John Gregory obituary

·2-min read

My brother, John Gregory, who has died aged 95, was an award-winning musician, composer and arranger.

He wrote and arranged music for 27 films, including Serena (1962), The Sicilians (1964), Electric Dreams (1984) and Revolution (1985). He scored more than 500 compositions and made more than 2,000 records, spanning covers for the Embassy label to light music, easy listening and Latin American. Under the names Chaquito and Nino Rico, he launched a successful series of big band Latin American style albums. Two of these, This Chaquito (1968) and Thriller Themes (1972) entered the UK album charts.

He collaborated with vocalists including Cleo Laine and Nana Mouskouri. Then, in 1960, he began to make his own records. The Cascading Strings were part of the Philips record label’s easy listening albums. 101 Strings Orchestra and Living Strings showcased his impressive talent for beautiful arrangements using strings. More unusual was Melodies of Japan (1963), a unique and magical reworking of the traditional folk music of the far east.

In the mid-1970s, he regularly recorded under his own name, producing exciting albums such as A Man for All Seasons and The Detectives. In 1976, for his composition Air to a Stained Glass Window, he received an Ivor Novello award.

Born in London, John was one of five children of Maria (nee Rossi) and Frank Gregori. Our father was the leader of a dance band that played at the Italian restaurant Quaglino’s. Encouraged by his parents, who realised he was exceptionally musical, John studied the violin with the virtuoso teacher Alfredo Campoli and went on to take lessons in counterpoint and harmony at the London College of Music.

After a brief stint as a violinist with his father’s band, by the late 40s he was performing by himself and working as a staff arranger with Philips Records. His first broadcast as an arranger, for the BBC Revue Orchestra, aired in 1944.

He was the BBC radio orchestra’s principal guest conductor for 17 years and continued to be recognised as one of the best and most innovative orchestral composers and arrangers of his time.

John was a devoted family man. He loved cooking, DIY, mushroom hunting, astronomy, reading and conversation. He would include his children in everything he did. When he had commissions, he would compose in his head while gardening at our family home in Buckinghamshire. Then he would hurriedly write it all down, right up against the deadline, often working through the night.

He is survived by his wife, Joan (nee Martin), whom he married in 1953, four children, Paul, Anna, Jane and David, a granddaughter, Sara, and by me.