Nat Temple: Clarinettist and bandleader

Friday 13 June 2008 00:00

Although Nat Temple went on playing clarinet in his own bands up until the Nineties, it is for his radio work in the Forties and Fifties that he is best remembered. During that time, he and his band appeared on innumerable comedy shows, his amiable and modest personality making him suited to being the fall guy for a variety of comedians. His clarinet playing, melodic and with an easy appeal, was much influenced by that of Benny Goodman.

Temple had played in Sam Costa's band in 1929, but like several British jazz musicians he had really begun his career with the orchestra of the clarinettist Harry Roy, which he stayed with from 1931 until 1940. Roy's band was wrongly assumed to be a jazz band because it had had a hit with its recording of "Tiger Rag" in 1933. Temple was under no illusions, however, recalling the band's residency at the Mayfair in London:

The Mayfair was very posh indeed. We played sotto voce because in those days people insisted on that so that they could carry on talking while they were dancing past the band without having to raise their voices. That was essential. You must play quietly. The clientele were the aristocracy. You didn't take much notice of whether they were dukes or earls, they were just there with their funny evening dress.

All the demanding clarinet parts in the band were taken by Temple, but Harry Roy used cheerfully to take credit for them, including Temple's virtuoso performance on Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue". "As a player, Harry was terrible," Temple said. "He was way out of touch with what had happened to the clarinet and the style of playing."

Leaving Roy in 1940, Temple joined the Grenadier Guards and played in military bands, including a tour of North Africa and Italy, throughout the Second World War. He formed his own band in 1947, giving a start to the career of a young vocalist, Frankie Vaughan. The band played summer residencies at holiday camps and seaside resorts and accompanied the visiting American Hoagy Carmichael.

Temple succeeded in getting broadcasts for the band, and these began a long association for him with the BBC. He struck up a friendship with the expatriate Canadian broadcaster Bernard Braden and when Braden began his radio series Breakfast with Braden for the BBC in 1950, he chose Temple's band to provide the music. Temple remained for Bedtime with Braden and subsequent variants on the series.

He continued to make regular appearances on radio and television and the band was used by Decca Records to accompany several of their singers. His extraordinary career continued into the Nineties but the band was by then cut down to a quintet. In 1993 Temple was given an award for services to music by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Steve Voce

Nathan Temple, clarinettist and bandleader: born London 18 July 1913; married (four daughters); died London 30 May 2008.

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