If you’re wondering why the title (What! What! What!) it is taken straight from Neddy Seagoon’s (Harry Seacombe) ‘north and south’. Neddy introduced Max Geldray’s harmonica interlude on a Goons’ episode (extract below) with this unique reference to Max’s instrument. Needle nardle noo! Although a wee bit before my time, repeat episodes of the Goons were often on the airwaves during my formative years.
I used to love listening to comedic radio shows at night. Yes, What? was another show I enjoyed. This Australian production centred around school lessons where students Bottomly, Greenbottle and Standforth confuse and distract Schoolmaster Dr. Pym with inane questions. Yes, What? was first broadcast in 1936 and continued until 1945. “Good morning boys.”
Seagoon: Not before I’ve heard Max Geldray play his leather earache and graphite dogbeard!
Moriarty: Well said.
Musical Interlude: Max Geldray plays Baia
Greenslade: That was Mr Max Geldray. Mr Geldray is always well supplied with work by his agents. In fact, his bank balance now stands at four hundred and eighty pounds in bright red letters. Now, we return you to the story ‘The Lost Colony’. (From ‘The Sale Of Manhattan -The Lost Colony’ 29/11/1955)
“There are not many people who can actually lead a dance band playing a harmonica. Clarinet or trumpet, yes— but not a harmonica. You know people have only recently taken the instrument seriously. When I went for my first job, the producer said: ‘Well, and what can you do?’ And I said: ‘I play the mouth-organ.’ He said: ‘So do the little boys in the street — you’d better go and join them.’ And he showed me the door.” Max Geldray
When the Germans invaded Holland and Belgium last year, Max escaped. A hazardous drive through Belgium, along roads continually bombed and machine gunned brought Max and some friends of his at last close to Paris. Petrol he badly needed. But here no petrol was to be had. Max reminded a garage proprietor that up to the outbreak of war he had been playing in Paris with Ray Venutra’s band. The proprietor sympathised with his plight, but he said, he had no petrol. Arching his eyebrows, the Frenchman then suggested that Max should stroll a little way up the road to stretch his legs—and see whether a policeman was about. When Max returned, his tank was full. This got Geldray as far as Bordeaux. From there, on to the South of France! He found two small English ships taking Polish soldiers to Britain. A young French airman approached him and said: “If I had your car, I could make the aerodrome, and fly a ‘plane to England.’ Max replied: “When my friends and I are on board that ship, this car is yours.’ It was a good bargain,’ Max says, ‘a car for freedom.’ It took the boat seven days and nights to reach Liverpool. During that time they had very little to eat—the main diet was biscuits. Arrived in England, Max became one of the first members of the Netherlands Free Army. (The Sydney Jewish News, 23 January 1942)
Tragically his parents and sister had been sent to Nazi death camps and were not heard of again.
It was after seeking shelter in a Dutch music shop from Mother Nature’s elements, that Max first encountered a Chromatic harmonica. Fascinated by the instrument’s capabilities he set about studying its intricacies and developing his technique. After hours of sustained practice, and inspired by the Harmonica Rascals, he formed his own seven piece band and they were soon booked to play live on Radio Hilversum. In 1936 he received an invitation to play solo to the Royal family in England. In the following year, while in Paris, Max would have the honour of performing with Jazz guitarist virtuoso Django Reinhardt. He later toured England for six weeks with four band members under the moniker of The Hollander Boys. Then, back in gay Paree, Max settled in as a member of Ray Ventura’s show band until war intervened.
Ying Tong Iddle I Po
Max became an original cast member of The Goons Show when BBC producer and jazz fan Pat Dixon recruited Max into the shows format. Initially the program was titled Crazy People! Max stayed the journey performing on the BBC fiftieth anniversary and final show in 1972 – The Last Goon Show Of All. Speaking of crazy, Max would play out the Goon Show with his rendition of Crazy Rhythm, a swing tune originally written by Roger Wolfe Khan and Joseph Meyer for the 1928 Broadway show Here’s Howe. Interestingly Max’s version was pressed by Parlophone and released in Australia as a 45rpm single in 1961 – coinciding with his commitments down under. The main riff comes up pretty well on the old Ten Hole Tin Can (Diatonic Harmonica) – try it out.
Eccles: Okay, then, it’s time for Max Geldray.
Musical Interlude: Max Geldray and Orchestra – The Lady Is A Tramp
Greenslade: That was Mr. Max Geldray playing a harmonica. We thought you ought to know what it was, anyhow. (The Case Of The Missing CD Plates 18/10/1955)
Max in Australia
In 1961 Max headed south to the convict colony. He would be a major attraction on the box starring on ATN7’s Sunday night (Australia wide) variety show ‘Revue 61’ – hosted by Digby Wolfe. In December 1960, in a joint association with Channel Seven & Chequers, he was invited to Oz to do an all states tour. Having appeared on the show, he then flew down to Melbourne to do a season at the Savoy Plaza Hotel.
Timothy: Mr Secombe’s departure from the mike is a timely one – any departure of his is timely. I have a grave announcement to make. Just before this show started, Mr Max Geldray died. His wife described his condition as satisfactory. However, by waving some money under his nose, he has recovered enough to play his probate.
Musical Interlude: Max Geldray & Orchestra – Carioca
Timothy: Sixty eight year old Max Geldray, live from a bath chair. Mr Sellers, describe the next scene. (From The Last Goon Show Of All 5/10/1972)
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