GEORGE SHEARING enjoys an international reputation as a pianist, arranger and composer. Equally at home on the classical concert stage as in jazz clubs, Shearing is recognized for inventive, orchestrated jazz. He has written over 300 compositions, including the classic "Lullaby of Birdland," which has become a jazz standard.
Shearing was born in 1919 in the Battersea area of London. Congenitally blind, he was the youngest of nine children. His father delivered coal and his mother cleaned trains at night after caring for the children during the day. His only formal musical education consisted of four years of study at the Linden Lodge School for the Blind. While his talent won him a number of university scholarships, he was forced to refuse them in favor of a more financially productive pursuit-playing the piano in a neighborhood pub for the handsome salary of $5 per week! Shearing joined an all-blind band in the 1930s. At that time, he developed a friendship with noted jazz critic and author Leonard Feather. Through this contact, he made his first appearance on BBC radio.
In 1947, Mr. Shearing moved to America where he spent two years establishing his fame on this side of the Atlantic. The Shearing Sound commanded national attention when, in 1949, he gathered a quintet to record September in the Rain for MGM. The record was an overnight success and sold 900,000 copies. His U.S. reputation was permanently established when he was booked into Birdland, the legendary jazz spot in New York City. Since then, he has become one of the country's most popular recording artists.
In 1982 and 1983, he won Grammy Awards with recordings he made with Mel Tormé. In addition, Mr. Shearing was the subject of an hour-long television documentary entitled "The Shearing Touch." It was broadcast on the Southband Show with Melvyn Bragg on ITV in the U.K. It can be seen now in the U.S. on the BRAVO cable television channel.
On the personal side, Mr. Shearing received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in May 1975. Hamilton College, in upstate New York, awarded him another honorary doctorate in music in May 1994. Mr. Shearing received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award for Distinguished Americans in 1978, and a community recreational facility in Battersea, South London, was named the George Shearing Centre in his honor. In May 1993, he was presented with the British equivalent of the Grammy-the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement. In June 1996, Mr. Shearing was included in the Queen's Birthday Honors List and on November 26, he was invested by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his ?service to music and Anglo-U.S. relations.? The National Arts Club, New York City presented him the first American Music Award, in March 1998.
Three presidents have invited Mr. Shearing to play at the White House: Ford, Carter and Reagan. He performed at a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He is a member of the Friars Club and the Lotos Club in New York, and the Bohemian Club in San Francisco.
But, occasionally, during breaks in his busy schedule, he follows his own personal belief: "Why should a man work when he has the health and strength to lie in bed?"
His next recording will be a collaboration with John Pizzarelli on Telarc Jazz.