Ken Sykora

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Ken Sykora
Birth name Charles Kenneth Sykora
Born (1923-04-13)April 13, 1923
Fulham, London, England
Died March 7, 2006(2006-03-07) (aged 82)
Blairmore, Argyll, Scotland
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Jazz guitarist, radio presenter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1950–1998

Ken Sykora (13 April 1923[1]–7 March 2006), born Charles Kenneth Sykora was an English jazz guitarist and radio presenter.[2]

Sykora was born in 1923 in Fulham, London, to a Czech cavalry officer, Karel "Charles" Sykora (born 1884), and a Swiss mother, Rosa Von Dach (born 1895), who had eloped whilst pregnant and married in Westminster in 1911.[3][4] He had two older sisters: Rose M. Sykora, born in 1911, shortly after her parents' marriage,[5] and Clara M. Sykora, born 1913.[6] He studied geography at the University of Cambridge, where he organized the Cambridge University Band Society. He then studied business and economics at the London School of Economics. During World War II, he served as an intelligence officer in the Far East.[2] After the war he taught in London at the London School of Economics and the College for Distributive Trades. Influenced by guitarist Django Reinhardt, he led his own band in the 1950s, appearing with other bandleaders such as Ted Heath. During this time he appeared on the Melody Maker reader's poll for best British jazz guitarist for five consecutive years and won it twice.[7]

He had a short first marriage to Margery Mileham whom he had married in 1947.[8][9] He married his second wife, cabaret singer Helen B. Grant, in 1957 in Westminster.[10][11] The couple moved to Suffolk, where their three children were born: One daughter, Alison (born 1961), and two sons, Ian Dougal (born 1963) and Duncan (born 1960).[12] During this time he worked on radio for the BBC. He hosted the popular BBC programme Guitar Club. For BBC Radio 2, he created and presented the program series Be My Guest, interviewing Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Andrés Segovia, Isaac Stern and Gloria Swanson, among others.[2] In January 1962 he was a guest on Desert Island Discs.

In the 1970s, Sykora and his family moved to Scotland, where the couple ran a hotel in Colintraive on the Kyles of Bute. After five years he sold the hotel as Helen who had a drinking problem had struggled with such ready access to alcohol.[13] The Sykoras then moved to Blairmore and he continued to produce music programs for BBC Radio Scotland and for Radio Clyde. Sykora died in Blairmore on 7 March 2006.[7]

In 2012, Linda Chirrey and Marc Mason created a documentary film about his life and career, The Man with the Jazz Guitar.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-02. 
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary, Ken Sykora". The Daily Telegraph. 16 Mar 2006. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  4. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  5. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  6. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  7. ^ a b Barker, Dennis (24 March 2006). "Obituary: Ken Sykora". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  9. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  10. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  11. ^ "FreeBMD Entry Info". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  12. ^ Parky at the Pictures. "Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 17/5/2012) (From The Oxford Times)". Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  13. ^ Movies | Weekend & Leisure | Homepage - The Oxford Times
  14. ^ French, Phillip (20 May 2012). "The Man with the Jazz Guitar – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  15. ^ "Ken Sykora - The Man with the Jazz Guitar". Five Feet Films. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  16. ^ "Ken Sykora biopic The Man With The Jazz Guitar". BBC. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.