Smorgasbord Music Column – William Price King Meets Music Legends – #Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The 1980s and Beyond

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

The finale of the series exploring the life and music of one of the most important British Jazz musicians of the 20th century.

#Jazz – Sir George Shearing -The 1980s

In May 1975, George Shearing received an honorary degree of Doctor of Music from Westminster College in Salt Lake City and the Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans in 1978. Other honorary doctorates in music followed in 1994 from Hamilton College in upstate New York and DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana in 2002.

Here is an early version of Conception by the George Shearing Quintet.

His origins in the UK were not forgotten and in 1993 he was presented with the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement. This was followed in 1996 by one of the top honours that can be bestowed on a British citizen when he was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In the November of that year he was invested by her majesty at Buckingham Palace with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his services to music and Anglo-US relations.

Here is Mel Torme and George Shearing with A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. Written in 1939 with lyrics by Eric Maschwitz and music by Manning Sherwin. Recorded in 1989.

In 1999, his 80th birthday was celebrated in England where he played to a sold-out house at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Also appearing with him were the BBC Big Band, the strings of the London Symphony, Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. BBC Radio 2 presented a 2 1/2-hour “Salute to Shearing” in honor of his birthday.

His US fans and musical collaborators were not to be outdone and the next year there was another sold-out birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall featuring the George Shearing Quintet with Nancy Wilson, Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, the John Pizzarelli Trio, and Tito Puente.

A reminder of the George Shearing Latin magic with Woodwinds and Brazilian Rhythm
Album:“George Shearing / Shearing Bossa NovaOne Note Samba

At age 85, George released his memoirs, Lullaby of Birdland, which was accompanied by a double-album “musical autobiography”, Lullabies of Birdland. This was immediately followed by two albums Hopeless Romantics with Michael Feinstein and the collectors set Mel Tormé & George Shearing The Concord Years.

George Shearing - Lullaby of Birdland

Another reminder of a great collaboration Nancy Wilson and the George Shearing Orchestra When Sunny Gets Blue…words & music by Jack Segal & Marvin Fisher, 1946.

Unfortunately, George suffered a fall and had to retire from regular performing. Although an American Citizen he and his wife returned to Britain most summers to their home in the Cotswolds and was able to indulge in one of his favourite pastimes, watching cricket.

In 2006 he received news that both delighted and surprised him. In a letter from the Prime Minister’s office he was notified that his name had been submitted to The Queen with a recommendation that Her Majesty confer George with a Knighthood.

When the letter was read to him, George simply said, “I don’t know why I’m getting this honor…..I’ve just been doing what I love to do.” And, when asked by the press how he felt about receiving the highest honor the Queen can give, he replied, “My mind keeps flashing back on my beginnings as pianist playing in a pub for the equivalent of $5.00 a week. What a journey it has been from that pub to Buckingham Palace. Receiving such an honor as a Knighthood might also show young people what can be achieved in life if one learns his craft and follows his dreams.”

Considering his own background as a blind child, the youngest of nine children whose father once delivered coal to Buckingham Palace; it was the culmination of a wonderful, successful and hard working life in music.

In June 13, 2007 George was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace. He became Sir George Shearing “for his contribution to music”,

Here is another one of his spectacular collaborations with Peggy Lee singing Do I Love You written by Cole Porter.

Three presidents have invited Mr. Shearing to play at the White House. Ford, Carter and Reagan. He performed at the Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He is a member of the Friars Club and the Lotos Club in New York and the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.

And, the honours keep coming! Back in New York, on October 21, 2007, the Town Hall Foundation presented Sir George with its Annual Friend of the Arts Award “in recognition and appreciation of his abiding interest in the development, enrichment and support of the arts”. With this award also came a medal plaque, bearing Sir George’s name, being placed on the back of one the seats in the legendary Town Hall.

Sir George and his wife Ellie continued to travel between the UK and New York and it was here on February 14, 2011 at age 91, that he died of congestive heart failure with his family by his side.

Perhaps this is an appropriate track to end on.. Fly Me To The Moon the George Shearing Quintet with the legendary Nat King Cole. The song was written in 1954 by Bart Howard.

Buy the music of George Shearing . Amazon

Additional material.
Sir George Shearing Bio

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.


45 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Music Column – William Price King Meets Music Legends – #Jazz – Sir George Shearing – The 1980s and Beyond

  1. Just what I needed this morning before battleing with Facebook.
    What a lovely end to this very informative blog about George Shearing.
    Really loved the musical calm.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Looking forward to who’s next

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Still horrified that I’d never heard of George Shearing before now! Listening to him with Mel Torme, the connection between them was remarkable, both in touch despite the free style of the piece. I’m glad he was knighted – and it’s to his credit that he used that as an inspiration for others. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing career Mr. Shearing had. To have so many fantastic artists share his music is a testimony to his talent. And I love his humble reply to the queen’s letter regarding his knighthood. Just doing what he loved to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up- 30th January – 5th February 2023 – Birthdays, Big Band, Food A-Z, Podcast, PR for Authors, Reviews, Bloggers and Funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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