A Genealogical Study


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This article appeared in the Summer 2003 edition of the magazine Evergreen:





Nat Temple (born 1913)

Musician and entertainer


Many radio and television programmes relied heavily on musical accompaniment where the man with the baton discreetly but importantly complemented the stars of the show. Sometimes he would be drawn into the script and one of the most successful of those was Nat Temple who celebrates his 90th birthday on July 18th.


Born in Stepney, East London, his father was a tailor but music was in the family blood and at the age of only 18 he joined the new RKOlians formed by Harry Roy's older brother Syd, for the opening of the RKO cinema at Leicester Square. His apprenticeship as a clarinet and saxophone player continued with Harry Roy, Geraldo, Ambrose, Joe Daniels and Lew Stone with wartime spent partly with the Grenadier Guards and their regimental band in North Africa and Italy, but also as a session man on many top band recordings.


In 1944 Nat formed his own broadcasting band and never looked back. Among his early singers was Benny Lee, while Frankie Vaughan later acknowledged the debt he owed to Nat for his great encouragement. Among the other famous singers he accompanied were Joy Nichols, Lita Roza, David Whitfield, Anne Shelton, Beryl Davis, Julie Andrews and the Keynotes. Perhaps his most famous orchestral recording was Nattering Around.


Early post-war residencies at Butlin's and other seaside locations were quickly succeeded by a chance relationship which turned him onto a household name. Canadian, Bernard Braden, later to be accompanied by his wife Barbara Kelly, brought a new slant to radio during the late Forties and he chose Nat Temple's band to provide the necessary balance for his sarcastic but friendly humour. It was a successful partnership.



Nat Temple was one of the finest clarinettists of the 20th century and performed at all the major London venues. His fellow musicians rated him very highly and he regularly topped their polls.



Breakfast with Braden began on Saturday morning, 21st January 1950 initially putting Braden alongside his dumb girl friend Pearl Carr ("Sing Pearl"), second singer stooge Benny Lee, and naive third stooge, bandleader Nat Temple ("Play, Nat!"). On 19th September the same year came the advent of the late evening Bedtime With Braden followed by various sequels including Between Time; Bathtime; and Bedlam with Braden. The usually straight BBC announcer was Ronald Fletcher who, together with Nat (just like Wallace Greenslade in the contemporary Goon Show), was drawn into the script which added to the ingenuity and enjoyment.


Nat's clever portrayal of a bumbling musician was quickly picked up by other radio producers who used him in a similar vein. Good Evening Each starred comedians Beryl Reid and Ken Platt with Nat as the manager of a dance hall, while Michael Bentine's Round the Bend was self-explanatory. Nat also appeared in Third Division, an unusual experimentary early comedy show on the Third Programme, in Emery at Large with Dick Emery, and In All Directions starring Peter Ustinov and Peter Jones.


On television he was ideal for children and the perfect foil for Eamonn Andrews in Crackerjack where boys and girls enthusiastically competed in various quiz games, culminating in a final round called "Double or Drop" when the contestants were piled high with prizes until they let something fall on the floor. Other programmes for younger viewers included Jack-in-the-Box and Telebox.


Other television programmes included Nuts in May with Frankie Howerd, The Time of Your Life with Noel Edmonds, The Russell Harty Show, Tune Times With Temple, A Jolly Good Time, Dance Music Through the Ages and Starstruck.


Tempting though full-time radio and television might have been, however, Nat was also keen to get out and about. In addition to his duties as the resident house band for Decca records he was often to be found on the road playing at University halls and top London hotels. He even found time to do more summer seasons at Butlin's.


Christmas parties at Windsor Castle were given in front of the Queen, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, while other private functions ranged from Lord Grade and Viscount Norwich to Tesco and Marks and Spencer! He was also official music adviser to the latter for more than 25 years.


What was it that made Nat so professionally well respected by so many people? Firstly, his outstanding and undeniable natural ability as clarinettist, being the first Englishman to publicly perform the difficult introductory glissando to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Polished solo performances at both the Royal Albert and Royal Festival Halls also gave clear indication as to why his fellow musicians voted him top of a poll conducted by the Melody Maker.


Secondly, Nat's even temperament meant he was easy to work with and a natural foil for comedians and other famous stars, including Eartha Kitt, George Shearing, Larry Grayson, Fred Perry, Joyce Grenfell, Matt Munro, Kenneth Horne, Mel Tormé and Paul Daniels. There was never a danger of Nat stealing the limelight because he was not that kind of person, but he could be relied on to brighten it for everybody else which they much appreciated.


His career spanned more than 70 years and was recognised many times with international honours. In 1993, aged 80, he was awarded the Gold Badge of Merit for services to music by the British Academy of Song-Writers, Composers and Authors (BASCA). Two years later he was nominated for an Emmy in New York for the music he composed for two poignant television programmes called Igor, Child of Chernobyl and Igor, the Boy Who Dared to Dream. He was also awarded the Freedom of the City of London.


Happy birthday to Nat Temple, a great entertainer and musician and best wishes to Freda, his wife of 61 years.










Article donated by Lynda Temple, text reproduced by permission of Edmund Whitehouse of "Evergreen". Source: "Evergreen", Summer 2003, pages 32-36.

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