Henry Mancini was brought up in Cleveland Ohio, where his father was a steel worker. After the war, he was pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller orchestra. He enjoyed nothing better than the company of ordinary, working musicians.
5th September 1975
I was sorry and irritated when I missed you at Lime Grove last week. I did telephone in the evening, but was rendered speechless by your ansaphone.
How is Maggie? She looked well certainly when I saw her on television. I watched “Crossroads” to see her especially, and began to enjoy the programme – the escapism and the liberating safety of routine existence in one familiar place. The madhouse of London and commercial music is taking its toll on me right now.
Since I saw you I was at the Palace Hotel in Gstadt at a party given by Lew Grade, to launch the film ‘Revenge of the Pink Panther’. We were there as the Henry Mancini orchestra to play the “panther” tune and a couple of numbers for Julie Andrews before dinner, which was a mountain of shellfish, char-broiled veal and baked Alaska, all washed down with pink champagne (maybe commercial music isn’t all that bad). The whole weekend was pink from the aeroplane at Gatwick, to the water in the swimming pool, and the carnations in the buttonholes of our pink DJs, but the air turned blue in the hotel lobby when we arrived, when it emerged that the band had been excluded from the party and accommodated in the little demi-pension in the town. Hank Mancini, without even asking us, had said at once and finally, that we wouldn’t be playing a note unless the band was installed in the hotel and invited to the party.
Lew Grade’s draped overcoat and monster cigar seemed to be strangely irrelevant and incongruous during his transmogrification from media mogul to mere mortal, and the progress of his facial expressions was a picture as he faced the prospect of hosting his million-dollar weekend party, without any music!!! So he relented, and it was all resolved perfectly for us, and for Sid Sax who was gripped by the terror of upsetting his multi million pound clients, and the staff and the bell boys ran around placating everybody, and carrying our instruments and luggage, while we moved in to our pink hotel rooms.
Julie Andrews sang a couple of numbers with the strings of the Suisse Romande and a couple of romantic little solos from yours truly. Derek Watkins, Kenny Wheeler and the band with Bobby Orr drumming, blew up a storm with Peter Gunn, and Tony Coe played the panther tune before we tucked in to our lobster and veal.
The Burtons arrived some time after dinner when the party was at full throttle and in a huge explosion of flash bulbs, which was all I could see for a minute or two afterwards. I had a notion that it was pink, which was probably imagined. The Guardian reporter said a day later that Mrs. B had been in tears because the photographers wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom, but things calmed down a little later. Stars and celebrities were everywhere and I spoke to Peter Sellers for a while, albeit through alcoholic incoherence and frontier gibberish. Then I went off to find Jim Brown who I had last seen splashing around in the pink swimming pool. Jim and I, when we got to Gatwick next day, went straight to Downe House to rehearse the Tippet horn quartet with Alan Civil for the Prom the following evening. This was to be broadcast from the Round House in Camden Town in a new series of “alternative” proms devised by the BBC.
Despite our hangovers and limited rehearsal time the performance was surprisingly good. Alan Civil is a brilliant player, so different from Barry, and more relaxed about it all. Do you remember 1969 at Aldeburgh? I missed you that day too. We (The Tuckwell Quartet) played the Tippet piece in a live broadcast from the little church in Snape, the fire having almost destroyed the Maltings.
It’s a pity the round house hadn’t burned to the ground. It’s an atrocious venue for concerts – most uncomfortable backstage and the acoustics are better at Paddington Station.
We will catch up with each other one day. I wonder if you ever see Maggie with her working at Granada all the time so if you’re on your own in the flat try the phone, you never know!