"Pa" Middleton

Alan Middleton has kindly allowed us to publish these photos of himself and his late father.

P.A. MIDDLETON

Percy Albert Middleton (known among the banjo fraternity as ‘Pa’ Middleton) was born on 30 May 1888, and about the age of ten took banjo lessons from Harry Smith who had a music shop in Rotherhithe, London.   He progressed so rapidly that his teacher advised him to have advanced lessons from A.H. Nassau-Kennedy, a famous banjo teacher and composer of the time.   

Meanwhile he played in a zither-banjo Trio with Harry Smith and another adult banjoist, Will Spence, (pictured above) at many concerts in and around London.   When he left school in 1904 his work entailed long hours, so concert playing was impossible, and after military service in World War I he returned with a damaged right thumb, so the banjo was relegated to the attic.   It was found by his son, Alan, in 1939, and the efforts of the twelve-year-old to play ‘There’ll Always be an England’ on the first string (the only remaining one) prompted ‘Pa’ to teach his son to play properly.   The ‘Student Size’ Temlett zither-banjo was soon joined by a Cammeyer ‘Patent’ and during the Second World War P.A. Middleton was again playing at London concerts, but this time accompanying his son in duets.   After the War he played on radio and television with the London Banjo Club and also found time to act as Treasurer to the Philharmonic Society of Guitarists for many years before his death at the age of 83 in January 1972.

 

ALAN VINSON MIDDLETON 

Was born on 15th August 1927 and was first given lessons on his father’s Temlett zither-banjo in 1939.   He had advanced lessons from Bernard Sheaff in 1944, and during that time broadcast in a ‘Young Artistes’ programme, playing ‘A Banjo Oddity’ on his Cammeyer ‘Vibrante’ zither-banjo.   After National Service with the Royal Engineers he joined the staff of the Clifford Essex Music Co. in 1948.   At the Federation Rally the following year he won the Emile Grimshaw Cup; came second in the competition for the John Alvey Turner Cup, won the classical guitar Federation Cup and, with his father, won the Clifford Essex Cup for duet playing.   He developed a transference of techniques between the banjo and guitar to the extent that he frequently uses his right hand third finger on the banjo, and is apt to play rapid runs on the guitar using his first finger and thumb in typical Morley style.   During the early 1950’s he played at many important concerts in London, appearing with such well-known fretted instrumentalists as Julian Bream, Hugo D’Alton and Edward Fairs; and also at that time, with his father, he became a member of the London Banjo Club, with which he broadcast and televised.

In 1954 he left the Clifford Essex Co. to qualify as a teacher, and family commitments took him to Guernsey in the Channel Islands where he taught handicraft and music.   In his spare time he continued to play the banjo and zither-banjo, giving lecture-recitals on fretted instruments and  private lessons on the classical guitar and harp.   Over the years he has composed and arranged many pieces for the banjo and zither-banjo, four of the latter being published by the Clifford Essex Music Co. as an Album entitled ‘Solos for a Quieter Mood’.

He returned to the U.K. in 1993 and still plays both kinds of banjo (depending on how long his nails are!) but prefers to play fast solos on his Weaver banjo and the slower pieces on his ‘Vibrante’ zither-banjo which, unusually, is strung with nylon strings.   The old Temlett ‘Student’ zither-banjo is still extant, although in need of repair, and is only awaiting a convenient time for his handicraft skills to bring it back to playing order.     

 

 

 

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