Cleo, grew up in Southall, a tomboy with unruly hair, whose English mother and Jamaican father were constantly on the move, trying to make ends meet. Though theirs was a difficult marriage and money was short, they enriched her life with their infectious enthusiasm, fun and love of music. From an early age Cleo knew she wanted to sing, and after working as an apprentice hairdresser and milliner, in a library and pawnshop, she finally made her break when she auditioned for John Dankworth in Soho in the early 1950s. She writes of her hilarious life on the road with the Dankworth Seven, interpreting, improvising and scat-singing. After she and John married she forged a career on her own in a wide range of stage performances, from straight plays and satire to musicals, Valmouth, Show Boat, Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, and Sondheim’s Into the Woods, to name but a few, then went back to collaborating with John Dankworth in works such as Lysistrata and jazz performances once again. She describes the sheer excitement of the jazz world, their American and Australian tours, the thrill of the Newport Jazz Festival and Birdland and wayout clubs in New Orleans; she talks of their meetings and friendships with the giants of jazz: Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lennie Tristano, Jimmy Rushing, Johnny Griffin, and also work with Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, James Galway and Dudley Moore.
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