George SHEARING (1919-2011)

George Shearing
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All that Jazz

Covering all the notes with the subjects associated with jazz

THIS IS YOUR LIFE - George Shearing, jazz pianist, was surprised by Michael Aspel while performing at Ronnie Scott’s club in London’s Soho.

George was born blind in Battersea, London, and started to learn the piano at the age of three. Following formal training at Linden Lodge School for the Blind, he joined an all-blind band before making his first BBC radio broadcast in the late 1930s.

He emigrated to the United States in 1947 where he formed his first George Shearing Quintet, and recorded for Discovery, Savoy and MGM. Along with multiple album releases from the 1950s to the 1990s, George also composed over 300 titles, including the jazz standard Lullaby of Birdland.

The cover of his Big Red Book was written in braille lettering.

Screenshots of George Shearing This Is Your Life

The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls the experience of this particular edition of This Is Your Life in his book This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

One of the most unusual pick-ups in the history of the Life was at Ronnie Scott’s world famous Soho jazz club on 17 December 1991. Very unusual: the ‘This Is Your Life’ message on the Big Red Book was in braille.

This was so that blind jazz pianist George Shearing could trace the message when Ronnie Scott invited Michael Aspel on to the club’s stage.

Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Henry Mancini, the King’s Singers, John Dankworth and Stephane Grappelli paid their tributes to this Battersea coalman’s son. Blind from birth, George had played his way from local pub pianist to international stardom.

Later in life, in 1952, inspired by his visits to Harlem listening to the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, he sat down to write the jazz ‘standard’, ‘Lullaby of Birdland’.

It took him just ten minutes.

Stephane Grappelli and John Dankworth led George to a piano to ‘jam’ us out with ‘Birdland’, Stephane on violin, John on sax, George at the piano. As they say in the business, the audience ‘broke the furniture’.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 828
  • Subject No: 818
  • Broadcast date: Wed 12 Feb 1992
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Tue 17 Dec 1991
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 32
  • Edition: 18
  • Code name: Velvet

on the guest list...

  • Ellie – wife
  • Steve Race
  • Alan Clare
  • Brian Kay
  • Timothy Hart
  • Dorothy – sister
  • Margaret – sister
  • Walter – brother-in-law
  • Stanley van Raalte
  • Phyllis Frost
  • Kathleen Hall
  • Bob Wager
  • Paul Dyer
  • Gordon Littlewood
  • Alf Heckman
  • Bob Bampton
  • Wendy - daughter
  • Peggy Lee – via telephone
  • John Dankworth
  • Stephane Grappelli
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Mel Torme
  • Leonard Feather
  • Henry Mancini
  • The King Singers

external links...

production team...

  • Researcher: Ian Brown
  • Writer: Norman Giller
  • Directors: Brian Klein, Paul Kirrage
  • Associate Producer: John Graham
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
Series 32 subjects: Paul Nicholas > Keith Floyd > Gwyneth Jones > Norman Painting > Thelma Barlow > Nobby Stiles > Bernard Manning > Elizabeth McColgan > Michael Nicholson > Pam Ferris > David Berglas > Gary Glitter > Nigel Havers > Mo Moreland > Tony Blackburn > Wendy Toye > Alan Bleasdale > George Shearing > Jim Howard > Kevin Lloyd > Josef Locke > Robert Lindsay > Hannah Hauxwell > Rory Underwood > Susan Hampshire > Chris De Burgh