February 2018 magazine

Page 6


Over many Decades Alan Singleton-Wood Professional Pianist has had a most varied career and has met and worked with many of our favourite stars in the world of entertainment.

My Memoirs By Alan Singleton-Wood

When I was 2 years old, my father was a professional musician with the Bernard Ash Stage Orchestra. He, my mother and I toured Scotland with the orchestra in a furniture van. We slept on a big couch in the van. We stayed at the theatrical digs and on one occasion we waited while my father went back to the digs, collected his saxophone and climbed down the drainpipe to avoid paying the rent. We were broke and Bernard Ash was a notoriously bad payer/ I joined the RAF in 1951 and after the initial 6 weeks training at Padgate in Manchester moved to Andover in Hampshire. I volunteered for Aircrew and was accepted as a Cadet Navigator. I move to the Advanced Flying Unit at Driffield in East Yorkshire. In a short space of time my musical talents were recognized and I was in great demand. I found I had little interest in a flying career and left Aircrew training. I was transferred to RAF Longparish in Hampshire as a member of the station orchestra. There, I met an airman, Fred Purches, a full-blooded gypsy. His family lived in a caravan in a gypsy encampment in Portsmouth. He had an incredible voice and he and I performed as a double act, singing together accompanied by myself on piano. The Savoy Theatre, Andover ran a half hour show starring the two of us in addition to the scheduled movie program. At that time, a number of British pianists had become famous playing “pop music”, including Russ Conway, Winifred Atwell and Charlie Kunz. Indeed, while on leave in my early days in the RAF I was one of three acts at the Royal Gwent Hospital Fete in Newport: Shirley Bassey, Burl Ives (a well known US singer and Film Star) and myself. I sang and played several pieces. Mai Jones, the BBC producer (also famous as the composer of “We’ll keep a Welcome in the Hillside” perhaps the best-known Welsh song), hired me for my first radio broadcast (there was no TV in those days!”).

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