DEATH OF JOHN PIDOUX

By A. P. Sharpe

BMG February 1954

PLAYERS of the banjo and zither-banjo all over the world will learn with regret of the passing of John Pidoux. He had been in failing health for some time and the end came peacefully on December 12, at Sidmouth, Devon.

John Pidoux was born in Leonard Street, London, E.C., on August 13, 1875 and started to play the banjo in his early teens. His enthusiasm for the instrument was so great that his mother often locked his banjo away because, as she said, "it needed a rest".

The many opportunities at that time to hear such outstanding performers as Herbert J. Ellis, Norton Greenop, Arthur Sullivan, Parke Hunter, Nassau Kennedy, A. D. Cammeyer, etc., provided the necessary inspiration to the enthusiastic youngster.

When he was 17 he secured employment with John Alvey Turner, who then carried on business at the historic Crosby Hall in Bishopsgate, London, and it was John Pidoux's proud boast that he played every solo in Turner's catalogue at that time—numbered in thousands. In 1894, he moved to Birmingham where he devoted his energies to the musical profession and taught hundreds of pupils to play the banjo.

BANJO FESTIVALS

In two years he had succeeded in organising a fine orchestra of over 40 players (later increased to 70) and on May 5, 1898, he organised the first of a long series of Banjo Festivals at which he appeared as zither-banjo soloist. At these "Festivals" most of the leading fretted instrumentalists of the day appeared.

In 1903, John Pidoux's playing of the zither-banjo came to the notice of the Pioneer Record Co., and he was invited to make his first gramophone records, which included "Queen of the Burlesque", "Queen of Diamonds", "Coonland Memories", "Dinah's Wedding", "Mosquito's Parade", "Whistling Rufus" and "Jolly Chinee".

His recordings sold in thousands and soon he was making records (many of his own compositions) for most of the leading gramophone companies. His output of titles was second only to the prolific output of Olly Oakley. Many were issued under pseudonyms.

After World War I, John Pidoux's time was mainly devoted to running dance bands—until dancing received a "set back" in the slump of the 'thirties. In 1928 he started broadcasting from the Midland Region station, and for many years was often heard as soloist in B.B.C. programmes.

A year or so ago he gave up his extensive teaching connection in Birmingham and retired to Devon.