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Ronnie Hazlehurst

The Ronnie Hazlehurst Blue Plaque

Ronnie Hazlehurst 1928-2007

Born here at 169 Lodge Lane, Dukinfield.

Legendary Composer

Ronnie created the music for many of BBC Television's best loved light entertainment programmes.

He also composed, conducted and arranged music in other media, working with great entertainers and musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the great post-war music professionals.

Unveiled by Cllr Jackie Lane, Project Head or Heritage on 19 April 2009


This Blue Plaque (the 77th to be unveiled in Tameside) is a celebration of the life and achievements of Ronnie Hazlehurst. The plaque is located at Ronnie’s birthplace, 169 Lodge Lane, Dukinfield.

Early Life

Image of Ronnie Hazlehurst early in life playing trumpetRonnie Hazlehurst was born in Dukinfield, Cheshire on 13th March 1928, to a railway worker and piano teacher. As a child Ronnie attended St. John’s Church of England Primary School in Dukinfield and later attended Hyde Grammar School. Ronnie left school when he was 14 to work in the Accounts Department of a local cotton mill, although he was already making part of his living from music, playing the cornet in local big bands.

Over the next few years he played the trumpet and cornet with the bands of George Chambers, Nat Allen, George Elrick, Harry Parry and Melville Christie and also had his first experience of arranging, before being called up for National Service in 1947. He served his time as a bandsman, and was the solo cornet with the band of 4th/7th Dragoon Guards, for which he also produced arrangements. During his time in the Army, Hazlehurst was nominated to attend Kneller Hall (the Royal Military School of Music near Twickenham) as a student.

He was demobbed in 1949, and spent some time working for a series of dance bands, mostly in the north of England, and also developed his skills as an orchestrator.
During the 1950’s, Ronnie was a freelance musician around Manchester, before the bandleader Woolf Phillips employed him as his deputy at the Pigalle nightclub in London. He also began working with Peter Knight, head of music for Granada TV, but when Knight left Granada a year later, Hazlehurst's own position came to an end. To make ends meet, he worked on a record stall in Watford market.

By 1957, Ronnie had largely abandoned his role as a trumpeter in favour of orchestration and arrangement, mostly for Granada.

BBC Career

In 1961, Ronnie was appointed a BBC staff arranger, and the following year undertook his first big job when he scored and arranged the programme for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the BBC.

From 1964 he worked mostly for BBC television, producing the music for The Likely Lads, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais's sitcom which was first shown that December. The following year he provided the score for Dennis Potter's play Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton.

In 1968 he became the Light Entertainments Musical Director. During this time he composed the theme tunes of many sitcoms, including Last Of The Summer Wine, Are You Being Served?, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, To the Manor Born, Three Up, Two Down, Only Fools and Horses and wrote the music for the sketch show The Two Ronnies, the game shows Blankety Blank and the chat show Wogan.

He was to remain with the BBC until the 1990s, beginning with the title orchestrations manager, then as head of music for light entertainment and musical adviser (light entertainment).

Ronnie’s particular talent lay in his ability to combine a catchy theme with the tone appropriate for the programme, such as the sound of an automated voice in a lift calling out the products available on each floor and the ‘ching’ of a cash till in Are You Being Served?. For The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin the music rose and fell. Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister drew upon the chimes of Big Ben.

Hazlehurst achieved all this with remarkably limited resources; by the time the music had to be commissioned the programme makers had often overspent their budget. For Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em he had been asked to provide a Morse Code rendition of the title (a technique emulated by Barrington Pheloung for the Inspector Morse theme), but he had to fight hard to secure a second piccolo for the piece.

One of his best loved melodies, the theme for Last of the Summer Wine (1973), was initially rejected by the programme makers. Hazlehurst composed and conducted the incidental music for over 50 episodes of the sitcom and it proved so popular with viewers that a CD of music from the series was produced to mark the show's 25th anniversary.

Ronnie Hazlehurst with the cast of Last of the Summer Wine

He was also responsible for the music for Blankety Blank (which boasted the undemanding lyrics "Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank [pause] Blankety Blank!"), an inexplicably popular game show hosted by Terry Wogan (for whose chat show Hazlehurst also provided the music), and then Les Dawson and Lily Savage.

In addition, Ronnie also wrote the introductory music for the BBC's coverage of the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and he arranged and conducted Clare Torry's performance of Dolly Parton's "Love Is Like a Butterfly" for Butterflies in 1978. He performed a similar service for Paul Nicholas who sang the theme song for the comedy in which he starred, Just Good Friends in 1983.

Eurovision

Ronnie had a long association with the Eurovision Song Contest, on which he served as Britain’s musical director three times. In 1977 he conducted both the German disco troupe Silver Convention and the British entry, Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, performing Rock Bottom. Dressed in a bowler hat, and conducting with a rolled-up umbrella instead of a baton, Ronnie helped the duo to second place.

Later Years

Ronnie Hazlehurst later in his lifeRonnie Hazlehurst moved from Hendon, north London to Guernsey in 1997. He was awarded a Gold Badge from the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters in 1999. 

Music was Ronnie’s life and passion as well as his work and he continued to work right up to his heart by-pass operation in October 2006. Ronnie suffered a stroke on 27th September 2007, and never regained consciousness, and sadly passed away on 1st October 2007.