Robert Burns

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From The Clarinet [Online], June 2018:

Robert (Bob) Burns was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1923. During World War II, he was a member of the Canadian Central Air Force Band, which brought him to Great Britain. He remained after the war and became a leading clarinet soloist, as well as doubling on alto and tenor saxes. Burns played in various dance bands, beginning with Denis Rose in 1945. He played with the Ted Heath Orchestra in 1948-49, and then spent many years with Jack Parnell’s ATV Orchestra.

In addition to the Sgt. Pepper gig, he had an impressive 50-year recording career, working with artists including Roy Eldridge, Annie Ross, Benny Goodman, Barbra Streisand, Guy Lombardo, The Manhattan Transfer, Mildred Bailey, Ralph Sharon and Ted Heath. Burns appeared in several British television series, including Off The Record (1958) and Jazz 625 (1964). He was chosen to play in an all-star band for the TV movie Love You Madly: A Salute To Duke Ellington in 1969. He is featured on numerous soundtracks, most notably Henry Mancini’s score for Charade (1963). He continued to play regularly with small groups in jazz clubs through the 1970s, and in the late 1980s he returned to Canada, where he died in 2000.

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

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

Recording sessions Robert Burns participated in

Albums, EPs & singles which Robert Burns contributed to

Yellow Submarine Songtrack

By The Beatles • Official album

Contribution: Clarinet • 1 songs


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