Though Angela Morley had relatively few credits to her name by the mid-1970s, she had been a significant figure in the light music industry for over thirty years. It was certainly not the case that she lacked talent or ambition, but that Morley herself only came into being in 1970; before then, she was known as Wally Stott. Born in Leeds on 10th March 1924, Stott came from a musical family and his earliest memory ‘was of sitting on the floor surrounded by records of the bands of Jack Payne and Henry Hall and playing them on our enormous wind up gramophone. My dad played the ukulele-banjo that he used to let me tune for him, using his pitch pipe, to either G-C-E-A or A-D-F#-B. My mother had a contralto voice and sang: There is a Lady Passing By and, her favourite, Big Lady Moon.’ An interest in the violin was soon replaced by the piano, although the sudden death of his father in 1933 meant that Stott’s lessons were abruptly ended. Nevertheless, he subsequently taught himself to master it as well as the alto saxophone.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Stott left school to become the saxophonist with a dance band and later joined the Oscar Rabin Band in 1941; three years later, he became a part of Geraldo’s Orchestra. Discovering that he had a remarkable gift for arrangement, Stott found work with the BBC, and later studied composition under Mátyás Seiber and conducting with Walter Goehr.
During the War, Stott met Peter Sellers, who offered him the job of conducting the background music for The Goon Show in 1952, and in 1954, he composed the theme tune for the new radio show – Hancock’s Half Hour. At the same time, Stott was also appointed musical director for Philips Records and was working with stars such as Shirley Bassie, Frankie Vaughan and Mel Tormé, who recalled that ‘From the first downbeat, I knew I was in the presence of a major talent.’ From 1967 to 1970, Stott also worked as an arranger for Scott Walker’s solo albums, with Walker remarking, ‘Working with Wally Stott on Scott 3 was like having Delius writing for you.’
Venturing into the world of film, Stott composed scores for The Heart of a Man (1959), Peeping Tom (1960) and The Looking Glass War (1969) among others. Memorable tunes such as Rotten Row and A Canadian in Mayfair, rightly cemented his reputation and as Tony Osborne, himself a successful arranger and composer remembered, ‘We all looked up to Wally because we knew that he was second only to Robert Farnon, and it was a pretty close run thing at that!’
Above: The opening and closing themes from The Looking Glass War (1969)