Henry MacKenzie

Feb 15, 1923
Sep 02, 2007


From The Clarinet [Online], June 2018:

Henry Mackay Mackenzie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on February 15, 1923. After an aborted attempt to learn accordion, he settled on the saxophone. He played in various bands in his native Edinburgh before being called up for duty in an army band during the war. He served for five years before returning home to play in the Tommy Sampson Band. His solo clarinet playing attracted British bandleader Ted Heath who offered him a job with his group in London in 1949. Apart from a brief recall to military service in 1951, Mackenzie stayed loyal to Heath for 18 years, playing tenor saxophone in the section and solo clarinet. He participated in the band’s impressive array of broadcasts, recordings and concerts, and in its American and Australian tours. He often stole the show with his scintillating clarinet work, pure-toned and fluent. He recorded 23 albums with this band, plus numerous recordings with other groups.

After Heath died in 1969, Mackenzie branched out into session work as a first-call musician for Henry Mancini, Billy May and Nelson Riddle whenever they recorded in London. He performed regularly with various groups on BBC Radio, sometimes as a leader, sometimes a sideman. In addition to performing, Mackenzie also wrote and arranged music, including several albums of atmospheric pieces to be used on soundtracks, plus the film score for the motion picture The Babysitter (1980). Never short of work, he chose to retire while still in his prime in 1995. He died on September 2, 2007, in Carshalton, Surry, England.

Henry MacKenzie played the clarinet on The Beatles’ song “When I’m Sixty-Four“, along with Frank Reidy and Robert Burns.

Burns, Mackenzie and Reidy all played together with each other on numerous occasions, both before and after the historic Beatles session. Burns and Reidy probably worked together a bit more, as Mackenzie played exclusively with Ted Heath for so many years. All three were featured in music magazine ads with the instruments they endorsed, and there are other articles in which they give advice on playing, equipment, etc. They were certainly the cream of the crop of British jazz clarinets during the 1960s and onward.

Having done the biographical research on these three amazing players, I also consulted with the great British saxophonist and composer Paul Harvey for some background information. He knew all three and graciously shared his memories with me in an email, remembering that Bob Burns was “definitely the most colorful character of the three.” Harvey praised his playing, not only as tenor sax soloist on Ravel’s Bolero with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra but also as tenor sax in a concert with the Benny Goodman Band. Henry Mackenzie was, according to Harvey, “a brilliant jazz player and a most modest and self-effacing man.” Harvey told of how he made the sometimes-tedious job of soundtrack recording fun. Frank Reidy was “the top doubler.” Harvey continued: “He used to drive round in a Rolls Royce, the boot [trunk] stuffed with flutes, oboes, saxophones, etc. Not only did he become the fixer for EMI Studios, but also for Elstree Studios and for The Muppet Show.”

From The Clarinet [Online], June 2018

Last updated on January 2, 2023

Albums, EPs & singles which Henry MacKenzie contributed to

Give My Regards To Broad Street (CD version)

By Paul McCartney • Official album

Contribution: Horn • 1 songs

Yellow Submarine Songtrack

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Clarinet • 1 songs

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