It’s 95 years since one of Preston’s finest musicians and the man behind the first ever Number One single was born.
Albert Edward Calvert was born in Preston on the March 15, 1922 and lived at 100 London Road. His family were incredibly music orientated.
His father, although a bookmaker by profession, loved music, in particular brass bands and Eddie would grow to share that love in years to come.
By the age of eight he had his first cornet lesson, choosing to practise his scales and exercises rather than play football and cricket like his friends did. He attended St Matthew’s School where his passion for playing the cornet shone through, maybe too much at times.
Calvert carried his mouthpiece to school where he would practice at lunch times, sometimes for too long which meant the cornet was swapped for the cane from his teacher for being late to class.
This did not deter him, though, and by the age of 11 Eddie was playing alongside his older brother Joseph on the back row in the Preston Town Silver Band, in fact he was quickly promoted to the principle chair, much to the dismay of some of the older players.
At 14 he left school to become an apprentice electrician and joined one of the best military bands in the area - the 4th Battalion North Lancashire regiment after some persuasion by his father for him to be heard by bandmaster, Mr Green.
Mr Green was impressed with what he had heard and granted Eddie special permission from the war office to join. A uniform was made to size and Eddie duly joined them on the second cornet.
Green decided he would show off his new recruit at a Sunday concert at the New Victoria Cinema, the audience were overjoyed with what Calvert had showcased and a maturing Eddie had his first taste of public affection.
Eddie was gifted in that he could play a variety of instruments and come 16 he persuaded his father to buy him a 50 shilling trumpet, which back then was a large amount of money.
Eddie now had his own trumpet and the rest, as they say, is history.
War was coming, however, and when the Second World War arrived, the young Preston man’s fledgling music career came to an abrupt halt.
The war and two years of service passed though and, now with a silver plate in his head after injury, the aspiring musician could finally get his career back on track. In the late 1940s he headed down to London and began playing in amateur brass brands before eventually progressing to professional status. Calvert was performing with popular dance orchestras, of note Geraldo’s and Billy Ternent, and his performances were rewarded with radio and TV exposure.
Fancying his chances as a solo artist he ended up playing on television with the Stanley Black Orchestra and this is where he was dubbed ‘The Man With The Golden Trumpet’ after an enthusiastic TV announcer introduced him as just that.
He went from strength-to-strength and the 195os saw the pinnacle of the Lancastrian’s career. 1954 his instrumental version of ‘Oh Mein Papa’ burst into the charts and all the way to the top, his first UK number one and the first awarded by the New Musical Express. The track was to stay there for the next nine weeks, a British record at the time.
The track sold more than 400,000 copies in the UK, more than 1m in the United States and Calvert became only the second British artist to receive a gold disc, the first for an instrumental.
The gold disc would go along nicely with his famous trumpet which was helping him to achieve accolades not seen by a trumpet player before.
A year later in 1955 Eddie was back at the top again, his track ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’ went to number one for four weeks. That was to prove his last number one hit, however. ‘John and Julie’ and ‘Stranger In paradise’ entered at nine and 14 in the same year and his last major hit came in 1958 with ‘Little Serenade’.
In 1960 he was invited by orchestra leader Norrie Paramor and singers Ruby Murray and Michael Holliday, who Paramor and Calvert both knew ,to record an extended-play single with four tracks.
Eddie played Silent Night and on another track he, Murray and Holliday combined to produce a version of Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You. The single, released by Columbia Records achieved some success in the UK but was better received in Australia and South Africa.
The trumpeter married show girl Celia Hart in 1962 at a Manchester ceremony attended by Sir Bruce Forsyth and Tommy Steele. His success was not without some hardships though and he was ordered to rest after collapsing in his West End flat from overwork and lost £2,000 worth of earnings after a former manager sued him for commission.
Eddie was also involved with other showbiz personalities who lost money in an ill-fated music newspaper venture.
Fed up with life in England under Harold Wilson’s Labour government, and losing substantial amounts to the tax man, Calvert upped sticks and headed to the warmer climates of South Africa in 1968 where he remarried a South African girl.
Eddie had the gold from his music, the silver in his head and now the bronzed complexion on his skin from the South African sunshine.
He remained active musically, touring abroad and performing regularly in South Africa where he continued to record for the local market and performed a version of “Amazing Grace”, retitled “Amazing Race” specially adapted for Rhodesia. He released an LP shortly before his death too.
Albert Edward Calvert died on the August 7, 1978 of a heart attack at his luxury bungalow in Rivonia, Johannesburg, aged 56. Coincidentally Pope Paul VI also died that day too of a heart attack so news of Eddie’s death was somewhat overshadowed.