Frank Holder (musician)

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Frank Holder
Frank Holder with his Life-Time Achievement Award from The Worshipful Company of Musicians
Frank Holder with his Life-Time Achievement Award from The Worshipful Company of Musicians
Background information
Born(1925-04-02)2 April 1925
Georgetown, Guyana
Died29 October 2017(2017-10-29) (aged 92)
Surrey, England
GenresJazz, Latin
InstrumentsVocals, bongos, congas
LabelsParlophone, Decca, Pye, London, Esquire, Metronome, Dawn, BBC discs, Mainstem

Frank Holder (2 April 1925 – 29 October 2017) was a Guyanese jazz singer and percussionist.[1] He was a member of bands led by Jiver Hutchinson, Johnny Dankworth, and Joe Harriott.[2]


Frank Holder was born in 1925 in Georgetown, Guyana, and served in the Royal Air Force. He sang in forces groups at RAF Cranwell, including a band led by Geoff Head.[3]

Holder played with bands led by Andre Messeder and John Carioca in the late 1940s, appearing with the latter at Churchill's Club in London. He also performed at the Feldman Swing Club (100 Club) in London, owned by the Feldman brothers. Holder recalls, "At Feldman's, a black man would be accepted when you couldn't appear at clubs like the Mayfair or Embassy. Black guys like Coleridge Goode and Ray Ellington were welcome, and all that mattered to Robert and Monty Feldman was that you were a musician".[4] He occasionally worked in those early days with Victor Feldman.

Holder recorded early in his career for Parlophone, Decca, and London Records. He is perhaps best known for his work in the early 1950s with the Dankworth Seven led by John Dankworth, which often topped the Melody Maker Jazz Charts. Holder is also regarded as one of the leading black UK jazz musicians to emerge from the mid-1940s' swing dance band movement, having got his big break with a band led by Jiver Hutchinson after World War II. In the late 1940s Holder worked with trumpeter Kenny Baker.

Highlights from Holder's Dankworth days include an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall on the same bill as Nat King Cole. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Holder toured, recorded, and performed with Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes, Don Rendell, Peter King, Dickie Hawdon, Eddie Harvey, Jack Fallon, Harry Beckett, Bill Le Sage, Shake Keane, Ronnie Ross, Coleridge Goode, Hank Shaw, Tony Kinsey, and songwriter Duncan Lamont. He was active in the postwar Latin music scene, including working with the Deniz Brothers.

Holder was represented during the 1950s by theatre impresario Bernard Delfont and Harold Davison. In the middle of the decade, he was approached by British jazz record producer Denis Preston to record calypso music. Holder's records were issued by Pye. In the late 1950s, Kenny Graham and His Orchestra recorded with Holder for Decca. Other recordings from this period include sessions for Cab Kaye and a film soundtrack single release called "Nor the Moon by Night" with conductor and arranger Ron Goodwin for Parlophone. Goodwin was working closely with producer George Martin, who was also involved with Parlophone. In 1959, he contributed percussion to the Joe Harriott album Southern Horizons (1960). Holder worked with drummer Phil Seamen. In the mid-1960s, Holder recorded with Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke.

Holder branched out into variety and cabaret performances, appearing in many countries and at London venues such as the London Palladium, Lyceum, and Paramount. He often gave his time to charity fund raising events. Later bills were shared with Bill Haley and his Comets, Guy Mitchell, and Johnnie Ray. In 1963, he appeared at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Richmond. In 1964, he was compère for the BBC One series Carnival, working with Ginger Johnson, Carmen Munroe, and Geoff Love with his Orchestra. In that year he also performed for Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland for their wedding party at the Tiberio Restaurant Mayfair. In 1966, Holder appeared with the BBC Radio Orchestra and in the following year recorded with John Dankworth featuring the actress singer Nadia Cattouse. In 1972, Holder was one of the winners of the Castlebar Song Contest for the folk ballad "Song for Jenny" composed by Sheila Roberts.

In 1974, Holder was invited to sing with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra at a Royal Albert Hall Promenade Concert with soprano Margaret Gale and the BBC Chorus. In 1990 he appeared with the BBC Big Band at Fairfield Halls, Croydon. In 1991 he played congas and bongos on an album by Barbara Thompson's band Paraphernalia entitled Breathless.

In 1996, he performed as a guest on guitarist Eduardo Niebla's album I Can Fly Now, playing both congas and bongos. He has been a member of the UK Latin jazz band Paz and was featured on the band's album Samba Samba (1997) with drummer Chris Dagley. In 2003 he was a guest on the album Cleo Laine and Laurie Holloway, Loesser Genius, with John Dankworth. Performances followed with Steve Waterman's album Our Delight: A Jazz Odyssey in 2006. Holder also worked with Mornington Lockett and Dave O'Higgins. O'Higgins appeared on Holder's album Ballads Blues at Bop. Pete Long featured Holder in his Gillespiana Be-Bop Orchestra, a band that paid tribute to the music of Dizzy Gillespie. In 2010, Holder did a double bill at Ronnie Scott's with vocalist Juliet Kelly. He has worked with arranger Nick Ingman and the Fraser-Myers Big Band and for Carlin Music for Paul Williams. In 2011, Holder performed at the gala jazz event "A Tribute to John Dankworth and the Big Band" at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The sax section included Tim Garland, Jamie Talbot, and Andy Panayi.

In 2012, Holder teamed up with guitarist Shane Hill to record his final album Interpretations featuring Peter King on alto, Dick Pearce on Flugel, Val Manix bass and Noel Joyce kit - well received by the jazz media it brought Holder back into the limelight. Later in 2012 he was interviewed by Clemency Burton Hill and appeared as a result of this interview in a BBC Two Culture Show documentary called Swinging into the Blitz, a program exploring the history of black music in the UK beginning in the 1930s. Burton Hill cited Holder as a connection to the early swing musicians such as Ken Snakehips Johnson and Leslie" Jiver" Hutchinson. The documentary was commissioned by the BBC to contextualise the black music scene explored in the Stephen Poliakoff television drama Dancing on the Edge that portrayed a fictional successful black band leader called Louis Lester.

Holder has appeared with Pat Smythe, Tony Lee, John Critchinson, David Newton, Neville Dickie, Jonathan Gee, Malcolm Edmonstone, Michael Garrick and Geoff Castle.

In 2012, Holder performed with pianist Derek Paravicini in a show dedicated to the music of George Shearing. Former Blue Mink member and Watermill Jazz Club founder Ann Odell was music director and arranger for the show. Lady Shearing endorsed the show. Other guitarists Holder has appeared or recorded with include: Acoustic Alchemy founder member Simon James, Adam Salkeld, and Jim Mullen.

Until the age of 92, Holder was still performing around London. In 2013, Holder was featured in the annual vocal summit of the London Jazz Festival with Joe Stilgoe and Theo Jackson. The event represented three generations of UK based jazz singers. Holder has also shared his approach to singing and voice preservation in an article for The Voice Council Magazine in the April 2014 edition. Holder has also often performed at The Stables in Wavendon with the Dankworth family for their Christmas music parties and working with Mark Nightingale and trumpeter Guy Barker. His band often includes Stan Robinson on tenor saxophone.

A keen sportsman, Holder played cricket with Gary Sobers and Wes Hall for charity events. As a young man he was a boxer and sprinter. He was a cousin of actor Ram John Holder. Holder died in Carshalton, Surrey, England on 29 October 2017.

Awards and honors[edit]


  • Frank Holder Sings Calypso with the Kenny Graham Orchestra (Decca, 1957)
  • Calypso Time with Frank Holder (Pye, 1957)
  • Nor the Moon by Night featuring Frank Holder (Parlophone, 1958)
  • Loesser Genius, Laurie Holloway & Cleo Laine
  • Samba Samba Paz featuring Frank Holder (Saxology, 1997)
  • Carousel (Mainstem, 2002)
  • The Artistry of Frank Holder (Mainstem, 2005)
  • Born to Swing, Frank Holder with the Geoff Castle Trio (2005)
  • I Love Being Here with You (Mainstem, 2006)
  • Boss Frank Holder and the Fraser-Myers Big Band (2007)
  • Ballads, Blues and Bop (Mainstem, 2009)
  • Interpretations, Frank Holder, Shane Hill (2012)


  1. ^ "Frank Holder, Guyanan jazz singer and percussionist – obituary". 2 November 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Gardner, Mark. "Frank Holder High on Life" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "SUNDAY JAZZ LUNCH! Frank Holder & Juliet Kelly + Geoff Castle Trio". Archived from the original on 6 September 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Feldman, Barbara (16 September 1995). "100 Oxford Street". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 February 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]