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Happy birthday, Stanley Black

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Today we come to the final episode, number 17, of the first series. It was broadcast on 20 September 1951 and is listed on page 36 of the Radio Times.


Music for much of the first two series of the show was provided by Stanley Black and the BBC Dance Orchestra, but for this episode the musicians were the “Skyrockets Orchestra conducted by Woolf Phillips”. This was quite a coup, as Phillips went on to be the resident bandleader at the London Palladium during the 1950s, working with Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, and Judy Garland, among others. His obituary sets out his distinguished career.

The Goons were fortunate to have as their musical directors some very talented individuals. Angela Morley (known at the time as Wally Stott) was responsible for the music in most of the shows that survive, but in the early days it was Stanley Black – whose birthday it is today.


Black served in the RAF during the war, and unsurprisingly became involved in entertainment for the troops. However, he’d been a successful musician and composer for many years already: his first composition to be broadcast was in 1925 when he was just 12 years old.


He took charge of the BBC’s Dance Orchestra in 1944 and held the role for nine years. In this period he not only worked on the Goon Show, but also Much Binding In The Marsh, Ray’s A Laugh, and many others. According to his obituary, Black made more than 4,000 broadcasts while in charge of the Dance Orchestra.


You’ll also hear his compositions in many films: the Cliff Richard films The Young Ones and Summer Holiday, the latter of which won him an Ivor Novello award, as well as the 1940s hit It Always Rains On Sunday. In 1960, he wrote the music for Battle Of The Sexes, starring Peter Sellers. Black was made an OBE in 1986.


All this, and he also found time to compose the ‘Goons Gallop’ theme tune heard for much of the first half of the run of the Goon Show, and Major Bloodnok’s theme tune – press play and Neddie Seagoon should introduce it for you.



Stanley Black’s full film credits can be found on IMDB.


Incidentally, linking back to the final episode of the first series, it was broadcast shortly before a general election in the UK. As Jimmy Grafton recalls in his memoir (included in Roger Wilmut’s Goonography), this led to the following sign-off for the first series:

Andrew Timothy (announcer): Look out for the next forthcoming attraction. Peter Sellers: The biggest comedy show on earth. Michael Bentine: The General Election, featuring – Spike Milligan: Those crazy Goons – Harry Secombe: THE PEOPLE!
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