O.J.'s Trumpet Page Artists and personalities

George Swift

George Swift
George Swift a Sunday morning in 1948.
A jazz session at the White Hart Public House
in Willesden, NW10.

George Swift (1911 - 1985)
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 four children, 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 played 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:
"I 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:
"I 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:
We 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. Fawcett writes:
It is 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.

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.
[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.]

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:

An evening of music with Mantovani & his orchestra. (28/04/61)
Guest artist Stephanie Voss.
- The Sound of Music
- Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island Discs theme)
- Luxembourg Polka
- George Swift on trumpet plays 'Elfrieda'
- Waltz from 'Swan Lake'
- Charmaine
- Stepnie Voss sings 'Summertime' by George Gershwin

While with Mantovani, Swift also did session work, for example with the Scottish Variety Orchestra (leader Jack Leon). This was around 1962 - 1963.

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 he could not keep his playing up to his usual standard, so he retired to Spain.

Some have claimed that Swift played with the Philharmonia Orchestra, but trumpeter David James (with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) doubt this:

I 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.

Happy memories.

David James

A message from the marketing manager of the Philharmonia Orchestra confirmed what David James said:

I 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:
"He 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:
I was 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.

His recordings:
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 Sarasate with 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 ), with 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 1930s.

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.  Conductor Eric Robinson (b. 13 December 1908) joined the BBC at the age of 23 as a violinist, before becoming a member of their original Television Orchestra.

MP3 sound clips:
Sheet music examples (image in JPG format) His instruments:
George Swift's trumpet
George Swift's Olds trumpet. (Photo: Denis Edwards)

Denis Edwards, tells the following in a letter:
I have the trumpet that George played those solos on with Piano acc. in the 30s
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 Flight of the Bumble Bee"] (Copyright 1960 by Hawkes & Son, London LTD)

In Spain:
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 Elfriede 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:
"About 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.)

[Edward Tarr 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 higher!".
Denis Edwards, his long time friend doubt this, saying:
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 years. George was a Light Orchestra and Dance Band and much more versatile player.

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.

o.j. 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 George Swift.

Thanks to:
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 1936/1938.
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 Hylton Orchestra.
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 Marbella, (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).
Norwegian trumpeter, composer and arranger Bjarne Volle was working at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. In a program, he presented two great players from England, [George Eskdale] and George 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.