkes & Son, London LTD)
George Swift first came to Spain in 1964.
In April 1965, the Swift family left their home in Stanmore, Middlesex.
George and his second son, Turner, driving a twenty foot caravan. The
journey took eleven days. They settled in Marbella, on the[Costa del Sol]. There George and
were running a
launderette, washing, ironing, dry-cleaning and servicing! In Marbella
George would sometimes play at the [Bullfights].
He also played with some dance
orchestras and also some military bands.
In the letter to Shannon (of April 11, 1976), George tells about their
move to Spain:
11 years ago, just after the Beatles got started, my wife and I and our
two younger children decided to emigrate to Spain as the work in good
music diminished further and further in England. We came to Spain with
two cars, a Caravan and the trailer. It took us 11 days and we had a
blow-out every single dray. But
it was great fun and I played the Trumpet whenever we stopped in small
Spanish villages where the people gave us wine, fruit and appreciation.
When we arrived in Marbella, we opened a Laundromat and later a Dry
Cleaning business named "El Stanmora". I'm happy to say we all settled
down well in this country and cannot say enough about the kindness and
helpfulness of the Spanish people. From the very beginning, I joined
the local Military Band and I'm glad to say that I helped to attain
quite a good standard.
In the season, we have
concerts in the parks. One of my sons, George, who was in the Royal
Canadian Airforce Band for 9 years, also lives here in Spain with his
family and as he is also a trumpet player we are in the Spanish Band
together. My son George came to Spain before us and now has four shops
in Fuengirola." ("El
Stanmora" - Stanmore was the part of London where George lived.)
met Swift] in Marbella in August 1981.
When Tarr asked him if he with his style
had been trying to emulate violin soloists, Swift replied:
"No, I wanted to play like
Mackintosh, but one octave
Denis Edwards, his long time friend doubt this,
The comments about Jack Mackintosh and George do not
ring true. He would not liked to have played like Jack. Jack was a
Symphonic Player and he was with B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra for 30
George was a Light Orchestra and Dance Band and much more versatile
My comment about this:
Edward Tarr confirms the quote above: "George
did indeed say this to me."
Perhaps Denis Edward's comment regarding Jack Mackintosh is more about
the (rival?) situation in the 1940s between Swift and Mackintosh?
We should remember the large number of recordings of virtuoso pieces
that Mackintosh made in the early 1930s. And even more the time as
"Cornet King" and player with St. Hilda's Colliery Band (from 1913 -
1919). Swift also started out as a cornetist, and as a young boy he
would of course look to great cornetists like Jack Mackintosh.
2006 - update 2016
Friedel Keim's book
(1st edition, page 315 - 2nd edition, page 459)
ITG's booklet "European Cornet and
Trumpet Soloists" (page 14) - notes
by Edward Tarr.
A transcript of Henry Shannon's "Men
of Brass" in which Shannon reports on some correspondence with
Turner Swift for
information about his father and mother.
Denis Edwards for a lot
of information and for the photo of Swift's Olds trumpet. Edwards was a
friend and student of George Swift.
Colin MacKenzie for the photo
and for info about the
time with Mantovani!
The picture was supplied (to Alan
Dixon, in 2002) by Denis Edwards.
Hank Yang for sound clip of
Sonia, Elfriede (with band), La
Capricciosa, Zigeunerweisen and Il Bacio.
Bill Bridges for a CD copy of
the different Swift recordings.
David James for info about the
time when they used to fly to Scotland
(1962 - 63)
Olaf Brattegaard for photo of
the two old [Parlophone recordings] from
Neville Young for date of
birth of George Swift.
Jeff Purtle for MP3 file of
"Elfriede" (with live audience). Jeff has his own website, purtle.com
Liz Fawcett at the Archives
of Lancaster University Library for information about George Swifts
time with the Jack
Edward Tarr for info about the
Swift family, for copy of the Henry Shannon letters, photos of Jack
Hylton Orchestra (January 1935) and photo of himself and Swift in
(August 1981). Thanks for letting me use the sound file of "Elfriede"
that can be found in the new 2005 edition of "Die Trompete"
(on the CD with historical recordings).
Bjarne Volle for letting me
hear George Swift for the first time (on radio in 1968 or -69).
trumpeter, composer and arranger Bjarne Volle
at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. In a program, he
presented two great players from England, [George Eskdale
Swift. This must have been around 1968 - 1969. It was the first
time I heard George Swifts virtuoso playing!
All links in this page surrounded by [ ... ] are subpages for this
web page. Other links are external.