Frank Parr

1st June 1928 - 8th May 2012


10/05/20. - "Frank Parr wearing one of the tribute red wigs issued on the night which we all wore for red head  Mike Cotton to celebrate his 60th  at the 100 Club.   Pictured here with Ken's partner Debbie Wilson, the event was a surprise for Mike Cotton and arranged by his wife. "The 100 club was packed and of course jazz all evening by numerous musicians and naturally Mike joined in in the later stages. A full house and fun", writes Ken Ames who kindly supplied the photograph.   "I remember when I was booked via Chez Chesterman’s kind recommendation to "stand in" for the late Ernie Price at the 100 Club. November 1988. A benefit night for Mrs Price. It was a reunion of the Acker Bilk band and a unique opportunity to recreate the Ken Sims John Mortimer Ron Mckay Roy James line up.I always a fan of that band so it was a special career moment. At the end of the set Frank Parr approached me on the stand to say “Great !! Nostalgia rampant”!!!.  How the scene misses such wonderful talented characters.


Frank Parr, wicket keeper for Lancashire in the early '50s and trombonist with the Merseysippi Jazz band from 1950 until 1956 (when he joined Mick Mulligan), died in a London hospice on 8th March. He had suffered for some time from cancer of the jaw, although fortunately had little pain. Before he gave up playing in the '60s Frank worked for Mike Cotton and Monty Sunshine amongst others". -

 Steve Voce.

Frank Parr (Francis David Parr), born in Liverpool, on the 1st of June 1928, who was a member of one of the first lineups of the Merseysippi Jazz Band, at the Cavern in their earliest appearances there, died on 8th May 2012, aged 83.

Taking up the trombone in 1950, he joined the Merseysippi J/B in 1952, as a replacement for Denis Gracey. Leaving in 1956, he joined Mick Mulligan with whose band he remained until 1961. John Chilton tells us that Frank "... During the early 1960s, deputized in various bands, with Mike Cotton, Monty Sunshine, etc...." Then he gave up playing in 1961 and took up band agency-work and advertising. Frank would have been 84 on the 1st of June this year.

He had been suffering from Cancer for several months, receiving Radiotherapy, but sadly he died at a hospice in Hampstead, London, with no actual family members present. This news was reported to me yesterday (9th May). The lady who gave me the news was Liz Lohani, one of just three very close friends of Frank's. The other two ladies are Jasmine Lawrence (who many of us know) and Fiona Dunbar.  Frank had no family to speak of, and these three ladies are his only family now They were all very kind to him, some during decades, carrying out all sorts of chores that he couldn't manage. So, very deservingly, any intended sympathy should be directed entirely to these three wonderful 'Angels of Mercy', as well as gratitude, no doubt, to the equally wonderful McMillan Nurses and the Staff of the Hospice in question (no details yet on this).

Frank wasn't just a Jazz trombonist of exceptional expertise in his day, but also a renowned cricketer, who as early as July 1952, was already wowing the crowds as Lancashire County Cricket Club's 2nd XI Wicket-Keeper, according to Alan Stevens (Jack Florin) in one of his early "Jazz Roundabout" scrap-books, and John Chilton, in his "Who's Who of British Jazz", adds that he also "represented the MCC in 1953.

I first met Frank at RAF Henlow, in about 1956 or 57, when he was posted there on a radar technician's course. I was clerical staff in connection with the same line of business at RAF Henlow Camp, but we met in a musical capacity, when he sat in during my jam session, and if I remember rightly, he was just late of the Merseysippi J/B. We got a king-size hangar to do some Jazz practice in, with a little group I had formed when I only played the clarinet. Frank stood out as a true professional among "us greenies". The other instruments, apart from Frank and his trombone, consisted of tenor sax, I can't recall the names of all of these other musicians, except somebody? ... a trumpet-player Sam Glazin, another clarinettist, Mike Kelly, drummer Eddy Fenn, and a man on an exceptional electronic "T-chest bass" (an electronic genius's own invention about the size of the main body of a metal-detector) from which protruded a real bass-string attached to a lever - depressed up or down against a metal tube, to produce the required single note). It sounded exactly like a double bass. I wonder whether he ever patented it?

Liz, who has taken on the task of attending document-sifting, the funeral and other arrangements, said that the ceremony will be held at Golders Green Cemetery. Details will follow, when I have more news from Liz, for Frank's friends who might live close enough to attend. My personal sympathy and thoughts go out to the three ladies mentioned above and to any relatives Frank might have lost touch with and I am sure his many friends from the worlds of Jazz and Cricket. I'll be seeing and playing with you again, Frank, in that great 'practice hangar' in the sky! - but I hope at least a decade might pass, before doing so!

Joe A A Silmon-Monerri

Frank Parr 1928 – 2012

 At a pub in Castleford in the late seventies I first met Frank Parr, the sublime but driven trombonist who has recently died and was best known for his work in the Mick Mulligan band. As George Melly related in his second volume of autobiography, ‘Owning Up’ - ‘Frank was an extreme social risk, a complicated rebel whose world swarmed with demons.’

 Frank was born in Wallasey, June 1st 1928 and attended the local Grammar School; a gifted sportsman who caught the eye of a Lancashire Cricket Club scout and was subsequently engaged by the club as a ‘player’ (not a Gentleman) He was to keep wicket for Lancashire and before long was a first team regular, clocking up between 1951 and 1954 90+ dismissals. His name was touted for a potential MCC Test spot, however it was his louche, exotic lifestyle, which was ultimately to seal his downfall.

 Lancashire had appointed a new Captain, Cyril Washbrook (i.e. Gentleman) who immediately demanded Frank address him as ‘Sir’ and insisted he had to ‘spruce himself up’.

 Frank never informed anyone of the true circumstances of his dismissal from Lancashire CC, nonetheless he left in deep acrimony. Washbrook supposedly blackballed Frank, rendering him, as a cricketer, unemployable.

 He had played trombone with the Merseysippi Jazz Band from the early fifties. At the time this occupation although tolerated by the Grandees of the Cricket Club was also viewed with deep suspicion.

 During an appearance at the Cavern in 1956 Mick Mulligan offered him a chair with his Magnolia Jazz Band. Having little to lose and accompanied by the enticing promise of a regular income Frank threw in his lot and moved to London.

 He began drinking heavily, but as George Melly, a fellow scouser was to inform, ‘He passed through the classic stages of drunkenness in record time; wild humour, self pity, to unconsciousness.’

 Frank once fittingly observed, ‘All Jazzmen are kicking against something and it comes out when they blow’. 

 With the inception of the sixties ‘pop’ stars and ‘groups’ Trad Jazz’s lantern began to dim and ultimately was to all but extinguish; in 1961 Mulligan pulled the plug on the Magnolia’s and the band folded. Briefly he joined the Christy Brothers, but he retired from regular band work around 1962.

 For ten years he managed Acker Bilk’s Paramount Jazz Band and later worked in advertising.

 He partnered Christine Dunbar, the late actress.

 Selected Sources

‘Owning Up.’ George Melly. (Penguin Books)

Conversations with the late Bill (Diz) Disley   

 Alex Balmforth - May 2012          

Courtesy of The Telegraph

Frank ParrFrank Parr

Frank Parr, who has died aged 83, played cricket for Lancashire in the early 1950s and was good enough to be considered for the English Test team; but his growing involvement in the jazz scene, eventually as trombonist with the Mick Mulligan Band, put paid to his chances of a professional career.


Frank Parr

Frank Parr (back row, third from left) with the Lancashire side in 1953. Cyril Washbrook is in the front row, second from left

In Owning Up (1978), the second of his volumes of autobiography, George Melly, the band’s frontman, explained why Parr’s time as a star wicketkeeper was short-lived. The professional cricketer, Melly observed, “is expected to behave within certain defined limits. He can be a 'rough diamond’, even 'a bit of a character’, but he must know his place. If he smells of sweat, it must be fresh sweat. He must dress neatly and acceptably. His drinking must be under control. He must know when to say 'sir’.”

Frank Parr, Melly observed, had none of these attributes: “He was an extreme social risk, a complicated rebel whose world swarmed with demons and Jack O’Lanterns”, and he “concealed a formidable and well-read intelligence behind a stylised oafishness”.

His fellow band members, Melly recalled, never knew the reason for Parr’s quarrel with the captain of Lancashire which ended his cricketing career, “but after a month or two in his company we realised it must have been inevitable”.

Parr, said Melly, was extremely limited in what he would eat: “Fried food, especially bacon and eggs, headed the list”; but food such as soup or cheese came under the heading of “pretentious bollocks”.

Even in the case of food he did like, Melly wrote, “his attitude was decidedly odd. He would crouch over his plate, knife and fork at the ready in his clenched fists, and glare down at the harmless egg and inoffensive bacon, enunciating, as though it were part of some barbarous and sadistic ritual, the words 'I’ll murder it’. What followed, a mixture of jabbing, tearing, stuffing, grinding and gulping, was a distressing spectacle.”

But it was drink that was Parr’s real forte: “He passed through the classic stages of drunkenness in record time, wild humour, self-pity, and unconsciousness, all well-seasoned with the famous Parr grimaces. His actual fall had a monumental simplicity. One moment he was perpendicular, the next horizontal. The only warning we had of his collapse was that, just before it happened, Frank announced that he was 'only fit for the human scrap heap’ and this allowed us time to move any glasses, tables, chairs or instruments out of the way.”

Melly recalled Parr’s habit, when performing, of shifting his cigarette around between his fingers and playing feet apart, body leaning stiffly backwards to balance the weight of his instrument; his music was “aimed beyond his technique. Sometimes a very beautiful idea came off, more often you were aware of a beautiful idea which existed in Frank’s head.”

“All jazzmen,” Parr was once quoted as saying, “are kicking against something, and it comes out when they blow.” Yet he insisted that he was the only “normal” member of the band. In consequence, any exceptionally dissipated behaviour would provoke the bandleader Mick Mulligan to say: “Hello, Frank. Feeling normal then?”

Francis David Parr was born at Wallasey, on the Wirral at the mouth of the river Mersey, on June 1 1928 and educated at the local grammar school, where he excelled as an athlete, was earmarked for the Lancashire side, and began playing trombone with a combo called the Merseysippi Jazz Band, which performed at The Cavern in Liverpool.

Parr kept wicket in the Lancashire first team from 1951 to 1954, achieving 90 dismissals for the county . A left-handed batsman, his highest score was 42, against Sussex at Hove.

Parr impressed the England selectors, and after a strong performance at the Oval in 1952 was tipped to play for the Test side. In 1953 he came close to being selected for the winter tour of the West Indies. The former England keeper Herbert Strudwick described him as “the most promising keeper I’ve seen in years”.

But Parr combined his cricket with a jazzman’s lifestyle, Lancashire’s fast bowler Brian Statham recalling him as “an arty, untidy type who looked what he was, a spare-time musician”.

Parr’s scruffy attire and laid-back manner were tolerated by Lancashire’s easy-going captain Nigel Howard, but when Cyril Washbrook took over in 1954 he demanded higher standards of dress and behaviour. Parr was dropped after just five matches, and Washbrook even warned Worcestershire (which offered Parr a job, but then withdrew the invitation) against taking him on: “I should inform you,” Washbrook wrote, “that he can be a grave social risk.”

Yet as a cricketer Parr was at the height of his powers. “I thought it was the end of the world,” he recalled. “It’s probably why I took up serious drinking.”

Parr stayed with the Merseysippi band for six years before joining the Mick Mulligan Band in 1956 as a full-time professional and moving to London.

In the 1950s George Melly and the Mulligan band became synonymous with a jazz lifestyle that involved imbibing copious amounts of alcohol and frenetic and varied sexual activity at all hours of the day and night. Inevitably the band’s performances were often affected, and the attendant disasters were sometimes spectacular (on one occasion, when playing solo trumpet, Mulligan was so drunk that all he could do was blow hard and very loudly, producing 32 bars of ear-shattering cacophony); yet as CDs of the period show, by the late 1950s Parr had become a gifted performer.

By then, however, the band’s brand of revivalist “trad” jazz was going out of fashion. “[We] knew something was up when we did a concert with Tommy Steele,” George Melly recalled later. “We did our set and the audience was quieter than usual. Then Tommy Steele came on and these small girls exploded into shrieks. Our trombonist, Frank Parr — famously depressive — said we would all be on the breadline.”

The band shut up shop in 1961, and Parr soon gave up playing for good. For 10 years he was Acker Bilk’s manager, then worked selling advertising space. Later he had walk-on parts on television shows such as Psychoville (2009) and in films, including The King’s Speech (2010).

Despite the trauma of his sacking from Lancashire, Parr remained an ardent cricket fan, captaining a team of jazzmen called “The Ravers”, regularly attending Old Trafford with the Lancashire Players’ Association and making occasional forays to Lord’s.

He lived for some years in the 1970s with Christine Dunbar, an actress, who predeceased him, but eventually returned to life on his own in a council flat near Lord’s.

Frank Parr, born June 1 1928, died May 8 2012

Courtesy of The Telegraph

the Independent Obituary

Guardian Obituary


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