|Birth name||Clifford Blanford Townshend|
|Born||28 January 1916|
|Died||29 June 1986(aged 70)|
|Associated acts||The Squadronaires|
Clifford Blandford "Cliff" Townshend (28 January 1916 – 29 June 1986) was an English jazz musician noted for playing the saxophone in The Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra, popularly known as The Squadronaires. He was described by acquaintances as a quiet man with a wry sense of humor. He also played clarinet in the band and was respected by his peers as a talented and accomplished musician. His eldest son, Pete, gained renown as guitarist and principal composer for the seminal rock band The Who.
Cliff Townshend was born to Dorothy (née Blandford) and Horace Townshend on 28 January 1916. The couple had been married in 1910 in Brentford, and were both musicians who played in Concert Party shows for the troops during World War I. Cliff showed an early interest in music and was in a band by 1932 while still attending Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, London. Showing a streak of rebellion, he was expelled from school for playing at Bottle Parties while still a teenager, adult parties which featured smoking and drinking as well as innovative popular music. Later he played at such venues as the Stork Club and with the Billy Wiltshire Band.
In 1939 World War II was declared in England, and in 1940 Cliff enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Before ending up with The Squadronaires, he played in a number of small bands as part of his duties, as the RAF high command recognized the high morale value of popular music. During the early days of the war, he met Betty Dennis (3 November 1923 - December 2010) the daughter of Emma and Maurice Dennis. Betty had enlisted in 1941 at age sixteen, and she drove a truck and sang with some of the RAF bands. They were married 16 April 1944 in Pontypool, South Wales, where they were stationed. By this time, Cliff Townshend had achieved the rank of Lance Corporal.
Their first son, Peter, was born 19 May 1945 (the same month Germany surrendered) in West London in Nazareth House, an annex of Middlesex Hospital. Betty took her baby home to Horace and Dorothy’s flat, as Cliff was away performing with The Squadronaires in Germany when his first son was born. They moved into a war-damaged house in Acton, and Betty ended her singing career but continued to assist with office work and management for The Squadronaires. The enforced separation caused by the band’s continued tours caused stresses in the marriage; however, the couple sometimes took their son and went together on the band’s tours.
The touring season of 1951 was the busiest and most intense period of activity the band had ever experienced. In 1952, The Squadronaires began a regular summer engagement at The Palace Ballroom in Douglas, Isle of Man which continued for about ten years.
In 1956, Cliff Townshend released a solo recording of “Unchained Melody” which made him something of a pop star, and royalties from the record were welcome. Cliff and Betty Townshend’s second son Paul Townshend was born in 1957, and the family moved to a larger flat in Ealing Common. In the same year, Cliff took his son Pete to see the film Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley, and then to a live Bill Haley concert at Regal Cinema at Marble Arch. Cliff thought the music “had some swing.”
The couple’s third son, Simon Townshend, was born 10 October 1960. In 1958 Cliff Richard had the first British rock and roll hit with "Move It", effectively ushering in the sound of British rock and in 1960, The Beatles became an instant sensation. In 1962 The Rolling Stones made their first appearances, followed by The Animals and The Yardbirds. In 1964 The Kinks and The Who achieved major hits, effectively ending the reign of jazz in the British music scene. Ironically, Cliff’s son Pete Townshend was the lead guitarist and principal songwriter of The Who, and now Cliff Townshend is noted for that fact more so than his own successful career and his years with The Squadronaires. Pete Townshend dedicated his 1987 collection Another Scoop to the memory of his father.
US record sales
Cliff Townshend was represented in the US by Capitol-EMI, which reported sales of 358 records in 1964.
- Townshend plays with The Squadronaires, newsreel film
- Cliff and Pete Townshend play jazz, Parkinson show, 1981 on YouTube
- British Music Remembrance/Yearbook
- The Squadronaires
- The Great Big Bands: The Squadronaires
- Pete Townshend