John Sparry

Raconteur, Historian and Jazz Musician

A list of some of Mr Sparry's talks can be inspected here.

atmospheric photograph of Mr Sparry

Telephone: (01384) 359109

Please note: the email address which used to reach John is no longer in use, any contact should be made directly in person or by phone.

John Sparry owns a second-hand bookshop at 15 Enville Road, Wall Heath, in the West Midlands. He has lived most of his life in the house of which the shop occupies the small front room. That house, which was his grandparents' home since 1910, has not changed much. His back kitchen still features a black iron range, a stoneware sink and a washing boiler. There is even a wall-mounted Forties-style telephone, now sadly non-functional. John was persuaded to acquire a conventional telephone after a bout of illness, and it's hidden away on his dresser. "It's marvellous" says John, "double bass players living as far away as Brierley Hill can now easily get in touch!". For John is a local historian, raconteur and jazz musician. He plays vibraphone, "something like a xylophone but even heavier" with his band, the Heath Coldfield Quartet , and until recently its offshoot, RSJ. "We specialise", says John, "in nice old tunes played quietly".

All this is interspersed with a very individual brand of jokes and unlikely tales (those of the well-known variety act Basil Belvedere and his Ten Tumbling Scorpions come to mind). The spectacle of John in full flight, flailing wildly at the vibes, producing the right notes at an impossibly rapid rate, is one unmatched on the local scene. Regular gigs include The Trumpet , in Bilston High Street, which has become an institution over the years for its nightly live jazz.

He attended King Edward VI school in Stourbridge: "Dr. Samuel Johnson was there a little before me", quips John. Despite the school's best efforts John Sparry, who has broadcast talks on both Radio 3 and 4, still retains his Black Country accent.

He has written for the magazine of that area, The Blackcountryman , and he wrote jazz reviews for The Listener. For twenty years since the death of his mother Daisy, he has been developing his range of informative and amusing talks in venues as diverse as colleges and village halls. However, his latest, a discussion and readings of and about Count Magnus and Count Dracula, he only performs in places of atmosphere, whether stately home, old church, castle or crypt.

DVD News

John Sparry is the featured presenter and interviewer on "A Montage Of Mundon", a DVD by local filmmaker Howard Smith showcasing the life story and comedy of Mr Sparry's old friend, Halesowen's favourite son Tommy Mundon. This can be purchased at John's shop when in stock.

There are still a few copies available of John's DVD "Tales From The Old Kitchen", showing interesting aspects of the history of Wall Heath and Kingswinford. These are available in person from John's shop at 6.00, or by mail order from the shop for 7.00 including postage within the UK.

John Sparry's photograph by GRAHAM GOUGH.
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