The information to be contained in the three sections of this website may well be of interest to someone out there, whereas interest in the identity of the particular author of same is probably rather less. I could as easily be Jack Jones, Thomas Miller, Susie Smith or whomever; let's face it - it hardly matters. It's surely the Subjects and their substance that are important. For this reason, my initial intention was to remain fairly anonymous (and, if few or no 'hits' result, I shall in any case probably remain so) but it seems there is generally some curiousity about one's identity in these situations - if only to know where it is one 'is coming from'. Also, it's probably friendlier and at least provides a focus for any comments, corrections or criticisms that may ensue.
Thus I, John Millman (born 1930), lived in retirement in rural Essex in England with my wife Shirley, also retired, on our former fruit farm of about 7 acres - for about 25 years. (At least, we did so before a recent move.) How and why we came to be there is a long story I shan't bore you with. It was very pleasant there with a south-facing view over a gentle valley. I was kept quite busy most summer mornings mowing lawns and the rougher grass within the small woodland we'd planted. In winter, there were old apple trees and vines to remove - and eventually this website to develop. However, we recently moved from there to North Yorkshire (2006) where, contentedly, we now reside between the North York Moors and the Dales near our younger son and family.
I was born a long way from either Essex or Yorkshire - in America - of British-born Canadian parents, but raised in Canada from the age of two. As I have myself lived for some 50+ years in England (my wife's birthplace), where we've raised our family, I'm the fortunate possessor of 3 passports and thus have 'triple' nationality. Fittingly, therefore, I am myself 'tripartite' - a neat coincidence in the present context. Before leaving Canada,I acquired a couple of University degrees and pursued a sport to championship and Olympic level. I came to England to obtain a higher degree and later worked in educational, medical and university settings (in England) before retiring early to run the aforementioned but now long defunct fruit farm. (As a teenager at the end of the war, I had hitchiked to California and ended up working on a delightful fruit farm near Santa Rosa and must have become positively conditioned to the idea of growing my own fruit.) Well, I eventually got that out of my system - as one does with various 'passions'.
Out of some of the foregoing, and no doubt other factors, my three present interests apparently emerged. I have always loved a certain kind of Music; well, at least from about the age of 7 or 8 - when I used to sing and hum a hit of the day - 'A Tisket A Tasket' by Ella Fitzgerald. I wasn't alone; it was quite a big hit for her. In those days, she sang a number of such novelty numbers (with Chick Webb and others)- although today I have little interest in such numbers. But there must have been some element of what is often called 'jazz singing' in her voice that I liked even then and it was this aspect I found appealing. A couple of years later, I heard her singing 'I'll Build A Stairway To the Stars' and tried to pick the attractive tune out on a friend's mandolin guitar. Some years later, I was introduced to Bing Crosby's records - made 10 or more years earlier - between about 1930 and 1936 - and thought they too had the qualities I loved. He became very popular after then of course, but the 'jazz' tinge to his interpretations seemed to drop away rather suddenly after 1937/38 as he became even more popular. I loved hearing Jimmy Dorsey's 'So Rare' and 'Green Eyes' about then (the early to mid-'40s) too. And Glenn Miller's 'At Last' was often enjoyed wafting from a jukebox above the shrieks and yells at the city's indoor swimming pool - around 1942/43.
Two years later, I managed to break my left femur in a skiing accident and during the enforced, bedridden convalescence, would listen to American radio stations after midnight and become acquainted with the likes of Kay Starr (before she went commercial), Joe Venuti and Mildred Bailey. Then, in about 1946, I began skipping school and going to record shops to play 78s by Sarah Vaughan and Billie Eckstine - before they sang together. By 1950 or so, I enjoyed most of the popular ballad singers of the day - as Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Peggy Lee, etc. but was never too enamoured with the general run of 'hit parade' material then (now 'Rock and 'Pop' of course). Joni James and Jo Stafford were probably on the borderline.
Later, in England, a friend had one of Ella's first 'Songbook' LPs and I was amazed at the sheer quality of her voice in the mid '50s. She seemed to keep improving until the late '60s, as did Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. By the time such big stars gain their international popularity, however, they seem to feel they have to live up to being the public's conception of 'a jazz singer' - at which point the integrity of their peformances may become suspect. That, and age, seems to result in most such artists declining - after some'golden' era. Rosemary Clooney was a marvellous exception. After her commercial successes of the '50s, she hit new heights between 1980 and 1995 and still sounds great. I heard her at the Festival Hall in 2001 and her rendition of 'Thanks For The Memory' was outstanding. Others seem to decline in their 30s or 40s - as Vic Damone or Bob Goulet (these not necessarily jazz singers) - after which the voice tends 'to go'. (I know - they still have a living to make!) Others - as Carmen McRae - may peak later but then go off markedly in their 50s - sometimes trying harder than ever to be seen as a real 'jazz' singer. Some of the newer singers today seem to fall into that trap even earlier. Whatever 'jazz' singing is, it takes very little (although usually some) improvisation to achieve it (in my estimation); it's more a matter of timing, swing, feeling and remaining true to the integrity of the basic melody. This can allow subtle improvisation - but, as with Rosemary Clooney, of a quality that proves consistent with the more fundamental quality of the composer's melody - at least when that melody has the genius of so many composers of the 'American Popular Song'. [In which, inconsistently, I would have to include such as Michel LeGrand, Ray Noble, Noel Coward, Kurt Wiel and Charles Trenet (who wrote the original French version of 'I Wish You Love' - a marvellous melody). Also, I have many favorite non-American Performers, who needn't fall quite within the 'jazz' idiom - such as Al Bowlly, Anne Shelton and Matt Munro; Or Americans who don't - as Vaughan Munroe and Vic Damone. The common denominator seems to be melody and timing - and quality of voice of course.
Eventually, I discovered such singers as Lee Wiley, Billie Holiday and Jack Teagarden and other players like Bobby Hackett, Earl Bostic, Sidney Bechet and, of course, Louis Armstrong ('Struttin' With Some Barbecue' being a firm favorite). I began to get increasingly critical and narrower in my tastes. But, I also began enjoying particular Songs (and tunes) much more than others and gradually built up a list of my favourites - noting that certain composers and lyricists were represented more than others. This list has now grown to over a thousand titles and for many of these,I have several favourite versions. So, I can't be too narrow in my focus! Thus, the Musicality section of the website will concern various elements relating to such Songs and their Perfomers - mostly as long lists!
My Genealogical interests on the other hand began rather later - when Shirley and I and the two boys used to holiday on the west coast of Scotland. She would often say 'John, we should go over to the Isle of Lewis and look up your relatives there or at least try to discover something about your mother's Macleod ancestors. A short time later, my mother died back in Canada and in settling her affairs, I found some old faded photos of unknown young girls standing by a Scottish loch on the Isle of Lewis. Some names were written on the back and one partial address. About a year later, we wrote to the Tourist Office in Lewis asking for some Bed & Breakfast addresses. Most seemed to be run by Macleods. We chose one at random and wrote away - explaining our interest. The reply came back - "Dear Cousin...I used to go to school with those girls. I have worked out our Macleod ancestry from before the Napoleonic Wars - which I'll show you when you arrive. Sincerely - Angus Macleod" (!) So, we did stay with Angus and he drove us around the island - pointing out various significant places and meeting distant relatives. It was all very moving. Our branch of the family came originally from a small crofting community on the north-west coast called Carloway. Beyond that is Iceland. The Macleods are not Celtic but of pure Viking origin.
This all spurred my interest so, when next in Devonshire, I made a point of looking into my father's Millman ancestry as well. That family derives from the opposite end of Britain - in the southern most part of Devon and hence I seem to be an amalgam of rather disparate natures (something like this website). Then came a long investigation into a genealogical mystery that had come down my wife's family pertaining to the Jermy family of Norfolk. I eventually resolved this and became increasingly adept at finding my way around Record Offices. All these family trees, and others, and the associated write-ups about them, will be in the Genealogy section.
My academic background was as much in the Arts/Humanities as in Science (and not 'hard' science, at that). I did take a couple of elementary Physics courses but found it all rather obscure. But much later in life, I began reading the odd 'layman's' book on related topics - as so many others have done - and gradually became fascinated with Einstein and Relativity - as well as in those earlier scientific breakthroughs pertaining to electricity and magnetism. I found I couldn't hold or comprehend much of this material as it was written - probably because I seem to follow arguments in a rather rigid 'serial' way - that is, step by step, chronologically, cause and effect, etc. Also, the many accounts of relativity, which I became very keen to really understand (its apparently not supposed to be that difficult), seemed to stress slightly different aspects and never to give the full story. Nevertheless, some of these accounts are extremely interesting and well written - by near geniuses.) So I decided I had to write it out for myself (in verbal concepts; I have no higher maths) and try to combine these differently stressed facets into one hopefully more logical and complete progression - without missing too many significant bits. My aim was simply to 'really' understand it. I may even have had a few ideas of my own. Well...it just grew and grew. And thus, it will comprise the third - Relativity - section of this Tripartite website. It eventually developed into an attempt at writing a Book on the subject. And this completes the short account about 'me' and my three interests. Ideally, the words 'I, me, my and mine' will now occur but rarely in the following webpages devoted as they are to those three interests rather than to myself directly.
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