Jim Godbolt: Colourful doyen of the jazz world

 

Jim Godbolt was one of those background figures who contribute much support to the jazz world, without receiving adequate recognition. Known as the author of two volumes on the history of British jazz, he worked in the music industry before beginning to write.

Less widely recognised were his editorship and personal contributions to the house magazines 100 Club (from 1979-84) and Jazz at Ronnie Scott's (1979-2006). Both venues continue to this day, but the publications were curtailed by changing management priorities, and in the latter case by a change of ownership.

Growing up in Sidcup, he was attracted to jazz as a teenager. A member of the local "rhythm club" (one of many societies dedicated to recitals of 78rpm records), he met Wally Fawkes, subsequently a fine clarinettist and cartoonist. National service in the Royal Navy took Godbolt to South Africa, a trip he chiefly remembered for the purchase of a cache of second-hand jazz records. Post-war work as the unpaid manager of George Webb's Dixielanders led to his running a short-lived magazine (Jazz Illustrated) and the first of several jobs as a band booking agent.

In the 1950s he was representing widely different musicians like Johnny Dankworth and Mick Mulligan, whose band-singer was George Melly. This was a period of considerable enmity between the fans of "modernists" like Dankworth and the more fundamentalist jazz that briefly entered the hit parade. After the popularity of trad jazz waned, Godbolt also worked successfully for The Swinging Blue Jeans "beat group". The writer's early career was recounted in All This and 10% (a reference to the then standard agent's fee), a 1976 publication subsequently trimmed by about half when it was updated in 1986 as All This and Many a Dog: Memoirs of a Loser/Pessimist.

His jaundiced outlook on life was confirmed when the Blue Jeans had their big record, "Hippy Hippy Shake": "Agents to whom I had never spoken before would ring and solicitously enquire after my health. Prior to this they hadn't been too concerned with my well-being, probably because they had never heard of me..." Retiring from this world in 1971, Godbolt found it impossible to survive on his writing, and worked for four years as a meter-reader for London Electricity Board. A committed vegetarian, he played from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s with a Sunday cricket team of renegades from the music business called The Ravers.

The classic description of Godbolt in person was penned by Melly in Owning Up: "Thin and tense, his head with its pointed features crouching between his shoulders as though emerging from its burrow into a dangerous world, his eyes as cold and watchful as those of a pike in the reeds." Godbolt was briefly caricatured in the Daily Mail's strip-cartoon Flook, drawn by Trog (Wally Fawkes) with text by Melly.

A History of Jazz in Britain 1919-1950 was published in 1984 to general acclaim, but was not without its quirks. A significant theme of the protectionist attitude of the Musicians' Union, which excluded American players between the 1930s and 1956, was augmented by a detailed account of Godbolt's minor role in a couple of sanctions-busting events in 1949. The follow-up, covering 1950-1970, appeared in 1989, while the initial volume was reprinted with minor revisions in 2005 – and a 4CD set of remastered 78s of the period was annotated by the author.

Meanwhile, after starting the 100 Club newsletter, Godbolt offered a similar operation to the modernists at Ronnie Scott's. Despite a deceptively boring typeface and layout, and his often Dickensian turn of phrase, he tempted many guest contributors, including Trog and other cartoonists. Godbolt provided much of the text, crediting his gossip and opinion columns respectively to "Earwigger" and "Slawkenbergius" (the latter a fictional author in Tristram Shandy).

An earlier spin-off which he instigated was a 1986 BBC TV special featuring veterans of early post-war jazz who had performed at the legendary Club 11. He also drafted jazz-related obituaries (unsigned) for the Daily Telegraph until 1994, when his replacement was told that the obituary editor allegedly "enjoyed imitating Godbolt, to general hilarity in the office".

Self-deprecating to a fault, Jim's autobiographical memoir had already characterised his generation of jazz fans, using the verdict of a music industry colleague: "You people! You make me laugh! You and your scratchy old 78s!"

James Godbolt, writer and booking agent: born Wandsworth 5 October 1922; died Hampstead 9 January 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower