James Blades


1901 – 1999


Who was James Blades?

James "Jimmy" Blades OBE was an English percussionist.

He was one of the most distinguished percussionists in Western music, with long and varied career. His book Percussion Instruments and their History is a standard reference work on the subject.

Blades was born in Peterborough, England in 1901. He was a long-time associate of Benjamin Britten, with whom he conceived many of the composer's unusual percussion effects. In 1954, Blades was appointed Professor of Percussion in the Royal Academy of Music.

As a chamber musician he played with the Melos Ensemble and with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Blades' pupils included the rock drummers Carl Palmer and Richard James Burgess as well as the percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

His most famous and widely heard performances were the sound of the African drum playing "V-for-Victory" in Morse code- the introduction to the BBC broadcasts made to the European Resistance during World War II, and providing the sound of the gong seen at the start of films produced by the Rank Organisation. Blades played this sound on a tam-tam. On screen Blades's sound was mimed to by the "Gongman".

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Sep 9, 1901
  • United Kingdom
May 19, 1999

on July 23, 2013


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