WHENEVER I hear beautiful fine music, I thank some extraordinary people I heard perform “live” when I was a teenager.
This was before I became hooked on the Beatles, but even they loved classical composers such as Beethoven.
About the time I was 13, my parents took me on annual holidays to the seaside resort of Llandudno in North Wales.
We stayed in modest bed-and-breakfast places (Mam took in similar guests at home in order to pay for these holidays).
Dad was no big spender but liked to lash out on a good stage show, which at the same time entertained and educated me in music.
Foraging through Vinnies’ shop in Wodonga last week, I found records by two of those Llandudno stars: pianist Russ Conway and singer Matt Monro.
Conway was a handsome young man often called Britain’s answer to Liberace, while Monro was famous for Portrait of My Love and Born Free.
Another great act we saw was Rawicz & Landauer, a Pole and an Austrian who were a famous male piano duo.
Rawicz and Landauer, like Conway and Monro, sold records by the thousands in Australia, especially to European migrants as they, too, had been fugitives from the Nazis.
Although they had moved from Nazi-occupied Austria in 1935, they were interned by Britain on the Isle of Man in World War II as potential enemies.
However, post-war Rawicz & Landauer toured and broadcast extensively, introducing people like me to Liszt, Chopin, Strauss and Debussy.
An Albury opportunity shop also turned up a long-playing record by another artist I heard, the violinist Max Jaffa. London-born Jaffa had a Russian-Jewish heritage.
His musical career was also interrupted by the war and he flew with the Royal Air Force, later joining Mantovani’s orchestra in Britain.
Jaffa specialised in light classic music, playing popular pieces by the likes of Offenbach and Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Sometimes, we went to comedy shows, and laughed a lot at Jimmy Edwards, Britain’s most famous headmaster — he headed the BBC’s Whack-O television series and once visited Albury with Eric Sykes on tour.
Edwards was another ex-RAF man who had won the Distinguished Flying Cross.
By having his face rebuilt by plastic surgery, he became a member of Britain’s Guinea Pig Club, severely injured or burnt servicemen who had been given a future by pioneering surgeons.
Coincidentally, Ron Clarkson DFC, of Albury, who was given a new nose by surgeons in 1944, is also a member of that club.
Those seaside holidays in Llandudno — the boyhood home of Australian prime minister Billy Hughes — also had some sporting connections.
Billy Wright, the first soccer star to play 100 games for England (in 1946-59), was married to one of the Beverley Sisters, a singing act that accompanied Jimmy Edwards.
Dad was naturally keen to meet Wright, who had also been the Wolverhampton captain, but he never did.
Our consolation at Llandudno was meeting Randolph Turpin, who became world middleweight champion briefly in 1952 when he beat Sugar Ray Robinson, reputedly “the greatest boxer who ever lived”.
The same year “Randy” bought a mountain-top pub near Llandudno and was happy to be photographed with visitors (I still have a picture of him with his arms around me and Dad). Alas, all the people mentioned except the Beverley Sisters are now dead, but certainly not forgotten.
My wife and I honeymooned in Llandudno in 1970, and later took each of our three sons there.
But famous names were no longer to be seen or heard.
All we could show the boys was Punch and Judy.