John Chilton

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John Chilton
Birth nameJohn James Chilton
Born(1932-07-16)16 July 1932
London, England
Died25 February 2016(2016-02-25) (aged 83)
Occupation(s)songwriter and composer
Years active1944–2016
Associated actsJohn Chilton's Feetwarmers
The Swinging Blue Jeans
The Escorts
Alex Welsh's Big Band

John James Chilton (16 July 1932 – 25 February 2016) was a British jazz trumpeter and writer. During the 1960s, he also worked with pop bands, including The Swinging Blue Jeans and The Escorts.


Chilton was born in London to working class parents (his father was a musical hall comedian) and was evacuated to Northamptonshire, where he began playing the cornet at the age of 12. He switched to trumpet at 17 and after doing national service in the RAF (1950–1952) he formed his own jazz band, playing at Butlins[1] in Skegness with a troupe that included comedian Dave Allen.[citation needed]

He worked in Bruce Turner's Jump Band[1] from 1958-1963. A film of their exploits called Living Jazz (1961) was made by director Jack Gold. Chilton later appeared in Alex Welsh's Big Band. He played piano on some pop recordings in the 1960s while also working for Mike Daniels' Big Band. In the late 1960, he formed his own Swing Kings band which backed some leading American jazz musicians who toured Britain, including Buck Clayton, Ben Webster, Bill Coleman and Charlie Shavers. He also recorded The Song of a Road, one of the radio ballads by folk singers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in the 1950s for the BBC.[citation needed]

He later worked with Wally Fawkes, also known as the cartoonist 'Trog',[2] and in January 1974 formed John Chilton's Feetwarmers, who began accompanying British jazz singer and writer George Melly.[3] Together they made records and toured the world for nearly 30 years including trips to America, Australia, China and New Zealand. In 1983 and 1984 they had their own BBC television series called Good Time George. They appeared on countless other TV shows, including Parkinson, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, Aspel, This is Your Life and Pebble Mill at One.[citation needed]

Chilton was also a songwriter and composer and one of his songs, "Give Her A Little Drop More", was used in the film St Elmo's Fire (1985), sung by the Hollywood Brat Pack including Demi Moore and Rob Lowe.[citation needed]

Chilton is one of the few European writers to win a Grammy Award for his album notes on Bunny Berigan (1983) and was runner-up for a further Grammy award in 2000. In the same year he won the British Jazz Award for Writer of the Year. His Who's Who of Jazz was described by the poet Philip Larkin as "one of the essential jazz books". His books on Coleman Hawkins and Louis Jordan both won Chilton the American Association for Recorded Sound Collections' Award for Historical Recorded Sound Research. Jazz magazine Down Beat called him "a master of the craft of research". The Jazz Rag described Chilton as "one of the world's top jazz writers". For his books on Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, he was given the freedom of New Orleans.[citation needed]

In March 2007, Northway Books published his autobiography, Hot Jazz, Warm Feet. John Chilton continued to play trumpet with the clarinetist Wally Fawkes in London until he died in 2016. Chilton is survived by three children and lived in London.[citation needed]


  • Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story (with Max Jones) (1971) ISBN 0289702151 (1988) ISBN 0306803240
  • Ride Red Ride - the Life of Henry 'Red' Allen (2000) ISBN 0826447449
  • Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz Giant[4] (2002) ISBN 0826456928
  • McKinney's Music - A bio-discography of McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1978) ISBN 0950129011
  • A Jazz Nursery - The Story of Jenkins Orphanage Band (1980) ISBN 095012902X
  • Teach Yourself Jazz (1979) ISBN 034023847X
  • Stomp Off, Let's Go: The Story of Bob Crosby's Bob Cats (1983) ISBN 0950129038
  • Who's Who of Jazz (1970, 1972, 1978, 1985, 1989) ISBN see:[5]
  • Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan (1997) ISBN 047208478X
  • Billie's Blues - A survey of Billie Holiday's Career (1975) ISBN 0812818210
  • The Song of the Hawk - The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins (1990 ) ISBN 0704327376
  • Sidney Bechet - the Wizard of Jazz (1988) ISBN 0195206231
  • Who's Who of British Jazz (1997) ISBN 0304339091 (2004) ISBN 0826472346



  • Nuts (1972)
  • Son of Nuts (1973)
  • It's George (1974)
  • Making Whoopee (1982)
  • Best of Live (1995)
  • Anything Goes (1996)
  • Goodtime George
  • The Ultimate Melly, including guest Van Morrison (2006)


  1. ^ a b Parker, Chris (5 July 2007). "Review: Hot Jazz, Warm Feet". Vortex. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  2. ^ "Obituary: George Melly". BBC. 5 July 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  3. ^ Garner, Fradley. "October 2007". All About Jazz. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  4. ^ "John Chilton, author of Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant". Jerry Jazz Musician. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Jazz and Big Band Bibliography". FolkLib Index. Retrieved 18 May 2017.