Peter Clayton


Peter Clayton
Peter James Clayton

(1927-06-25)25 June 1927
Died10 August 1991(1991-08-10) (aged 64)
OccupationBroadcaster, jazz critic, author
Years active1950s-1991

Peter James Clayton (25 June 1927 – 10 August 1991)[1] was an English jazz presenter on BBC radio, jazz critic, and author. From October 1968 until his death in August 1991, Clayton presented jazz recordings, interviews, studio performances, and live performances on BBC Radio 1, 2, and 3, as well as the BBC World Service. He co-authored several books about music and jazz with Peter Gammond and was a frequent contributor to jazz magazines.[2][3][4]

Early life

After leaving school in 1945, Clayton served three years in the RAF, serving mainly in Iraq and Kuwait. After demobilisation in 1948, Clayton was employed for a short while as a catering assistant with a hydroelectric scheme in the Scottish Highlands – "a porridge stirrer" was his job description – before joining the staff of Greenwich Public Library, where he remained for seven years. In the 1950s he worked for Decca Records as a music editor.

Broadcast career

After leaving Decca, Clayton began presenting or hosting jazz music on BBC Radio in October 1968, with a programme called Jazz on One which was broadcast on 247 metres (1215 kHz) medium wave on Sunday evenings on Radio 1.

In 1970, the BBC reorganised the four national networks, Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, and Radio 4. Programmes from Radio 1 were moved to Radio 2, which included Family Favourites, Late Night Extra, Night Ride and the Sunday night jazz shows. Radio 2 used VHF transmitters and was broadcast on 88–91 MHz, FM.

Clayton went on in 1970 to present Jazz Notes. In October 1973, the BBC added back Radio 1 as a carrier for jazz and other shows, while continuing to carry those shows on Radio 2. That same month, the BBC launched Clayton's best remembered programme, Sounds of Jazz, Sundays at 10 pm, with its own theme music composed by Laurie Johnson:

  • "Theme to Sounds of Jazz"

According to Alyn Shipton in 2012, "Throughout the 70s and 80s, Peter [Clayton] became synonymous with jazz on BBC Radio."[2] In addition to playing jazz records, Clayton organised and presented live jazz recordings with studio audiences, with sets lasting about 30 minutes recorded at BBC's Maida Vale Studios in London during the week. Frequent artists included clarinetist Dave Shepherd and his quintet, pianist Colin Purbrook (1936–1999), pianist Brian Lemon and his octet, tenor saxophonist Danny Moss and his wife, vocalist Jeanie Lambe, and trumpeter Kenny Baker. The Mike Westbrook Orchestra made several broadcasts and filled the studio.

Broadcast interviews

On 12 April 1974, Clayton interviewed the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson on BBC Radio 3. During the programme, Peterson performed and played some of his records.[5] Clayton interviewed Sarah Vaughan on his Sounds of Jazz programme on 11 July 1977, when Vaughan sang a tribute to the music of George Gershwin.

Sounds of Jazz and Jazz Record Requests

On BBC Radio 3, he succeeded Steve Race as the presenter of the Saturday afternoon programme Jazz Record Requests, and played requests from an international audience on Jazz for the Asking on the BBC World Service. In a 2005 Jazz UK article about the BBC's influence on jazz in the UK, authors Brian Blain and John Fordham stated:

Informed presenters like the late Peter Clayton and Charles Fox served jazz superbly, and were looked on with real affection. For many years a long procession of bands, in all styles, made their way to the BBC's Maida Vale studios to record jazz, often in a near gig setting in front of enthusiastic audiences.[6]

When Clayton became ill from cancer, Charles Fox took his place in 1990. Then Fox died on 9 May 1991, and Clayton resumed the show, recording segments at home from a wheelchair.[2] His show Sounds of Jazz continued to be heard on BBC Radio 2 until his death. When Clayton died, ninety-three days after Fox died, Geoffrey Smith took over.[2]


Throughout his broadcasting career, Clayton wrote several books with a colleague, Peter Gammond (1925-2019).

Selected published works


  • 101 Things, by Peter Gammond & Peter Clayton, London: Elek Books (1959); OCLC 30246604
  • A Guide to Popular Music, by Peter Gammond & Peter Clayton, London: Phoenix Press (1960); OCLC 1194579, 314766655
  • Dictionary of Popular Music, by Peter Gammond & Peter Clayton, Philosophical Library (1961); OCLC 851041
  • Know about Jazz, by Peter Gammond & Peter Clayton, London: Blackie and Son (1963); OCLC 7955794
Bluffer Media Limited
  • Bluff Your Way in Jazz, by Peter Clayton & Peter Gammond
1st ed., Ravette Books (1987)
2nd ed., London: Oval Books (1999); OCLC 42874470
  • The Bluffer's Guide to Jazz, by Peter Clayton, Peter Gammond, John Lewis, London: Oval Books
3rd ed. (2002); OCLC 52159469
4th ed. (2007); OCLC 520448730, 905203381
  • Jazz A-Z, by Peter Clayton & Peter Gammond, Guinness Books (Guinness Superlatives Ltd.) (1986); OCLC 15353474, 76750957
The Guinness Jazz Companion (rev. ed. of Jazz A–Z) (1989); OCLC 21118294
  • 14 Miles on a Clear Night: An Irreverent, Sceptical, and Affectionate Book About Jazz Records, by Peter Clayton & Peter Gammond, Greenwood Press
Originally published by the Jazz Book Club, by arrangement with Peter Owen
Peter Owen (1965); OCLC 558885236
Reprint, Greenwood Press (1978); OCLC 3844338, 164784365

Liner, jacket, container, and program notes


  • "Ten Years After: Peter Clayton Talks to Chris Barber," JazzBeat (magazine), Vol. 1, No. 4, June 1964, pp. 4–5; ISSN 0447-631X, OCLC 503996193, 752664415
  • "Unsquare Peg," by Peter Clayton, Daily Telegraph, 21 June 1970
  • "All Things Bright and Betjeman," by Peter Clayton, Hi-Fi News, April 1975, p. 119; ISSN 0142-6230


Inline citations

  1. ^ "Peter James Clayton," England and Wales, Death Registration Index 1837–2007
  2. ^ a b c d "All That Jazz," by Alyn Shipton, The Guardian 14 November 2012
  3. ^ "Clayton, Peter James (1927–1991), Radio Broadcaster and Author," Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine by Peter Gammond, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press (1994) (retrieved 19 March 2015)
          The Times, 12 August 1991
          Daily Telegraph, 12 August 1991
          By Steve Voce, The Independent, 13 August 1991
          By Peter Gammond, The Guardian, 14 August 1991
  4. ^ Photos of Clayton
          Photo by Val Wilmer, 1962
          Photo by David Redfern, 1986, private collection of David Redfern, Redferns Music Picture Library, Ltd. (acquired by Getty Images in 2008)
  5. ^ "Encounter With Oscar Peterson: Peterson BBC Radio 3 Interview," conducted by Peter Clayton, 12 April 1974
  6. ^ "The Jazz Economy — Part 3: Radio and TV Jazz – Still the Poor Relation?" Archived 2 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, by Brian Blain and John Fordham, Jazz UK, No. 61, January–February 2005, pps. 16–18; ISSN 1472-0728

External links

  • Radio 2 Timeline Interview with Sarah Vaughan
  • Radio Rewind – Sounds of Jazz Theme Tune