TEDDY BROWN the world's greatest xylophonist



reports from Littlehampton, Sussex, England.

Having established from the obituaries that Teddy Brown's last home was in Littlehampton, Sussex, I surfed the web and found the website of the Littlehampton Gazette. I e-mailed the link explaining that we were researching Teddy and were seeking to find out if his house still existed and where his instruments may have gone to.
Reporter Roger Green contacted me saying that his Gazette published a short report asking locals for information on Teddy Brown. Here are the essentials from the report and the responses reported in February.

Littlehampton Gazette, Bygones Feature, Part 1: 11 January 2001

John Wright has contacted the Gazette, researching the life of entertainer Teddy Brown who at the time of his death in 1946 lived at Xylophone House, Sea Road. He was famous during the 1920's-40's particularly for his xylophone playing and his weight (24 stone), who should certainly be regarded as a famous resident of Littlehampton - he was the world's greatest xylophone player without a doubt. John added 'We also wonder what became of his musical instruments'.
The Gazette has been able to establish some details. As already stated Xylophone House was actually in Sea Road, Rustington, and Marama Gardens now stands on the site.
Mary Taylor's book, Rustington, A Pictorial History (published by Phillimore) says the house was built 1937 and originally known as Clist St Mary.
Teddy Brown bought it in 1940, changing the name to Xylophone House, and following his death it had two further owners who also re-named it, firstly as Hemmington House and then Bon Accord.
One of those later owners was Harold Jones, who served on the old Littlehampton Urban District Council for a number of years from the 1960's.
Around 1965 the one-time Xylophone House suffered the same fate as many other impressive Rustington homes on the seafront and was demolished to make way for housing development.
At the same time the neighbouring Marama was also knocked down. Parties were supposedly thrown there between the wars by cinema magnate J Arthur Rank.
There was no mention of Teddy Brown's death in the 1946 Littlehampton Gazette.

Littlehampton Gazette, Bygones Feature, Part 2: 1 February 2001

The Bygones feature last month on the Xylophone player Teddy Brown struck a chord with several readers. Memories of the great man and of the two homes he had in the area, were revived by the article.
Margaret Baldwin lived next door to the house Teddy moved into on Hendon Avenue when he first came to the south coast in 1940, with his wife Blossom and their two children. He named this house Xylophone but then moved to another house further east on Sea Road which he called Xylophone House. Margaret writes: "When the family lived next door to me many people in the entertainment world came to see them. I thoroughly enjoyed that and there was much peeping through the lace curtains I can tell you! Teddy took my father to concerts for the military services in Sussex and Hampshire. He was a most generous man and I am sure many people can vouch for that". Margaret added that the Brown family eventually moved back to Mayfair, London, where she visited them while in the ATS. After Teddy's death Mrs Brown moved back to America.
Mrs P Ardener recalls seeing Teddy Brown play in london concerts at Collins Music Hall, Islington Green, and the Holborn Empire. "I remember that giant of a man very well. He would play a popular tune once and then demand we all sing. We all sang! Great man, great days, great performer".
Peter Davis has memories of Teddy Brown visiting ARC Marine's Roness shipyard in River Road, Littlehampton, where his boat was serviced. "His chauffeur would drive him up here in a Rolls Royce and he would come and have a chat with us. I was an apprentice boatbuilder at the time. He was very friendly".
Martin Hayes sent us Teddy Brown's obituary from the Sussex Daily News of May 1st, 1946. It includes the tribute, "When his diary allowed him, he never failed those who called upon him in the name of any deserving cause, and his attendances at local charity concerts provided that added attraction which made them so successful financially. Teddy Brown, the 24 stone xylophonist, was a big man rather than simply an unusually fat one, and an incomparable artist".
Tony Burt drew the Gazette's attention to a photograph of Teddy Brown in the book Bygone Portsmouth (published by Phillimore) where he is seen at a Vauxhall car showroom.
Rustington historians Mary and Bev Taylor offered information on Teddy Brown. A newspaper report on the sale of Xylophone House in April 1948 says the property was sold for 8,000, well below the original asking price of 15,000. The new owner was George Vokes.
As for Teddy's xylophones, they went to a collection of British Music Hall instruments.
The 1948 report adds that Teddy's daughter, also named Blossom, like her mother, followed in her father's footsteps into the entertainment world and had just signed a recording contract.

visit the Littehampton Gazette

Teddy Brown page
Teddy Brown's own band
Teddy Brown with other bands
Teddy Brown solo recordings and films
Teddy Brown obituaries

Xylotopia
Steve Lederman's website is devoted to the great Xylophone players
and other mallet men and percussionists

this page first published by John Wright, 27 Feb 2001
last update 2 Jan 2002vintage@jabw.demon.co.uk

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