Production Personnel Biography
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Johnny Dankworth

Composer, The Avengers, 1961-64

by David K. Smith

The Avengers premiered with a score composed by a popular jazz musician of the day. Born 20 September 1927 in London, John Dankworth entered the Royal Academy of Music at age seventeen. Considered a pioneer British bopper, Dankworth was once something of a traditionalist, playing with with Freddy Mirfield’s Garbage Men, billed as Britain’s answer to Spike Jones. Early in his career he worked on ship crossings and, during his frequent New York stops, absorbed as much live American jazz as possible. His first appearance in America took place at the Newport Jazz Festival, 3 July 1959.

He reached his zenith in the 50s after forming the band The Johnny Dankworth Seven (later called The Dankworth Big Band), comprising himself (saxophone), Jimmy Deuchar (trumpet) Eddie Harvey (trombone) Don Rendell (tenor sax) Tony Kinsey (drums) Bill le Sage (piano) and Eric Dawson (bass). The Seven was booked by Les Perrin, who became their press agent and later served clients including Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones. His work on The Avengers, which began in 1961, covered the David Keel and Cathy Gale eras.

A composer of scores for films and the musical theatre, he founded the London Symphony Orchestra's pops program and has served as the orchestra's Pops Musical Director. Named "Musician of the Year" by the Melody Maker Jazz Poll every year from 1949 until 1955, the only jazz artist to ever achieve this level of recognition, he still tours right up until he passed away on 6 February 2010, at the age of 82. His wife was noted songstress Cleo Laine.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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