Alan George Heywood Melly (born 17 August 1926 in Liverpool, England) is a British jazz and blues singer and writer. From 1965-1973 he was a film and television critic for The Observer. He also lectures on art history, with an emphasis on Surrealism.
He was born in Liverpool to middle-class parents and was educated at Stowe public school, where he discovered his interest in modern art, jazz and blues and first came to terms with his homosexuality. This period of his life is described in Scouse Mouse, a volume of his autobiography.
He joined the Royal Navy at the end of the Second World War because, as he quipped to the recruiting officer, the uniforms were 'so much nicer'. As he related in his autobiography, Rum, Bum and Concertina, he was crestfallen to discover that he would not be sent to a ship and was thus denied the "bell-bottom" uniform he desired. Instead he received desk duty and wore the other Navy uniform, described as "the dreaded fore-and-aft". Later, however, he did see ship duty. He never saw active combat, but was almost court-martialled for distributing anarchist literature.
After the war, he found work in a London surrealist gallery and eventually drifted into the world of jazz music, finding work with Mick Mulligan's Magnolia Jazz Band. This was a time when jazz was very popular in Britain - a time known as the trad-boom ("trad" meaning traditional jazz).
He retired from jazz in the early 1960s when he became a film critic for The Observer. He also became the writer on the Daily Mail's satirical newspaper strip Flook, illustrated by Trog. He was also scriptwriter on the 1967 satirical film Smashing Time. This period of his life is described in Owning Up.
He returned to jazz in the early 1970s with John Chilton's Feetwarmers, a partnership that only ended in 2003. He now sings with Digby Fairweather's band.
He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He is also a member of the Max Miller Appreciation Society and on 1st May 2005 joined Roy Hudd, Sir Norman Wisdom and others in unveiling a statue of Miller in Brighton.
His singing style, particularly for the blues, is strongly influenced by his idol, the American Blues singer Bessie Smith. He recorded a track called 'Old Codger' with The Stranglers in 1978 especially written for him by the band.
Technically, Melly is bisexual, but moved from strictly homosexual relationships in his 'teens and twenties to largely heterosexual relationships from his thirties onwards. He married twice and has a child from each marriage. He married his current wife, Diana, in 1963. Their son, Tom, was born two days after the wedding. Diana has recently published an autobiography of their life and (open) marriage together, which is included in the bibliography.
He is still active in music, journalism, and lecturing on Surrealism and other aspects of modern art, despite worsening health problems such as vascular dementia , incipient emphysema and lung cancer .
In addition to age-related health problems, Melly suffers from environmental hearing loss due to long-term exposure to on-stage sound systems, and his hearing in both ears has become increasingly poor.
- Revolt into Style; Pop Arts in Britain (1971)
- Rum, Bum and Concertina (autobiography - navy) (1977)
- Owning Up (autobiography - trad-boom jazz career) (1978)
- A Tribe of One: Great Naive and Primitive Painters of the British Isles (1981)
- Great Lovers (1981)
- Scouse Mouse (autobiography - childhood) (1984)
- It's All Writ Out for You: Life and Work of Scottie Wilson (1986)
- Paris and the Surrealists (1991)
- Don't Tell Sybil: Intimate Memoir of E.L.T. Mesens (1997)
- Hooked! Fishing Memories (2000)
- Slowing Down (memoir) (2005)
- Take A Girl Like Me (biography by his wife, Diana Melly) (2005)
- Hot Jazz, Warm Feet (autobiography of long-time colleague John Chilton, with chapters devoted to Melly) (2007)
- Website http://www.georgemelly.com
- Nuts (1972)
- Son of Nuts (1973)
- It's George (1974)
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