This week’s ‘London Shoes’ publication comes in 2 parts.
The first part begins on the ‘Becontree Estate’ in Dagenham, and the second part ends in an old converted granary barn in the rural wilds of Cambridgeshire.
The theme of this blog focusses on a specific aspect of the subject matters life – and this person was a sort of ‘local hero/celeb’ when I was growing-up in Ilford, as he grew up in Dagenham, just a few minutes down the road from where I lived & where I went to school.
This man’s amazing and often sad ‘early life’ journey, would eventually see him end up in Hollywood.
The second part of this blog is totally dedicated to this persons ‘art’ and the amazing, yet little publicised legacy, that he left us with.
So – the topic of this week’s publication is all about Dagenham’s very own “Dudley Moore” and his contribution and influence to “Jazz” music.
Dudley Moore was born on 19th April 1935 at Charing Cross Hospital-London. His parents were John Moore a Scottish railway electrician, and his mum Ada was a secretary. Dudley had an older sister named Barbara.
The family had originally lived in council house in Monmouth Road-Dagenham, but when the house suffered bomb damage in 1940, they moved to another council property at 146 Baron Road-Dagenham.
Baron Road was (and still is) part of the historic ‘Becontree Estate’, which-when it was built between the years 1921 to 1935 – was the largest council estate in the entire world, and very much a working class estate.
Unfortunately Dudley was born with the physical deformity commonly known as ‘club foot’ – but for Dudley Moore the condition was worse, as he had the deformity in both of his feet.
Following periods of extensive hospitalisation and surgery during his very early years, his right leg/foot responded well to the treatment it received, and it managed to get straightened by the time he was 6 years old – however, nothing could be done for his left foot or leg, which sadly remained permanently deformed, which meant that he walk with a noticeably bad limp.
This disability and the fact that he was very small in size (he only reached 5’2” as an adult), meant that from an very early age he was subjected to bullying and ridicule from all the other kids throughout his formative – which had the life-long effect of making him extremely self-conscious, a behavior that led him to develop an inferiority complex, which he learnt to cover-up with humour.
He attended ‘Fanshaw Infants School’ in Dagenham, where it was noted that he showed a great interest and understanding of music.
By the age of 6 Dudley Moore had become a choirboy at his local St. Thomas Church.
He then moved on to Dagenham’s ‘Green Lane Junior School’ – where again, his ability to understand music led his teachers to believe that they may have some sort of child prodigy on their hands.
By the age of 11 Dudley was playing the church pipe-organ at St. Thomas’s Church.
Whilst all the other kids around Dagenham were out playing football and other sporting activities or out dancing and stuff like that, because of his deformity, poor old Dudley was unable to join in and be a part of that scene.
However – to compensate for that he developed a passion for music, particularly classical and choral music – and at that time he also developed a keen interest in the piano.
As a young lad Dudley Moore attended the ‘Kingsley Hall Youth Club’ in Dagenham, where the warden who ran the club at that time – a Mr. Sydney Russell – saw that Dudley Moore had a unique and exceptional talent as a pianist, especially for someone his age – and to encourage him further Mr. Russell used to allow Dudley to practice on the Youth Club piano any time that he wanted to. Sydney Russell also helped pay for private piano tuition for him – and not only that, Mr. Russell paid for someone to make a special ‘boot’ for his ‘club foot’ so that Dudley could play the piano more comfortably.
Dudley Moore passed his 11 Plus Exam with flying colours, gaining him a place at the then very reputable ‘Dagenham County High’ Grammar School in Parsloes Avenue-Dagenham.
At the age of 11 whilst attending Dagenham County High, because of his noticeable musical talents, Dudley Moore earned a scholarship to the prestigious ‘Guildhall School of Music’ in central London – where he took up harpsicord, violin, music theory & composition, organ and piano.
His exceptional musical talent won him a scholarship to the historically famous and prestigious Magdalen College-Oxford, where he specifically studied facets of the organ at an extremely high level.
Apparently Dudley Moore hated his time at Oxford, as he felt inferior to everyone else there and had nothing in common with all the other academics studying there – and so he immersed himself in his music, often being called upon to compose and perform musical scores for various student reviews, productions and other University activities.
Another thing that happened to young Dud whilst studying at Oxford is that he developed a deep passion for ‘jazz’ music – becoming heavily influenced by the likes of top artists of the day such as the famous Oscar Peterson, and as a result Dudley Moore immersed himself completely into becoming a competent jazz pianist.
Word soon got round in jazz circles about Dudley’s reputation as an up and coming jazz pianist, to the extent that he was taken on by the then leading jazz artists Johnny Dankworth & his wife, the singer Cleo Lane and he played a number of gigs for them.
Aside from his love of jazz music, whilst Moore was at Oxford, he developed a friendship with the now famous writer Alan Bennett, and along with Bennett’s mates Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook, they put together and performed a satirical comedy review which they called “Beyond the Fringe”.
Their “Beyond The Fringe” satirical act very soon became big news, gaining great acclaim in showbiz circles – so much so that by 1960 the offer was made to move their ‘show’ from the ‘burbs’ and onto a London west-end stage.
“Beyond the Fringe” opened at London’s Fortune Theatre, and immediately became a box-office sensation, and the show included numerous musical sketches and interludes that were written and performed by Dudley.
The show was so popular and in demand, that by 1962 it was transferred to New York, where it went down a storm, and continued to do so right through until it finished its run there in 1964.
It has often been said that had it not been for the satirical ‘Beyond the Fringe’, then there would be no TV shows like ‘Have I got News for You’ today.
Upon Bennett, Cook, Moore & Millar’s return to the UK in 64, the BBC offered Dudley Moore his own TV series, which he took up, and invited his mate Peter Cook to be a part of it with him.
Their TV series was entitled “Not Only, But Also”, which once again, became a roaring success.
Some of its most popular sketches were those where Peter Cook & Dudley Moore were sat in a pub, all dressed up in their working class attire of ‘pack-a-macs’ and flat caps, whilst discussing some obscure surreal aspect of life – with Dudley Moore often struggling to suppress his laughter, whilst delivering his lines in his best Dagenham accent.
Despite all this stage success, jazz was always Dudley Moore’s first love.
In 1961 his stage partner Peter Cook purchased an old run-down London strip club in Greek Street-Soho, and reopened it as the “Establishment” club – where up and coming satirists and ‘alternative’ comedians and performers such as Lenny Bruce would perform their acts. The ‘Establishment’ club was the ‘go to’ place for these sort of artists, as other places wouldn’t book them because their material was deemed to be too obscene.
It is in the basement of the ‘Establishment’ club that the “Dudley Moore Trio” was formed.
The ‘Trio’ consisted of Moore on piano, and the now legendary Chris Karan on drums and Pete McGurk on double bass.
The ‘Dudley Moore Trio’ would perform their form of jazz most nights at the ‘Establishment’ and very soon they became a big draw for the club, and were in demand at all the reputable jazz clubs in London and beyond.
The Dudley Moore Trio were extremely popular throughout the 60’s, releasing a total of 8 albums and 12 singles/EP’s on the Decca label.
They also appeared regularly as the musical interlude on prime-time family entertainment TV shows, and their popularity wasn’t just confined to the UK – they were also massive ‘down-under’ in Australia.
During these times Dudley also appeared in a few UK produced comedy films, the most notable probably being ‘The Wrong Box’ (1966) – ‘Bedazzled’(1967) – ‘Monte Carlo or Bust’(1968) – Dudley Moore also wrote the music scores for all these films.
So – for the second part of this particular blog, my ‘London Shoes’ actually found themselves leaving the ‘smoke’ for the very first time and they ended up in a converted barn somewhere in the wilds of rural Cambridgeshire.
The reason for being there was for the purpose of once again catching-up with my drum tutor ‘Gentleman’ George Double, from way back in the day when I was the Manager of Barclays Bank-Mare Street Hackney E8, and George was a customer.
George thumps tubs (eg plays drums) for the excellent “Chris Ingham Quartet” – and they were performing their brilliant set “The Jazz of Dudley Moore” at the Stapleford Granary near Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire.
The content of the band’s “The Jazz of Dudley Moore” set comprises of some of the most popular numbers recorded by ‘Dudley Moore Trio‘, plus a few of his film scores and also some covers of other artists songs that the ‘Trio’ would regularly bang-out in their performances.
The ‘Chris Ingham Quartet’ have performed their “The Jazz of Dudley Moore” set all over the country to great acclaim, not just from punters who have been lucky enough to get tickets for their shows, but also from the media and notable music magazines.
For those that are into jazz, and those that may have a soft spot for ‘Cuddly Dudley’ and his music, then this really is an excellent showcase of his best works – which is enhanced by pianist Chris Ingham’s commentary throughout, that provides the audience with a background to Dudley’s life and the stories that lie behind the numbers being played.
The audience at the Stapleford Granary totally lapped up the bands performance, and demanded an encore.
For me – it was yet another enjoyable experience of being ‘with the band’ and viewing the evening’s entertainment from the performer’s perspective – of which I’m very grateful to the Chris Ingham Quartet.
As for Dudley Moore – well, in 1975 he went off to California and became a global film star (and surprisingly, a sex symbol) appearing as the lead character in films such as “10” & “Arthur” & “Six Weeks”.
No matter how big a star he was, Dudley Moore never forgot his roots, and every year he would pencil out the month of August from his busy schedule – to return back home (totally unannounced) to Dagenham, where he would always drop in to the ‘Kingsley Hall’ where he used to attend youth club – and have a cuppa with all the locals, and tinkle the ivories and have a good old fashioned sing-song with them.
Sadly the film work started to dry up, when his behavior led the film industry to believe that he was permanently ‘off his head’ on drink & drugs, but the stark reality was that he had developed an incurable degenerative brain disease, which saw him gradually lose the use of movement, speech and thought processes.
Dudley Moore could cope with being terminally ill, but the thing he couldn’t cope with was not being able to play his piano – that broke his heart and his will.
On the 27th of March 2002, Dudley Moore died in Plainfield, New Jersey aged 66, and was buried there at the Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains.
His good friend and his carer for his final few years was ‘Rena Fruchter’.
Rena was holding his hand when he died; and she says that his final words were “I can hear the music all around me”