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Remembering the Mapperley musician who stormed the charts and performed with Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra


For listeners to the BBC Home Service in the late 1940s, the sound of the BBC Show in the late 1940s the sound of the BBC Show Band playing the popular tunes at the time were a nightly pleasure. The leader of this band was Cyril Stapleton.

Stapleton was born in Mapperley at the start of the First World War on December 31, 1914.

At the age of seven, Cyril started to study the violin and by 12 he had made the first of many broadcasts on the radio. This first transmission to feature Stapleton was on 5NG, the local Nottingham Radio Station and the youngster soon became a firm favourite with the BBC and regularly performed from their studios in Birmingham.

Cyril’s talent was quickly recognised and he travelled to Czechoslovakia to study under the famous violin teacher Otakar Sevcik.

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Returning to England as a teenager, he found employment playing in the ‘Pit Orchestras’ of local Nottingham cinemas.

In 1931, aged 17, Cyril won a scholarship to Trinity College of Music and started his band career proper when he joined Henry Hall’s Dance Band while still at college. He can be heard on recordings of the BBC broadcasts made by this band at this time and on old 78” records made by Henry Hall in 1932.

Shortly after this brush with fame, Cyril returned to Nottingham and again worked in the cinema orchestras, but he was soon back in demand and joined the Jack Payne Orchestra when it toured South Africa. Records made by the Payne Orchestra in 1936 featured Cyril’s playing.

The Italian Theme was one of Cyril Stapleton’s biggest chart hits

Stapleton left Jack Payne just before the Second World War to form his own band in London, appearing in local clubs and in 1939, the band debuted on the BBC.

During the war, Cyril served in the RAF as an Air Gunner. He was also in the RAF Symphony Orchestra.

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After leaving the RAF he continued to pursue a classical career playing with three symphony orchestras.

In 1947, he reformed his own band and started broadcasts on the BBC again.

In 1952 Cyril became the conductor of the BBC Show Band and appeared in some of the earliest TV transmissions. The band attracted top visiting stars including Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. At this stage in his career, Cyril Stapleton was now a household name.

Cyril and the band appeared in the 1955 film Just for You as well as having chart hits in 1956 and 1957 with the Italian Theme and the Children’s Marching Song.

When the BBC Show Band was disbanded in 1957, Stapleton again formed his own band and toured all over the country, playing to packed houses during throughout the 1950s and 60s.

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Touring took its toll and in 1965 he became Artists and Repertoire Manager for Pye Records. However, he soon missed the band life and reformed his band, yet again, and they continuing to tour until the 1970’s.

Cyril died suddenly on February 28, 1974 aged only 59, leaving a wife Sheila and three children and a long musical legacy.

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