To make fun of music be it orchestral, operatic, leider, art songs, jazz, or pop you have to have a sound grounding in the genre. You only have to think of Anna Russell, Spike Jones, Victor Borge, Dame Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket, Chuck Jones at Looney Tunes, the Hoffnung’s Interplanetary Musical Festivals, P.D.Q. Bach, or the Nitwits to realize that all these “comedians” knew exactly what they were doing in their madcap spoofing.
In 1936 Sid Millward was considered one of the top saxophonists in the United Kingdom and he and his band, the Nitwits, were more traditional in their style; though there was still a slightly witty turn to their presentation as shown in this 1940 Pathé newsreel.
As well as serving in the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) during the war he was also the bandleader at London’s fashionable Cafe Anglais. In the late ’40s he teamed up with Cyril Lagey and Charlie Rossi to include comic versions of pop and classical numbers as well as sight gags into the act.
It was to become popular in clubs, on TV, and in the movies, in the UK, Europe and America. An appearance at the famous Parisian night club the Lido de Paris led to a long time stint at the Stardust in Las Vegas when the tits-and-tassels spectacle moved there lock, stock, and danseuses nues. Many of the members including Millward moved to the city in the desert full time and travelled to international appearances.
This appearance on the Rudi Carrell show dates from 1970 and excludes the appearance of Lagey, a black performer who’s “Uncle Tom” character would be totally unacceptable today. Lagey was an fine musician and an incredibly funny comedian; he was known for the bowler hat he wore onstage. It was actually only the brim as the rest of the hat was his hair. He also was a master of incredible patter songs but belongs to a school of comedy that has seen it’s day.
Back in 2004 journalist David Millward wrote a fascinating piece on his elusive and colourful uncle Sid – a brilliant musician and comedian who knew exactly what he and his troop of nitwits were doing.
On this day in 1733: the right of settlers in New France to enslave natives was upheld at Quebec City.