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Amadio, Clive Lyoff (1904–1983)

by Donald Westlake

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Clive Lyoff Amadio (1904-1983), saxophonist and clarinettist, was born on 28 February 1904 at Darlington, Sydney, second son of New Zealand-born Harry Henville Taylor, furniture manufacturer and instrumentalist, and his wife Florence Ada, née Beer, who was from New South Wales. Harry had taken the surname of his stepfather, Henry Antonio Amadio. The flautist John Amadio, who was to marry Florence Austral, was Harry’s brother. One of Sydney’s leading musicians, Harry played flute, oboe and clarinet for `The Firm’ (J. C. Williamson Ltd), and also for the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music orchestra. He gave Clive all his early training, first on the flute and oboe and then on the clarinet, and encouraged him to take the saxophone seriously. Having left school by the age of 13, Clive often practised for eight hours without a break. Eager to become an engineer, he began an apprenticeship but was, he claimed, `forced into the musical world’ by his father.

In his mid-teens, as well as playing in ensembles for silent pictures and musical comedies, Clive was solo clarinettist in both the New South Wales State Military Band and the Manly Municipal Band. At 19 he was touring as solo saxophonist on the Tivoli circuit, in, by his own account, one of the highest paid musical positions in Australia at that time, earning £15 a week. When `the talkies’ arrived, Amadio’s popularity as solo saxophonist in the accompanying show bands blossomed. With slicked-back black hair and dark eyes, he was described in 1929 as `that handsome sheik with the sax’. He had married Gwendolen Marjorie Morgan on 25 August 1928 at St Michael’s Church of England, Rose Bay, but they were divorced after about a year. On 2 October 1935 he married Laurie Mary Walley at the registrar’s office, Annandale.

Amadio played with groups such as the Royal Squadron Syncopators, Nigger Minstrels and Spanish Syncopators, and recorded with Quintrell’s Tivolians. His show-band performances continued until the demise of the bands themselves after World War II, a frenetic period that included two years (1932-34) as principal clarinettist to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s studio orchestra; membership of an early light music broadcast ensemble, the New Note Octet; the formation of his own quintet, a group that was to survive the end of the war by thirteen years; and solo engagements that proliferated with his burgeoning popularity. He had performed on 1 July 1932, when the ABC assumed control of the national broadcasting service, as saxophone soloist on 2BL.

Late in 1939 the quintet that was to render him a household name across Australia and the South Pacific went to air for the first time. Usually billed in the early years as the Mode Moderne Quintet, its name was changed to the Clive Amadio Quintet after the war and the group was given prime Sunday night listening time with recorded mid-week repeats. Reviews at the time reflected its popularity: `the best light musical combination ever presented on the air in this country’ and `the finest small-ensemble music on the air’. It broadcast on the ABC for almost twenty years, sometimes featuring Australian compositions and guest artists.

Meanwhile Amadio was establishing a reputation as one of Australia’s most accomplished clarinettists and its finest saxophonist. His public performances often included saxophone pieces that have since become standard repertoire: Rapsodie (Claude Debussy); Concertino da Camera (Jacques Ibert); Saxo-Rhapsody (Eric Coates); and works written especially for him by his three arrangers, Dulcie Holland, Henry Krips and Bruce Finlay. Employed by the State Conservatorium of Music (1942-45), he taught the saxophone.

In January 1954 Amadio played for Queen Elizabeth II at a royal banquet and was cited by the Sun-Herald as Australia’s best-known serious musician after (Sir) Eugene Goossens. He took part in the first of a series of chamber music concerts sponsored by the ABC in February 1954. Accompanied by his pianist Olga Krasnik, he left for an overseas tour of some months (1954-55). In Paris they recorded Holland’s Sonata for E♭ Alto Saxophone and Piano and her Musette and Gigue for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. They gave recitals for the British Broadcasting Corporation and he performed Coates’s Saxo-Rhapsody with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by (Sir) Charles Mackerras. Amadio and Krasnik also broadcast for the French, Austrian, Spanish and South African broadcasting services.

In August 1958 Amadio’s contract was not renewed by the ABC. For a time he continued freelancing but by May 1959 he had bought the newsagency in Oxford Street, Woollahra, that, with Olga Krasnik, he would run for the next thirteen years. Divorcing Laurie, Clive married Olga, also a divorcee, on 28 July 1967 at the registrar-general’s office, Sydney. In August 1972 they retired to Nelson Bay. They joined the part-time staff of the State Conservatorium of Music, Newcastle branch, where they taught and performed from 1973 until 1980. In that year he was appointed AM and awarded honorary life membership of the Clarinet Society of New South Wales, the first time this award had been made to an Australian. He collected rare guns, which interested him more for the workmanship displayed than for their performance. He died on 21 October 1983 at Randwick and was cremated. His wife, and the son and two daughters of his second marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Westlake, From Me to You (1999)
  • ABC Weekly, 8 June 1946, p 5, 22 June 1957, p 9
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 31 Jan 1954, p 46
  • Canon, Oct 1956, p 93
  • SP613/1, series item 7/4/10, parts 1 and 2 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Donald Westlake, 'Amadio, Clive Lyoff (1904–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/amadio-clive-lyoff-12131/text21733, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 26 May 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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