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|Birth name||John James Chilton|
16 July 1932|
|Died||25 February 2016(aged 83)|
|Occupation(s)||songwriter and composer|
|Associated acts||John Chilton's Feetwarmers
The Swinging Blue Jeans
Alex Welsh's Big Band
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 in Skegness with a troupe that included comedian Dave Allen.
He worked in Bruce Turner's Jump Band from 1958-1963. A movie 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 1960s, 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 of folk singers Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in the 1950s for the BBC.
He later worked with Wally Fawkes, also known as the cartoonist 'Trog', and in January 1974 formed John Chilton's Feetwarmers, who began accompanying British jazz singer and writer George Melly. 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.
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.
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.
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.
- Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story (with Max Jones)
- Ride Red Ride - the Life of Henry 'Red' Allen
- Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz Giant
- McKinney's Music - A bio-discography of McKinney's Cotton Pickers
- A Jazz Nursery - The Story of Jenkins' Orphanage Band
- Teach Yourself Jazz
- Stomp Off, Let's Go: The Story of Bob Crosby's Bob Cats
- Who's Who of Jazz
- Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan
- Billie's Blues - A survey of Billie Holiday's Career
- The Song of the Hawk - The Life and Recordings of Coleman Hawkins
- Sidney Bechet - the Wizard of Jazz
- Who's Who of British Jazz
- 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)
- Parker, Chris (5 July 2007). "Review: Hot Jazz, Warm Feet". Vortex. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "Obituary: George Melly". BBC. 5 July 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- Garner, Fradley. "October 2007". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "John Chilton, author of Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant". Jerry Jazz Musician. Retrieved 2010-07-04.