Throughout the short life of this blog I've been determined to dig out details and celebrate people connected to the Goon Show.
One such person is famed harpist Osian Ellis, whose birthday it is today. Born and raised in Wales, he died just over a year ago in January 2021. An obituary for him from The Guardian can be read here.
Ellis was a hugely successful musician, having played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the orchestras at the London Palladium, as well as working with conductor Benjamin Britten, who wrote several pieces especially for him.
Earlier in his career, Ellis was a member of the Wally Stott Orchestra, which provided the music for most of the Goon Show's run. You can hear his harp work during musical links in 'Under Two Floorboards', 'The Fireball of Milton Street', and 'Shangri-La Again'.
“... We played on the original Goon Shows starring Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers and, for a short time, Michael Bentine. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that each year I still get a royalty cheque for around £100 from the BBC from playing on the Goon Show as it’s still repeated on radio so often today, which is amazing.”
(Osian Ellis, quoted in his obituary in Nation Cymru, 15 January 2021)
According to the Nation Cymru article, Ellis was also good friends with Richard Burton, having shared a house with him when they were both starting out in Wales in the early 1950s.
Here he is speaking about his relationship with Benjamin Britten in a BBC Four documentary.