Nat Temple Page
Tuesday June 13, 2008
Nat Temple: saxophone and clarinet player turned bandleader
In a career that stretched from 1929 to 2003, Nat Temple successfully straddled two aspects of professional music-making. Firstly, in the prewar period, he was one of Britain’s most outstanding instrumental soloists, playing the alto saxophone and clarinet in the bands of Harry and Syd Roy, Ambrose, and Geraldo. Secondly, after a chance meeting with the Canadian-born comedian Bernard Braden, he became one of the leading postwar bandleaders for radio and television, providing music for everything from the children’s show Crackerjack to the mainstream entertainment of Russell Harty and Noel Edmonds.
Born Nathan Temple, he grew up in Tower Hamlets, East London, where his father was a tailor. In 1927 Temple took up the saxophone and after an apprenticeship with the singer and broadcaster Sam Costa from 1929, and a short spell with Gaby Robins’s orchestra, he joined the RKO-leans, led by the pianist Syd Roy. This was the house band of the RKO cinema in Leicester Square, and it also featured the two-piano act of Ivor Moreton and Dave Kaye among its personnel.
These two pianists and Temple then moved to join the more jazz-orientated group led by Roy’s reed-playing brother Harry, and in it Temple blossomed, turning in some of the most polished British jazz solos of the era in his saxophone contributions to such discs as 12th Street Rag and Roy Rag — the latter piece featured by Roy’s “band-within-a-band”, the Ragamuffins. He also admitted recently that it was he, rather than Roy himself, who played the more sparkling clarinet solos on the band’s records, although at the time Roy took the credit and paid Temple extra to keep quiet about his contributions.
Roy was not only a society band leader at venues such as the London Pavilion and the Café Anglais, but he broadcast nationally, notably during a two-year engagement at the Mayfair Hotel. Hence Temple’s playing was heard by a large audience, and he continued to be Roy’s main soloist, even though the band’s work became more intermittent after its leader’s wedding to the Rajah of Sarawak’s daughter, his entry into European high society, and a tour to South America. By 1939 Roy was back at the Café Anglais, eventually transferring to the Embassy Club in 1940, but at that time Temple was called up, and joined the band of the Grenadier Guards.
Although this involved tours of duty to North Africa, among other places, Temple managed to fit in recording sessions when he was in London, appearing on disc with Geraldo, Ambrose and Joe Daniels.
After demobilisation, Temple formed his own Club Royal Orchestra in 1947, playing commercial and society engagements from hunt balls to hotel dances, as well as seasons in that nascent postwar institution, the Butlins holiday camp. His own virtuoso playing now took a back seat to his activities as a leader and organiser, and by the time he started working on radio and television, with first Breakfast . . . and later Bedtime with Braden, he was assuming the persona of a genial if somewhat bumbling bandleader. This was a role he played to perfection, while creating music of the very highest professional standards for broadcasters such as Michael Bentine, Dick Emery, Frankie Howerd and Peter Ustinov. He was also to accompany a huge range of stars on record, including Hoagy Carmichael, Eartha Kitt and Mel Tormé.
After his heyday on television and radio, Temple continued to lead a quintet throughout the 1980s and 1990s, in which he once again played clarinet and saxophone more prominently, finally retiring on his 90th birthday.
He is survived by his four daughters, one of whom, Mandy, directed the film Igor, Child of Chernobyl, for which Temple won an Emmy for his soundtrack score in 1995. He had previously won the highest honour of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, the Gold Badge of Merit, in 1993.
Nat Temple, bandleader and saxophonist, was born on July 18, 1913. He died on May 30, 2008, aged 94