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Benny Green

Benny Green (9 December 192722 June 1998), born in Leeds, Yorkshire, was a Cockney-accented British jazz saxophonist, who was most well known by the public for his radio shows and books.

Early life

His parents were David Green, a tailor and saxophonist, and Fanny Fryer. They met while David was playing with a band in Leeds. They married in London in 1926 and initially lived with David's father, an immigrant Russian-Jewish tailor, at 1 Greenwell Street London. Benny Green was born in Leeds because his mother wanted to be near her own family for the birth, but they soon returned to London, to a basement flat in Cleveland Street. Here he became the streetwise but sentimental cockney-Jewish character who eventually became a well-loved radio figure.

He was educated at Clipstone Street Junior Mixed School and St. Marylebone Grammar School.


His BBC Radio 2 Sunday afternoon record show ran for many years until his death. He had a huge range of knowledge about the kind of music he liked, by classic "Great American Songbook" composers like Kern and Cole Porter and jazz, and would introduce most records with details about the artist(s) and often moaned about the latest issues in music he disagreed with. He had a particular (though, to listeners, not readily explicable) dislike of certain artists, including Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

He also chaired a radio comedy panel game broadcast regularly on Radio 2 and the BBC World Service for 20 years; Jazz Score. Many jazz artists appeared on this show, stopping the contest to tell their own anecdotes about their career and other jazz musicians. (Although often some of the names would mean little to the general listener).

In 1958, he appeared in the UK pop charts as a member of Lord Rockingham's XI, who were the house band on ITV's rock 'n' roll show 'Oh Boy!' The novelty jazz/rock opus 'Hoots Mon', complete with spoken interjections in a broad mock-Scots accent, made No 1 for three weeks in November and December. Benny would later joke that, because he wore dark glasses whilst playing, to counteract the strong studio lights, he would get fan mail addressed to 'the blind sax-player'.

He first worked for the BBC in 1955 and worked regularly for it from then on. In the 1960s he often appeared (with, among others, Alan Brien, Dee Wells and Robert Pitman) on Three After Six, Associated Rediffusion's early evening television discussion programme on current affairs,. In the 1980s he contributed occasionally to Stop The Week, Robert Robinson's Saturday discussion programme on Radio 4. Green also wrote and/or narrated many radio documentaries about stage and film musical stars and Hollywood, his other main interest apart from jazz and sport. He also wrote for magazines, including Punch, and regularly for newspapers. He was a big fan of writer P. G. Wodehouse, about whom he wrote a literary biography (1981).

Benny Green married Antoinette Kanal in 1962, and had three sons and one daughter. His son, Dominic Green, is a guitarist and has published a book about his father; Benny Green Words and Music (2003).

Away from jazz he is notable for publishing the Wisden Anthologies, a summary of the famous cricketing annual, between 1979 and 1983. The four volumes covered the highlights from Wisden Cricketers' Almanack from its inception in 1864 until 1982 and stand as a major milestone in cricketing literature.

He died at the age of 70 of cancer in the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey.


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