The truth about me and Bobby Mitchell

'The red mist came down,and he kicked Mitchell several feet in the air. "That was for 1955!"'
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The Independent Online

The other day I got into trouble by writing that I had been taken to the Cup Final in 1952 by my father and been terribly impressed by the Newcastle United left-winger George Mitchell. Letters of protests! Howls of rage! People wrote in to say sternly that he wasn't George Mitchell, he was the legendary Bobby Mitchell! How could I possibly have got the name of such a star so very wrong?

The other day I got into trouble by writing that I had been taken to the Cup Final in 1952 by my father and been terribly impressed by the Newcastle United left-winger George Mitchell. Letters of protests! Howls of rage! People wrote in to say sternly that he wasn't George Mitchell, he was the legendary Bobby Mitchell! How could I possibly have got the name of such a star so very wrong?

Very easily, is the answer. I remembered clearly enough that he was called Mitchell, and I was so sure of his surname that when my muddy memory also told me that his first name was George, I believed that as well. I had no reference books to hand to look him up in, so I decided to trust to my memory. This is what journalists do, you know. Did you think we looked things up?

Well, now I know better, and I know that Newcastle's wizard left-winger was Bobby, not George. Indeed, thanks to a letter from Mr Malcolm Birtle of Stockton-on-Tees, I know a little more about him. Bobby Mitchell, says Mr Birtle, played for Newcastle again in the 1955 Cup Final and was instrumental in their victory over Manchester City...

"Have you heard of a gentleman called Fred Eyre?" asks Mr Birtle. "He is from Manchester and is a Manchester City man through and through. He played for them as an apprentice and reserve team player but was released without playing for the first team. He then embarked on a business career which made him a millionaire. He is a well-known after-dinner speaker and has published two volumes of autobiography...

"He continued to play football, mainly for non-league teams, and in one of his books he describes playing against Gateshead and meeting up with a very mature Bobby Mitchell (say about 40 years old). Fred remembered the 1955 Final and the way his beloved Manchester City had been destroyed by Mitchell. The red mist came down, and on the kick-off he promptly kicked Mitchell several feet in the air. As the winded Mitchell struggled to his feet, he was told by Fred: 'That was for 1955!'"

I think that's a sweet tale. But what I still can't work out is why I had been so convinced that his name was George, not Bobby, Mitchell. The only reason I can think of is that one of my erstwhile jazz heroes was a trumpeter called George Mitchell.

There were really only two great New Orleans jazz groups that recorded in the 1920s, one being Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven, the other being Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. Armstrong was, of course, the trumpeter on his records, but George Mitchell was Morton's man on trumpet (or, rather, cornet), and some lovely sounds he made, too, in those 1927 recordings. After that, Louis became world famous and Mitchell vanished from jazz, and all I can remember about him is the oft-quoted fact that he went off to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Still, after getting Bobby Mitchell so wrong, I thought it might be as well to check George Mitchell in the reference books before mentioning him. So off I go to John Chilton's Who's Who of Jazz to find out what happened to George Mitchell after his brief moment of fame with Jelly Roll Morton and before he died in 1966.

Hmmmmm, let's see...

"Left music to become a full-time bank messenger. During the 1930s played occasional summer park engagements with the WPA Band, also with Elgar's Federal Concert Orchestra (June 1936) but was never a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as reported elsewhere. Retired from day job in the early Sixties."

Was never a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! The one thing that I knew about him from memory is specifically denied by John Chilton! Oh dear - it's a chastening business being a source of misinformation.

But what I really want to know now is this - does anyone know anything about Elgar's Federal Concert Orchestra? And what on earth was Sir Edward doing in Chicago in the summer of 1936?

PS: Some sixth sense has just made me look up Sir Edward Elgar's dates. He actually died two years before, in 1934. So whose Federal Concert Orchestra was it? Bobby Elgar? George Elgar...?

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