Frank Chacksfield

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Frank Chacksfield
Frank Chacksfield.jpg
Background information
Birth nameFrancis Charles Chacksfield
Born(1914-05-09)9 May 1914
Battle, Sussex, England
Died9 June 1995(1995-06-09) (aged 81)
Kent, England
Genres Easy listening, pop
Occupation(s) Bandleader, conductor, composer
Instrument(s)Piano, organ
Years activec.1938–1991
Labels Decca
Phase 4
Starborne Productions

Francis Charles Chacksfield (9 May 1914 – 9 June 1995) [1] was an English pianist, organist, composer, arranger, and conductor of popular light orchestral easy listening music, who had great success in Britain and internationally in the 1950s and early 1960s.


Life and career

Chacksfield was born in Battle, East Sussex, and as a child learned to play the piano and organ. His organ teacher was J. R. Sheehan-Dare (1857–1934). [2] He had appeared at Hastings Music Festivals by the time he was 14, and then became deputy church organist at Salehurst. After working for a short period in a solicitor's office he decided on a career in music, and by the late 1930s, led a small band at Tonbridge in Kent. At the beginning of World War II, he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, [3] and, following a radio broadcast as a pianist, was posted to ENSA at Salisbury where he became the arranger for Stars in Battledress, an armed forces entertainment troupe, and shared an office with comedian Charlie Chester. [4] [5]

After the war, he worked with Chester and on BBC Radio as an arranger and conductor. He also worked as musical director for both Henry Hall and Geraldo, and began recording under his own name in 1951 as "Frank Chacksfield's Tunesmiths". In early 1953, he had his first top ten hit, "Little Red Monkey", on the Parlophone label. This was a novelty recording featuring Jack Jordan on the clavioline, and reportedly the first record featuring an electronic instrument to feature on the UK singles chart.[ citation needed ]

Chacksfield signed a recording contract with Decca Records in 1953, and formed a 40-piece orchestra with a large string section, the "Singing Strings". His first record release for Decca, Charlie Chaplin's theme for his film Limelight , won him a gold disc in the United States, [6] and in the United Kingdom, where it reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, and won him the NME award as 'Record of the Year'. It spent eight weeks at No. 2 (an all-time UK chart record), and in all thirteen weeks in the top five chart positions, without dislodging Frankie Laine's "I Believe". [7] His next 78 single, "Ebb Tide", became the first British instrumental recording to reach No. 1 in the United States, spending 5 weeks on top of the Your Hit Parade chart from November 1953 to January 1954 (including Christmas week), [8] also providing him with a second gold disc, [6] and he was voted the most promising new orchestra of the year in the US. [4]

He became one of Britain's best known orchestra leaders internationally, and is estimated to have sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. [5] His material was "mood music", similar to that of Mantovani, including ballads, waltzes, and film themes. [9] In 1954, he began presenting a series on BBC TV, which continued occasionally until the early 1960s. Chacksfield was responsible for the musical arrangement of the first UK entry into the Eurovision Song Contest 1957; "All" by Patricia Bredin.[ citation needed ] He continued to write music, release singles and albums through the 1950s and 1960s, and appeared regularly on BBC radio. [5]

He continued to record occasionally until the 1990s, from the 1970s primarily on the Phase 4 label. [4] He also developed business interests in publishing and recorded for Starborne Productions, a company supplying "canned music" for use by easy listening radio stations and others. Many of these recordings were made commercially available in 2007. Many of his recordings were used during Test card and Ceefax intervals on BBC1 and BBC2 during the 1980s and 1990s. His last album was Thanks for the Memories (Academy Award Winners 1934–55), released in 1991. [4] Chacksfield died in Kent in 1995, after having suffered for several years from Parkinson's disease. [5]

The main theme from his Latin-American style track "Cuban Boy" is used as the theme music for the BBC Scotland sitcom Still Game . [10]

From the album All Time Top T.V. Themes (Decca PFS 4087, 1966; also as The Great TV Themes on London SP 44077), several tracks were used by Dutch offshore pirate radio station Radio Veronica in the 1960s. "Rawhide" and "Dragnet" were used in the news jingles; "The Alfred Hitchcock Theme" was also used.[ citation needed ]

Discography (selected)


A number of the Decca/London Phase 4 titles have been reissued on CD by Dutton Vocalion.


YearSinglePeak chart positions
1953"Little Red Monkey"10
"Terry's Theme from Limelight"52
"Ebb Tide"29
1956"In Old Lisbon"15
"Port au Prince" (with Winifred Atwell)18
"Donkey Cart"26
1960"On the Beach"47


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  1. Naomi Musiker, Reuben Musiker (2014). "Chacksfield, Frank (9 May 1914 — 9 June 1995)". Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and Discographical Sourcebook. Routledge. ISBN   9781135917777.
  2. Tracy, Sheila. Who's Who in Popular Music in Britain (1984), p.107
  3. "Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music - CHACKSFIELD, Frank". Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Archived 13 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p.  64. ISBN   0-214-20512-6.
  7. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 512. ISBN   1-904994-10-5.
  8. "Your Hit Parade's weekly charts of 1953". Hits of All Decades. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  9. 1 2 "Frank Chacksfield". Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  10. "Still Game TV Theme Tune". Cuban Boys. 25 June 1998. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  11. Betts, Graham (2004). Complete UK Hit Singles 1952–2004 (1st ed.). London: Collins. p. 138. ISBN   0-00-717931-6.