Granville Edwards


William Robinson Clarke

‘Talented jazz man who hit the right note in Manchester’

1921 - 2004

Share this:

Although the Empire Windrush’s records showed him as a carpenter, a glance at his passport would have revealed that Granville Edwards was a musician by profession, a talented saxophonist to be precise.

Born in Brown’s Town, St Ann, Jamaica on February 3, 1921, Granville Mortlock Edwards was the son of Matthew Edwards and Lilian, née Harris, one of six children. His father was a blacksmith by day but a band leader at night.

In his teens, Granville formed his own band and travelled to the USA to earn enough money to buy quality instruments. He met Ella Fitzgerald and was thrilled by the modern jazz music he heard. But he could not tolerate the segregation he experienced in Alabama and decided the USA was not the place for him.

Back home, he struggled to make a living and found himself back in the USA, to work as a farm labourer. Returning to Jamaica in 1946, he remained at a loose end and did not need much persuading to spend £28 and 10 shillings on a one-way ticket to England.

Granville worked in a factory by day but played his tenor sax at night. He spent time in Birmingham where he met trumpeter Dizzy Reece, who had also sailed on the Windrush. Coventry, Preston and Leamington Spa were also home for a while before he finally settled in Manchester.

Although Granville was exceptionally talented, there was little money to be made playing in the pubs and clubs of Moss Side in Manchester and he relied on his engineering job to pay the bills.

Playing contemporary jazz with a Caribbean twist, Granville included Africans, West Indians and Europeans in his line-up. He even had fellow Windrush passenger Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts) as his double bassist.

Although relatively unknown to the general public, he performed with several famous ‘names’, including Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott. He gained greater recognition playing traditional jazz in the 1980s and featured in jazz singer Sheila Collier’s band. Through his friend and neighbour, Jamaican pianist Chester Harriott, he found work performing at Granada TV studios in Manchester and occasionally appeared on TV alongside Harriott.

As part of Dave Donahoe’s Hi-Life Band, he played to a wider audience, including travelling to festivals overseas. Tragically in 1994, he suffered a blood clot on his lung and lost the ability to play the saxophone. He subsequently became a popular and common sight in Whalley Range in his motorised wheelchair.

Granville died in Manchester on August 7, 2004, having never married. He is buried in the Southern Cemetery, Manchester. Although not a household name, he was esteemed enough to be the subject of a touching obituary written by Val Wilmer in The Guardian.

Share this: