Smorgasbord Music Column – William Price King Meets Music Legends – #Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The Early Years

It is nine years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. We continue in 2023 with series sharing the lives and music of some of the great names in music over the last century

We begin a new series today exploring the life and music of one of the most important British Jazz musicians of the 20th century.

#Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The Early Years

“Can anybody be given a great degree of creativity? No. They can be given the equipment to develop it – if they have it in them in the first place.” George Shearing.

Sir George Shearing is remembered as an outstanding jazz pianist, arranger and composer who wrote over 300 original compositions and arranged and performed hundreds of the classic jazz standards of the century. This included Lullaby of Birdland commissioned in 1952 as the theme music for a radio show based on the famous Birdland club in New York. Here is a recording of that song with Peggy Lee.

His career was all the more remarkable and inspiring for the fact that George was born blind. This never fazed this outstanding musician however and he would develop an international career and a fan base of the finest artists of the era and millions of music lovers around the world.

He began life in 1919 in the Battersea area of London and was the youngest of nine children. His father was a coalman and his mother worked at night cleaning trains. However it was not long before the youngest member of their family made his decision about which direction in life he would follow and by age three he began playing the family piano. By listening to the old crystal set wireless, George would pick up tunes by listening to them and going over to the piano and playing them. He did have some lessons from a local teacher but then went on to the Linden Lodge School for blind children in Wandsworth for four years.

He credits Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson as his influences in his teen years and he was considered an accomplished musician in his own right to be offered a university musical scholarship but he turned it down.

Fats Waller playing I’m Going to Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter from 1935 showing the style that would have spoken directly to George’s growing fascination with jazz.

The times were hard in the mid 30’s in London and George opted to make a living playing piano in the local pubs in Battersea. At first he played the popular songs of the day but then began to perform jazz. As a lucky break he came to the attention of Claude Bampton who had recently formed an all-blind orchestra and George joined as second pianist.

The orchestra was funded by the National Institute for Blind People in 1936 and was made up of 20 musicians of which 18 were sight impaired. Claude Bampton who was sighted used an oversized baton that made sounds to direct the musicians and one of the first performances was broadcast by the BBC in 1937. The orchestra toured all over the UK until well into the 1940s before being disbanded. Six grand pianos were part of the finale and included the young George Shearing who was only 17 when he joined these accomplished musicians.

George was lucky enough to perform with another orchestra member, drummer Carlo Krahmer born in Shoreditch in London in 1914 as Max Geserick. Carlo encouraged George’s Jazz ambitions and they would spend their spare time at Carlo’s house where he would play piano for hours introducing George to the music of the Jazz greats of the day. To absorb this music even further George would frequent the London after-hours club scene and when opportunity presented itself play alongside the visiting American musicians and also managed to see one of his heroes Fats Waller perform first hand.

By the age of 18 George was playing professionally with the Ambrose dance band and also as a solo performer. His first recordings were in 1937 under the guidance of Leonard Feather a jazz pianist, composer and producer. George played on Leonard’s Classic recordings until 1945.

Here is Life with Feather written by Leonard and later recorded by the George Shearing Quintet on their 1949 album Discovery

Buy the music of George Shearing . Amazon

Additional material.
Sir George Shearing Bio

Next week George Shearing becomes an established star in Britain and in the mid-40s accepts Leonard Feather’s invitation to join him in America.

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

Blog– IMPROVISATION William Price King on Tumblr – Buy William’s music: William Price King iTunes – FacebookWilliam Price King – Twitter@wpkofficial
Regular Venue – Cave Wilson


As always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.


68 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Music Column – William Price King Meets Music Legends – #Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The Early Years

  1. It’s hard to believe that nine years have passed so quickly. When one enjoys what one is doing time flies. Thank you, Sally, for these wonderful years. It’s been a joy. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll have to check my old gramophone records and see if there are any recordings. The rather large parlor gramophone came complete with an entire library of 78s stored underneath. The music spanned decades all the way to Perry Como! Our guests at the inn loved cranking it up and dancing along with the music.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting new bio of George. Wow, such a hopping career by 17 years old. I really enjoyed seeing and listening to Peggy Lee. Wow, a million years ago! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a facinating start to George Sheering’s career.
    It just shows that you can overcome any disability and persevere.
    My grandmother had a piano and we loved to play on it when we visited.
    It was tuned by a blind piano tuner I remember .
    Loosing one sense hones in another?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Happy Anniversary and congratulations on nine years, William! I don’t know this musician, and I find it fascinating that there was an orchestra made up of blind or sight impaired musicians. Yet, when we really want to hear music, we often close our eyes. One lost sense heightens another.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I also knew nothing about George Shearing. I love lots of jazz while not actually knowing anything about it! I think we are always fascinated by blind musicians and intrigued by what it must be like to be born totally blind with no idea what sight actually is, let alone what a piano looks like!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – January 2nd – 8th 2023 – New Series, PR Authors, Big Band Era, Sir George Shearing, Karma, Culinary A-Z, Podcast, Book Reviews, The Brain, Funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  8. I’d never heard of George Shearing – but this account of his early life is remarkable! I hadn’t heard of a band made up of blind and partially-sighted musicians, either, and that was fascinating, too. The thing that really stunned me, though, was that amazing clip of Shearing accompanying Peggy Lee. Many thanks and congratulations on nine years of spreading a love of music. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I know some of Sir George Shearing’s songs but didn’t know anything about his life. Impressive how he managed to do what he loved in such difficult circumstances. Thanks to William for the beginning of another inspiring series.

    Liked by 1 person

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