I used to work with a guy named Cyril. I didn’t realize that at first because he was introduced to me by his nickname, Cy, which I heard as Si, the common shortening of Simon. And even though Cyril is pretty ordinary in the UK, that’s not the case in the US. I think he’s the only Cyril I’ve ever known. All of which is neither here nor there, but I remembered him when I began working on today’s post featuring British bandleader Cyril Stapleton.
Born in Nottingham, England, just before World War I, Stapleton was a talented young musician, playing violin on radio by the time he was 12. In his teens he began appearing on the BBC, an association that would continue off and on for most of his career. He also gained valuable experience by finding spots in cinema orchestras, and by the time he moved to London to attend the Trinity School of Music in the early 1930s, he was off to a solid start as a professional musician.
While at Trinity he began playing in a dance band and even made a few records with them, but when the job evaporated he moved back home to Nottingham and formed his own band. For the rest of the decade he worked hard to get recognition for his group, appearing on stage and even touring overseas. By 1939 he’d moved back to London and secured a regular spot on the BBC for his band. Unfortunately World War II was underway by then.
Stapleton dissolved his band and joined the RAF, spending most of his time in that service’s symphony orchestra, but it was in the post-war years that his career began to take off. He started by playing jobs with other groups but it wasn’t long before he formed a band of his own and began again working on the BBC. From that point on into the 1950s, his band was one of the top attractions on the network, and he not only backed some well-known vocalists like Frank Sinatra but also gave a start to new ones like Matt Monro.
When the BBC decided to get out of the band sponsoring business, Stapleton didn’t waste any time forging ahead as the leader of an independent outfit. He found plenty of opportunities, including in the recording studio. Although the orchestra didn’t have any megabits, some did chart pretty high. His biggest British hit was “Blue Star” and in the US he had a million seller with “The Children’s Marching Song”. (Better known as “Nick Nack Paddy Whack” — a good choice for our Saluting Silly Songs feature!)
Stapleton continued to be active into the 1970s, but he died in 1974 at age 59.