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.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Sustainability Assessor

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Sustainability Assessor...

CCNP Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: CCNP Engineer, Farnborough, Security Cleared, £25...

Systems Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Primary PMLD Teacher Are you a qualifie...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?