Melly, George 1926–2007
Melly, George 1926–2007
(Good Time George, Alan George Heywood Melly, George Heywood Melly)
See index for CA sketch: Born August 17, 1926, in Liverpool, England; died July 5, 2007, in London, England. Jazz vocalist, critic, art collector, and author. Melly's flamboyant lifestyle and eccentric behavior entertained two generations of British jazz aficionados, and his knowledge of art and popular culture solidified his reputation as a critic and author. In the 1950s and 1960s Melly devoted himself to reviving and popularizing the classical or "trad" (traditional) jazz music of performers like Bessie Smith. His gravelly voice and risqué reenactment of bawdy lyrics made him a popular performer, especially at his frequent appearances at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, almost literally until the day he died. Melly attracted notice in the 1950s as a singer with Mike Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. In the 1970s he reentered the jazz scene with John Chilton's Feetwarmers, where he was affectionately introduced as "Good Time George," (also the title of his theme song) and entertained a new generation of pub-goers, college students, and concert audiences. At the end of his career he performed with Digby Fairweather and His Half Dozen. In the 1950s, while performing with longtime friend Mulligan, Melly had also tested the waters of a writing career, and he spent most of the 1960s as a full-time critic and columnist for the London Observer, where he reviewed books, music, theater, and film, and commented on popular culture. He was particularly intrigued by surrealist art and was the owner of a significant private collection that he had begun to acquire as a young man. His writings on art include A Tribe of One: Great Naive Painters of the British Isles (1981) and Paris and the Surrealists (1991). Melly was not initially a fan of popular culture as it manifested itself in the music of performers like the Beatles, but he came to realize that an influential revolution was underway in England in the 1960s. He discussed this and related topics in his 1970 book Revolt into Style: The Pop Arts in Britain. His columns were collected in Mellymobile, 1970-1981 (1982). Never one to shy away from the public eye, Melly also wrote several colorful and candid autobiographies, in which he related his decadent adventures with enthusiasm.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Melly, Diana, Take a Girl like Me: Life with George, Vintage (London, England), 2006.
Melly, George, Owning Up, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1965.
Melly, George, Rum Bum and Concertina, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1977.
Melly, George, Scouse Mouse, or, I Never Got over It: An Autobiography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1984.
Melly, George, Slowing Down, Viking (London, England), 2005.
Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2007, sec.3, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2007, p. B7.
New York Times, July 6, 2007, p. C9.
Times (London, England), July 6, 2007, p. 71.