Nat GONELLA (1908-1998)

Nat Gonella
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THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Nat Gonella, jazz trumpeter, bandleader and vocalist, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.

Nat played in several bands during the 1920s and 1930s, including Archie Pitt’s Busby Boy’s Band, Bob Bryden’s Louisville Band, Billy Cotton’s Band, and worked with musicians Roy Fox and Lew Stone, before forming his own band, The Georgians, in 1935.

An early influence of his was Louis Armstrong and the New Orleans jazz style in general, and Nat is credited for playing a pioneering role in the development of jazz in the UK, whilst establishing a major reputation as a jazz soloist.

Photographs of Nat Gonella This Is Your Life

Nat Gonella biography

An extract from Nat Gonella A Life in Jazz by Ron Brown, reproduced here with kind permission of the author…

On 22 February 1960 Nat had an appointment at a London theatre to discuss a possible television show.

On arriving, he recognised a few friends from the past and soon afterwards a large, very familiar Irishman, brandishing a big red book appeared.

‘Nat Gonella,’ said Eamonn Andrews, ‘jazz pioneer and hero of a real-life stage romance, this is your life!’

As the theatre doors opened and an audience swarmed in, Gonella, dumbfounded, was led away to get ready for the show. Listening carefully to the soundtrack reveals a sotto voce utterance: ‘You sods!’

Guests on the This Is Your Life show included wife Dorothy (who told how she had courted Nat with new-laid eggs); George Latimer, his boyhood friend from St Mary’s Guardian School; Fred Wood, from Archie Pitt’s Busby Boys; Pat Smuts, Eddie Carroll and Lew Stone; plus recorded messages from Billy Kyle and Louis Armstrong.

Helen Mack flew from California for the show.

Humphrey Lyttelton also appeared, and when Andrews asked: ‘What do you think of the new Nat Gonella?’ Lyttelton retorted: ‘Is this the new Nat Gonella? He hasn’t even had a re-spray!’

As the programme closed, Andrews invited Gonella to join Lyttelton and the Georgia Jazz Band for a flag-waving closer.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 124
  • Subject No: 124
  • Broadcast live: Mon 22 Feb 1960
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 5
  • Edition: 26

on the guest list...

  • Bill Cotton
  • Eddie Rogers
  • George Latimer
  • Fred Wood
  • Lew Stone
  • Pat Smuts
  • Jack Turland
  • Eddie Carroll
  • Dorothy - wife
  • Humphrey Lyttelton
  • Helen Mack
  • The New Georgians:
  • Bobby Mickleburgh
  • Lennie Felix
  • Lennie Hastings
  • Teddy Layton
  • Alan Duddington
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Billy Kyle

external links...

production team...

  • Writer: Shirley MacNab
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
names listed in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
With thanks to Nat’s daughter, Natalie Wilson for her contribution to this page.
Series 5 subjects: Evelyn Laye > Donald Caskie > Eva Turner > Billy Butlin > James Slater > Edmund Arbuthnott > Louis Langford > O P Jones > Richard Hearne > Francoise Rigby > John Barclay > Thomas Drake > William Merrilees > John Lord > Russ Conway > Stanley Bishop > Leonard Stanmore > Arthur Askey > Robert Oldfield > Alicia Markova > Frederic Morena > Hilda Rowcliffe > Thomas Salmon > Harry Welchman > Harry Webb > Nat Gonella > David Barclay > Richard Todd > Thomas Bodkin > Gracie Fields > Michael Ansell